What to wear for a hectic day that (so far) has included a train wreck, a kidnapping, and a holdup? Just make sure it’s replaceable. Dressing the cast of Fox’s all-in-one-day 24, which began season 4 on Jan. 9, means stocking at least six copies of each garment to last the entire season. ”I have to go to Macy’s or Saks, where I know they can get on the phone and get [replacements],” says costume designer Jim Lapidus. Here, some of 24‘s other wardrobe challenges.
It’s hot in that bunker where Audrey (Kim Raver) and James Heller (William Devane) are being held hostage. Is there someone in charge of perspiration continuity?
”Absolutely,” says Lapidus of the spray-on ”sweat,” a mix of water and glycerin. ”Thank God for the digital age. You can take pictures for matching. For every scene, there are notes: Is he sweaty, does he have a cut on his lip, is it 20 minutes later and has the wound cauterized itself?”
Don’t the actors get bored always wearing the same stuff?
”In the beginning they’re like, ‘Oh, wow, it’s so wonderful to be in one outfit!”’ says Lapidus, who custom-made Jack’s (Kiefer Sutherland) coat this season. ”By Christmastime they go, ‘Oh God, not that again.’ And then they get creative with ways they could change their clothes.”
So, between the car chases and explosions, these guys actually find time to squeeze in a change of clothes?
”Sometimes I ask the writers to write a scene saying [Jack’s] ‘going off to his locker’ or ‘I’m tired, I need to go change,”’ says Lapidus. ”Jack actually changed six or seven times last year because so many things happened.”
I BID YOU A VERY HEARTFELT GOOD night.” These were the last words Johnny Carson spoke?at least to his millions of viewers?on the day he retired from The Tonight Show in May 1992. Sitting on a stool in front of those enormous multicolored curtains?drapery that had parted for so many stars during his 30 years on late-night television?he simply waved farewell and vanished from public life. Except for an occasional paparazzi shot, the sporadic snippet in the tabloids (like that recent item about how he was writing gags for David Letterman), and two major public appearances (in 1992 to accept the Medal of Freedom and in ’93 for a Kennedy Center Honor), he was pretty much never seen or heard from again.
Which made the announcement of his death on Jan. 23 at age 79 (he had long suffered from emphysema) somehow even more poignant and depressing. After all, hadn’t we already mourned his passing, already gotten used to TV without him? And now, with this sad, jolting news, we had to go through missing him all over again. It was, among other things, a bracing reminder that once, long ago?before late-night television had been balkanized into the fractured battle zone it is today?this sandy-haired former radio comic from Nebraska with a habit of tapping his pencil while chatting had been the most powerful, influential, and beloved performer ever to swivel in a chair on national TV.
”He was made for that chair,” insists Paul Anka, who composed The Tonight Show’s jazzy theme music back when Carson first took over the NBC program in 1962. ”His comedy was so natural, so witty, nothing ever felt uncomfortable. You trusted him. That’s why he was one of a kind.” It’s a sentiment shared by his colleagues and friends. ”I thought he was adorable” was Mel Brooks’ impression of Carson (Brooks was on the host’s very first Tonight Show broadcast). ”He was funny. He was fast. Right from the beginning you could see that he listened. You could see the joy when you told him a joke or when you did something bizarre. You could see he loved comedy and loved comics.”
”He was the best straight man ever,” adds Joan Rivers, who appeared 93 times as a guest host (she was rumored to be an heir until she got her own talk show on Fox in 1986). ”He knew when to come in, he knew what to ask you, he was just amazing. It was like music.”
Rivers was just one of a legion of comedy legends who either made their debut on Carson’s Tonight Show or could credit him with taking their career to another level. A short list: Bob Newhart, Woody Allen, Robert Klein, Don Rickles, Rodney Dangerfield, Bill Cosby, George Carlin, David Brenner, Robin Williams, Steve Martin, Roseanne Barr, Garry Shandling, Jay Leno, David Letterman, Ellen DeGeneres, Steven Wright, and Drew Carey. And it wasn’t just the jokers. Barbra Streisand became a sensation thanks to her seven appearances on The Tonight Show during Carson’s first year. Burt Reynolds has said he got his role in Deliverance because director John Boorman saw him guest-hosting and realized the star could maneuver people. A veritable don of entertainment, Carson regularly made careers.
