Johnny Carson, former king of latenight, is dead.
Nearly all of Carson’s professional life was spent in television, from his postwar start at Nebraska stations in the late 1940s to his three decades with NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.”
Carson choose to let “Tonight” stand as his career zenith and his finale, withdrawing into a quiet retirement that suited his private nature and refusing involvement in other show business projects.
In 1993, he explained his absence from the limelight.
“I have an ego like anybody else,” Carson told The Washington Post, “but I don’t need to be stoked by going before the public all the time.”
Carson spent his retirement years sailing, traveling and socializing with a few close friends including media mogul Barry Diller and NBC executive Bob Wright. He simply refused to be wooed back on stage.
Today in church our preacher commented on ending at the top of your game. He made the point that a lot of obituaries read that X retired in 19xx and yet he died in 2005. What did he do in between? A lot of people retire and disappear. Carson did that. Think of all the potential. He was recognized and respected. Instead of using his name to help others or to do great things after his retirement, he just stopped.
It is great that he stayed out of the spotlight so Jay Leno could succeed. But it is always sad to think about what might have been.