Johnny’s loss felt in Las Vegas

Jan 25, 2005 5:05 AM

Johnny Carson’s passing last weekend left a huge legacy in the world of television entertainment. That legacy extended to Las Vegas, where the late-night legend performed on stage for nearly 20 years.

Carson also kick-started the careers of countless Las Vegas performers who gained notoriety by appearing on NBC’s Tonight Show. Rich Little, David Brenner, Susan Anton, George Wallace and Lance Burton are just a handful who staked their claim to fame on Carson’s show.

"Like countless other entertainers, I owe Johnny Carson a huge debt of gratitude," said magician Lance Burton. "My first appearance on national television was on the Tonight Show in 1982. He was always very kind and generous to me and I am sad today to learn of his passing. My thoughts and prayers are with his family."

Also feeling the pain of his passing is GamingToday entertainment columnist Monti Rock, who appeared on Carson’s show 80 times.

"I burst out crying when I heard," Rock said. "I felt a great personal loss with his passing."

Rock said he originally met Carson while he was performing as a singing hairdresser in a New York revue called, "Lazy."

"Carson and a few other big shots came in and I started mouthing off to Carson," Rock recalled. "After the show he said he thought I was funny and asked me to be on his show.

"The first time I appeared on his show, I spent the whole time talking to Zsa Zsa Gabor on the couch and kind of ignored Johnny, which he thought was hilarious," Rock continued. "He must have thought it was part of my schtick because he asked me back."

Rock added that, for whatever reason, he and Carson hit it off. "He just thought I was a funny, outrageous kind of guy," Rock said. "He could see I didn’t have any talent whatsoever. While other guests came on the show for the exposure or to plug a movie, I was there for the $260."

In the end, Rock said his place in the world of celebrities was created by Johnny Carson. "He knew I was a character and nurtured that," Rock said. "I’m proud to have known him and will miss him deeply."