Monday, January 24, 2005

Carson Signs Off

I just got the news of Johnny Carson’s final curtain call. Carson died early Sunday morning. I really loved that man.

Many weekend nights when I was in high school, I would come home early to catch the monologue. At the time, Letterman was the rage; the hip irony of his show dazzled so many of my contemporaries. Not me, I preferred Johnny. While my friends sought to imitate Letterman’s sarcasm, I reveled in the gentle humor, the personable chit-chat of the man from Nebraska. He was a friend to come home to, a reassuring voice in the night.

No doubt, Letterman’s show has at times been great, but it’s never had the sophistication and the class the Tonight show projected through the warm glow of the tube five nights a week.

I was surprised to see Johnny go. Just this fall I finished reading what is probably the best-known biography of him, King of the Night by Laurence Leamer. The author ends the book portraying Johnny as a sad, isolated, empty figure, beloved by his audience, estranged from all who knew him well. This may well be so, but to me, as a member of that vast and undifferentiated audience he shone like no one else, up on that screen, deep in the middle of the night.

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