Category Archives: johnny carson

Annette Funicello 1942-2013

April has been lousy with famous deaths, and today we lost another great one. I grew up with Annette Funicello, and no, I’m not that old. In the 1970s, there were reruns of the original “Mickey Mouse Club” on TV every weekday afternoon, and the 1960s Beach Party movies ran quite often on the UHF channels. I was very familiar with who she was, and even dug her when she would appear on talk shows and variety shows, and even Skippy peanut butter commercials, of the era at her current age.

Annette was a regular on “MMC” as well as appearing in their serials and several other Disney television series and movies. Later she moved on to the popular Beach Party films with Frankie Avalon, as well as having many top ten hits as a singer, one of them eventually becoming the theme to “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson. She made a comeback in 1987 starring with Avalon in Back to the Beach, a clever homage to the Beach Party movies.

Continuing to sing, act, and make appearances over the next decade, Annette was eventually diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, complications of which finally took her life earlier today in California. We have truly lost another legend today, of many media. Annette Funicello will be missed.


Charlie Callas 1927-2011

Comedian Charlie Callas passed away Thursday. I remember him most for his role as Sinestro in the infamous TV special “Legends of the Superheroes,” and with Green Lantern film so hot right now, Sinestro also appearing in it, and the aforementioned special finally on legal DVD, it might be what many folks remember him for.

But that’s not all Callas was famous for. His motormouth delivery, impersonations and sound effects made him a favorite on talk shows and variety shows of the 1960s and 1970s. As well as being one of the funniest roasters on the Dean Martin Roasts, Callas was notoriously banned from “The Tonight Show” for shoving Johnny Carson.

With a colorful career, as well as the first actor to portray the renegade Green Lantern, Charlie Callas will be missed.

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A Little Late Night Stargazing

My favorite line of the current late night wars so far has to be “NBC – Never Believe your Contract.”

There’s really not much news on this front that hasn’t already been said, or you can’t read somewhere else, but I just wanted to say a few things. I’m a big supporter of Conan O’Brien. I’m sad to see him go, or as things might turn out, to have seen him go. Something tells me NBC isn’t going to actually let him do another week of shows. We’ll see.

I like Conan, I really do, and I think his past week of performances on “The Tonight Show” have easily been his best. That said however, just as a cornered animal is at its most vicious, so is a cornered comedian at his funniest. Would we really be that entertained had NBC not backed Conan into a wall? Seriously, testify. How many of us watched his Tonight Show before this? Or even his Late Night Show? If it was on, and we wanted to see one of the guests we were there, but not for him alone.

The drawing power no longer exists in the late night landscape. It used to, but no longer. I can remember sneaking down the stairs, just behind the living room door, just to hear Johnny Carson’s monologue. I remember loving school holidays and summers because it meant I could stay up to see “The Tonight Show.”

I’ll take it further and direct you to a time when Philadelphia was one of the last markets to pick up “Late Night with David Letterman” and I would stay up and actually hold onto the antenna of my bedroom TV to get channel 4 out of New York just to see the show. But Johnny retired and has since moved on, and Dave, well, Dave is just not that funny any more, especially since moving on to CBS.

And so here we are. I was never really a big Jay Leno fan, although I respect what he was trying to do in prime time. He should just have the balls to take his beating and move on though. As Conan himself said, “Kids, you can do anything you want to… as long as Jay Leno doesn’t want to do it too.”

Good luck, Conan, I’m pulling for you.

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Ed MacMahon Passes

After a myriad of recent financial and medical problems, Hollywood legend Ed MacMahon passed away last night.

Ed MacMahon was best known to generations as Johnny Carson’s announcer and sidekick on “The Tonight Show.” For over thirty years his trademark intro of “Here’s Johnny!” was a signal that the show was about to begin, and greatness would follow. In a era of numerous talk shows, and before they became promotional tools and spotlights for trailer trash, “The Tonight Show” was the best. That might be Ed’s claim to fame, but that’s not all he did.

He was also the face of American Family Publishers sweepstakes, a frequent partner of Dick Clark’s on many TV projects and the co-host of Jerry Lewis’ annual telethon. Ed hosted “Star Search,” a series that launched the careers of Britney Spears and Arsenio Hall among others.

MacMahon also did quite a bit of acting over the years. Of specific interest to me was 1967’s The Incident, one of my favorite films. It’s a small part in an ensemble film, but Ed is excellent.

We’ve lost a legend, and he’ll be missed. Rest in peace, Ed.

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