My friend Farrell just forwarded this to me from Variety:
JOHNNY CARSON DIES
Former ‘Tonight Show’ host was 79
Johnny Carson, the “Tonight Show” TV host who served America a smooth nightcap of celebrity banter, droll comedy and heartland charm for 30 years, has died. He was 79. “Mr. Carson passed away peacefully early Sunday morning,” his nephew, Jeff Sotzing, told The Associated Press. “He was surrounded by his family, whose loss will be immeasurable. There will be no memorial service.”
Over the next 24 hours you will learn more about Johnny Carson than you ever knew before. There will be obits and documentaries all over TV and in print. I cannot begin to provide that detail and won’t attempt it. There are a few things I do want to say about Johnny.
I found it interesting that David Letterman, Steve Martin and other people of that ‘stature’ always referred to Johnny Carson as, “Mr. Carson.” In the beginning, I thought it was for effect. I later came to understand it was the best way for them to express their respect.
Without Johnny Carson there would have been no Letterman, Martin, Jay Leno, Joan Rivers or any number of comedians who made their mark on the Tonight Show.
I only saw Johnny perform once. It was in Las Vegas (I think – though it might have been Atlantic City… I’m just not sure). When he walked on stage – the first moment he walked on stage – he was already a hit. I found that remarkable. I have never seen another performer with that kind of presence.
I remember a part of the act where he talked about his childhood in the Midwest. He talked about ‘puberty,’ but pronounced it “poo-berty.” Back then I thought, and I still do now, his pronunciation was to make a point. He was speaking of sexuality and proclaiming innocence at the same time.
When Johnny Carson left the Tonight Show, he never looked back. He became a recluse, at least as far as TV was concerned. He made one or two minor appearances, but was never a headliner or even a performer.
He could have done anything he wanted to do. Any network… any syndicator… any cable outlet would have moved heaven and Earth to get Johnny on for what certainly would have been a major event. He had no desire. He had nothing to prove. I suppose he had everything to lose because major success had already been achieved and was now expected.
I give him credit for resisting the temptation, though I would have preferred he’d done something… just once.
Toward the end of his run on the Tonight Show, Johnny developed a habit that bothered me. The show would end and the band would play as the credits rolled. On set, Johnny would get up and walk off – while the cameras rolled and the audience watched. That was disrespectful to his audience.
It has been said, “The Golden Age is always in the past.” There will never be another Johnny Carson, with a show that so dominated its time period (a time period, at that time, populated by old movies and scratchy prints of re-runs). There will never be another venue so suited to launching careers, and successful in its execution.
It’s sad Johnny without saying goodbye. That is how he wanted it. I’m sure his opinion in this matter was in the minority.