And those he made generally felt a little like they’d been touched by God. ”It hit me in waves,” Ray Romano recalls of the morning after his big break on The Tonight Show in 1991. ”I would drive down the street and suddenly think, ‘Holy s — -! I was on The Tonight Show!’ It was a huge validation.”
Carson wasn’t The Tonight Show’s first or even its second host (that would be Steve Allen and Jack Paar, respectively), but he held the job longer and did more with it than anyone else. Under his wry, sly stewardship, the show didn’t merely grow into a ratings behemoth (at its zenith, it attracted an average of 15 million viewers, almost 10 million more than the audience it pulls today); watching it became a national ritual, a cozy bedtime habit millions of Americans shared every night. No matter what was happening in the world during those decades?assassinations, Vietnam, Watergate, the Gulf War?it was the one spot on the dial the entire country could turn to for a collective chuckle before nodding off to sleep. For millions, Carson was the antidote to a world that increasingly made less sense; his appeal was ”the pleasure of the expected,” Kenneth Tynan once wrote in The New Yorker.
No wonder so many people?more than 50 million?tuned in to watch Carson bid them farewell in 1992. Many viewers had never known TV without him, never imagined him not being there to say good night. As actress Mary Steenburgen puts it, ”When he stopped being on television, I actually felt frightened?how would I do the night without Johnny?”
Of course, not everyone took the show quite so seriously; most folks tuned in just to watch Carson crack jokes with movie stars, which he did better than anyone else. Frequent guest Buck Henry sizes up Carson’s interview style this way: ”He never cheated. You can cheat as an actor, you can cheat as a talk-show host, but Johnny never cheated. When he was bored you could see it, when he wasn’t you could tell. If anybody deserved the word pro, it was Johnny.” However you analyze it, by the time Carson ended his run, The Tonight Show had become the essential pit stop for A-listers. You could argue that he was the only star in Hollywood who didn’t need anybody else? though everybody needed him.
But Carson was equally beloved by viewers for the way he handled his animal guests (like the marmoset who found a nest in a bemused Carson’s hair) as well as all those exotic humans he would invite on his show (like that lady who saw famous faces in her potato chips). Says friend and sometime guest James Woods: ”When he would interview those people?the guy who was 104 and could play ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ with five forks on his knee?he just found them so utterly charming because they were real. He sort of suffered narcissistic Hollywood people.”
Stupid human tricks. Stupid pet tricks. The beloved sidekick on the sofa (Ed McMahon for 30 years). Flamboyant bandleaders (would there be a Paul Shaffer without Doc Severinsen?). Wearing a wild ‘fro to interview Don King. Pitching to Mickey Mantle. All the bits we take for granted today?from David Letterman, Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, Jon Stewart?sprang from Carson’s head. His influence was so vast and deep you can find his comic DNA coiled in every breezy monologue, every perfectly timed joke. Jay Leno’s gallery of oddball characters? Carson created the mother of them all: Carnac the Magnificent (and many more). David Letterman staring into the camera, one eyebrow cocked, as a guest rambles nonsensically? Carson. Jon Stewart turning a dud joke into comedy? Carson. He used the camera in a way it had never been used before?as a coconspirator. He was ironic before the age of irony. And he understood America’s mainstream better, perhaps, than any TV star before or since. ”He wasn’t a New York smart-ass,” says his first bandleader, Skitch Henderson. Adds Woods: ”He was really a Midwestern guy, which I think people loved. He didn’t really care about show business.”
”Actually, there were two people,” says one of Carson’s ex-bosses, former NBC chairman Grant Tinker. ”There was the one you saw on the air and then the other guy?the real Johnny, who was very quiet, shy, not given to socializing.” His frequent poker partner Chevy Chase concurs: ”He was just a normal human, just a nice guy. About 10 years ago, we were out to dinner?just me and him and my wife?and he was talking about how great it was that we were married as long as we were. He was going on and on about how shy he always was with girls, and Janey, my wife, said, ‘What do you mean?’ And he said, ‘I could never pick ’em up. I never had any lines or anything like that. All I could do is ask them to marry me.”’ (In all, Carson married four times?the divorces providing scathing monologue material?and had three children, one of whom, Richard, died in a car accident in 1991.)
