A moderately talented TV personality attains local fame in a minor
broadcasting market, then surprisingly wins role in network series and rises to brief national renown; marries eventual megastar, orchestrates her destiny as a repeat Oscar/Emmy choice, as he plans against all odds to re-make Gone With the Wind.
“You know Lennie McCarthur?” Wally asked.
“Sure,” Carson said. “How do you know Lennie?”
To Wally Emerson, running into Johnny and Joanna Carson in United’s Red Carpet Room at Chicago’s O’Hare was as remarkable and exciting as it was unexpected. The illustrious TV personality and his wife were sitting with Suzanne Pleshette and another gentleman Wally assumed was Mr. Pleshette.
It was close to five-thirty, and the young man from Buffalo had already had too much to drink on the flight from BUF to ORD. He approached the foursome cautiously in the quietly ornate lounge, dimly lit, and now, at this early hour, nearly deserted; the foursome seemed to be swimming, or at least floating, in a flash flood of cigarette smoke.
“I simply have to intrude and say hello,” Wally said, leaning toward the television icon and extending his hand. “I saw you all sitting here, and I’d hate myself if I passed up an opportunity to say hello.” He started to say I watch you every night, but the line never came out.
Carson turned from his wife and looked up. He glanced at Wally’s extended hand, and instead of transferring his drink from his right to his left, which was holding a smoldering Camel, he sat the highball on the table in front of him and shook Wally’s hand. “No problem,” he said, graciously. “This is my wife, Joanna; and this is Suzanne Pleshette and Tim Gallagher.”
Wally nodded to Joanna Holland Carson, mentally noting what a ravishing beauty she was, and he shook Tim Gallagher’s hand. When Suzanne Pleshette smiled, her teeth were dazzling; for a brief moment Wally wondered, should a decision have to be made, which of the two women was more gorgeous? As he shook Gallagher’s hand, it occurred to him how gratifying it was that Carson did not brush him off and tell him to get lost; neither had ever set eyes on the other.
“My name is Wally Emerson, from Buffalo; I’m really sorry to bother you—come on like, you know, some sort of tourist or clochard, uh, or something—” ‘clochard,’ Jesus, what kinda word is that to use on a guy like Johnny Carson!—“but I’ve been watching you on TV a hundred years, Mr. Carson. I mean, I’m on my way to Los Angeles — I’m on United Fourteen— maybe we’re all, all of us, are on the same flight . . .”
“I don’t think you’re such a bum,” Carson shrugged and glanced up at Tim Gallagher, admitting privately to Wally he, in fact, knew exactly what the word ‘clochard’ meant. “I don’t know about the flights, though,” he said; “I doubt it. I don’t even think we’re on United. This lounge was the closest . . . What flight’re we on, Tim?”