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January 26, 2014

Carol Burnett vies for Grammy tonight with memoir

LOS ANGELES — When Carol Burnett recorded the audio version of her memoir "Carrie and Me," about her late daughter Carrie Hamilton, the actress-comedian sensed she had support.

"I felt Carrie was looking over my right shoulder," said Burnett. "It made me more comfortable, just feeling that she was approving."

Burnett is a Grammy Award nominee for her recording of the 2013 memoir that chronicled her daughter's teenage struggle with addiction, emergence as an actress and writer and, in January 2002, Hamilton's lung cancer death at age 38.

"Carrie and Me" is competing Sunday in the category of best spoken word album with works by Pete Seeger, Stephen Colbert, Billy Crystal and David Sedaris.

Burnett, 80, has received a wealth of honors in her career, including some two-dozen Emmys for "The Carol Burnett Show"; the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

"Carrie and Me" has proved uniquely rewarding.

"I'm getting lovely mail from people who are very impressed with my daughter," Burnett said, including a letter this week from a man fighting depression. "He said he had kind of given up and then he read about Carrie and her fight (against cancer)."

Burnett recalled a hospital nurse asking Hamilton how she remained so cheerful: "Every day I wake up and decide I'm going to love my life," was her reply.

It's Hamilton's vibrant, resilient spirit that dominates "Carrie and Me," even as the book chronicles the tough, three-year fight she and her family waged against her drug use. A heavy cigarette habit she developed during rehab led to her fatal disease, Burnett said.

It's been 12 years since she died but "the wounds are still there. You don't get over it but you learn to cope," Burnett said.

The slender Hamilton, whose appealingly broad grin was a match for her mom's, left behind a list of TV credits including "Fame"; "Hollywood Arms," a play that she co-wrote with Burnett but didn't live to see produced; and an unfinished story about a young woman on a journey of discovery.

She'd asked her mother to complete it for her, but Burnett felt it wasn't her tale to tell. Instead, she decided to write "Carrie and Me" using her memories, notes from her daughter and, to conclude the book, the unfinished story.

Burnett, pleased to introduce readers to Hamilton, didn't shrink from engaging in a bit of mock competition with Colbert, one of the four men she's competing with.

When she appeared by satellite on his show last week, she ended their banter by calling for "the best woman to win" the Grammy.

Make that the best women.


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