An anonymous bidder Friday snatched a piece of TV history, offering $50,787 for the microphone that sat prominently on the desk of late-night king Johnny Carson until the 1980s. The offer was about twice that expected at auction.
The label on the 10-pound Shure model SM33 ribbon microphone bluntly declares: "Johnny's Mic... Not Ed's... Not Fred's" — a reference to announcer Ed McMahon and producer Fred DeCordova.
"That's an unbelievable price, that's a fabulous price," said Heritage Galleries auctioneer John Petty. "A mic like this has never come to auction before. We were thinking 'Gee, what would a Carson fan pay for this?'"
The microphone was saved from a trash bin two decades ago by "The Tonight Show" chief boom operator Stan Sweeney. It was taken out of retirement Friday to call the final session of a two-day auction of entertainment memorabilia. Petty said it still worked great.
Carson, who died in January at age 79, was "The Tonight Show" host from 1962 to 1992, when he retired. He began using the microphone in the late 1960s.
In late summer or early fall, the auctioneer plans to offer Carson's desk, said Doug Norwine, director of music and entertainment memorabilia.
The desk is complete with a trash bin and a lining of green shag carpet, which still bears a burn mark from the time Carson set fire to his index cards after his jokes kept tanking. "After getting the mic, the only thing we could follow it up with was his desk," Norwine said.