by Brad Dison
For over fifty-five years, Kid has been a fixture in the entertainment world. She first entered our living rooms in 1955 when she appeared on “The Paul Winchell Show”. She most recently appeared in the 2020 drama entitled “All Together Now”. In that 65-year time span, Kid has appeared on the stage, on the silver screen, and on the small set (television) almost constantly, and has won a host of awards including several Golden Globe Awards, Primetime Emmy Awards, American Comedy Awards, Gold Derby Awards, Golden Apple Awards, a Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, and a Grammy Award.
Kid’s intelligent and witty performances garnered a plethora of fans. Some fans could be categorized as super-fans. Désirée was certainly one of these super-fans. Désirée watched Kid perform as often as possible, sometimes live, but mostly on television. She usually watched with a cigarette perched nonchalantly between her lips. Although Désirée was 22 years Kid’s senior, Désirée saw a lot of herself in Kid.
In 1959, Kid auditioned and landed a part in Once Upon a Mattress, an off-Broadway musical. On the musical’s second night, Désirée met Kid backstage. They spent about a half an hour chatting and quickly became friends. Because Désirée was more than two decades older, she affectionately nicknamed her “Kid” rather than using her real name.
Through the years, the friendship between Désirée and Kid grew stronger. They telephone each other to talk about nothing in particular, as friends often do. Each year on April 26th, Désirée ordered flowers to be delivered to Kid. Whether Kid was performing in Los Angeles, New York, or some remote location in the world, when April 26th came around, she always received Désirée’s flowers along with a personal note. Désirée’s gift of flowers became a tradition that Kid looked forward to. Upon receipt of the flowers, Kid usually telephoned Désirée to thank her, and the pair spent hours talking on the telephone.
In the early morning hours of April 26, 1989, Désirée was awakened by a sharp, severe back pain. Her blood pressure plummeted. Minutes later, Désirée lost consciousness. At 5:43 a.m., Désirée died at the age of seventy-seven. Doctors determined the cause of death to be a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm, which usually causes no symptoms except during rupture. Doctors contended that years of smoking cigarettes led to the aneurysm.
Kid was understandably devastated by the news of Desirée’s death. They had been close friends for nearly thirty-five years. They had spent countless hours in each other’s company and kept in constant contact. Kid lost more than just a super-fan that day, she lost one of her closest, if not the closest, most cherished of friends. Later that afternoon, a delivery person dropped off an arrangement of flowers for Kid. Kid looked at the attached card, smiled, and cried. As usual, Desirée had not signed the card. Her signature was unnecessary because Kid always knew who sent the flowers. This year, Kid could make no thank you call to Desirée.
April 26th was certainly a milestone day, referred to as both the day comedy died and the day sketch comedy was born. You see, written on the card were just three words; “Happy Birthday, Kid.” Desirée had ordered the flowers for Kid the day before her sudden death. April 26th was Kid’s birthdate, the day one writer referred to as the day sketch comedy was born. Kid was the name Desirée bestowed upon Carol Burnett. However, the writer also referred to April 26, 1989, as the date comedy died. Desirée was the middle name of the star of “I Love Lucy,” Lucille Ball.
1. MeTV.com. “Lucille Ball Sent Carol Burnett Flowers the Day She Died.” Accessed March 2, 2021. https://www.metv.com/stories/lucille-ball-sent-carol-burnett-flowers-the-day-she-died.
2. Biography.com. “How Lucille Ball Became Carol Burnett’s Mentor.” Accessed March 10, 2021. https://www.biography.com/news/lucille-ball-carol-burnett-friendship.
3. IMDb.com. “Carol Burnett.” Accessed March 10, 2021. https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000993/?ref_=nmawd_awd_nm.