Although Johnny Carson never hosted Elvis Presley the tonight show, the two were supposedly mutual fans. Of course, the King of Late Night sometimes included humorous remarks about the King of Rock and Roll in his monologues. And once, when Presley gave dozens of Cadillacs as gifts, the host joked that he’d checked to see if one of Presley’s many pets had gotten one yet.
Elvis Presley and the gifts from Cadillac
When Presley rose to fame, luxury cars were an important status symbol. And he was very proud of his Cadillacs. Over the years, he reportedly bought hundreds of cars he barely drove, only to later gift them to other people. According to the Guardian, Presley gave away up to 200 Cadillacs before his death in 1977.
Those who knew him said he would go to a dealership and buy dozens of cars at once. It was even said that he once bought more than 30 in a day only to give them all away the same afternoon.
And of course such donations did not go unnoticed when someone as famous as Presley was involved. Carson was known to scan the news for material for his monologues The tonight show. After reading about Presley’s love of giving away cars, he joked about checking the status of Presley’s pets.
Johnny Carson: ‘Let’s see if Elvis Presley gave his parakeet a new Cadillac’
In 1976, Carson joked about Presley’s gift-giving habits in a Tonight Show monologue when he said, “Well, let’s go to the news and see if Elvis Presley got his parakeet a new Cadillac.”
“Did you notice that? Presley gives everyone Cadillacs,” he added. “You say hello and Elvis gives you a Cadillac.”
While Presley’s love of animals is well documented — and he even had a “Bird Room” at Graceland — it’s not clear if he owned a parakeet, with or without a Cadillac.
And related to this, some sources suggested that Carson was cruel in his jokes about Presley before his death. According to them, Presley was a big fan of The tonight show and his host until Carson supposedly said he was “fat and 40”.
But that seems to be an embellishment or misconception since there is no clear record of Carson making such jokes. However, he did some playful ribbing about aging, including material about orthopedic blue suede shoes and Presley only allowed to rotate his hips in front of a nurse.
It also feels important to point out that Presley was about a decade younger than Carson. Furthermore, he would be a loyal viewer of The tonight show. And Carson would be a fan of his, too. So Carson’s Presley-related humor seemingly stayed in the same ballpark as parakeets in Cadillacs.
And a point to add to how Carson felt about Presley – as his own Tonight Show co-host, Ed McMahon, wrote in his memoir: Here’s Johnny – is how he once remarked that if life were fair, Presley would still be alive.
Johnny Carson shared Elvis Presley’s generosity
While Carson wasn’t a big car collector like Presley, he did amass an impressive fortune before his death in 2005. So, of course, he had some prized possessions, like a giant yacht and a cliffside mansion. And according to Celebrity Net Worth, his net worth was $300 million at the time of death.
CNN reported that from 1988 until his death, Carson contributed up to $2 million a year to his foundation. Among other things, he helped “environmental organizations, AIDS charities, schools, children’s aid groups, and non-profit organizations in Nebraska…” where he spent his childhood.
He then divided his fortune and donated just over half – about $156 million – to his charitable foundation after his death.