On June 4, 1975, I made a 13-minute appearance on NBC’s Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. It was an experience that changed my life. You may wonder how such a brief experience changed my life. It brought incredible opportunities to meet people and be in the media in places I could only dream about.
When you appear on a show like Carson, it is like getting a Ph.D. in media performance. I remember pitching myself to a media person after I did the Tonight Show, and I mentioned that I had just done a segment with Johnny Carson. There was a long pause on the phone and then he said, “If you are good enough to be on Carson you are good enough for my show.”
The Tonight Show is taped in Burbank, California at 5:30 PM. By taping then, it gives the production staff time to edit the show – and in the case of my segment bleep out a few words that Johnny said when he burned his hand on the bottom of a very hot paper sack. The paper sack had been the “pan” for eggs and bacon cooked on a tin can stove.
The day after the performance I was to be on stage at 2:00 P.M., giving a performance in Calgary, Canada. That did not give me much time to celebrate or to enjoy the phone calls that came in. I remember the morning of boarding the plane, and as I was waiting to take off the flight attendant kept looking at me. When you have been in the media a lot, you know that look.
Pretty soon she came over and said, “You’re the lady that was on Johnny Carson last night, aren’t you?”
Not long after that, I passed through a security checkpoint in Dallas. The security person asked if he could open my case. Can you imagine opening up someone’s case and seeing faces painted on bleach bottles, tuna cans with cardboard rolled up in them, and rows of big empty cans filled with steel wool and batteries?
The people at the security checkpoint looked at the stuff and then looked at me with a real puzzled glaze. Finally, the man said, “Oh. You’re the lady that was on Johnny Carson. You’re OK.”
Even yesterday – 35 years later – I was in the airport waiting to board my flight and a lady came over from another gate and said, “Are you Dian Thomas?” She added, “I have followed you for years and just wanted to tell you thanks for sharing your unique ideas.”
I answered, “Thank you for sharing because you have blessed my life today. It is so good to know you enjoyed my ideas.”
Seventeen short minutes with Carson changed my life forever, and I have loved meeting all the wonderful people and incredible people that have come into my life from that experience.