Stars Remember Jack Paar
This week, Hollywood received some sad news: Late-night legend Jack Paar — host of NBC's The Tonight Show from 1957 until 1962 — died on Tuesday after a long illness. He was 85. Paar's guests included many luminaries of his era, everybody from JFK to Judy Garland. In fact, just weeks after his Tonight debut, he was dubbed "one of America's most popular indoor pastimes." TV Guide Online got in touch with stars who loved Paar, inviting them to share their favorite memories of the showman. Here's what they had to say...
Phyllis Diller: "We were personal friends over the years. This is very sad news, except that Jack was in such horrible condition after the stroke he had about a year ago. He was paralyzed and he couldn't talk. It was such a strain on his wife, Miriam; she was at his bedside constantly. I would mail her jokes to make him laugh, 'cause what else can you do?
"He was the first person who gave me my big jump start, on the Tonight Show. My family of seven had been homeless for five years, and he did such a job of promoting me that when I was finally able to buy a home, I always called it The House That Jack Built. Isn't that cute? He was an attractive man and a natty dresser, and he appreciated my eccentricities. He was always there to help, and not just me, but so many people like Jonathan Winters, Hermione Gingold and Joey Bishop. Paar could make you a star!"
Jay Leno: "Jack set the bar and he set it very high. I was fortunate enough to have him as a guest on the show. He will be sorely missed."
Carol Burnett: "I really loved working with him. He played an important part in giving me my start. I'm so sad to hear of his passing."
Merv Griffin: "Jack invented the talk show format as we know it: the ability to sit down and make small talk big. I will miss him terribly. Not only was he a great friend, he was my beginning, just as he was everyone else's."
Conan O'Brien: "He was a brilliant television pioneer who laid the groundwork for Late Night. I had the pleasure of meeting Jack and his wife, and he couldn't have been kinder and more encouraging to me, personally."
The Amazing Kreskin: "I'm a mentalist and I read thoughts in my act. Paar told me that he preceded everybody in doing that. In the days when Tonight Show was live for an hour and 45 minutes — not taped — Paar would wear a turban and tell people their telephone numbers. Finally, he revealed in TV Guide that he had earphones in the turban and that his staff backstage was looking up the numbers! He brought such a spontaneity to television that just doesn't exist anymore."