Jay Leno may have sat behind the desk at the "Tonight Show" for 17 years, but the hoopla surrounding his departure is definitely muted. On Thursday, Leno announced that Conan O'Brien — his successor in the time slot — will be his final guest on the May 29 finale. While this display of network team spirit makes for good PR and sets to rest rumors of any discord between the two men, it certainly lacks sizzle.
Remember the national countdown that accompanied the signing off of Leno's predecessor, Johnny Carson, in 1992 after almost three decades? The weeks leading up to Carson's final show saw the couch filled with a string of celebs paying homage to the undisputed king of late-night TV. While his last telecast on May 22, 1992, was a low-key affair — with Carson sitting on a stool reminiscing with sidekick Ed McMahon and bandleader Doc Severinsen — the previous night's installment was one for the ages.
First up was Robin Williams, who dazzled Carson with his rapid-fire delivery. The final guest was Bette Midler who serenaded her longtime mentor with several songs, including a specially penned version of "You Made Me Love You," with new lyrics by her musical director Marc Shaiman. She and Carson performed an impromptu duet on one of his favorite tunes, the war-time "Here's That Rainy Day." And then Midler sang the ultimate saloon song — "One for My Baby" — in tribute to Carson. Both got caught up in the emotion of the moment, as seen below.
For singing the tune that earned her the highest honor of the music industry just two years earlier — Grammy's record of the year award — Bette Midler won the 1992 Emmy Award for individual performance in a variety or music program. She edged out George Carlin for an HBO stand-up special, "Saturday Night Live" regular Dana Carvey, Oscarcast host Billy Crystal and singer Natalie Cole, who was riding high with the success of "Unforgettable."