ANYONE WHO ATTENDED school in the United States knows the Ides of March (March 15) is an ominous date. It all started with the assassination of the Roman dictator Julius Caesar in 44 B.C., which happened so long ago I can’t even do the math. Not really buying the whole concept of “B.C.” and not even wholly embracing the existence of “C,” I did, however, study Shakespeare at college and read his play, Julius Caesar, detailing how Brutus led 60 co-conspirators in the bloody mass stabbing. (There was also a 1948 novel by Thornton Wilder called The Ides of March that got far less attention than his earlier masterpiece, Our Town, a play in three acts that should be read repeatedly by anyone battling depression or just plain seeking a reason to live.)
But there’s another reason the date is to be rued that is rarely mentioned: On March 15, 1971, the CBS-TV network announced the cancellation of The Ed Sullivan Show after 23 years of making Sunday nights something to be anticipated rather than dreaded by millions of faithful viewers. For me personally it was the impetus to get all my homework done by showtime, so in one sense Ed Sullivan was responsible for me even graduating high school.
And of course there was Ed himself, stiffly introducing each act, looking like a walking, talking corpse with a giant bobble-head. I always suspected that after each show he went back inside his coffin where he lay dead until the following Sunday night.