I use the term “chops” a little loosely here. When Muhammad Ali was banned from boxing and stripped of his heavyweight title in 1967 after refusing the draft, he began a lecture tour to pay the bills. Ali’s money troubles during this three and a half year blackball may be the reason so many cynical, cynical people assume his participation in the musical, Buck White was a ploy for cash, and not a reflection of his legitimate love of Broadway!
Below, you can see Ali performing the song, “We Came in Chains,” on The Ed Sullivan Show. Buck White is actually a pretty cool concept for a musical; based on Joseph Dolan Tuotti’s play Big Time Buck White, the show centers on its namesake, a militant Black Power leader who invigorates and focuses a group of radical black activists. Unfortunately, it only ran for seven performances, and full footage of Ali’s “musical talent” is near impossible to find.
Maybe if they had hired a lead with a musical background the show would be a classic?
Dictators can be so cute when they’re not committing mass human rights violations…
The children in the picture are actually classmates of Castro’s son, who secretly attended a school in Queens prior to his regime. The photo was taken at a press conference, mere months after the end of the Cuban Revolution.
Below, Ed Sullivan interviews Fidel Castro on January 11, 1959 in Cuba shortly after the Batista regime was overthrown (I love how he refers to Castro’s men as “a wonderful group of revolutionary youngsters”! That’s so in character for Ed Sullivan.)
Jeannine Riley, Pat Woodell and Linda Kaye Henning from Petticoat Junction & Sheila James of Dobie Gillis make an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show (March 22, 1964) as The Ladybugs covering The Beatles “I Saw Her Standing There.”
In his introduction, Sullivan refers to The Beatles as “our stars The Beatles,” as though he invented the Fab Four. No question he helped launched their success in the States, but, with or without Ed, The Beatles’ world domination was predestined.
When their father was killed by the North Koreans during the war, their mother had Sook-ja, Mi-a and Ai-ja (then 11, 12 and 13-years old) form a vocal trio to entertain the U.S. troops and to help support the rest of the family. Speaking no English at the time, the girls sang phonetically and were given gifts of beer and chocolate bars which they could then trade on the black market for real food. The G.I.s would also gift the girls with American pop records that they would learn to perform.
When news of the singing Kim Sisters reached America after the war, the girls were invited to become a part of the “China Doll Review” at the Thunderbird Hotel in Las Vegas. Eventually the Kim Sisters became accomplished musicians playing a dizzying array of instruments in their glitzy stage show. They were the act on The Ed Sullivan Show more than any other performer, a total of 22 times. Sullivan made the Kim Sisters a nationally known act and soon they were making $13,000 a week. When Sullivan became aware that their mother was still in Korea, he generously intervened and helped her get a visa, the catch being that she had to perform on his program.
During the 70s, all of the Kim sisters got married and the act ended. Ai-ja Kim died of lung cancer 1987, but Sook-ja and Mi-a are still alive and living in America. They are rumored to be working on a documentary about their lives. I hope that’s true.
You can read a fascinating oral history of the Kim Sisters here.
None of the Ed Sullivan clips have made it to YouTube, sadly. Below is a clip of The Kim Sisters on the Hollywood Palace television show. Stay with it for when they all three start playing the xylophone together (or go directly to about 3:22 in). It’s pretty cool: