(This story by Dave Lieber is from 1998.)
Her fans celebrated Carol Burnett’s 90th birthday with a TV special last week. Reminded me of the time she came to Fort Worth in 1998 for the opening show at Bass Performance Hall. Burnett took care of unfinished business, and I was there to see it.
Back in 1970 Jami Axe was 13. She wrote a poem called “Being Alone” and sent it to Burnett’s CBS show. Weeks later, Burnett cried when she read the poem on the air. But Jami was already in bed and didn’t see it.
This was before VCRs and DVRs allowed you to record shows. The poem began.
Can sometime be
A normal, pleasant thing for me
A time for thinking,
For searching inside
To find the self I'm trying to hide.
Jami’s mom wrote Burnett asking if she could get a copy of the show.
Burnett wrote back, “I cannot tell you how sorry I am to learn that you, Jami and the rest of the family did not see the show.
“We have always sent advance notice to the children whose poems I've read, but apparently someone on the staff did not follow through this time, since you said you did not know it was to be telecast. Please accept my apologies. I can assure you it was an oversight which I very much regret.
“I have received so many letters from viewers telling me how much they enjoyed the poem. Of course, I just love it, and I'm grateful to Jami. The enclosed picture is for her.
“Unfortunately, that particular show is not scheduled to be repeated and film clips from the shows cannot be released. Again, many thanks to you and Jami for sharing her poem with us.
“Sincerely, Carol Burnett.”
A year later, Burnett published a book called Dear Carol Burnett, A Collection of Children's Poems Sent to Carol Burnett. Jami's poem was published in the book.
So many years went by, and Axe, now 41, never stopped thinking of her unfinished business. She wanted so much to speak to the star. She wanted to hug Burnett and tell her how much the unexpected national attention meant to the teen-age girl in Kansas who wrote so eloquently of being alone.
A few weeks ago, Axe learned that Burnett would be starring in the opening show at the Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass Performance Hall, Let the Angels Play. She asked me for help.
I made a few phone calls and with some help from the famous angels that adorn the outside of Bass Hall, Axe was invited last week to meet Burnett at the new hall.
Backstage, her first words to Burnett were a nervous, “I'm shaking!” Then she held up her prized possession and asked, “Do you remember this book?”
“Yes I do,” Burnett replied as she immediately turned to Axe's poem.
“Could you sign this for me?” Axe asked.
Burnett wrote: “Hi Jami! Much love (after all these years), Carol Burnett.”
“Our phone just rang off the hook that night, but we had missed it,” Axe said.
“I am so sorry about that.”
“But this makes it all worthwhile,” Axe said.
“Thank you, Jami.”
They talked a little, and then Burnett reached out to hug her.
“Bye, Jami. Thank you. Thank you so much,” the star said.
Since this was opening night, it’s safe to say this was likely one of the first dreams to come true at the new Bass Hall. The famous angels that adorn the building’s exterior had done their job, as they would for others since then in their first 25 years on the job.
Note: This story first appeared in 1968 in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. To get more Dave Lieber stories, subscribe to Dallas Morning News Watchdog Dave Lieber’s free weekly newsletter. Sign up at https://dallasnews.com/newsletters/
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