overview

Opened as Hammerstein’s Theater in 1927, this venue’s first production, Golden Dawn (1927-28), featured a young Archie Leach, who would later change his name to Cary Grant.

As a television studio, it famously aired The Ed Sullivan Show, which, despite Sullivan’s purported homophobia, showcased many LGBT performers, including Charles Laughton, Liberace, Rudolf Nureyev, Moms Mabley, Paul Lynde, Johnny Mathis, and Ethel Waters. It was renamed the Ed Sullivan Theater in 1967.

Header Photo

Credit: Sarah Sargent/NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, 2019.

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History

The unusual neo-Gothic style Hammerstein’s Theater interior only served as a legitimate theater for about a decade. Its first production was Golden Dawn (1927-28), with Archie Leach (who later changed his name to Cary Grant), in his second American performance in a small role. In 1933, it became Billy Rose’s Music Hall, then in 1936 was converted to the CBS Radio Playhouse.

After 1950, it was known as CBS-TV Studio 50. Among the TV shows broadcast here were the Jackie Gleason Show, What’s My Line?, and To Tell the Truth. This was famously the location from 1953 to 1971 for The Toast of the Town, renamed The Ed Sullivan Show in 1955. One of the most popular television shows of its era, it managed to showcase many LGBT performers despite Sullivan’s purported homophobia. These included Charles Laughton, Liberace, Rudolf Nureyev, Moms Mabley, Paul Lynde, Johnny Mathis, and Ethel Waters, to name just a few. The venue was named the Ed Sullivan Theater in 1967. The Merv Griffin Show, starring Merv Griffin, was broadcast here in 1969-70. It was later the site for Late Night with David Letterman, and currently for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

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