IN LIFE AS IN THE DANCE : GRACE GLIDES

ON BLISTERED FEET.
---Alice Abrams

Friday, May 29, 2009

Goodnight, Jay...


It will be difficult saying "goodbye" tonight. As a youngster, I got to stay up with my mom and dad on Friday nights and watch Steve Allen, the precursor to Jack Paar. Then I went to bed with Johnny (Carson) oh so many nights!

Back in the "olden" days, we only had 5 TV channels and most of them went off the air around midnight. Then came the shot of the air force planes flying to to the poem of "High Flight,"'( a sonnet written by John Gillespie Magee, a pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force in the Second World War. He came to Britain, flew in a Spitfire squadron, and was killed at the age of nineteen on 11 December 1941 during a training flight from the airfield near Scopwick.)

"Oh I Have Slipped
The Surly Bonds of Earth...
Put Out My Hand
And Touched the Face of God"
Next came the all too familiar test pattern which stayed frozen on the screen until the station signed on again in the morning. For us night owls, it was either hit the hay or read. I usually read myself to sleep.

During the dark hours of my life, when I struggled with an alcoholic husband, staying up and waiting for him to come home, I watched TV. Some local channels (LA) started showing political commentators like Joe Payne and Louis Lomax. I guess that's where my love of political talk shows (TV & radio) began. Then, there was the drifting off to sleep with the test pattern...

I loved Johnny Carson and watching the Carson era end was literally heartbreaking, and I didn't see how some funny looking kid like Jay Leno could ever fill his shoes. That was the magical part of it. Jay never tried to be anyone but himself. With his goofy face and kind smile, he won me over. Johnny Carson was my favorite uncle but Jay is like a favorite cousin, one you could cut up with and no one would tell on the other.

I won't be switching to Letterman. I liked his earlier shows but he has become so bitter and his "humor" shows it. Although his show won awards, Jay got the audience and the love of his fans.
I don't know if I'll follow Conan or not. I used to watch him at the 12:30 a.m. slot years ago, but he got a little over the top for me. I'll give him another shot. I hate to end the Tonight Show legacy that began, for me, about fifty years ago...

I've got the Kleenex ready. I'll say "goodbye" to another late night friend...

5 comments:

Jeni said...

Boy, we have a lot of similarities on this topic, Gracie! Like you, I've always been a night owl. Where I live now,lived here as a kid too, we only got one -yes, one! channel when I was a kid and it was a CBS station so I could never watch the Tonight show then. But in the summers when I would go stay with my aunt and uncle for several weeks, one of the things I looked forward to was seeing Jack Paar on the Tonight Show. I loved his humor! Then Johnny Carson came along and I followed him faithfully during the 8 years I worked in D.C. My older daughter used to fight with my Mom and I, wanting to stay up and watch his show. She would cry and say "Wanna watch Johnny Car-see!" When I moved back home then in 1972, by that time they had cable here, only four channels but at least one of them was NBC so I could continue watching Carson. His last show, my older daughter and I taped it and cried like babies throughout the whole program. Leno is, as you said, like the cousin you're really close to and can talk with about just about anything and everything. I like Conan sometimes but sometimes not too so I'm not sure where my viewing will go from here on out. Probably do a lot of channel surfing for a while anyway.
Here's hoping too that Jay's new show on Prime time in the fall is as good as his run for the past 17 years on the Tonight Show has been.

barb said...

I sure do miss Johnny!

Back in the day when I stayed up late, I never missed Johnny! I go to bed around 8:00pm now, so I only caught Leno if I couldn't sleep.

Jay was wise not to try to replace Johnny - who could?

Sarge Charlie said...

Johnny was king, I will never forget the tears when Bette Midler sang that closing song, johnny cried, I also likeed Jay he had a great show, and I agree with you about Letterman, I cannot watch his show now. You gave me an idea for a post, check it out later

Empress Bee (of the High Sea) said...

what a wonderful post gracie!! i never embraced jay like i did johnny but still watched once in a while but do remember high flight and the test patterns. i lived in baltimore back then and we only had three channels. got our first tv in 1953, a seven inch screen! everyone sat in front of it after dinner...

smiles, bee
xoxoxoxoxoxoxo

Linda said...

I remember the test patterns when television stations would sign off the air for the night. That was always a true bummer if I was doing a late babysitting job!

I've never really been a late night talk show watcher though every once in awhile I'd have it on if I happened to be up late and had the TV on for noise.

I remember seeing Jay Leno years and years ago opening for Crystal Gayle at Harrah's in Lake Tahoe - he was great but that was long before he took over for Johnny Carson.

Wow - I am old!