LOS ANGELES (AP) – Johnny Carson, the quick-witted “Tonight Show” host who became a national institution putting his viewers to bed for 30 years with a smooth nightcap of celebrity banter and heartland charm, died Sunday. He was 79.
Carson died early Sunday morning, according to his nephew, Jeff Sotzing. “He was surrounded by his family, whose loss will be immeasurable,” Sotzing told The Associated Press.
He did not provide further details, but NBC said Carson died of emphysema at his Malibu home.
The boyish-looking Nebraska native with the disarming grin, who survived every attempt to topple him from his late-night talk show throne, was a star who managed never to distance himself from his audience.
Last week The New York Post reported that Carson, on occasion, sent jokes to David Letterman who he regarded as the rightful heir to his chair at the Tonight Show.
A wordsmithing comic and amateur magician from Nebraska who didn’t act, sing, or dance; Johnny Carson will be remembered as one of the most influential entertainers of the 20th Century.
He was a legend, and he’ll be missed…