When it came to the integrity of his show, however, the mouse turned into a barracuda. He could be ruthless when he needed to be, and unforgiving if he felt crossed (he never spoke to Rivers again after she moved to Fox). By his retirement, Carson was one of the richest performers in Hollywood, and arguably the most powerful; thanks to often brutal negotiations with NBC, he was ultimately making a reported $25 million a year and had won ownership rights to The Tonight Show.
Carson may not have cared about show business, but show business cared about him?as the aftermath of his retirement announcement proved. He had two heirs apparent, David Letterman and Jay Leno, and he never publicly admitted to a preference. But the war these princes of comedy waged over the king’s throne was so epic it ended up being turned into a best-selling book (Bill Carter’s The Late Shift) and an HBO movie. In the end, of course, Leno won the battle, but it was hardly a rich victory, since the kingdom he inherited shrank considerably soon after Carson left the castle. The Tonight Show remains No. 1 in the late-night ratings, although with only a fraction of Carson’s largest audience.
But it was how he retired that was perhaps most impressive. In today’s celebrity-crazed, fame-milking culture (which, incidentally, his show helped pioneer), he made an all-but-unprecedented exit. He stopped doing press, halted his public appearances, and ensconced himself in his Malibu estate (with fourth wife Alexis), where he spent his remaining days socializing with friends, sailing on his yacht, and playing tennis. It was almost freakish?but also predictably classy?how he completely disappeared after leaving The Tonight Show, as if he had flipped a switch on the way out the door, forever shutting off the lights to his fame. ”He went out on top and then went on to live his private life,” sums up Carson’s old friend and veteran Tonight Show guest Don Rickles. ”He wasn’t looking for afterglow.”
Maybe not, but we’re still basking in it. * (Additional reporting by Mandi Bierly, Bob Cannon, Daniel Fierman, Whitney Pastorek, Lynette Rice, and Dan Snierson)
1 HE MADE TV HOSTS A-LIST Carson declined Steve McQueen’s role in The Thomas Crown Affair and Gene Wilder’s part in Blazing Saddles. Who needs hit movies when you’re one of TV’s greatest? (Current TV stars, take note.)
2 YOU CAN THANK HIM FOR ALL THOSE BURBANK JOKES When The Tonight Showtraded in Broadway for Burbank in 1972, he officially shifted the epicenter of celebrity from New York to the much-maligned Los Angeles suburb.
3 THANKS TO HIM, PRESIDENTS ARE EXPECTED GAME IN LATE NIGHT He may not have fired the first political poke, but after his Watergate jokes killed, Washington humor was forever an opening-monologue must.
4 HE TURNED LATE-NIGHT TV INTO A CASH COW By 1978, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson had not only doubled its audience, it also accounted for an estimated 17 percent of NBC’s profits. Bringing us to No. 5…
5 HE PROVED TALENT HAS CLOUT (SAY THANK YOU, DAVID LETTERMAN) Following well-publicized (and highly lucrative) contract renegotiations in 1967 and 1977, Carson threatened to walk in 1979?reportedly after a network exec lamented his flexible work schedule. A fat new 1980 contract gave him a raise that took his annual pay to a then-record $5 million, and the show was shortened from 90 minutes to 60.
6 HE CREATED ”WATERCOOLER” TV It might have existed before him, but we’re pretty sure that the well ran dry on April 30, 1965?the morning after Ed Ames chucked that infamous crotch-bound tomahawk on The Tonight Show.
If you can deal with a fast-food junkie, it’s gotta be love. Super Size Me director Morgan Spurlock, 34, and Alexandra Jamieson, 29, will wed. No date has been set.
You’re married! Apprentice boss and real estate mogul Donald Trump, 58, and model Melania Knauss, 34, wed Jan. 22. The bride reportedly wore a $200,000 dress to go with her $1.5 million engagement ring (that Trump scored at a discount). This is his third wedding, her first.
