Television legend Johnny Carson died this weekend, losing a long battle with emphysema at the age of 79. He took over the Late Night host position in 1962. During the 30 years of putting America to bed at night, he managed to escape Hollywood once and head to Lubbock.
In 1970, Carson took his show on the road. A crew from Life Magazine rode along while he was in Lubbock, and an entire spread was dedicated to that stop.
Johnny Carson was known for his gift of entertaining the audience, his quick wit, as well as his physical comedy. Carson brought his act to Lubbock in 1970, when he was named an honorary citizen of Lubbock.
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The article featured in the January edition of Life Magazine, which NewsChannel 11 found on microphish, shows a difference between center stage and Lubbock; his limousine was sent over by Rix funeral home, as Lubbock didn't have many actual limousine services at the time. But there was a slight problem with that.
"People said, 'you can't tell him this is a funeral home car," said Rix Funeral Home Director, Whit Rix Victory.
The man who was fearless on stage was afraid of funerals.
Victory's brother-in-law drove Carson, and Carson soon found out the limo's actual purpose.
"And he says, 'oh my gosh! no wonder they drove so slow'," remembered Victory.
The limousine driver dropped Carson off at Lubbock Municipal Coliseum, where he was to perform that night. But the performance was only about half full because one of Lubbock's other past times took over.
A football game took place at the same time as his show. But in the Life magazine article Carson said, "I'm used to capacity in business."
Many Americans may remember Carson waving to the crowd from the stage as the announcer said, "Heeeree's Johnny!"
But while in Lubbock, someone gave the late night king a cowboy hat, and that's what Victory will always remember.
"There's one picture in that Life Magazine which shows him in a cowboy hat and it's real nice, it's real interesting," said Victory, "it's just because you don't usually see Carson in a hat."
Since Carson didn't like funerals, that may be one reason why his nephew said there will be no memorial service.
Carson received a miniature bale of cotton and a plaque for being an honorary citizen.