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Johnny Carson


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KING OF LATE NIGHT: JOHNNY CARSON 1925-2005: Star left us wanting more


Johnny Carson knew how to raise the curtain on a career, and how to lower it.

Over 30 years, thousands waited behind "The Tonight Show" curtain for his summons: Come on out and sing and dance for us, make us laugh, tell us about your book, your film, your big at-bat or touchdown. The ultimate summons. Doing Carson.

"Carson." Or "Johnny," as we more often called him. He hosted "The Tonight Show" longer than anybody else, elevating the cocked eyebrow to high art and creating the first case of "Must See TV" in his always au courant comic monologue. More significantly, he kept us all on a first-name basis.

"Did you see Johnny last night?"

Did anyone really have to ask?

Before we all got off the same page, before we had 150 channels and no way of knowing who or what mattered the most or least, we had Johnny.

Perhaps no star ever left us wanting more.

Since Carson quietly retired in 1992, almost no one not named Ed McMahon had seen or spoken to him, so maybe his death Sunday morning at 79 from emphysema should have felt less gut-wrenching than it did. He'd long since pulled the curtain down on his public life in an incredibly dignified fashion, but we all knew he'd be back, right? Nobody just leaves TV like that for good.

Johnny left it great.


> Photo gallery from Carson's career, plus sign a guestbook tribute on our obituary site.

© 2005 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Jan. 24, 2005
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