Thursday, May 05, 2016

Johnny Carson

1. Presentation

 Johnny Carson, born on 23 October 1925 in Coming (Iowa, USA), was a great television host, a comedian, a writer and more. At twelve, he began performing as a magician, "The Great Carsoni", both for his family and in front of audiences.

On 8 June 1943 he joined the United States Navy as a communication officer in charge of decoding encrypted messages after having received a V-12 Navy College Training Program at Columbia University and Millsaps College. He then entered the University of Nebraska (he was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity) where he continued giving his magic shows while studying  journalism. He dreamed of a career as a comedy writer but a few months later he decided to start a speech and drama degree instead, to become a radio performer. He graduated in three years with a minor in physics in 1949 and wrote a thesis titled "How to write comedian jokes".

2. Professional Life

Carson was engaged in 1953 by Red Skelton as the writer of his shows. Skelton had been impressed by Carson's sketch Cellar (1951-1953). One day, just before the beginning of the live show, Skelton, who should have presented it, lost consciousness and Carson replaced him. It was the start of Johnny's long career. He then presented the television shows Earn your vocation (1954) and Who do you trust (1957-1962) where he met Ed McMahon. He also presented The Johnny Carson Show (1955-1956) and then became an iconic figure thanks to The Tonight Show.

The Tonight Show is an American late-night show on NBC channel which was first broadcast on 27 September 1954. This show is one of the oldest American TV programs and even though there were several presenters, Carson is the one who lasted the longest (30years, from 1962 to 1992). The other presenters were Steve Allen (1954-1957), Jack Paar (1957-1962), Jay Leno (1992-2009 and 2010-2014), Conan O'Brien (2009-2010) and Jimmy Fallon (2014 onwards). Each daily episode of the show lasts an hour and welcomes guests such as Joey Bishop or Joan River. Johnny helped a lot of stars launching their career.

People loved Carson's humour and he won many awards, amongst which a Peaboy Award (1986), the People's Choice Award , the Television Academy Hall of Fame (1987), the Primetime Emmy Award , the Television Critics Association Award and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1992) as well as the Kennedy Center Honors (1993). He also created the John W. Carson Foundation, which supports children education and which was in 2010 the largest of Hollywood's charities (they received $156 million).

 3. Private Life

He had quite a troubled life though. He had three boys from his first marriage with Joan Wolcott and one of them, Richard, died in 1991 in a car crash. Father and son used to argue loudly, helped by alcohol, which often made them bad-tempered.

Johnny was also known as a "Lady-Killer": he had no fewer than four wives :

- Joan Wolcott (1949-1963)
-Joanne Carson (1963-1972)
-Joanna Holland (1972-1985) 
-Alexis Maas (1987-2005, she survived him)). 

He had mistresses too, such as Angie Dickinson, Joan Rivers (who made one of Carson's "sex-tapes" public), Sally Field, and many more. Actually the list seems endless but all those stories are reported in a biography  of Carson written by Henry Bushkin, his previous lawyer and once friend who doesn't hesitate in telling Carson's darkest secrets...

Johnny Carson died on 23 January 2005 of respiratory failure caused by emphysema in Los Angeles (California). He had already had four bypass surgeries in 1999 and died when only aged 79.

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