Just saw it on ABC news.
He was the king of late night TV. To me, no one, not Leno, not Letterman, no one else comes close. RIP.
"Hey...Dad. Wanna Have A Catch?" Kevin Costner in "Field Of Dreams."
By JEFF WILSON, Associated Press Writer
LOS ANGELES - Johnny Carson (news), the "Tonight Show" TV host who served America a smooth nightcap of celebrity banter, droll comedy and heartland charm for 30 years, has died. He was 79. "Mr. Carson passed away peacefully early Sunday morning," his nephew, Jeff Sotzing, told The Associated Press. "He was surrounded by his family, whose loss will be immeasurable. There will be no memorial service."
Sotzing would not give further details, including the time of death or the location.
The boyish-looking Nebraska native with the disarming grin, who survived every attempt to topple him from his late-night talk show throne, was a star who managed never to distance himself from his audience.
His wealth, the adoration of his guests ó particularly the many young comics whose careers he launched ó the wry tales of multiple divorces: Carson's air of modesty made it all serve to enhance his bedtime intimacy with viewers.
"Heeeeere's Johnny!" was the booming announcement from sidekick Ed McMahon that ushered Carson out to the stage. Then the formula: the topical monologue, the guests, the broadly played skits such as "Carnac the Magnificent."
But America never tired of him; Carson went out on top when he retired in May 1992. In his final show, he told his audience: "And so it has come to this. I am one of the lucky people in the world. I found something that I always wanted to do and I have enjoyed every single minute of it."
His personal life could not match the perfection of his career. Carson was married four times, divorced three. In 1991, one of his three sons, 39-year-old Ricky, was killed in a car accident.
Nearly all of Carson's professional life was spent in television, from his postwar start at Nebraska stations in the late 1940s to his three decades with NBC's "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson."
Carson choose to let "Tonight" stand as his career zenith and his finale, withdrawing into a quiet retirement that suited his private nature and refusing involvement in other show business projects.
In 1993, he explained his absence from the limelight.
"I have an ego like anybody else," Carson told The Washington Post, "but I don't need to be stoked by going before the public all the time."
He was open to finding the right follow-up to "Tonight," he told friends. But his longtime producer, Fred de Cordova, said Carson didn't feel pressured ó he could look back on his TV success and say "I did it."
"And that makes sense. He is one of a kind, was one of a kind," de Cordova said in 1995. "I don't think there's any reason for him to try something different."
Carson spent his retirement years sailing, traveling and socializing with a few close friends including media mogul Barry Diller and NBC executive Bob Wright. He simply refused to be wooed back on stage.
"The reason I really don't go back or do interviews is because I just let the work speak for itself," he told Esquire magazine in 2002 in a rare interview.
The former talk show host did find an outlet for his creativity: He wrote short humor pieces for The New Yorker magazine, including "Recently Discovered Childhood Letters to Santa," which purported to give the youthful wish lists of William Buckley, Don Rickles and others.
Carson made his debut as "Tonight" host in October 1962. Audiences quickly grew fond of his boyish grin and easy wit. He even made headlines with such clever ploys as the 1969 on-show marriage of eccentric singer Tiny Tim to Miss Vicki, which won the show its biggest-ever ratings.
The wedding and other noteworthy moments from the show were collected into a yearly "Tonight" anniversary special.
In 1972, "Tonight" moved from New York to Burbank. Growing respect for Carson's consistency and staying power, along with four consecutive Emmy Awards, came his way in the late 1970s.
His quickness and his ability to handle an audience were impressive. When his jokes missed their target, the smooth Carson won over a groaning studio audience with a clever look or sly, self-deprecating remark.
Politics provided monologue fodder for him as he skewered lawmakers of every stripe, mirroring the mood of voters. His Watergate jabs at President Nixon were seen as cementing Nixon's fall from office in 1974.
He made presidential history again in July 1988 when he had then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton (news - web sites) on his show a few days after Clinton came under widespread ridicule for a boring speech at the Democratic National Convention. Clinton traded quips with Carson and played "Summertime" on the saxophone. Four years later, Clinton won the presidency.
Carson dispatched would-be late-night competitors with aplomb. Competing networks tried a variety of formats and hosts but never managed to best "Tonight" and Carson.
There was the occasional battle with NBC: In 1967, for instance, Carson walked out for several weeks until the network managed to lure him back with a contract that reportedly gave him $1 million-plus yearly.
In 1980, after more walkout threats, the show was scaled back from 90 minutes to an hour. Carson also eased his schedule by cutting back on his work days; a number of substitute hosts filled in, including Joan Rivers, David Brenner, Jerry Lewis and Jay Leno, Carson's eventual successor.
Rivers was one of the countless comedians whose careers took off after they were on Carson's show. After she rocked the audience with her jokes in that 1965 appearance, he remarked, "God, you're funny. You're going to be a star."
"If Johnny hadn't made the choice to put me on his show, I might still be in Greenwich Village as the oldest living undiscovered female comic," she recalled in an Associated Press interview 20 years later. She tried her own talk show in 1986, quickly becoming one of the many challengers who could not budge Carson.
