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.