Fans waiting outside NBC Studios for Monday’s taping of “The Tonight Show” fondly remembered Johnny Carson, who ruled the program for three decades before turning it over to Jay Leno.
The show was to pay tribute to Carson, who died Sunday at 79 after nearly 13 years in retirement.
“He had the ability to turn you into a designated laugher,” said June Bartlett, 48, of Victoria, Texas, who recalled seeing a Carson taping 20 years ago. “At the end of a long day he’d make some jokes. Laughter is good medicine.”
Next to the studio, at Johnny Carson Park, a vase of red roses and other flowers had been left at a plaque of the late-night host along with notes that said, “Goodnight Johnny, we’ll miss you” and “Nobody did it better than Carson.”
Carson’s self-deprecating style was remembered by Debby Kulber, 50, of Cleveland. “He was able to laugh at himself. And he made all the guests seem interesting,” she said. “He was just very funny.”
Another studio visitor, Janice LaGreca, 61, of Duxbury, Mass., said Carson was quick and no one could get the best of him. “He was willing to be silly and he didn’t mind making fun of himself,” she said.
In Los Angeles, meanwhile, flowers were placed on Carson’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
“This is a very sad day in Hollywood and I could tell you that Hollywood hasn’t been this shocked since the news flash of Marilyn Monroe’s demise,” said Johnny Grant, the honorary mayor of Hollywood. “I think we all figured that Johnny Carson would just live on forever.”