Johnny Carson's legacy is not one of catchphrases or famous one-line jokes. It was his physical shtick -- his trademark golf swing at the end of every monologue or the stumble onstage when he made his entrance as the bumbling Carnac the Magnificent. It was his perfectly timed deadpans and slow-burn reactions -- who could ever forget the look on his face when a little marmoset relieved himself on Carson's head? It was his gallery of zany characters whom audiences never tired of during his three-decade tenure on NBC.
1964: Carson introduces two of his most popular characters: the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-silly mind reader, Carnac the Magnificent, and the gossipy, wisecracking Aunt Blabby. But the biggest laugh of the year -- perhaps the biggest one in the history of "The Tonight Show" -- came when singer-actor Ed Ames demonstrated how to throw a tomahawk, only to hit a cardboard dummy in the crotch.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday January 26, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 40 words Type of Material: Correction
Johnny Carson obituary -- The obituary of late-night TV star Johnny Carson in Monday's Section A said he worked at television station KNXT when he came to Los Angeles in 1950. The station's call letters at the time were KTSL-TV.
1966: Carson begins "The Mighty Carson Art Players," a sketch format that over the years saw him parody famous figures, including President Reagan and actor Karl Malden hawking the American Express card.
1969: More than 40 million viewers tune in to see the wedding of the falsetto singer Tiny Tim and his teenage bride, Miss Vicki. Copies of this episode, and the premiere episode of Carson's "The Tonight Show," have been lost.
1971: Carson debuts as the lascivious character Art Fern, host of the "Tea Time Movie." With his pencil-thin mustache, slicked-back hair and tacky suits, Fern would peddle products, seduce his buxom co-host and give nonsensical, forever-changing directions to the Slauson freeway cut-off.
1977: Carson introduces the last of his great characters, the super-patriotic but dimwitted Floyd R. Turbo, who would deliver bombastic editorials dressed in a checked buffalo jacket and a hat with earflaps.
1992: On the next-to-last show on May 21-- the final installment that featured guest stars -- Bette Midler brings Carson to tears when she serenades him with the standard "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)."
And on the last broadcast, after sharing memories with sidekick Ed McMahon and band leader Doc Severinsen, Carson took the stage alone and delivered one of TV's classiest farewells:
"You people watching, I can only tell you that it's been an honor and a privilege coming into your homes all these years to entertain you. And I hope when I find something I want to do and think you would like, I can come back and [you will be] as gracious in inviting me into your homes as you have been. I bid you a very heartfelt goodnight."
Compiled by Times staff writer Susan King
Lowry, now a columnist and television critic for Daily Variety, wrote much of this obituary while a Times staff writer. Collins is a Times staff writer. Times staff writer Susan King also contributed to this report.