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Carson's Death Shines Spotlight on Has-Beens
Jan 25 2005 by Greg KuhlJohnny Carson's death saddened millions across America - except at the Washed-Up Celebrities Retirement Village outside Santa Barbara, where it was viewed as a chance to grab the media spotlight one more time.
"Did you see me interviewed by that cute dark-haired broad on Dateline NBC? I killed," said Don Rickles, a long-ago comedian and a long-time staple on the Tonight Show. "I thought everybody had forgotten me, but there I was, telling America rehashed stories about Johnny.
"I provided absolutely no insight, but I got another 15 minutes of fame, again," Rickles said. "I got another chance at the spotlight. I loved Johnny, that hockey puck."
Carson's death also brought Dick Cavett, the cerebral fellow Nebraskan who once competed with Carson on an ABC talk show, back into public semi-consciousness.
"I knew I couldn't compete with Johnny then, even when I had John Lennon on my show," Cavett said. "And I had a fleeting rendezvous with fame again when that Forrest Gump movie came out 10 or 11 years ago. I'm sad to see Johnny go, but, wow, it did give my career a brief boost."
Carson's death leaves former Rat Packer Joey Bishop, who as best as anyone can tell is still alive at age 86, as the dean of former talk-show hosts.
"First Jack Paar died about a year ago, now Johnny," a spokesman for Bishop said. "Of course, Frank and Dean and Sammy are long gone, even though they didn't have talk shows. And it's not as though anybody is going to look up to Arsenio Hall or Chevy Chase or Magic Johnson as hosts. So I guess Joey's the guy."
Comedian Jackie Mason joined Joan Rivers, David Brenner and Dr. Joyce Brothers - all Carson favorites - in saying his death provides a boost to their careers, even if it's only momentary.
"Johnny always looked out for us," Mason said. "He was the best, the Late Night King. I'm sure we'll slide back into obscurity after the next few days - or at least until somebody like Dick Clark or Ed McMahon goes."