RIP Johnny Carson
- Since Carson has just been mentioned in a post, I thought somebody
might be interested to read the obituary I saw yesterday in the
British Guardian newspaper. His comments on democracy were new to
me and worth reading! Aren't there trailers for his show as well as
Ed McMahon during the closing theme music on some of the original
audio tapes from Search's first showing?
American television's most popular and long-enduring show host
Monday January 24, 2005
For almost 30 years, the last person that millions of Americans saw
before they went to sleep was Johnny Carson, hosting his Tonight
television chat show on NBC. In it, Carson, who has died aged 79,
honed an apparently effortless technique that influenced comedians
and interviewers on both sides of the Atlantic.
Such was his popularity that his final show, on May 21 1992, became
almost a national day of mourning, with Bette Midler singing a
lament as he left the studio in Burbank, Los Angeles.
Carson represented 17% of NBC's profit, and it took two leading
comedians to replace him: Jay Leno at Tonight and his rival for that
job, David Letterman, who departed for his own late show at CBS.
Lean and self-contained, Carson developed an opening monologue in
which he would comment coolly, but hilariously, on what was
preoccupying America. He appeared more liberal than he was by
cleverly anticipating changes in public attitude and knowing when a
controversial topic, such as opposition to the Vietnam war, was
gaining mass approval. His constant, wounding, cracks about Richard
Nixon probably contributed to the president's downfall.
Although he was one of America's most popular figures during his
reign at Tonight from October 1962 (first guest: Groucho Marx) until
the last show, he almost disappeared after that. He did write a few
humorous articles in the New Yorker in 2000, after surviving
quadruple by-pass surgery in 1999, but mostly he kept to his Malibu
home, with his fourth wife, Alexis. He also contributed quietly to
charities and established a theatre at his old high school.
His previous three wives and his often disastrous business
investments, which included John De Lorean's fated Northern Ireland
car-building enterprise, were the source of rueful jokes. His third
wife took him for a reported $20 million, but he remained good
humored about it, which further endeared him to Americans.
Only once did this sunny disposition crack, when he displayed a copy
of the National Enquirer, denounced its report of his marriage
difficulties as "lies", and challenged them to sue. They did not.
The marital humour also went the other way. He acknowledged that he
met his fourth wife when she strolled past his Malibu home, but wags
said it was her fifth pass - in a bikini.
Although the show was always tightly scripted, Carson was capable of
spontaneous wit. After a man ran naked across the set during the
streaking craze of the 1970s, and was promptly arrested by police,
Carson cracked he would not be prosecuted "for lack of evidence".
A private man behind the public banter, he hid his true feelings, an
act of heroic modesty considering his huge potential influence. But
after he had given his notice to NBC, and his final show approached,
he delivered a laconic message about democracy that is worth
He compared it to buying "a big house you can't afford, with money
you don't have, to impress people you wish were dead. And, unlike
communism, democracy does not mean having just one ineffective
political party; it means having two ineffective political parties.
"Democracy is welcoming people from other lands, and giving them
something to hold on to, usually a mop or a leaf blower. It means
that with proper timing and scrupulous bookkeeping, anyone can die
owing the government a huge amount of money... Democracy means free
television, not good television, but free... And finally, democracy
is the eagle on the back of a dollarbill, with 13 arrows in one
claw, 13 leaves on a branch, 13 tail feathers, and 13 stars over its
head. This signifies that when the white man came to this country,
it was bad luck for the Indians, bad luck for the trees, bad luck
for the wildlife, and lights out for the American eagle. I thank
Carson was born in Iowa, raised in Nebraska and, while still a
schoolboy, sent for a conjuring set and entertained his fellow
pupils as the "Great Carsoni". He spent the latter part of the
second world war in the US Navy, then went to Nebraska University on
the GI bill. In 1949, he worked for a radio station in Omaha,
polishing his repartee before starting his own TV show.
It lasted only a year but attracted the attention of the famous
comedian Red Skelton, for whom he wrote jokes. In 1957, that led to
him hosting a TV game show, Who Do You Trust? After five successful
seasons, he was offered the job of replacing the formidable Jack
Paar on Tonight, after standing in for him several times.
From then on, with an annual income growing to over $15 million, and
the power to dictate the show's content, switching it from New York
to California, and reducing the length from 90 to 60 minutes, he
became a national institution, frequently hosting the Oscars, and
set for permanent success in his public life.
Privately, he struggled with alcohol and endured three divorces, the
first soon after he became a hit on Tonight. In 1991, one of his
three sons by his first wife, Jody, was killed in a traffic accident.
He is survived by two sons and four wives.
· John William Carson, television show host, born October 23 1925;
died January 23 2005
- Here is a list of all the "Search" closing credits from NBC we have
accumulated on audiotape, from three different collectors.
I have taken the audio from most of these and re-matched them where
possible to the closing credits video Trevor sent us, and will add
them as extras to future editions of Search eps we send out on VHS,
and eventually, on DVD.
It's kinda eerie seeing and hearing the closing credits this way,
it's like you're back in 1972-73 again. If anyone else out there has
audiotapes of Search back in the NBC days, let us know so we can add
them to the collection.
09-20-72 "ONE OF OUR PROBES" (from Jim - Dean Martin promo.)
11-15-72 "THE ADONIS FILE" (from Jim - Ed McMahon promo.)
The rest of these are from Don's audios, except where noted, and each
has an Ed McMahon promo, except where noted:
12-27-72 "ONE OF OUR PROBES IS MISSING" (Repeat)
04-25-73 "LIVE MEN TELL TALES" (Repeat) (Chet Huntley promo.)
05-09-73 "MOONROCK" (Repeat)
05-23-73 "SHORT CIRCUIT" (Repeat)
06-13-73 "A HONEYMOON TO KILL" (Repeat)
06-20-73 "MOMENT OF MADNESS" (Repeat) (from Actingman - Ed McMahon)
06-27-73 "THE 24 CARAT HIT" (Repeat)
07-11-73 "SUFFER MY CHILD" (Repeat) (from Jon Bach - Ed McMahon)
07-18-73 "ENDS OF THE EARTH" (Repeat) (Jon - Doc Severinsen promo)
07-25-73 "THE PACKAGERS" (Repeat)
08-01-73 "FLIGHT TO NOWHERE" (Repeat)
08-08-73 "THE CLAYTON LEWIS DOCUMENT" (Repeat)
08-15-73 "GODDESS OF DESTRUCTION" (Repeat)
08-29-73 "THE MATTSON PAPERS" (Repeat)
--- In probe_control, richard.rutherford wrote:
> ...Aren't there trailers for his show as well as
> Ed McMahon during the closing theme music on some of the original
> audio tapes from Search's first showing? --Richard
- An interesting read--
Thanks very much, Richard!
>Since Carson has just been mentioned in a post, I thoughtsomebody
>might be interested to read the obituary I saw yesterday inthe
>British Guardian newspaper. His comments on democracy werenew to
>me and worth reading! Aren't there trailers for his show aswell as
>Ed McMahon during the closing theme music on some of theoriginal
>audio tapes from Search's first showing?