Heeere's Johnny withdrawal

It is kind of strange to me, being affected so much by Johnny Carson's passing. It didn't really hit me at first but, over time, I find myself being more and more affected. To contrast, I am a big Beatles fan but George's passing didn't really hit me as hard, though that might have been because I knew he was in poor health for a number of years and kind of expected it, whereas Johnny was quiet about his ailments and so it was a shock to see the announcement. Nonetheless, it has affected me more than George's passing.

I guess it is a testament to how much a part of our lives Johnny Carson was for us Baby Boomers. I was aware of him as early as the late 1960's already, though I was less than 10, and started watching him regularly once I entered my mid-teens, when I was allowed to control when I went to bed. Then I basically watched him from the mid-70's until his retirement. He was a constant in all our lives and, for many of us, we did not know TV without Johnny Carson around to entertain us before we went to sleep.

Lots of the obits noted the dichotomy he presented to the audience: honest, wholesome, middle of the road and yet he could get away with telling Dolly Parton, "I would give a whole year's salary to look under your blouse." (Most American males at that time would have wanted "the full monty" for a whole year's salary but that probably would have brought outrage from some quarters...) He could leer with the best of them and he had his string of blonde "bimbo" types that accompanied him in the Mighty Carson Arts Players.

I think that's probably what drew most of us to connect with him: he looked and acted like one of us, one of the regular people. If a joke failed, he would just chalk it up and laugh it off, not get mad at us for not "getting it." Most of his jokes voiced what most of us have thought at one time or another about that topic. And while there are the girls, he presented - appropriately for that time - a PG version of sex appeal that showed us that he knew what most of us were thinking about and, while not giving us all the goods, gave us a wink or a look to remind us that he was one of us.

A note on Johnny Carson's passing

Growing up, Johnny Carson was a figure who loomed large in my life and the lives of millions of people. As he liked to joke about it, there were a lot of people going to sleep with him. He didn't always hit the homeruns - though he had plenty of those - but there were plenty of singles and doubles and there's no shame in that.

What's amazing is his steadiness and consistency over the years. I regret never making it down to LA for a taping. Luckily, I can get my Johnny fix via DVDs and I'm sure that - whatever your beliefs are in an afterlife - he is probably hearing millions of "Heeere's Johnny!" everywhere his spirit goes.

I am glad that, after all the jokes about his previous failed marriages, he appears to have been happily married in his final years and had a good retirement. He will be missed.

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