Celebrity

Carol Burnett Opens Up About The Loss That Changed Her Life Forever

Carol Burnett became a household name in the late 60s for her role on The Carol Burnett Show, one of the funniest comedy sketch shows to ever air on television.

"I wanted our show to be more like a Broadway musical comedy review every week," Burnett told Inside Edition. "I also wanted belly laughs."

She definitely got that right.

For years, the actress made us laugh until it hurt with her unique humor and perfect comedic timing.

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The show went on to win 25 Emmys and eight Golden Globes, and turned Burnett into a generational icon.

After the series wrapped up, Burnett regularly appeared in a number of television shows and movies, including Annie (1982), Mad About You, Horton Hears a Who! (2008), Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Hawaii Five-O.

However, fans of the comedy legend noticed that she disappeared from the spotlight for a few years during the early 2000s.

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Turns out, she needed to be with her family because her daughter, Carrie Hamilton, had passed away.

Hamilton, the oldest of Burnett's three daughters, was just 38-years-old when she died from complications of lung cancer, which later spread to her brain.

In the past, Burnett has avoided talking about her loss, but the 85-year-old star is now comfortable enough to publicly discuss what she went through all those years ago.

Burnett recently talked about her pain in an interview with People, revealing that not a day goes by that she doesn't think of her daughter.

"I think of her every day," Burnett told People. "She never leaves me … I just feel her."

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Hamilton, who was also an actress, starred alongside her mom in Fame, then helped her turn her best-selling memoir One More Time into a stage play.

Burnett and Hamilton did not only have a close relationship, they were also alike in many ways, and that made her death that much harder on the actress.

"When Carrie died, I didn't want to get out of bed for a while, but I had a play to finish that we started that Hal Prince was going to direct. I owed it to Carrie, and I owed it to Hal," Burnett explained.

Although Burnett wanted to continue working on the play for her daughter's sake, she wasn't sure if it was the right thing to do. She asked for a sign from Hamilton.

“I got on a plane and said a little prayer to Carrie, and said, ‘I’ve got to do this alone. Don’t leave me alone. Give me a sign that you’re with me.'”

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Later that day, Burnett's prayers were answered.

First, she was greeted with a bouquet of Hamilton's favorite flowers when she checked into the hotel, and then the signs just kept on coming.

“That was Carrie’s favorite flower,” she said. “She had one tattooed on her right shoulder. Then at dinner the maître d’ gave us a bottle of champagne, and the label said ‘Louise.’ That was Carrie’s middle name. Then it rained on opening night. Carrie and I were nuts for the rain.”

Burnett managed to finish the play, titled Hollywood Arms, but that doesn't mean she has gotten over losing her child.

“You don’t get over it, but you cope,” she admitted. “What else can you do?

Burnett revealed that Hamilton battled a drug addiction in her teens, but she helped her go to rehab and that experience brought them closer than ever.

“She got sober when she was 17,” Burnett recounted. “I put her in a third rehab place, and oh my God, she hated me. I came to the conclusion that I had to love her enough to let her hate me. She got sober and we started bonding."

Burnett knew exactly how to handle that situation because Hamilton wasn't the first addict she has had to deal with.

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In her memoir, she wrote about growing up in a single-room apartment in California with her grandmother as her guardian. Her parents were both alcoholics, who were later committed to a sanatorium.

She got out after a mystery benefactor paid for her move to New York City, where she eventually had her acting break on Broadway.

Now, Burnett is back in the game, and is starring in a new Netflix series A Little Help With Carol Burnett.

"We’re thrilled Carol is bringing her unique sensibilities to Netflix,” said Bela Bajaria, VP, Content Acquisition for Netflix. “Carol is truly a legend in the entertainment industry with unprecedented success and fandom across TV, film and the stage, and we are both honored and excited to work with her.”

The unscripted show is centered around Burnett and celebrity guests talking to a panel of kids to get some advice on some real world problems.

“Someone once asked me how old I am inside,” said Burnett. “I thought about it, and came up with, ‘I’m about eight.’ So it’s going to be a lot of fun playing with kids my age.”

You should also expect to see the old Burnett back on TV as CBS Television Distribution (CTD) has recently acquired the rights to The Carol Burnett Show, which includes 276 hours of programming and a number of rare episodes.

"Carol Burnett is one of the very finest comedic performers in the history of television," CTD President Paul Franklin said. "Acquiring digital rights to her library allows us to not only ensure that the show's legacy is protected, but that her genius is also shared with audiences for years to come."
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Burnett herself commented on the news, expressing her delight over the deal.

"I'm thrilled to be back home at CBS, and I'm so happy that future generations will be able to see and enjoy the fun we had in those 11 wonderful years," she said in a press release.

She has previously talked about how happy she is that "so much of the funny stuff we did still holds up today," admitting that it's "what makes me the happiest."

There's no date set for the show's return to the small screen, but according to Variety, CTD is currently searching for digital multicast channels that will host the show.

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17 Celebrities Who Tragically Lost Children

Awa has been writing for Shared for 3 years. She is a serial snacker who unapologetically loves celebrity gossip. Drop her a line at awa@shared.com.