By Eleanora Morrison
It was the Fall of 2017. Exactly one year after I had been booted off of my safe and “sensible” career path and into the unknown. We had just sold our first newlywed home, due to the aforementioned job loss, and had moved into a small apartment overlooking San Antonio’s historic Pearl district (from where I still sit as I write this, and from were I co-birthed this magazine last year).
Like a child with a burning curiosity for something they’ve been told is off limits, it was on a sunny September morning that my eye was drawn to a book stacked on the antique porcelain garden seat to the left of my desk. Written by one of my life-long idols, I had bought it years before and intended to devour it, but this memoir just always sat perched in its color coordinated pile collecting dust. I remember thinking to myself this is the day I am starting this. It was a calling from the Universe, I suppose. That book was This Time Together by Carol Burnett.
Now, when I say that Carol Burnett has been someone whose comedic genius and come-as-you-are savoir faire was something I always idolized, I really mean that she has been interwoven into the fabric of my personal narrative since early childhood. It’s strange to admit that, but it’s true. I first became infatuated with her when I was four or five years old, watching Annie at my grandparent’s house with my cousin Brianna. We would laugh and laugh, imitating her performance as Miss Hannigan for hours.
Many years went by, and during my senior year of high school I played the role of Dotty Otley/Mrs. Clackett in the British farce Noises Off. I didn’t know it at the time of the auditions, but Carol Burnett had played the same role in the 1992 film adaptation of the show. Through that experience, my connection to her genre as a performer really deepened, so I sang her song Shy from Once Upon A Mattress (a role she originated) for my college musical theater program auditions. Fast forward to 2012, once graduated and working in the big bad real world for a year (not acting, in a cubicle at a local nonprofit because I took the “sensible” career route), I played the age-appropriate role closest I could get to Miss Hannigan (Lily St. Regis) in Annie –the first regional theater production I was lucky to land a part in here in San Antonio.
To put a cherry on top of that full-circle experience, two dear friends who know Carol (she is from San Antonio originally) arranged for a personally signed headshot that she sent my way as a show opening gift. She likely signs so many of these as a kindness, but it meant the world to me, and it sits to the left of my desk as the topper to that stack of books on the porcelain garden seat. Whenever my dreams seem clouded or I’m so exhausted from the daily grind of managing this platform, I turn to that signed photo from Carol and am reminded to keep on pushing.
Through all of the ups and downs of young adulthood during those few years between 2012 and 2017, I had lost touch with my inner light, which has always been performance and entertaining an audience. At the time, I believed my chance at performing on a bigger stage, like Broadway, had likely passed forever…so I put other passions at the forefront of my persona, very sparingly publicly alluded to this side of me, explored alternative creative efforts and learned new skillsets. But something I read in Carol’s memoir that Fall of 2017 stuck with me. It was one of those stories that resonated so deeply that the punch line of the chapter literally punched me in the gut.
Young Carol Burnett.
Young Julie Andrews.
It was the chapter in which Carol talked about leaving Los Angeles as a young actor after she graduated from college, arriving in New York City with big dreams to become a Broadway star (please indulge me while I loosely paraphrase this part of Carol’s story from memory). Except, she couldn’t seem to get an agent, which means she couldn’t land a role. She knew she was good, but she was different and authentic, and because of that she wasn’t finding representation. On a rainy night, she made her way to the stage door of a Broadway show (The Pajama Game) that a big-name Hollywood movie actor (Eddie Foy Jr.) was starring in. She was friends with a guy back in Los Angeles who knew him. She was doubtful he would ever speak to her, but she boldly talked to the security guard as if she belonged there, and asked the guard to have Eddie come up and see her.
To her shock, he came up the stairs to talk to her. Quaking in her galoshes, she asked the dreamboat star how to make her break in New York, because she wasn’t having luck landing an agent. Eddie sent her to meet with his agent, who basically told her (again with the paraphrasing), that if she couldn’t get an agent because she wasn’t in a show then, ‘put on your own show.’ Carol went home to her building full of fellow aspiring Broadway actresses, and began to put together a musical show called The Rehearsal Club Revue that included all of the young women she lived with. Many were having trouble getting agents. Once ready, the women sent penny postcard invitations to all of the agencies in Manhattan to see their show…and they came. Carol Burnett not only got herself an agent that night, but she got some of her roommates agents, too.
When I read this, I was floored. The light bulb went off…I had my “AHA!” moment. I was determined to somehow, some way, make my own show. A few weeks later, with this newly defined mission, Melissa serendipitously came back into my life over a coffee that ended up lasting four hours. She told me her personal updates, I told her this story, that I was reading Carol Burnett’s memoirs, that something was telling me to ‘make a show,’ not just for me, but for others, and that women from history needed to be represented. Our partnership started organically that day we had coffee (early November of 2017), and our scheming began. Because we live in a digital world, and the internet can be a stage, Melissa and I realized that when we combined our backgrounds and skillsets, the ‘show’ we were making was ELEANORA. We could make a platform that showcased as many women as possible, shining in their brightest and most authentic light, doing whatever it is they love most.
Now, our seventh issue in, we are stepping into the spotlight in the second half of our first year of productions. As we continuously work to evolve and expose our true identities as individuals, as creators, and as a multimedia platform, Melissa and I just felt right about introducing voices of entertainment to our audience. In doing so, we are celebrating the courage, tenacity and timelessness of these legendary women of eras past, like Carol Burnett, Lucille Ball, Julie Andrews, and more…who culturally defined comedy, entertainment, and production in America, and who have paved the way for the timely icons-in-the-making we watch and love today…on television, in film, and on the internet.
Speaking of icons-in-the-making…we are thrilled to also be using this issue to introduce three new and recurring voices to the ELEANORA community, as we debut columnists Christina Cate, Carly Clegg and Alyssa Haddad’s monthly beats to our platform. Chiming in from coast to coast (CA and NY) and the halfway-point in between (TX), these three distinctly diverse personalities will have you laughing, smiling, and chanting, “YES GIRL. YES.” to their life musings whenever and from wherever you read them.
On top of all of this exciting news, we have a few surprise cameos and special guest-star appearances that will be entering from Stage Left throughout the month of March, and you’ll just have to follow along as we reveal those announcements on the big, blinking ELEANORA marquee.
Lucille Ball in Zigfield Follies. Via Gfycat.
So please…sit back, relax, and let us entertain you.