Sunday, January 23, 2005

Interesting Perspective

On Johnny Carson.

The obits are being written now, the TV retrospectives being readied for tonight's newscasts, and I'm sure they'll be properly sentimental and respectful. I might even tune in NBC, his old network, to see what they have to offer. But probably not: I'm increasingly disinclined to wallow in nostalgia about nothing, which is what will be on tap for the next couple of days. And after that? A fast fade to black, I expect. American popular culture is cruel and brutal when it comes to the immediate past: it respects only extreme youth, and has no time for the day before yesterday.

All of which somehow makes me feel sorry for Johnny Carson. I wonder what he thought of his life's work? Or how he felt about having lived long enough to disappear into the memory hole? At least he had the dignity to vanish completely, retreating into private life instead of trying to hang on to celebrity by his fingernails. Perhaps he knew how little it means to have once been famous.