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Spring 2005 • Volume 11, Issue 2

Johnny Carson remembered

Two Bradley alumni reflect on their memories of former Tonight Show host Johnny Carson.

Giving Johnny a lift

by David Charles Horowitz ‘59

Horowitz and CarsonWho would have ever thought that Johnny Carson was a “closet case” consumer advocate? For the 10 years I appeared as a guest on his show, the “King of Late Night” was fascinated by consumer issues. With his special brand of humor, Johnny helped me expose villains in the marketplace, test questionable products, and educate people about their consumer rights.

Johnny Carson was instrumental in helping me build my career as a consumer reporter by constantly joking about my crusades in his monologues even when I wasn’t on the show. He also impersonated me on his Mighty Carson Art Players as “David Howitzer, the Big Gun of the Consumer Movement.” He used the character to take shots at scams, cons, and ridiculous product advertising.

Johnny would introduce me as “Read-Those-Labels Horowitz” as I came out from the studio curtains for an appearance. Doc Severenson’s orchestra played my show’s musical theme, and the musicians would end the tune shouting, “Fight Back!”

We met on the NBC midway quite often, as our parking spots were alongside each other. One night as I left the NBC studio, Johnny had the hood up of his father’s 1930s car. He couldn’t get it started. He mumbled that the mechanic charged him $350, and he felt ripped off. I laughed. Then, he asked me if I could give him a lift home since we lived in the same area of Los Angeles.

I will never forget that 40-minute drive with Johnny. We drove into the night using security short cuts I will never remember and that he never forgot. That night, I got to see a side of Johnny that other acquaintances didn’t get a chance to experience.

David Horowitz ‘59 has been a broadcast journalist for more than 40 years. A consumer advocate, he has won 14 Emmys for his TV show, Fight Back! With David Horowitz and is the author of eight books. The Caterpillar Global Communications Center auditorium recently was named and dedicated in Horowitz’s honor. For more information about Horowitz, visit www.fightback.com.

Photograph by Fight Back! Inc.

Sax appeal

by Nancy Ridgeway

  As news spread of the death of former Tonight Show host Johnny Carson,Bob Harbart ‘66 of New Carlisle, Indiana, remembered the summer he played saxophone with the Tonight Show Band, directed by Skitch Henderson. Roger Pemberton, an arranger for the Tonight Show Band and one of Harbart’s former professors, helped Harbart get the job shortly after he graduated with honors from Bradley with a degree in music education. He played in about 12 shows in New York City, where the Tonight Show was taped at the time. He then went on the road with the band to play at state fairs with stars such as Diana Ross, Roy Orbison, and Jimmy Dean.

The stint was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but Harbart was glad to return to his hometown when he was offered a position as a band director for Elston High School in Michigan City, Indiana. He currently is principal at Westville High School in Westville, Indiana.

Remembering Carson, Harbart says, “He was a very shy person, but he was very kind to me. He always took the time to say ‘hi’ and visit. He was always complimenting the band. He enjoyed good music.”