Johnny Carson

Watched the PBS American Masters bio of Johnny Carson last night. Great bit where he says to Muhammed Ali that he had boxed about eight fights himself in the Navy and Ali said to him that he must have been pretty good because he had no marks on him. Carson told Ali that he didn’t have any marks on him either. Ali says, well, I’m pretty good. This was the later, quieter Ali, not the coarse loudmouthed early Ali. And right there those two might have been the two most famous people in the world at the time.

Something I never noticed before, and this might have been part of what limited mystique George W. Bush had, is the resemblance between W. and Carson. It’s not pronounced, but it’s definitely there. Both apparently got the same results out of drinking as well.

One thing I did not know about Carson was that he was a philanderer. At least he had the decency not to flaunt it.

His schtick, the head whipping from side to side, the darting eyes, all the rapid moves were born in his youthful obsession with magic tricks, his early self-training at being an entertainer. He was trying to hold his mother’s attention, at first, and maybe for a lot of his life. She was apparently indifferent. But it worked on almost everyone else.

Most impressive was the part about how when the television writers went out on strike for several weeks, Carson wrote the entire show himself. He was also a generous man, who helped people in dire straits all the time and never took any credit for it. Was also a voracious reader and a loner, who could spend his time with everyone in the world or just himself. In the end, everyone knew Johnny Carson and no one knew him.

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