Actress Rachel Griffiths (Six Feet Under), 36, and husband Andrew Taylor will greet a second child in late summer. The couple have a son, Banjo, 1…. The Young and the Restless‘ Joshua Morrow, 30, and his wife, Tobe, 29, will greet a second child in June, to join brother Cooper, 2…. Former Melrose Place costars Laura Leighton, 36, and Doug Savant (Desperate Housewives), 40, expect a second child in June, to join brother Jack, 4. Savant has two daughters from a previous marriage.
Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, 39, and husband Neil Murray welcomed daughter Mackenzie, Jan. 23, who joins 22-month-old David. Rowling has a daughter, Jessica, 11, from a previous marriage.
At Jan. 23’s Wisteria Lane block party, Felicity Huffman disclosed the real dark secret lurking inside the Desperate Housewives‘ perfect homes: ”Inside most of them are just 2-by-4s. They’re cold, and smell like raccoons.”
Wow. More happened on Jan. 24’s 24 than happens on an entire season of most dramas. Given the show’s recent fearless and radical plot twists, we had to wonder whether Internet rumors of Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) getting offed might actually prove true. ”We’ve talked about a lot of things,” admits exec producer Joel Surnow. ”But the rhythm of 24 is best described by the rhythm of Jack, a man constantly racing against time…. So if he has to have eight or nine bad days, so be it.” ?Lynette Rice
Trading Spaces‘ host since 2001, Paige Davis, 35, will part ways with the redecorating program as it moves to a new ”hostless” format in March. Cable channel TLC said the change will allow the show to ”focus more on homeowners and designers.”
West Wing First Lady Stockard Channing, 60, was charged Jan. 24 on misdemeanor DUI charges relating to an incident Dec. 14 in L.A. She will appear in court Feb. 9.
FCC chairman Michael K. Powell, 41, announced Jan. 21 he would vacate his post in March — two years before his term is up. He cited a desire to ”let someone else take the reins.” The son of departing Secretary of State Colin Powell, he made headlines after Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl ”malfunction” as the enforcer of media indecency rules.
Bill Cosby, 67, has been accused by an unidentified Canadian woman of ”inappropriate touching” about a year ago in Cheltenham, Pa., according to Cosby’s attorney. No charges have been filed. His lawyer calls the allegation ”utterly preposterous.”… An NYC judge ruled Jan. 17 that Marvel Enterprises owes former chairman Stan Lee, 82, 10 percent of all profits (potentially tens of millions of dollars) from TV, films, and some merchandise utilizing characters he cocreated, including Spider-Man and the X-Men. Marvel’s attorney said they would appeal the decision…. Jason Patric (The Alamo), 38, filed a suit against an Austin police officer Jan. 14. The actor claims his civil rights were violated during his March arrest for public intoxication. The charges were later dropped. He is seeking unspecified damages…. In a suit filed Jan. 21 in NYC, Chanti Nieves claims HBO’s Family Bonds used her image without permission in an episode in which cast members said she sexually aroused them. She is seeking $500,000 in damages. Reps for the net did not return calls for comment…. L.A. county sheriffs are investigating Paris Hilton, 23, for allegedly stealing a copy of her own sex tape, 1 Night in Paris, from a West Hollywood newsstand Dec. 15. No charges have been filed. Hilton’s reps did not return calls for comment.
THE RATINGS GAME
THE RATINGS GAME
Is a UPN falloff all Nielsen’s fault?
Bad Nielsens or bad programs? At the Television Critics Association Press Tour, Jan. 19, Viacom co-president Les Moonves blamed falling numbers for such UPN comedies as Half & Half and Second Time Around on Nielsen, suggesting that the monopoly ratings service improperly calculates African-American viewership. ”I’m not here to knock Nielsen,” said Moonves, who noted double-digit declines for six of the net’s shows (Viacom is UPN’s parent company). ”We are questioning the numbers and looking if the sampling is right in those viewers.” For its part, Nielsen, which in the past has been accused of undersampling Hispanics and men ages 18 to 34, deflects the charge as a case of sour grapes. ”In the fourth quarter, other networks, such as Fox, saw gains for African-American viewers,” a rep says. ”Our sample composition for this season is right on the mark where it should be for African Americans overall.”