Carol Burnett Donates Charwoman Costume to Smithsonian
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The orderly atmosphere at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History was broken by a shattering ″Tarzan″ yell on Thursday.
School children and elderly vacationers looked around expecting to see a group of noisy teens or someone dressed up like Edgar Rice Burroughs’ jungle hero.
What they found was comedienne Carol Burnett emerging from a news conference where she had just donated the charwoman costume she made famous on her television program to the museum’s History of American Entertainment collection.
″I feel very proud,″ she said at the ceremony. ″This is a ten, a definite ten.″
A native of San Antonio, Miss Burnett developed the Tarzan yell as a child and it has become one of her professional trademarks.
″I wish some of my folks were here,″ she said, ″especialy, my grandmother who raised me. This would be a kick for her.″
The costume consists of a plaid wool skirt, yellow checkered apron, flower print blouse, a red bandana, a ragged brown sweater, a mopcap, white gloves, sweat socks and high-top army boots.
The charwoman character was created for Miss Burnett’s 1963 television special, ″Carol & Company,″ in which the ragged cleaning lady performed a modified strip-tease in her work clothes.
Miss Burnett developed the skit after she heard a radio disc jockey allude to the fact that some American housewives were fond of practicing a strip- tease to David Rose’s ″The Stripper″ while doing their chores.
″It thought maybe I should do a charwoman cleaning up in a burlesque house after everyone is gone and then imagines she’s Gypsy Rose Lee,″ Miss Burnett said. ″All I really took off was the sweater and one long glove - I decided there was enough violence on TV.″
The character, which the actress said never had a name or fully developed persona, became as signature figure on her comdey-variety TV series which ran from 1967 to 1978.
Reminded that the gowns of the first ladies were also in the Smithsonian, Miss Burnett said, ″Maybe we’ll call her First Charwoman.″