Carson will be missed

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 31, 2005

Although he had remained reclusive for much of the last 13 years, the death of Johnny Carson this past Sunday stunned me.

For 30 years, Johnny Carson quietly entertained us with his stand-up comedy, skits and interaction with more thousands upon thousands of guests. He made breakout entertainers out of comedians on the cusp of stardom. We have Johnny to thank for Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Cosby, Steve Martin and hundreds of others. Johnny was at the top of his game when the cameras were on. Paired with Ed McMahon, he had found his own personal laugh track. A simple word or look from Carson could cause McMahon to guffaw like a hyena. Eventually, that became just another part of the Tonight Show's charm. That, along with Carson's customary golf swings at the conclusion of his opening monologue.

But, like you and me, he was human. He had three failed marriages. He drank too much. He smoked like a locomotive. It was smoking and the effects of emphysema that caused his death on Sunday.

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And he held grudges. He never forgave Joan Rivers for becoming a talk show host for the fledgling Fox Network when it was all but assumed she would be taking over for Carson.

Above all, Carson was a professional. Some say too professional, because he never allowed his audience a glimpse into his emotions. When the lights were off, he retreated from his adoring public and lived a private life, which some found odd. For a man whose friends numbered in the thousands Carson kept close contact with only a few and held a tight lip when it came to his personal life.

I'll be honest with you: Johnny Carson was not a frequent guest in our house. During the best of his career, I was either too young or was forced into bed too early by my parents. Because Carson entertained on school nights. There were exceptions to this rule, of course, but they were rare. I suppose my parents, before they had children, may have partaken of Carson more often. Kids, though, have a way of making parents long for their pillows.

I do recall all of us gathering around the television for Carson's final show. We knew enough of the man to know that it was something we shouldn't miss. Following the collection of clips and highlights, Carson signed off. His viewers were finally allowed a glimpse into his humanity as Carson's voice broke when he thanked us for allowing him into our homes those past 30 years.

And I can remember

feeling as if I had missed three decades of something special.

Kevin Pearcey is editor of The Luverne Journal. He can be reached at

335-3541 or

via email at kevin.pearcey@