Johnny Carson On Bette Midler

Now that Letterman is calling it quits, a look back at the king of late night in 2002
By Bill Zehme on April 3, 2014


Carson, in case you wondered, has since watched the tape more than once-he reviews every Tonight Show video marketed to the public-and, each time, feels the same emotions rear up. Mention Bette Midler to him even now and his countenance glows: “Well, she is remarkable.” Of the spontaneous combustion attendant, he has said, “You couldn’t re-create it, ever.” Privately, he considers it the most magical hour of his televised life. Indeed, the truth is, he wanted to end his career that very night and forego the ultimate farewell show. In aftermath, his brain trust of producers, all nearly as spent as he was, descended to his dressing room and half-jokingly declared, “We can’t come back tomorrow and follow that!” He fixed them with a look that meant business and said, “You’re right. Let’s not come back at all. Let’s just not even come back.”

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4 thoughts on “Johnny Carson On Bette Midler

  1. How very true! Bette was so spectacular on that show, without even seeming to try, it all came so naturally, the chemistry and affection between she and Carson, that everyone thinks of THAT show as the true last Johnny Carson Tonight Show, and rightfully so. There should have been a period there somewhere! Carson was the best at what he did, and showed it by choosing Bette as his last guest, he knew what she could do. He always believed in her from the very beginning. I recall the first time I ever knew there was “a Bette Midler” was watching her on Johnny Carson and being blown away by the originality and the energy, wit and sense of fun. She has never disappointed in any way.

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