Question: Please settle a bet: Was it Steve Allen or Johnny Carson who asked the golf pro's wife what she did to bring her husband luck before a tournament, whereupon she answered (innocently): "I kiss his balls"?
Televisionary: Well, that depends on whom you believe. And since I work for the wondrous and check-paying TV Guide, I choose to believe our writers. So the answer is neither. However, the rumor is that it was the legendary Mr. Carson.
As the story goes, golf god Arnold Palmer was on The Tonight Show when Carson asked him if he practiced any good-luck routines. "Yes, my wife kisses my balls," was Palmer's mythical reply, which prompted Carson to joke, "I'll bet that flutters your putter." (Other variations have, as you say, Palmer's wife appearing on the show and naively delivering the set-up line.)
"People are always asking him about it, and he thinks it's silly," a Carson spokeswoman told TV Guide back in 1998. Our colleagues also reported that Palmer was never a guest on the show when Carson was hosting. "I wish we could lay this old chestnut to rest once and for all," Doc Giffin, a spokesman for Palmer, added.
And that isn't the only "chestnut" Carson had to deal with, according to our guys. Another oft-repeated rumor holds that Zsa Zsa Gabor once sat in the guest chair with a cat in her lap. "Would you like to pet my p---y?" she asked. "I'd love to, but you'll have to remove that darn cat," Carson supposedly said. Now, Ms. Gabor often appeared on the show, but Carson himself, asked about it by Jane Fonda on the air in 1989, denied the exchange ever took place.
Funny stories, sure. They'd be funnier still if they were true.