Sunday, January 23, 2005

Johnny Carson

Originally uploaded by _Ingrid_.
This photo was sent to me after I sent Johnny a birthday card one year. They used to say that he saw each and every card that was sent to him, and I guess that was the truth. It says, "To Ingrid Thanks Johnny Carson."
I stuck the photo in a frame and threw the frame in a box, and it moved around me over the years. I never had the nerve to hang it on the wall, too cheesy. How embarrassing to have sent a birthday card to Johnny Carson? The photo got wet sometime over the years, and had paint spilled on it. The back of the frame is so warped that I couldn't get it out of the frame just now without damaging it further, so I just scanned it as it is.

When I was 13 we moved at the beginning of the summer, and I was so lonely in those months before I started my new school that I watched TV almost constantly. It was a way to see the same people, and hear the same conversations, despite knowing that nothing would ever be the same for me again. Johnny Carson did more than keep me company that summer; through him, I could live somewhere familiar. Every night I could see him behind the desk, and imagine sitting on that couch, smoking and drinking from a mug. I came to understand every nuance in Johnny's facial expressions, and envied his relationship with Ed McMahon. I sat in my room with the door locked, sneaking cigarettes and leaning in toward the set, absorbing it, trying to remember what it was like to have friends.

I have so many memories of Johnny, of things that happened on the Tonight Show, that they feel like personal memories to me.
There was the time Don Rickles was a guest host and broke Johnny's cigarette case. Then, a few nights later, when Johnny discovered what had happened, he got up from behind the desk, and, cameras in tow, walked to the nearby studio where Rickles was shooting another of his ill-fated sitcoms, CPO Sharkey, and demanded an apology.
Then there was the time, as a child, watching the ball drop on New Year's Eve on Carson. My parents were out celebrating, and I sat in my pajamas on the couch, savoring every second and not wanting it to be over, as the orders were, "Johnny Carson, and then bed." Just after midnight came, there was an explosion of balloons and streamers. Doc and the band were playing Auld Lang Syne. Johnny leaned over to say something into Ed's ear and I SWEAR I read his lips, "Guy Lombaro eats shit."My brothers and sister never believed me, but I know what I saw.
There were all the times with the animals from the San Diego Zoo.
There was anytime he did Karnak the Magnificent.
There was anytime that Buddy Hackett was a guest.

I had the foresight to tape the last two episodes of the Tonight Show that he did, and I'll be watching them in the next few days, and reminding myself of how much I'll miss him.

To Johnny Thanks, Ingrid.


At Sunday, January 23, 2005 7:07:00 PM, Blogger curiouskiwi said...

I used to love those special nights when I was young when my parents would let me 'stay up late' to watch Johnny. We lived in Texas, so Johnny was on at 10:30, just after the news. That was late for me.

Thanks for the memories.

At Sunday, January 23, 2005 7:50:00 PM, Blogger J. said...

I used to lie on my stomach at the top of the stairs and watch the Tonight Show through the railing. I'd always get busted because he'd always made me laugh out loud.

I remember when he used to have to do product ads live and he was doing one for Alka Seltzer. He was supposed to pour two tablets our of the glass jar they came in - stacked like Pringles' chips - but couldn't get the little styrofoam bumper out of the jar. So he did the next best thing. He poured the water into the jar and screwed the lid back on and went on with the show. A while later, the jar exploded all over his desk and Johnny jumped up and yelled "SHIT!". I laughed about that for months.

I'm glad he retired at the top of his game, and will always remember Johnny fondly. He taught me so much.

At Sunday, January 23, 2005 7:54:00 PM, Blogger patrick said...

My father died a few days after Johnny's last show... I watched the last show while in the hospital waiting room, which was my makeshift hotel room for a few days.

My dad didn't care much for watching The Tonight Show, always complaining about Carson's "dirty jokes" — like he never told any! Thankfully, he would go to bed at about 11:30, so we'd still be able to watch the show.

I think that he was more turned off my Ed McMahon, actually, and I'd like to believe that one of his better moments while in the hospital was when I told him that the show was going off the air — more importantly, that Mcmahon was losing a job.

At Sunday, January 23, 2005 10:13:00 PM, Blogger patrick said...

J.'s comment reminded me of my favorite Carson moment...

Richard Pryor was making his first public appearance after he'd suffered major burns, and as Johnny was about to go to commercial, he reached over (as he often did with guests) and lightly touched Pryor on his arm.

Pryor then began howling as if in pain and Carson about crapped his pants as he thought he had done something to hurt Pryor. The look on Carson's face at that moment was priceless, as was the look of relief when Pryor told him he was joking.

At Monday, January 24, 2005 12:08:00 AM, Blogger Cora said...

I never saw him; he's one American icon that never made it to Brazil. But I thank him too for having given you the memories you wrote down so beautifully. You're such a wonderful writer.


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