I was just a kid. Not old enough to know anything, but old enough to know something. Old enough to know that if I made goofy faces and danced like a monkey my mom would laugh. Or my brother. My dad too. Every once in a while I’d get the neighbors, but it could be a tough crowd sometimes. Still, I was old enough to know what it meant to get a laugh.
I knew it was special.
Growing up, my parent’s bedroom was just off the hallway next to my room. If their door was open and my door was open, I could hear the t.v. on late at night. And with my brother’s room being the opposite end of the hallway from my parents, I could sneak out of my room without having to pass his. It was an ideal situation.
The theme music to The Tonight Show for years was the most unmistakable music around. Doc Severinsen would strike up the band, and immediately from down the hallway I knew that was my cue. Like a WWI Army Private I would crawl on my belly from my room to the edge of the door of my parent’s room. I was lucky that I could actually lie on the floor inside the room and still not be seen.
But I needed to be in position by the time I heard Ed McMahon announce “Heeeere’s JOHNNY!” so I wouldn’t miss a minute of the monologue…my favorite part.
It was all I could do every night to keep from giggling so hard I might give up my position in the trenches.
Years later I was able to stay up late and watch Johnny Carson without having to sneak around. Though the monologue was always my favorite part, I still remember the way he spoke with guests of the show. Carson remains the only comedian and talk show host who allowed his guests to get the biggest laughs. He reveled in it. It is what made him so revered. It is why he is still the KING.
His humor wasn’t pushing envelopes. It wasn’t controversial, rude or crass. It was honest and funny and most importantly…clever. He always got that twinkle in his eye when he unleashed a really good joke. Like he knew he was on to something special.
That mischievous grin was PRICELESS…
Though he may not have been a saint in his personal life, he was a noted philanthropist and loyal friend. He was a passionate entertainer. No, he may not have been a saint, but he was a good man. And onscreen, he was the best. The best of all of them. The funniest, most generous and respected…
Still the King.
6 thoughts on “They Don’t Make Them Like They Used To”
Johnny was indeed the King. A few came before him and countless have followed behind him, but there will never be another like him. I think staying up late as a kid to watch The Tonight Show is what created this night owl in me. Always afraid I was going to miss something, I never wanted to go to bed until my parents did (which was usually after Johnny). I might miss George Gobel, or Bob Hope. Maybe Dean Martin or Don Rickles. And the ever-present Jack Hanna and Joan Embery and their unique group of animals. I just loved those segments. Johnny played games with the audiences (Stump the Band) and played characters too, but my favorite was Carnac the Magnificent. As a psychic, he would put an envelope up to his forehead and give an answer to the question inside. The laughs from Ed McMahon were priceless. Ed was the perfect straight man and “friend” on the couch. He never tried to take the spotlight away from Johnny and he played his role perfecty. The second to last episode included one of Johnny’s favorites, Bette Midler. At the end, she moved to the center of the stage and began singing. Before long Johnny was standing at her side and the two of them sang together. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house, and I imagine very few watching at home. Even now I have chills recalling that moment and sharing it with you. If you haven’t seen it, find it. That’s a moment of television that is unrehearsed, genuine and full of absolute admiration and love. Two class acts for sure. And just one example of why Johnny was King.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I know you and I have strong feelings for such a wonderful, wonderful entertainer. I think as times change the younger generation will look back on the current crop and have their feelings and memories too. Hopefully they discover Johnny Carson and learn he was the man who led the way. I know I’m still hoping for someone to come along who will truly embody what Carson was all about.
He was Babe Ruth, Elvis and the Beatles…and so much more.
I agree with everything you wrote about the incomparable Johnny Carson! I watched The Tonight Show just about every night from ’87-’92 when Johnny retired (I think it was May 92), at least the opening monologues. It just wasn’t the same once Jay Leno took over hosting and I no longer watched it regularly.
I don’t watch either. I only catch Conan every once in a while because they air it early on the West Coast. Mostly I check in to see the guests, but won’t stick around. Problem I have with hosts today is that they all talk too much. I tune in to hear what the guests have to say, not what the host has to say. He has his 5 minutes in the beginning, after that he should just be asking the questions. And then LISTENING…
I’m glad you enjoyed this. So happy to hear we are Carson fans!!!
Late night has never been the same since he left us but I can just imagine him with a cheering audience on the other side. Your post made me smile.
It isn’t the same. But at least we can still look back and enjoy, just like it was yesterday!!
I’m glad this made you smile. I LOVE hearing that…and now we’re both smiling!