a sad day for his family and his country," David Letterman
longtime bandleader, Doc Severinsen, said, "I am deeply saddened
by Johnny's passing. He was a great friend, a mentor and many
of the good things that I value came from his presence in my life,
especially my wife, Emily. We will miss him and love him always."
Midler, who serenaded Carson as his last guest in 1992, said he
was a "little bit of devil, a whole lot of angel, wit, charm,"
and good looks.
George W. Bush called Carson "a steady and reassuring presence
in homes across for three
25, 2005) LAS VEGAS - Yesterday (Jan 23) the world lost another
legend of show business. Johnny Carson passed away at his Malibu
Beach home, with his wife and family around him. He will be missed
all over the world. The LA TIMES SAID, "Johnny says his final
Good-Night". He was 79.
Carson began performing professionally at the age of fourteen
as a magician-comic, "The Great Carsoni," for the local
Rotary Club in his hometown of Norfolk, Nebraska. After a two
year stint in the Navy during World War II, and four years as
a radio-drama major at the University of Nebraska, Carson hit
the entertainment industry as a radio announcer-disc jockey before
landing several TV shows, most notably, "Who Do You Trust"
before taking over the reins of the Tonight Show from another
legend, Jack Paar. And the rest, they say, is history.
remember sitting in my dressing room with him, before the taping
of my appearance on his Tonight Show back in 1977. Normally he
does not want to meet his guests before the taping, preferring
to keep it fresh and spontaneous, but we were supposed to do a
trick together, sort of as a gag, and he wanted to go over the
details with me. We ended up sitting and trading card tricks with
one another. He showed me a few moves with a deck, cuts and shuffles
on my close-up pad, and we worked out a routine to do together.
We never did get to do that bit, as the timing of my segment ran
longer than scheduled.
was extremely gratious, and full of energy, sitting there in his
jeans and casual shirt, poking though my prop case with great
interest. As we are both also drummers, we also talked about Buddy
Rich, the greatest drummer who ever lived. We compared notes on
each other's drum kits and speculated on the corelation between
drumming and sleight of hand. We were finally interupted by a
production staff member, as the time had been flying by. For a
few moments that day, the legend was merely another magic nut,
marvelling at the props and gimmicks, and sharing routines. I
gave him a locking half-dollar stack and tube, after first teaching
him a routine with the great prop (made for me by Eddie Gibson
in England). He thanked me in a letter a few weeks later, saying
he had fooled many of his friends with it already.
showed him many routines that he thought might be good for a return
visit. That return visit never materialized. I was booked and
bumped two more times.
of my friends did the Carson show back then; Lance, Harry Blackstone
Jr., Jimmy Grippo, Michael Skinner, Harry Anderson, Jim Teter,
Dean Dill, Paul Gertner, to name a bunch. There were too many
to list here...Johnny loved magic and was always generous in his
praise of good magic presentations.
talk show host Oprah Winfrey described Carson as "one of
the greats of our time."
was the greatest talk show host of our time, with the quickest
mind," comedian Billy Crystal said.
longtime sidekick said the late-night host was "like a brother
McMahon released a statement Sunday saying that, even years after
he and Carson no longer worked together,
he still thought of Carson as "the boss."
decades, it was McMahon's booming intro "Heeeeere's Johnny!"
that ushered Carson onto the "Tonight Show" stage.
said that their 34 years working together, and the 12 years since,
resulted in a bond of "respect andgreat admiration."
In recent years, he'd look to Carson for advice whenever a "big
career decision" came up.
thoughts and prayers go out to Johnny's wife, his family and all
of his friends. He will be remembered always...
his career at age 14 with a magic act called "The Great Carsoni"
in Norfolk, NE, where he grew up. As a Navy ensign aboard the
USS Pennsylvania in 1945, he was the only officer to consciously
entertain enlisted men during shows on the ship. While a student
at the University of Nebraska, he was allowed to be late for his
first class so that he could work at a local radio station, KFAB
and then worked at WOW in Omaha, where he wrote comedy and announced
commercials for a 15-minute program.
his future was in California, he landed a job in 1950 as staff
announcer for KNXT (now KCBS-TV) in Los Angeles, where he soon
hosted his own program, "Carson's Cellar." It ran until
He temporarily stopped
his on-camera appearances to write material for Red Skelton's
TV program. One night, just before air time, Skelton ran into
a break-away door and suffered a concussion. On short notice,
Johnny went on in Red Skelton's place, opening the show with a
monologue he had put together while driving to the studio. Jack
Benny's reactions: "The kid is great, just great," and
"You better watch that Carson kid."
29, Carson became host of his own network show, "Earn Your
Vacation," while also appearing as a substitute host for
another up and coming TV personality, Jack Paar, on CBS's "The
Morning Show." Carson continued to appear on CBS until 1956.
In 1957 he moved to
ABC as host of a new daytime game show, "Who Do You Trust?."
It was his first teaming with his future "Tonight" announcer,
Ed McMahon. In 1958 he was again asked to fill in for Paar, this
time on NBC's "The Tonight Show." On October 1, 1962,
Groucho Marx introduced Carson to the nation's late-night television
audience as the new host of "The Tonight Show."
Carson has won six
Emmy Awards, received the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences'
prestigious Governors' Award in 1980 and a George Foster Peabody
Award in 1986. In 1987 he was inducted into the ATAS Hall of Fame.
And for his humanitarian efforts, the American Friends of Hebrew
University honored him with the Scopus Award in 1989.
In 1992, Johnny won
the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the American Comedy Lifetime
Achievement Award. In 1993 he received the Kennedy Center Lifetime
Born in Corning,
IA on October 23, 1925, Carson grew up in Norfolk, NE. Johnny
passed away peacefully January 23, 2005 surrounded by his wife
Alexis and his family. His children are Ricky (passed away in
1991), Chris and Cory. Chris is a golf instructor living in Florida
and Cory is an accomplished musician in the Los Angeles area.
Posted by James Wolcott
Unable to let go, some entertainers hang around so long (too long)
that they fade and enfeeble before our eyes, milking out guest
spots and relying on the affectionate memories of the performers
they once were. They overdraw on our memories until our memories
become as tired as they look. Once death finally comes, it's the
end-point of their diminishment, a drawn-out tapering-off from
peaks reached in the grainy past. This didn't happen with Johnny.
He decided not to let it happen, and stuck to his decision. After
three decades as host of the Tonight show, Carson quit at the
top and never glanced back or sideways, preserving the memory
of a comedian in his silvery prime and making everyone who came
after him look primitive. His poise, his polish, his precision,
were unsurpassed. I was dispatched to LA to catch one of his last
shows for Vanity Fair and what struck me sitting in the audience--something
that one didn't come through simply watching at home--was the
power of his presence. He was taller than one expected, and when
he popped through the curtain, he project a physical force that
one didn't expect. (Letterman's a big guy too, but he doesn't
have the concentrated energy that Carson had--the dynamic focus.)
In retirement, Carson
became appalled by the degeneration of cable news coverage and
political discourse post 9/11. I received a wonderful note from
him a few years ago--a note from Johnny Carson! I've never opened
an envelope more gingerly--in which he lamented the dying out
of voices of reason such as astronomer Carl Sagan, a frequent
guest on his show. An astronomy buff himself, Carson prized science
and reason. In his latter years he must have felt even more estranged
from a country embracing its own hysteria.
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