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Itzhak Perlman Turns 70, Recalls Ed Sullivan Jump-Starting his Career

By Steve Nagel s.nagel@classicalite.com on Sep 01, 2015 09:10 PM EDT

It's hard to believe the Israeli-American violinist, Itzhak Perlman, the (once) child prodigy and emblem for the talents of Israel, is now turning 70! Known for his extensive classical repertoire and for bringing tears to the world with the solos he played in John Williams' Schindler's List score, Perlman took some time on this birthday to look back on those who brought him where he is today. Chief among those jump-starters was Ed Sullivan, acclaimed variety show connoisseur, who, in 1958 went to Israel to collect various talents that would be selected to appear on his show.

As told by Classical MPR, Perlman, who even at age 13 was crutch-bound (having contracted Polio at age four), considered himself to be a "combination of human interest story plus talent." He had felt this perhaps aided in his being selected. Nevertheless, he rose to the call and wowed American audiences with the effortlessness of his playing. Apparently, he impressed them so much that, according to Sullivan, the show was inundated with fan-mail demanding his return. Perlman finally did when he was 19 for an even more stunning performance.

Itzhak Perlman deeply admired Sullivan, the "great showman," for the eclectic nature of his television show. He also admired the power of television as a method for sharing music to the world instantly and as a career-builder for artists. After the Sullivan appearances, his options seemed limitless, jumping from his Carnegie Hall debut to the Tonight Show, securing a spot in film scores, and launching an extensive touring career.

Ed Sullivan, who was seen as the greatest variety show host of his time (despite a wonderfully wry analysis from Vanity Fair), was also considered one of the last. With the variety show as dead as the dodo, one wonders how the same debut might have transpired in modern times. At the very least, Perlman is clearly grateful for his opportunities and for the other acts that Ed Sullivan scoured the Earth to bring to American audiences.

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TagsItzhak Perlman, Ed Sullivan, The Ed Sullivan Show

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