Friday, May 20, 2011

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Ellen DeGeneres Biography
Ellen Lee DeGeneres was born January 26, 1958 in New Orleans, Louisiana. She was the daughter of an insurance salesman and a working mother who were divorced when DeGeneres was a teenager. When she was growing up she dreamed of becoming a veterinarian, but she gave up the idea because she was "not book smart." Instead, she waited tables, sold vacuum cleaners, painted houses, worked as a legal secretary.
DeGeneres' older brother, Vance, was the creator of the Play-Doh character "Mr. Bill" on the long-running NBC comedy skit program Saturday Night Live, and was long considered the humorous member of the family. Then once, during a public speaking event, DeGeneres found herself frightened by the crowd and used humor to get through the experience. She was a hit, and received offers to do stand-up comedy. She began performing in 1981, bolstered by her mother's moral and financial support.
At the age of 23, she began performing at a local coffeehouse. She got her big debut in 1986 when, acting on a tip from Jay Leno, The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson sent a booking agent to catch her act at the Improv in Hollywood. As a result of that engagement, DeGeneres was invited onto The Tonight Show and earned the distinction of being the only female comic to be invited by Johnny Carson to sit on the famed "couch" during her first visit. She then began making regular appearances on the talk show circuit, including performances on The Late Show with David LettermanThe Tonight Show with Jay LenoThe Oprah Winfrey ShowLater with Greg KinnearLarry King Live, and Good Morning, America. She was also profiled in detail on ABC's PrimeTime Live.
Her wit won over audiences, and DeGeneres finally found success as an actress with her own prime-time sitcom—the self-titled television series, Ellen. The series was originally titled These Friends of Mine, but was renamed in 1994. From that point, she enjoyed a dizzying evolution from its beginnings as an ensemble show to its development into a showcase for DeGeneres.
The show faced strong criticism when, in April 1997, DeGeneres' character became the first lead in sitcom history to openly acknowledge her homosexuality on air. An ABC affiliate in Birmingham, Alabama, refused to air the landmark episode. Fearing controversy, some of the show's sponsors, Daimler Chrysler among them, withdrew advertisements.
Several episodes following her reveal had gay themes and, throughout the remainder of the season, DeGeneres and ABC executives faced a storm of criticism. But the show also received rounds of applause from gay-friendly activists—including DeGeneres' mother, Betty Degeneres, who appeared on numerous talk shows in support of her daughter. Despite a supportive audience; an Emmy Award for the coming-out episode; and the show's groundbreaking place in television history; Ellen was canceled in 1998.
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Ellen DeGeneres biography


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