A FEW WORDS ABOUT JOHNNY CARSON
BY DAN MILLER
(originally posted January 24, 2005)
I'll miss Johnny Carson. But, in truth, I've already been missing him for 13 years.
When he gave up the Tonight Show in 1992, I suddenly realized that a reliable "constant" in my life wouldn't be there anymore.
Without really giving it much thought, I'd grown from college age, well into middle age, always knowing that -- whatever knocks had come my way that day -- Johnny Carson would be there to cheer me up and say goodnight.
I'll admit, toward the end of his time on the show, I didn't watch him quite as much as I used to.
But I didn't have to. Like the parent we leave behind, I knew I could hear from him when I needed him.
I knew he'd be there, to make sure I smiled before I went to sleep.
Johnny saw us through the terrible assassinations and social changes of the 1960's..... and he saw us through the 70's, with Vietnam and political upheavals.
Someone once criticized Johnny, saying his show had no social relevance. He answered, "That's not what I'm there for".
It was an honest answer, but it wasn't true. He did have social relevance.
Like a funny parent, he tucked America in at night, with a smile - and the assurance that everything would be OK.
I saw Johnny Carson in person only once.
In 1986, I was standing in front of a hotel in Los Angeles, and there -- about 10 feet from me -- was a face so familiar that, for a second, I thought it was somebody from back home.
Goodness, it was Johnny Carson.
I kept glancing over, and thinking, "I know this man so well.... I know what makes him laugh... I know about his life and career.... I know what music he likes.... what social issues bother him".
And when I heard him speak to the person with him, and I remember thinking, "that voice has so often been the last one I hear before going to bed".
Then, for just a flicker of a moment, I caught his eye.
When he quickly looked away, I felt a brief, silly letdown that he didn't know me, or understand how well I knew him.
Johnny once told an interviewer, "I keep doing the show, because I can't do anything else".
He was making a joke, but there was a nugget of truth there.
What he could have said is, "I keep doing this show, because I do it so well that nobody can, or will, do it this well again...... ever".