January 27, 2004

Jack Paar has died. Look for obituaries attempting to explain that shrouded-in-the-mists-of-time W.C. incident:
A man of boundless curiosity and interests, he was charming, gracious and famously sentimental: He could shed tears, as he put it, just from "taking the Coca-Cola bottles back to the A&P."

He could also be volatile, pettish and confounding. And never so much as in February 1960, when, making headlines, he emotionally told his thunderstruck audience that he was leaving his show. It was the night after a skittish NBC executive had judged obscene, and edited out, a story by Paar where the initials "W.C." were mistaken for "wayside chapel" instead of "water closet."

A month later, the network managed to lure Paar back. Returning on the night of March 7, he was greeted with generous applause as he stepped before the cameras. Then he began his monologue on a typically cheeky note: "As I was saying, before I was interrupted ... "

The late-night shows of that era are outside of my memory range. Johnny Carson succeeded Jack Paar on The Tonight Show in 1962, and I can clearly remember Carson's earlier daytime quiz show, "Who Do You Trust?" I even remember discussions of the grammar of that show title. I wish I had seen the Jack Paar Tonight Shows. How about a DVD?
"I'm against psychiatry -- for me, anyway," he told viewers. "I haven't got any troubles I can't tell standing up."
I vaguely remember adults being very interested in the subject of psychiatry in those days. Didn't Jack Paar fit into that theme for a lot of people? Or am I only remembering the mysterious sophistication that adults seemed to have to me when I was a child?

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