DescriptionThe "Mark" of a True Superstar -- the Studio Floor Section from Which Johnny Carson's Legendary Monologues Were Delivered. In a television studio, lights, microphones and cameras are set up so that there is one particular "sweet spot" or "mark" on which the performer is to stand for optimal lighting, sound and focus. At NBC's Studio One in Burbank, California, there was a small white star on the floor that, between August 1985 and May 1992, was used a few minutes each night by a comedy legend, Johnny Carson. After the guest star announcements and the band playing the theme song, sidekick Ed McMahon would do his famous "Heeeeeeeerrrree's Johnny!" introduction. The curtains would part and a nattily dressed Carson would walk out to thunderous applause, cross the stage to this very star on the studio floor and into millions of American homes and do his comedic monologue, the content of which would become the water cooler talk for the next work and school day all across America.
These monologues were the stuff of legends -- a few minutes of hilarious jokes about up-to-the-minute happenings in the news. In the very last such monologue Carson mentions one of his comedic inspirations -- "During the run on the show there have been seven United States Presidents, and thankfully for comedy, there have been eight Vice Presidents of the United States. Now I know I have made some jokes at the expense of Dan Quayle, but I really want to thank him tonight for making my final week so fruitful." Through many tough times in our country's history, Johnny's tasteful jokes helped us to forget, for a little while, how scary the real news had become and enabled us to go to sleep with a smile on our faces instead of a grimace. Johnny Carson's monologues were an art form. It is hard to imagine having to do several minutes of topical humor every night with no way of "trying it out" beforehand. One of Carson's many gifts was an innate sense of knowing what Americans were thinking and what made us laugh. He knew how to poke fun at a public figure without being personal or nasty, and how to be bawdy without crossing over the line into bad taste. These are talents sadly lacking in many of today's comedians.
All Carson fanatics (such as this cataloguer) have favorite memories of his monologues. Remember his famous lines such as "It was so hot today..." to which the studio audience would answer, in unison, "How hot was it?" Carson would then reel off a series of quick one-liners about the weather. Remember, when (on rare occasions) a joke would bomb and Carson would grab the boom mic overhead and tap it to see if it was on -- or pull it down and announce the latest K-Mart "Blue Light" specials? Remember when, if all the jokes were bombing, Doc Severinson would play "Tea for Two" and Johnny would do a soft-shoe dance? Remember his hilarious digs at Doc's wild clothes, Tommy Newsom's blandness or Ed's proclivity to drink? Remember the local jokes about "beautiful downtown Burbank?" Remember how he would "bite the hand that fed him" by making jokes about the NBC network or their corporate parent General Electric. Even in his farewell monologue, looking back over 30 years of fond memories and the amount of press his retirement had garnered, Carson quipped, "The greatest accolade I think I received: G.E. named me 'Employee of the Month.' And God knows that was a dream come true." And, most of all, do you remember the nightly golf swing that signaled the end of the monologue? That's an image that's been burned into America's psyche and that swing was taken every night while he was standing on this particular piece of NBC studio floor tile currently up for auction.
I would be remiss in not reminding you that many other legendary performers used this same "mark." The "Tonight Show" was a launching pad for many young comics and a favorite vehicle for many veterans. It boggles the mind to think of all the cool and funny things said by performers who were standing on this modest-appearing white star! This 36" x 36" piece of black floor tile is marked on the back "NBC-TV" and "TONIGHT SHOW" and was removed when the studio was redecorated for new host Jay Leno in 1992. The star on the tile is only about 5" across but the star who stood on it was bigger than life. It probably should be in a museum but it could be in your collection.
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