I probably will never require carpel tunnel surgery because of too much time spent at the keyboard writing blogs. But my digits do get a serious..perhaps syndrome-inducing work-out pushing buttons on the remote control changing TV channels or utilizing the DVR to its maximum capabilities.
It’s one of the reasons..well, okay, the MAIN reason.. Linda and I rarely watch television together; she’ll put up with commercials. I just can’t. I pre-record just about everything. Occasionally, though, late at night..I’ll be rolling through channels and see “Johnny Carson” in the program guide and can’t help myself. I always stop to watch..even though I realize it’s nothing more than a half hour commercial featuring “best of” clips from “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” that have been compiled and being offered for sale on video. I’ve watched this infomercial a dozen times and still can’t resist ogling again and again.
My gosh, it’s been 22 years since the king of late night television, Johnny Carson, retired but just hearing his Tonight Show theme song and seeing some of those highlights makes me laugh and feel young again. I, like millions of others, especially got a kick out of the shows which featured wildlife experts, Jim Flowler or Joan Embrey who would bring exotic animals on for Johnny to play with; often with hilarious results.
Early on during my long TV career my bosses knew I was better suited for puff pieces rather than covering politics, cops or courts. I wasn’t as interested in hard news as Hemmingsen, Bjerke, Ertz or any one of a number of young Woodward/Bernstein wanna-be’s in our newsroom..so when feature stores came up..I’d get the assignment and loved it. Which brings me to my encounter with Joan Embery..the wildlife specialist from the San Diego Zoo who would eventually make 75 memorable appearances on The Tonight Show with both Johnny Carson and Jay Leno.
I can’t recall exactly what year it was..but sometime in the late 70’s or early 80’s Joan was a guest at Sioux Falls’ Great Plain’s Zoo and available for interviews. A Keloland promotion photographer caught this shot of us in the act. That’s Vince Dave in the yellow KELO jacket and Bob Fischnich operating the camera. I’m not sure but I think that’s a spider monkey Joan is holding.
Looking at the picture I’m trying to remember some of the things discussed and am coming up empty. I do recall that, as I suspected, she relied heavily on make-up..but then, I was probably wearing some too. I also deduced quickly that she was the real deal; genuinely nice which made me feel a bit awkward when I decided to ask a “hard news” question to impress my colleagues back at the station. “Joan. How do you justify your concern for the well being of wild animals when you work for a place that keeps them penned up..not wild and free at all?”
Embery just smiled and gave the answer she’s given a thousand times before that some zoos are bad but most have become actively involved in conservation through inter-zoo breeding programs and work with wild populations. Zoo animals are advocates for those in the wild and inspire people to care about threatened wildlife.
Embrey has been good to her word. Now in her mid 60’s she continues to work as an ambassador and advocate for animals and the environment including television appearances with exotic creatures; most recently on the Christian Broadcast Network.
But I’ll never forget those gut-busting moments with Johnny like this.
Speaking of late night TV talk shows, my favorite, “The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson” ends its ten year run at the end of December.
I am really going to miss this quirky Scotsman and his gay robot sidekick, Geoff Peterson (Played by the brilliant Josh Robert Thompson) who never..ever..failed to make me laugh out loud even while watching alone.
CBS is replacing Ferguson with another British actor-comedian, James Corden. He comes with some pretty impressive credentials including a Broadway Toni. He’s only 36 though and I’m afraid that instead of making me laugh out loud..his humor might make me feel out of touch.
Oh, well..there’s always YouTube and that stack of Johnny Carson and Dean Martin Celebrity Roast videos I ordered in the middle of the night.