Be Careful With Heroes

PBS regularly airs a series called “American Masters.” It is a wonderful set of biographies of people who have made an indelible mark on this great country of ours. Over the years I have seen some real treasures. Last week, they ran a two-hour piece on the life of “The Tonight Show” host Johnny Carson. As any regular reader of my work knows, I have always held Mr. Carson in the highest esteem. His body of work, his humor, his …


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3 comments on “Be Careful With Heroes

  1. Dr. Joe Panza on said:

    We should never be surprised that (1.) money cannot buy happiness or fulfillment. It buys things. And, (2) the funny man is always the one crying inside and uses humor to hide that pain. Think of the two masks of the theater. Anyone married so many times is searching aimlessly for inner peace but looking for it outwardly. In humor there is always pain to be found underlying it.

    I admired Carson for his wit but always sensed that he was not a happy man. So many other great comedians too had similar issues. Imagine if those comics found happiness, how many would have been able to make us laugh at or with them? That’s the tragic nature of comedy.

  2. Tom Smith on said:

    Mr. Ciancutti, I must compliment you on your analysis of the PBS broadcast, but I think you’re underemphasizing one very important point that anyone reading your review or watching the show should take away. Mr. Carson’s entire life was directed at one very specific goal – earning his mother & father’s respect & approval. It’s mentioned early in the show that he was the middle of three children. His older brother was his father’s favorite; his younger sister was his mother’s. He received very little parental love & guidance. This must have left him with a terrible insecurity complex & a driving goal to be liked by anyone & everyone but particularly his mother.

    I recall the pride in his face when he introduced his parents in the Tonight Show audience. It was almost painful to see in his face how much he loved them & craved their approval of his success. From what the show said, it’s obvious that he had no idea of how proud his mother really was until after her death when they found the large box of clippings on his career in his mother’s bedroom. It was mentioned that he kept the box, possibly the only important connection he ever had with his mother, in his own bedroom until his death.

    A viewer can make the obvious conclusion that his relationship with his mother permanently damaged his ability to have a long-term & loving relationship with any woman. His lack of relationship with his father undoubtedly damaged his ability to be a father to his own sons.

    What should be taken away from the show is the overwhelming importance of parents having a loving & nurturing relationship with their children when they’re young. Many parents are so self-centered that they have absolutely no idea what their lack of attention to their children, or worse focusing that attention on one child to the detriment of siblings, will do to the child’s own relationships with others in the future. It’s my personal opinion that this should be the one lesson learned by all who watch the show.

    As a tie-in, take your kids to the park & spend as much time with them as you can. As Harry Chapin so very well put it in the classic “Cats in the Cradle”, you may find yourself hearing the very same words from your child late in life that you told him repeatedly when he was younger:

    “He’d grown up just like me
    My boy was just like me”

  3. Dan Downey on said:

    Thanks very much, Ron, for reminding us of what really matters. I watched the recent TV special as well and had similar thoughts. That was a nice boat and, living in West Michigan over near the shore of beautiful Lake Michigan, I do appreciate nice boats; however, your article today that it is not about the “stuff” we own. It is the people in our lives that matter and we should not take them for granted. I will try and think about your article this Memorial Day weekend as I stand on the shoreline wishing that I had a boat of any size. Rather than that, I will remind myself how very fortunate I am to have a great job, good health and a wonderful wife and four fantastic sons who have grown to be fine young men that I am very proud of. Thanks, Ron. Sincerely, Dan Downey

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