Johnny Carson is one of the most legendary and beloved TV personalities in American history. Even today, 15 years after his death, his legacy continues to inspire millions, with many of today’s famous talk show hosts influenced by his unique interviewing style.
Carson became a household name for his work presenting The Tonight Show for an amazing thirty years. In that time, he made history for more reasons than one—but there was more to Carson behind the scenes than many of his fans realized.
From his dramatic love life, to the secrets revealed by his ex-wife, and the guests that Carson surprisingly did not get along with, let’s take a look back at the true story behind this TV legend.
A Star Is Born
Johnny Carson was born John William Carson on October 23, 1925, in Corning, Iowa. His father, Homer Lloyd “Kit” Carson, was a power company manager, and his mother, Ruth Elizabeth Carson (nee Hook) was a homemaker.
From an early age, it was clear that the young Carson was destined to be an entertainer. He always loved performing jokes and skits for an adoring audience.
But no one could have guessed what a huge star he would become—and the difficult circumstances from which he would find inspiration.
When Carson was 12 years old, he developed a liking for playing with magic tricks. Entranced by the idea of performing these tricks in public, he bought himself a mail-order magician’s kit, and taught himself how to the tricks.
He started performing these tricks in public, naming himself “The Great Carsoni” and wowing the enthusiastic crowd with his amazing display of tricks.
It seemed clear that the young Carson had a genuine talent for performing—but there was a darker reason behind his deep desire for public approval.
From an early age, Carson craved the attention and approval of his peers and beyond. Many people speculated that the reason for this need came from the effects on him from his relationship with his mother.
Carson’s mother was rumored to be a very reserved and serious woman, and she was incredibly hard to impress and make laugh. For the young Carson, whose natural talent was clear for all to see, his mother remained his toughest audience.