(I don’t know why this never got posted. Blast from the past!)
I meant to write this when Johnny Carson passed away, but I never did. Now that Ed’s gone too I feel like I have another sad opportunity to talk about this.
When I was very small, I had earaches very badly. In fact, one of my eardrums still bears scar tissue from this rough patch near the beginning. It was very hard for me because I wasn’t able to understand what was happening, or why, or that it would eventually go away. Mostly it was scary and I was miserable because I was in pain, sometimes up till all hours of the night. I spent a lot of my early nights sleeping with my hurty ear on a heating pad laying on the couch, one parent (or sometimes both) up with me: My mom would sit at the end of the couch by my feet, my dad in his chair. I’m sure it wasn’t as bad as I remember it, but they are some of my earliest memories and I think the painful part is why they are still in my brain. Anyway.
With an earache I could be up until midnight or even later, laying on the couch, tired, achy, cried out, just being still and trying to sleep (which I wasn’t good at even without an earache). Like any reasonable adult in the late 70’s, if you were up after the 11:00 news you’d watch Johnny Carson. So I saw a fair amount of Johnny and Ed and Doc and guests. It was total nonsense at the age of four, but I didn’t care. It was something I could do with my parents that my (recently acquired) brother was no part of. Even though I didn’t understand, I laughed when my dad laughed and I saw Art Fern and Carnac and others. This was also one of the few times I can remember my parents doing something together that it appeared they both enjoyed.
My parents split up when I was 6 so I don’t have a lot of those memories. When I wanted to remember a nice time in my life during some of the less pleasant times, (I think some people call them “high school”) I could sit down and watch Johnny and feel a little better. Then Johnny retired right about the time I graduated from high school, and basically dropped off the planet. I was sad to see him go, he was a real class act. When he passed away, I hadn’t realized how much I would miss him. With Ed McMahon passing too, it really feels like the end of an era for television. There’s not an Ed or Johnny out there now to look to, showing how it’s done without making a big deal of it. I think the biggest difference between them and current television is that for the most part, they weren’t mean. Sure they made jokes, and sure people laughed, but it wasn’t always at the expense of a person in a mean way. They liked people, and loved what they did, and it showed every night.
Like I said on Twitter initially: RIP Ed. There’s a spot on the couch for you. Now that Johnny can get a proper introduction he can finally start his big show in the sky.