‘Tonight’ Episodes Believed Lost Turn Up at DOD Facility
By Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Will Gaskill
American Forces Network Broadcast Center
RIVERSIDE, Calif., Oct. 3, 2012 Once thought to be lost, a film reel containing clips of “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” was discovered in a military visual information storage facility here and was turned over Oct. 1 to Jeff Sotzing, nephew of Johnny Carson.
Pedro Loureiro, left, archivist at the Defense Imagery Management Operations Center, and Jeff Sotzing, CEO at Carson Entertainment Group, review a 1963 film of “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” once thought to be lost, that was found at DIMOC’s facility in Riverside, Calif. DIMOC turned over the film to Sotzing to be added to the Carson archives. DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Will Gaskill
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The clips, dating back to 1963, were found on an archived 16 mm film reel stored at the Defense Imagery Management Operations Center, known as DIMOC, just outside of March Air Reserve Base.
In the 1960s, the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service received film reels from the production studios and distributed the programming to its stations for service members around the world. After the footage was shown and no longer needed, it was returned to the studios, destroyed, or sometimes kept on site at the AFRTS facility, now called the American Forces Network Broadcast Center.
“Somebody had the brains or historical foresight to save this reel,” said Pedro Loureiro, archivist at DIMOC.
The television industry used to reuse tapes, Loureiro said. Newer episodes were recorded over the older material without much thought of archiving what is now thought of as part of the “golden age” of television.
“Everything from the 1960s is considered lost,” he said. “That’s what they did with everybody’s show,” said Sotzing, CEO of the Carson Entertainment Group, the owners of Carson’s archive. Besides being related to the late entertainer, Sotzing worked on the show from 1977 to 1992, working his way up from being a runner to producing the show.
“I’m really looking forward to adding this film to the collection. Almost everything from 1962 to 1973 is gone,” Sotzing said.
Mary Carnes, a retired program support manager at the broadcast center, discovered the reel as she was sorting through a box of old items that had been overlooked for years.
“As soon as I saw it, I knew it was a gem,” Carnes said. “Giving it back to the family and the Carson archives will be like a birthday or Christmas for them.
“This is one of the great parts of the job here,” she continued. We can do the work we do to entertain our troops, and document history at the same time. It’s really great.”
In all, “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” highlighted nearly 23,000 stars in 4,351 episodes over a 30-year span. Carson won six Emmy Awards, the Peabody Award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and Kennedy Center Honors, and is enshrined in the Television Academy Hall of Fame.
“Johnny would make an on-air plea [for lost footage],” