Long live the King! When I first heard of Johnny Carson's passing my first response was, "Gee, I thought Ed would be the first one to go". Just kidding, and I think Johnny would want it that way. Actually my thoughts immediately went to May 22, 1992 when Johnny did his last Tonight Show. This was the end of an era. Johnny was "The King of Late Night Television". With all due respect to the late Steve Allen, the late Jack Paar, Jay, Dave and Conan, no one has ever come close to doing what Johnny did for thirty years. He raised the bar that high.
As a comedian who started during the Comedy Boom of the 1980s being on "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" was the sign that you had made it. I would dream of doing my set, then seeing Johnny give me a thumbs up, the okay sign, or maybe, just maybe invite me to the coveted couch. Well, I never got to live dream. Again with all due respect to Jay and Dave, Johnny's couch meant more.
Finally now that Johnny is gone, I have a confession to make. In the spring of 1992 shortly before his last show and knowing that I would never be a guest on "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" I found myself at NBC Burbank. A friend had asked me to drop her off for an early morning call. It was about 5:00 am. Because of the darkness of the hour, the guard allowed me to the drive her on to the lot (a big deal in itself and something that would never happen today) and told me to drop off my friend at the talent entrance. The parking space closet to this entrance belonged to Johnny Carson. Since there was no one else around I thought, what the hell. I parked in Johnny Carson’s parking spot for probably all of a minute. I thought if I couldn't sit on his couch this would have to do. On May 22, 1992 I mourned the loss of a dream. Today I mourn the loss of a legend.
Two quotes came to mind when I wanted to quote Johnny. When asked what he wanted on his tombstone Johnny said, "We'll be right back" but perhaps for this occasion it is best to quote Johnny with last thing he said to us on The Tonight Show, "I bid you all a heartfelt Good Night".
And Good Night to you Johnny, I think you just redefined "Heavenly Host".
I was only 13 1/2 when his last episode aired, but I remember when I was really little I got to stay up sometimes and watch Carson, and he always made me laugh, and of course as I got older, when the show was ending I got some of the more adult humor as well. It was just his humor but just his presence I guess you could call it, you knew you were going to be entertained. When I was in Las Vegas I got a picture of a car he owned, that was in a museum it was pretty cool to see. Carson though was great will never be replaced.
The legend who would be more respected by my generation if the Tonight Show vaults would open and let more of his talent show than what is featured on the VHS and DVD box set that I own. Leno showed some clips of his after his death, like when Carson found out that Don Rickles broke his favorite cigarette box while Carson was on vacation. Carson left the set and took the cameras with him across the hall to where Rickles was performing a live show. Carson busted in and questioned Rickles about the box. That kind of random disorder is what I like from a comic and that's the kind of fearlessness that Conan and Letterman use today. Carson inspired the greats, therefore he is the greatest.
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