In researching my chapter on America’s providential mission to the world, I ran across this hilarious little Cold War anecdote. It’s about how comedienne Carol Burnett became famous after singing “I Made a Fool of Myself Over John Foster Dulles” on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1957.
John Foster Dulles served as Secretary of State under Dwight Eisenhower from 1953-1959. He was the quintessential Cold Warrior. His worldview was animated by the idea that human history was marked by a cosmic struggle between good and evil forces. During his time, those forces were represented by the United States as the force of good and the Soviet Union as the force of evil. He believed that the future of the human race hinged on whether or not the United States was successful in meeting the threat posed by the “godless communism” of Soviet Russia.
Dulles was famous for being dour, grim, and humorless. So when Carol Burnett sang a song about a crazed fan’s obsession with Dulles, it brought the house down. Her singing that song on the Ed Sullivan Show was her big break.
To add to the delicious humor of this story, Carol Burnett told Diane Rehm that shortly after her performance, she saw Dulles giving an interview on Meet the Press. This is what Burnett said happened at the end of the interview:
And so it was, you know, all the serious talk about what the Secretaries of State talk about. And then at the very last part of the show, the moderator said, well, all right, we’re going to leave now, but, Mr. Dulles, just tell us what is this about you and that young girl that sings that love song about you. And I looked — oh, I got real close to the television set. And he got a twinkle in his eye and he said, I make it a matter never to talk about loves in public.
Even the most staid Cold Warrior had a sense of humor!