Guest books signed by Johnny Carson’s famous visitors to “The Tonight Show” and rescued from the trash in the 1960s may turn into treasure for their owner.
The three books, containing signatures of Groucho Marx, Paul Newman, William Saroyan, Arnold Palmer and other celebrities, are being auctioned online by Steve North, whose father, Jules, worked for NBC’s “Tonight” show.
From 1963-65, the books contain more than 400 signatures and notes and drawings some visitors made for Carson, North said. The book-signing tradition fell off in the third season.
As a youngster, Steve North said, he became a familiar face collecting autographs backstage at “Tonight,” where his father was unit manager.
When the guest books were about to be tossed out during a 1967 closet-cleaning, a program executive recalled young North’s interest and suggested he might like them.
“I was only 14 years old and Carson was not yet a legend, but even then I knew that we had rescued a treasure from the trash,” said North, a TV news producer.
North said his ownership of the books was challenged unsuccessfully by a lawyer for Carson in 1987. In 1992, Joan Rivers displayed the books on her talk show, noting her signature for her debut “Tonight” appearance.
The eBay auction, which had drawn 28 bids as of midday Tuesday, ends 8 p.m. ET Sunday, North said.