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Book Notes

November 8, 2012

DVD is an enjoyable tribute to Johnny Carson

Anyone who came of age in the 1960s, 70s or 80s will remember Johnny Carson. To say he was the king of late-night television would be, if anything, an understatement. For 30 years he wove a fabric into the American experience that will never be repeated.

Today, late-night comedians such as David Letterman, Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien try to emulate him, but they will never be his equal. Carson was truly one of a kind.

I first got a glimpse of “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” in the late 1960s when I was about 12 years old. It was on TV way past my bedtime so it must have been a Friday night when my parents were out late. I watched it with my older brother and was fascinated by the comedy and interviews with famous celebrities. I couldn’t wait to see it again. Usually that would only occur if my parents were asleep or Bob Hope was on (my dad adored him).

By the time I was a senior in high school and closing in on graduation “The Tonight Show” became a regular experience (who goes to bed early their last semester of high school?). I got to know all of Carson’s infamous characters: Art Fern, Aunt Blabby, The Great El Moldo, Floyd R. Turbo, and, best of all, Carnac the Magnificent. Like my friends, we all watched Johnny Carson in college and beyond. His anniversary shows were classics.

The show was never dull. In fact, the funniest moments occurred when Carson bombed his monologue. If the jokes started getting a negative response from the audience the band would strike up some banal tune and Carson would start dancing. It always brought plenty of laughs. He was tremendous at ad-libbing comedy too.

There was a time when you thought Johnny Carson would never end. After all, he had been on “The Tonight Show” as long as any of us could remember (1962 to be exact). But as he aged and took more time off it became apparent that the end was coming. In 1992 he decided that he had enough. At 67 it was time to quit.

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Book Notes
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    April 10, 2014

  • 'Blue Jasmine' shows talent of troubled Allen It's a shame that Woody Allen is caught up in controversy in his personal life because it deflects from his talent as a filmmaker. You can see the brilliance in his most recent release, "Blue Jasmine" now available for rental at the Cooperstown Library.

    April 3, 2014

  • 'Nebraska' helps give Dern his due Bruce Dern has been a character actor for over half a century yet hadn't really gotten the acclaim he deserves.

    March 27, 2014

  • Book captures both sides of 'Splended Splinter' Ted Williams is an American icon. As the mainstay of the Boston Red Sox from 1939-1960 he was one of baseball’s all-time greats, a first ballot Hall-of-Famer, and perhaps the greatest hitter the sport has ever known. He was admired for his devotion to the game, his service to his country, and his support for children with cancer. But there was an ugly side to him too. Williams’ life was a set of contradictions where his talent and humanity were offset by fits of rage and cold-heartedness.

    March 20, 2014

  • Wouk has amazing body of epic work One of the problems with eulogies is that they only seem to occur posthumously. I often wonder why people who have produced something noteworthy aren't honored until after they die and don't get to hear the acclaim they deserve. In that vein I want to recognize an aging classic novelist while he is still with us.

    March 13, 2014

  • 'Miracle' shows when Olympics were pure The Winter Olympics ended recently and somehow they seemed to have lost their luster. It wasn’t so much that they were in Sochi where most of the events were on tape delay. It was more due to the new events (many we have never heard of) that have diluted the games. The Winter Olympics have gone from an intimate edition of their summer counterpart to one where it appears medal counts and commercialism is all that matters.

    March 6, 2014

  • Sometimes bad films, books called 'Classic' About 40 years ago a movie was made that set the standard for overhyped and underwhelming films. It was "The Great Gatsby" starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. Redford was the hottest thing in Hollywood at the time and Time Magazine ran a cover story on the film. When it was finally released it completely bombed.

    February 27, 2014

  • British films that will warm your heart With all the snow and sub-zero temperatures this winter there are enough nights where the easiest thing to do is hunker down and enjoy a good movie. I thought I’d offer a few suggestions with a British twist. These are films with Americans that are filmed in England. The one thing they all have in common is that they’ll warm your heart in the end.

    February 20, 2014

  • Giants-Dodgers rivalry entertains One of the fiercest rivalries in all of sports is the Giants and Dodgers. These two proud franchises have been going at it for well over 100 years. First it was New York vs. Brooklyn. Now it's San Francisco vs. Los Angeles. There's no love lost between them. Victories over each other are sweeter than those over any other team. Even when they're not going head-to-head it feels good when their arch-rival loses. If you're a Giants' fan, hating the Dodgers is a way of life (and vice versa).

    February 13, 2014

  • Going the Distance to White House Every president of the United States goes through difficult periods. It comes with the job. There are the daily demands of national security issues, the economy, policy initiatives, personnel, Congressional meetings, and social events. Heaven forbid a scandal breaks out. It takes a massive ego to be president since the pressures outweigh the perks. It's little wonder that presidents age in office. The stress is unrelenting.

    February 6, 2014