Me and the Tonight show

to: personal storyteller

No, I have never been a guest on the Tonight Show. I have never been part of the live audience. I came late to its television audience but have had a few noteworthy encounters.

My father was an executive with American Motors Corporation which sponsored the Disneyland television show on ABC during the 1950s. The president of that network then was Robert Kintner.

In the summer of 1960, Robert Kintner, now president of NBC, which hosted the Tonight Show, offered my brother and me a pair of tickets to its live show when we visited his office at my father’s suggestion. Never having heard of the show, I either declined the offer or showed lackluster interest. So we never received the tickets for the show which, at the time, was hosted by comedian Jack Paar. But that was not the end of it.

My sister, Margaret, attended the Masters school in Dobbs Ferry, New York, along with Jack Paar’s daughter, Randy. I remember seeing Jack personally videotape his daughter’s (and my sister’s) graduation ceremony in 1964. My sister later invited Randy to visit her for the weekend at our summer home in Milford, Pennsylvania, which I now own. I was there along with my college roommate, Bill Rieder. The four of us took a canoe trip on the Delaware river near Milford.

The Tonight Show was later hosted by Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, and now Jimmy Fallon. After Carson’s departure from the show, I started watching David Letterman at the Late Show on CBS. It aired for 25 years until May, 2015.

Despite being a loyal viewer of the Tonight show and Late Show for several decades, I never attended their live performances or had contact with any participants. However, there was a certain connection with one of the Tonight Show guest, “Tiny Tim” (Herbert Khaury).

I was watching as Tiny Tim made his iconic first appearance with Carson on the Tonight Show in 1969. With his ultra-gay mannerisms, he brought down the house as he admiringly said to Carson, “Oh, Johnny, you’re so normal!”

More than 40 million people watched as Tiny Tim married “Miss Vicki” (Vicky Budinger) on the Tonight Show on December 17, 1969. They later divorced. Tiny Tim was then married two other times, both times to women. His third wife, “Miss Sue” (Susan Marie Gardner) was from Minneapolis.

And so Tiny Tim, originally from New York City, came to live in Minneapolis. Among other things, he performed at Lee’s Liquor Lounge, a local bar which is ten blocks or so east of me at 101 Glenwood Avenue just beyond the I-94 freeway. I often pass by it on my way downtown.

Tragedy struck on November 30, 1996, during Tiny Tim’s performance at the Women’s Club in Minneapolis. He collapsed at a table with his wife, lost consciousness, and was rushed to the Hennepin County Medical Center, where he died an hour later. I attended the memorial service held for him at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis on December 4, 1996. Tiny Tim is now entombed in a mausoleum at the Lakewood Cemetery here in town.

My television-viewing habits have changed so I no longer regularly watch late-night talk shows. However, as you can see, they were a not insignificant part of my life for decades.


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