In the '80s, Carson was reportedly the highest-paid performer in television history with a $5 million "Tonight" show salary alone.
His Carson Productions created and sold pilots to NBC, including "TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes." Carson himself made occasional cameo appearances on other TV series.
He also performed in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, N.J., and was host of the Academy Awards (news - web sites) five times in the '70s and '80s.
Carson's graceful exit from "Tonight" did not avoid a messy, bitter tug-of-war between Leno and fellow comedian David Letterman. Leno took over as "Tonight" host on May 25, 1992, becoming the fourth man to hold the job after founding host Steve Allen, Paar and Carson.
Carson was born in Corning, Iowa, and raised in nearby Norfolk, Neb. He started his show business career at age 14 as the magician "The Great Carsoni."
After World War II service in the Navy, he took a series of jobs in local radio and TV in Nebraska before starting at KNXT-TV in Los Angeles in 1950.
There he started a sketch comedy show, "Carson's Cellar," which ran from 1951-53 and attracted attention from Hollywood. A staff writing job for "The Red Skelton Show" followed.
The program provided Carson with a lucky break: When Skelton was injured backstage, Carson took the comedian's place in front of the cameras.
Producers tried to find the right program for the up-and-coming comic, trying him out as host of the quiz show "Earn Your Vacation" (1954) and in the variety show "The Johnny Carson Show" (1955-56).
From 1957-62 he was host of the daytime game show "Who Do You Trust?" and, in 1958, was joined for the first time by McMahon, his durable "Tonight" buddy.
A few acting roles came Carson's way, including one on "Playhouse 90" in 1957, and he did a pilot in 1960 for a prime-time series, "Johnny Come Lately," that never made it onto a network schedule.
In 1958, Carson sat in for "Tonight Show" host Jack Paar. When Paar left the show four years later, Carson was NBC's choice as his replacement.
After his retirement, Carson took on the role of Malibu-based retiree with apparent ease. An avid tennis fan, he was still playing a vigorous game in his 70s.
He and his wife, Alexis, traveled frequently. The pair met on the Malibu beach in the early 1980s; he was 61 when they married in June 1987, she was in her 30s.
Carson's first wife was his childhood sweetheart, Jody, the mother of his three sons. They married in 1949 and split in 1963.
He married Joanne Copeland Carson in 1963; divorce came in 1972. His third marriage, to Joanna Holland Carson, took place in 1972. They separated in 1982 and reached a divorce settlement in 1985.
On the occasion of Carson's 70th birthday in 1995, former "Tonight" bandleader Doc Severinsen, who toured with musicians from the show, said he was constantly reminded of Carson's enduring popularity.
"Every place we go people ask `How is he? Where is he? What is he doing? Tell him how much we miss him.' It doesn't surprise me," Severinsen said.
The brisk sale of the video collection "Johnny Carson: His Favorite Moments From The Tonight Show," released in 1994, offered further proof of his appeal.
He won a Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, in 1992, with the first President Bush (news - web sites) saying, "With decency and style he's made America laugh and think." In 1993, he was celebrated by the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors for career achievement.
AP Television Writer Lynn Elber contributed to this report.
My dad got to enjoy 3 Reds World Championships by the time he was my age. So far, I've only gotten to enjoy one. Step it up Redlegs!
He was great. The kind of guy everybody likes.
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
~ Mark Twain
So long, Johnny.
He was one of my all time favorite entertainers. Late night television has never been the same since his retirement. I'm sure the angels in Heaven are now announcing "Here's Johnny!" RIP Johnny Carson!
Sorry to hear this...somehow seems surprising, probably because he was such a private person.... always my favorite night-time guy....makes one suddenly feel old.
Interesting timing, in that it just came out in the last few days that he had been feeding monologue jokes to Letterman. That should make things interesting at the funeral, since both Leno and Letterman are likely to attend.
How sad. RIP Johnny.
Itís quarter to three,
Thereís no one in the place ícept you and me
So set íemí up joe
I got a little story I think you oughtta know
Weíre drinking my friend
To the end of a brief episode
So make it one for my baby
And one more for the road
I know the routine
Put another nickel in that there machine
Iím feeling so bad
Wonít you make the music easy and sad
I could tell you a lot
But you gotta to be true to your code
So make it one for my baby
And one more for the road
Youíd never know it
But buddy Iím a kind of poet
And Iíve got a lot of things I wanna say
And if Iím gloomy, please listen to me
Till itís all, all talked away
Well, thatís how it goes
And joe I know youíre gettiní anxious to close
So thanks for the cheer
I hope you didnít mind
My bending your ear
Man, the cloth they cut him from is long gone. So, too, it seems, subtle humor. Rare genius.
Originally Posted by Unassisted
Supposedly Carson was unhappy with the direction in which Leno took the show after taking over for Johnny.
Anyway, we have lost a classy performer. I have lots of great memories of Carson on the Tonite Show...and he wasn't afraid to let his guests have the spotlight. His ego didn't demand that he always had to be the center of attention.
Never cared for the Tonight Show after Johnny left. Had he been ill?
The Pearly Gates are opening and in the background can be heard, "Heeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrreeee'sssss Johnny"
RIP Johnny Carson.
Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.