Glazer: Scribe Ponders Broken Promise to His Mom & The King of Late Night TV

In life we have many dreams…

One of mine was to sit next to Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show. I even promised my mom I’d do that.

Never happened.

I think I regret that one as much as having her see me go to prison back in 1985.

Well, close anyway.

It’s the holiday season now and one of the shows that brought me and millions of others a smile in the past was THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JOHNNY CARSON.

Johnny’s never been replaced and never will be. Carson was THE CLASS ACT of all time on television. Yes, there have been scores of others who’ve tried to match him – David Letterman and Jay Leno getting the closest.

Others met some success – from Arsenio Hall to Conan – and the list of stars with daytime and evening talk shows is nearly endless. Yet only one could draw 20 plus million viewers a night for years, and that man was Johnny Carson.

After 4,530 shows Johnny called it quits on May 22, 1992, more than 20 years ago.

If you’re a Baby Boomer – maybe even a Gen Xer – his shows may still rattle in your brain at times. I used to race home from goofing around after school to watch the frequent appearances of Don Rickles or Richard Pryor. Just getting on the Tonight Show with Johnny could made you a national name star if you were a comic or singer.

Kansas City had its share of Tonight Show stars, including Marilyn Maye and Ed Asner.

My favorite was my ex girlfriend Sandahl Bergman.

She’d won the Golden Globe for best actress in the movie Conan with Arnold. Sandhal did more than 30 minutes with Johnny and made the highlight clips show at Christmas because she and Carson did a fake sword fight and Johnny got cut by accident.

Sandahl showed me her career clips on a date we had early on in LA – including her winning the Golden Globe – but it was her Carson Show appearance that most impressed me.

I saw Johnny’s last Tonight show in Palm Springs at a bar waiting to go to an awards show.

He thanked us all for letting him be a part of our lives and allowing him into our homes every night. Johnny said one day he might come back when he found something he want to do on television. But it was clear he would NEVER be back – not for any long running show.

Johnny was done. I knew it, America knew it, and a tear rolled down my eyes as he walked off for the last time. Johnny Carson was television for all those decades.

Later Johnny did a guest spot on Letterman. He was introduced, came out, sat in his old seat (they shot Letterman in Johnny’s old studio) got a five minute standing ovation, never said a word and walked off smiling while giving a farewell parade wave. He died a couple years later.

Carson did do a short bit on television a year after he left the Tonight Show.

It was Bob Hope‘s 90th birthday, a salute to the other great television star of the last half century.

Both men spent nearly their entire careers at NBC.

“NBC, the house of hits…I walked by the president’s office on the way here, today it’s a Chinese restaurant,” Carson said.

It was brief, but would be Johnny’s last words of comedy on TV forever.

I did the Today Show and Entertainment Tonight, but never the Tonight Show with Carson. I never earned that one. When my mom was in her last few days she brought it up at the hospital to me, not doing the show.

“I forgive you for going to prison,” she said. “but I sure wanted to see you with Johnny.”

One day, like practically everyone else that ever mattered, Johnny Carson will be forgotten.

But nothing in entertainment history will ever be as sad as his last show. He was the best.

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18 Responses to Glazer: Scribe Ponders Broken Promise to His Mom & The King of Late Night TV

  1. Rick Nichols says:

    I never was a big Carson fan. To me he was simply a great example of a small-town boy from Nebraska going off to LA to eventually become corrupted by money, booze, sex and everything else the City of Fallen Angels stands for, at least in my mind. But don’t worry, I’m sure they’ll soon be resurrecting his sidekick’s famous introductory line down at Texas A & M: “And now, heeeeeeeeeere’s Johnny!”

  2. Lance the Intern says:

    I believe Prairie Village’s own Sandahl Bergman won a Golden Globe (for new star of the year) for her role in Conan the Barbarian…IIRC, Emmys are for television roles.

    • Craig Glazer says:

      I stand corrected, you are right GOLDEN GLOBE, my mistake…and here I escorted her to the SME event where she was honored about a year ago for winning the Golden Globe…my bad. You are right.

  3. Craig Glazer says:

    P.S. that is a crazy hot photo of Sandahl, I have to have her see it Hearne she will love it, I think…yeah it was the GOLDEN GLOBE AWARD in 1983/84…she beat out Molly Ringwold and a couple other big name ladies at that time…she also did ALL THAT JAZZ, RED SONJA and many more in her prime…Sandahl was the dance coreographer for the Academy Awards for four years, she never was impressed with her Golden Globe Award, used it as a door stop…who knows why…to my knowledge she is the only KC gal to win the award ever.

  4. Orphan of the Road says:

    My grandfathers cousin, Sally Rand, was a guest on The Tonight Show. I remember waiting up in hs with my mom.

