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Sunday, 23 January 2005
A Bittersweet Afternoon
Now Playing: a poem read by Jimmy Stewart
I was on my way home a while ago from the Bris Milah for my friend David's son Noah when I called my eldest brother to see what they were up to ---and he told me that Johnny Carson has died. Good Christ! What an odd afternoon. Earlier, I was participating in a Jewish ritual going back, as the mohel reminded us, thirty-seven centuries ---and then I am snapped back to a far more recent and personal flood of memories.

If we are normal Americans, we are all the children of TV. Carson was a voice and a face in my home from the time of my birth until my early 20s. How can recollecting your own childhood not conjure up dozens of memories of time spent laughing along with your family at the jokes and skits and animals and wonders that Carson brought us every night? When it was bedtime on a school night and I was told to get to sleep, I used to be able to secretly and somehow tune my radio to his show while all the grown-ups got to watch it on TV downstairs. What a huge influence that man had for someone you could never really know.

Johnny Carson lived a successful life. I hope he drew as much pleasure as possible from his retirement years. I hope he was not a sad man in his seclusion.

I watched his last show at a friend's house under the influence of something or other and it was a night to remember. Jesus! Has it really been almost 13 years?

I'm thinking right now of Joan Embry bringing animals for Johnny to hang out with. Thinking about Letterman and Seinfeld and Shandling, too. I'm thinking of Carol Wayne's fantastic rack and Ed McMahon trying not to appear too drunk. I'm thinking of Carson's ridiculous jackets ---but, man, what a dresser! He was cool and he could get away with anything.

Rest in Peace, Johnny. And welcome to the Covenant, Noah. This is how I am remembering your special day.


Posted by Toby Petzold at 4:25 PM CST | Post Comment | Permalink

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