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Johnny Carson Grows a Beard

February 6, 1985

BURBANK, Calif. (AP) _ ″Tonight Show″ host Johnny Carson, making an about-face of sorts, appeared on his show with a beard Tuesday night for the first time in his 23 years on the air.

The scruffy, salt-and-pepper facial hair got a warm and immediate response from the audience as the silver-haired, 59-year-old Carson made his entrance through the stage curtain.

He said, however, that the whiskers would be temporary because they would get in the way of some of the characters in the show’s comedy sketches.

Carson said on the show that he didn’t start out to grow a beard.

″I’ve been off the past week,″ he said. ″First weekend, I didn’t do much. That’s why I didn’t shave. It’s kind of nice to rest the face. Two days later, I was still resting the face.″

Carson’s sidekick, Ed McMahon, said on the show that he couldn’t wait to see ″Karnak the Magnificent″ with a beard.

″That’s going to pose a problem,″ Carson said, referring to the mentalist character that he occasionally portrays on the show. ″I think this is going to be rather temporary.″

Carson began the beard Jan. 25 during 10 days off from the NBC talk show, said publicist Joe Bleeden. Carson’s regular substitute, Joan Rivers, was the host in his absence.

The beard was a departure for the normally clean-cut Carson, who has only once deviated from the tailored suits and sports jackets he wears each night.That was years ago, when Carson showed up in a trendy Nehru jacket, which ″lasted one night,″ Bleeden said.

″It’s just fun to do,″ Carson said of the beard. ″Feels great on the face though’

″Anyway, I thought maybe if I grew this I could avoid a couple of subpoenas,″ Carson quipped.

″Did you?″ Ed asked.

″Didn’t work,″ he replied.

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