Monday, January 24, 2005

Johnny Carson

Johnny Carson passed away Sunday at the age of 79.

Carson's Nebraska roots have been well documented. He was born in Iowa, moved with his family to Norfolk, Nebraska and attended the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. Over the years, my mother claimed to have known Carson while in college. I called her on Monday and she gave me some additional information.

Mom lived in Raymond Hall which was the girls' dorm on 16th Street in Lincoln. Mom's roommate was a girl named Marian from Nebraska City. In 1947 Johnny Carson and Marian dated and Mom got to know him when he would stop by Raymond to meet Marian for their dates. Mom said that he would always wait for Marian in the sitting room on Raymond Hall's first floor. Over time, the relationship ended and Johnny began dating a "Pi Phi from North Platte" (according to Mom) named Jody Wolcott who would eventually become his first wife. Mom remembers Carson as being a lot of fun and "spontaneous."

After college ended, Marian and Mom remained friends and she was a bridesmaid at my parents' wedding. They kept in touch over the years, although they have not spoken for several years.

My college friend Henry contacted me today and recounted his Carson story:

Early Omaha local TV had a kiddie show hosted by Captain Dan the Sailor Man. I was about 8 or 9 years old and watched every day. One day I entered his contest to win a pony, but didn't win. Captain Dan called me at home to offer condolences, and asked me if I'd like more such contests on the Captain Dan Show. I remember I was thrilled to talk to Captain Dan. Last Saturday I learned, and have since confirmed, that Captain Dan was a young Johnny Carson working at his first television job. Now, a week after I learn I once talked to Johnny Carson, he passes away. I never had a chance to thank him for calling me.
Note: The show to which Henry refers was on Channel 6 (WOW) in Omaha.

While I was at the University of Nebraska in the early '70s, there was a restaurant on 16th Street a few blocks off campus called Here's Johnny's. It only lasted a few years, but it was a good place to go for a late-night snack. Carson returned to campus in 1972 for the homecoming game. Unfortunately, I could not get very near to him.