Late-night legend Johnny Carson, who lulled America to sleep for nearly 30 years as host of NBC's Tonight Show, died Jan. 23 of emphysema at his Malibu, Calif., home. He was 79. The sad news caught his colleagues in the showbiz world off guard. Here, Oprah Winfrey — who sat on Carson's couch back in 1985, before she was a full-fledged talk-show queen — shares her fond memories of Johnny.TV Guide Online: Were you hosting The Oprah Winfrey Show at the time you did Tonight Show?
Oprah Winfrey: No, it was still called AM Chicago, and we were getting a lot of publicity for beating Donahue. So I was on [Tonight] for the first time then. TVGO: Was Carson proud of all your success?
Winfrey: No, no, no. The thing about it is, when you're sitting there during the commercial break, he normally just focuses on whatever is on his desk at the time. So you're sitting there thinking, "He hates me. Oh my God, I'm bombing, he hates me." But then he comes back from the commercial break and he's on again. You're [thinking], "Oh, what I talk to Carson about?" And he says, "I know how to do what I do." One of the things that I've admired most about him was he left — and he was gone. He didn't come back. He didn't try to do a sitcom. He didn't try to sing. TVGO: What else do you remember about appearing on Tonight?
Winfrey: Are you kidding? It's an out-of-body experience. You're standing behind the curtain, you hear the music and then you're like, "It's the curtain! It's the curtain!" I can't remember anything. TVGO: Did you ever think you'd end up being bigger than him on TV?
Winfrey: No, I don't think there's bigger. I think, for his time and what he represented, there is no bigger. There is different. Just like there will be people who will come after me who will be different. But I don't think anybody can say that they were bigger. There is no bigger. For more memories from Johnny Carson's celebrity contemporaries, come back and read tomorrow's Insider.