Saturday, October 23, 2010

In Memoriam: Johnny Carson

In a parallel universe, Johnny Carson could have become a beloved sitcom star; had Sheldon Leonard not gotten his way, Carl Reiner would have cast Carson opposite Mary Tyler Moore in a little sitcom about a comedy writer, which Carson actually was at that time.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketFortunately, Leonard got his way, and Dick Van Dyke was cast instead. Head of the Family became The Dick Van Dyke Show, TV history was made, and by way of a consolation, Carson took over after Jack Paar quit The Tonight Show in October 1962.

Alongside his old chum Ed McMahon (whom he'd met while working on Who Do You Trust?) Carson went on to make some TV history of his own, hosting The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson for 30 incredible years, first from New York City and then, after 1972, from the NBC Studios in Burbank.

Carson's extraordinary run finally ended in May 1992, when he retired from show business to play tennis and spend more time at his Malibu home with his fourth wife, Alexis. He made one more high-profile appearance, in May 1994, during one of protege David Letterman's week-long trips to LA; born on this day in 1925, Carson died in January 2005 from a heart attack worsened by emphysema, complications arising from his lifelong cigarette habit.
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