Carson maintained quality control at any price. Earlier in his career, Johnny Carson experimented with many extensions to the Carson brand. Believe it or not, there were Johnny Carson suits and clothing, Carson cologne, and even Johnny Carson Steakhouses. One
day in the 1970s, one of Carson’s friends called to let him know he had purchased a Johnny Carson tie, and it had fallen apart. Carson immediately investigated his clothing line and found it to be below his standards. Despite the fact that it was a hot seller and he would lose millions in sales, he pulled it from the market. Soon after that he pulled out of all his other business endeavors and endorsements. He understood that by putting his brand in the hands of others whom he really could not control, he risked everything else he had built. Carson was a master at using many of his other Warrior tools and seeing him in action made me realize why he has been the consummate talk show host. Johnny Carson understood the essence of communication.
A few years ago, as a reward to the team that worked on his video series, Carson invited the group to lunch. Of course, lunch with Johnny Carson was a huge treat for my staff members, and they were all a little wide-eyed as we entered his office. Carson spent a minute or two meeting each of the ten people; learning their names, a little about their job, and background; and generally making them feel comfortable. At lunch he managed to have conversations with almost all of them, commenting on where they were from, and keeping the group entertained. I was most amazed to observe that Carson correctly remembered each person’s name throughout the day (like most people, I have trouble retaining one person’s name for more than a few minutes—much less ten people), and he engaged them in two-way conversations.
While most stars are used to just pontificating about themselves, Johnny Carson was curious about others and really enjoyed the art of conversation. And despite the fact that he became perhaps the biggest television star in history, he managed to keep himself reasonably well grounded.