    When I was five, my grandparents too me to the Missouri State Fair and we went to her dressing room. Guess that explains my breast fixation, eh? 🙂

    Carson had a great eye for talent. He never worried someone would be better than him, he embraced great comedy.

    Ol’ Ed owned a house at The Jersey Shore a few houses away from my ex’s friend’s house. You could tell when Ed was in town because his Eldorado would be sitting in the middle of the street the next morning.

    I liked that other guy from Nebraska, Dick Cavett, too. He and my friend Roger Welsch went to school together. Awhile back they were on a radio show talking about their youth and such.

    Dick came to visit Rog in Dannebrog, NE and they went down to the local tavern. Probably the 70s/80s as Dick was wearing a yellow safari suit and took a lot of jabs from the locals.

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Orphan, I hear Cavett with some regularity on my personal lord and saviors show, Imus in the Morning. He’s a really interesting guy and, since I have a fairly good Gaydar, I always assumed he was, but he recently married. One of our great deep thinker/intellectual comedians. Always liked him, even when it wasn’t cool!

  5. Kerouac says:

    “Johnny’s never been replaced and never will be.”

    – in that venue, late night host, agreed (his off-air ‘morose’ self [ according to someone who knew him/relayed said to me ] may have been the polar opposite his ‘on’ but that is for another blog.)

    Kerouac (who has been around since the middle of the 20th century) has tried in vain find some semblance of allure latter day Carson-wannabes… nod the most interesting man in the world, I am still “thirsty” my friends.

    Carson I found to be just that: ‘interesting’, in a tv world that was even then waning little by little said aspect, compared the even earlier days. Fast forward century 21, and ‘entertainment’ by leaps and bounds has become a veritable wasteland.

    Some may claim such a comment is typical ‘old person’ refrain who thinks things were better back in the day… was better, my opine (having been around to compare thence to now.) Suffice to say, ‘style & substance’ at minimum was in greater supply thence.

    Am reminded of ex-PITTS Steeler Terry Bradshaw, who once commented “just one more time I’d love to put my hands under Mike Webster’s butt” (ehh? That’s Terry humor for, ‘I miss playing football/my teammates.’) Similarly, just one more time I’d like to hear the familiar “Here’s Johnny!” intro; perhaps even now he’s playing to his harshest critic on the big stage in the sky, Providence (Ed McMahon behind the mike, Doc Severinsen’s lead horn the interim by Gabriel, before an appreciative audience.)

    Perhaps good reason ‘hope’ (at minimum) that there might be something beyond this mortal coil, CG.

  6. mark smith says:

    I think what made Carson stand apart from the likes of letterman and leno was he never took himself too seriously. He didn’t politicize his show, unlike letterman. And his monlogue was the stuff that nobody has matched. Jim fowler from mutual of Omaha wild kingdom and tickled were always my favorite guests. Rickles still kills it on letterman and is in my opinion the funniest guy ever.
    I thought red sonjia was that tall broad, brigette neilson that was banging stallone and later flava flav. No?

    • mark smith says:

      Make that Rickles not tickled. Fuggin auto correct.

    • Lance the Intern says:

      Sandahl Bergman was the bad guy in Red Sonja

    • Craig Glazer says:

      Bergman was the evil Queen in this one, wore an eye patch…

    • harley says:

      smithy….you’re 1000% right…rickles is #1….bobby slayton tries to
      be don rickels…but he fallshort…but bobby slayton is damn good.
      one time in vegas don rickles did half his show from our booth.
      We got into the theatre…seated by maitre d….later the maitre
      d came by and asked us if we would share the booth and in
      exchange he would give us free drinks all night. Little did he know
      we loved champaign. So he comes back with Milton Berle and his
      wife…sitting in the booth …and don rickels comes out from the stage
      and does about 40 minutes in front of our booth.
      he was great…remember him from my parents and being in vegas
      for 6 new years eves…
      he was hilarious…and even today he cracks me up.
      thanks for mentioning rickles smith.y…..brings back good memories!!!

  7. the dude says:

    Glaze, the pic of the chic, not exactly SFW, could you change it for work viewing before I get fired?

  8. gerald bostock says:

    You had to race home from after-school fooling around to get there by 10:30 pm? You must have been quite the dedicated fool.

  9. RickM says:

    Carson was the best and a true pioneer. Still, by the 80s, his show’s tone and format were beginning to show their age.

    Despite giving a lot of great comics their first taste of national exposure, he was the last of the late night hosts to ignore the happening rock acts of his time, preferring to stick to Steve & Eydie types. That just wouldn’t fly in today’s hypercompetitive environment where everyone wants to put on a buzzworthy “cutting edge” band.

    Having said that, total respect to him for retiring when he did and *staying* retired. Unlike too many others (Bob Hope?), he made a classy and graceful exit from the spotlight.

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