Johnny Carson is one of them, talking about people whose memories will never disappear in the sands of time. Johnny was an American comedian and talk show host who hosted the Tonight Show for 30 years (1962 – 1992) with Johnny Carson in the leading role.
Johnny Carson’s Biography/Wiki
Johnny was born in Corning, Iowa, on October 23, 1925, as John William Carson, the son of the electricity company boss Homer Lloyd “Kit” Carson and his beautiful wife Ruth Elizabeth (Hook) Carson, who was of Irish descent.
He grew up in various towns – Avoca, Clarinda, and Red Oak in southwestern Iowa before moving to Norfolk, Nebraska at the age of eight where he began to develop his entertainment skills. After Johnny found a book on magic at a friend’s house when he was 12, he immediately bought a magic kit and began practicing his skills on friends and family with card tricks.
He received the necessary support early enough from his family, who did not deter him but encouraged him. In fact, his mother was one of his first big fans, at the age of 14 his mother sewed him a cape and his first performance took place in front of the local Kiwanis club – where he debuted as “The Great Carsoni” and received $3 per performance.
Soon after, many more performances followed at local picnics and rural fairs. To earn extra money, Johnny got a part-time job at the Granada Theatre, where he worked as a projectionist and sold Saturday Evening Post subscriptions door to door.
As a high school student, Carson also developed his comedy and writing skills by writing a humor column for the Norfolk High newspaper and contributing random notes of frivolity to the school yearbook.
It was only after high school that Carson first encountered Hollywood. Determined to test his entertainment skills, Johnny hitchhiked to Hollywood but was arrested and fined $50 for impersonating an ensign – well, this story was often considered apocryphal.
Johnny Carson Career
Carson joined the U.S. Navy in 1943 and received training under the V-12 Navy College Training Program at Columbia University and Millsaps College respectively. He was named an ensign and assigned to the USS Pennsylvania in the Pacific. During his time in the Navy, Johnny was known for his entertainment skills and for being a source of comic relief when needed.
After his discharge from the Navy, Carson went to the University of Nebraska where he earned a degree in journalism to pursue a career as a comedy writer. When he failed at that, he switched to radio and language. He earned $1 a week writing a comedy show on KFAB radio in Lincoln called Eddie Sosby and the Radio Rangers.
Carson’s radio career really took off in 1950, having earned a B.A. in radio and language with a minor in physics the year before. Initially, he hosted a morning show on Omaha’s WOW TV called The Squirrel’s Nest. He also acted as a disc jockey on WOW radio. In no time Johnny increased his income by taking a position as Master of Ceremonies (MC) at local church dinners attended by the same politicians and mayors he had ridiculed on the radio.
The Rise To Stardom
Carson’s rise to fame came in 1951 when a friend recommended him for the job of a staff spokesman at KNXT-TV in L.A. This opportunity gave rise to a Sunday afternoon show called Carson’s Cellar, which was budgeted at $25 per show. As his popularity on the show grew, a big fan of the show called Red Skelton hired Carson as a writer and opening act on his CBS TV show.
Then came a stroke of luck – during a rehearsal one night Skelton couldn’t perform because he had a cold, and Carson had to replace him as the Clown Prince of the Night, and that was it. From that moment Carson switched from one show to the next – including the Johnny Carson Show, Earn Your Vacation, Who Do You Trust? He was a guest and then a regular panelist on the show, To Tell the Truth from 1960 to 1962.
Johnny Carson Spouse, Children
Carson has been married four times and divorced three times. He was first married to Jody Wolcott from 1948 to 1963. Their union produced three sons: Richard, Charles, and Cory. (Richard, unfortunately, died in a car accident in 1991).
In less than a year he married Joanne Copeland and they were divorced in 1972. His third marriage was with Joanna Holland – the couple divorced in 1983. After his third marriage failed, Carson remained unmarried until June 1987, when he married his fourth and last wife – Alexis Maas, who remained married until his death in 2005.
The Tonight Show
Due to the success of Carson’s skills in ABC’s Who Do You Trust? NBC invited him to take over the Tonight Show, which was first hosted by Steve Allen and then by Jack Paar – Jack Paar left the show in 1962.
Johnny turned down the offer at first because he found it a great challenge to interview celebrities for 120 minutes. But after stars like Jackie Gleason, Bob Newhart, Joey Bishop, and Groucho turned down the job, NBC approached Carson and convinced him that he was the right man for the job. So he signed with NBC in 1962 and ran it successfully for 30 years.
Johnny Carson’s Death, Net Worth
The television legend died in January 2005 at the age of 79. Carson, who had been a chain smoker for many years, announced in 2002 that he suffered from emphysema.
Carson had net assets of 300 million dollars Before he left the Tonight Show in 1992, his annual salary was $25 million, and at his death, he left about $200 million for charity.
About 50 million people are said to have seen his last show in 1992.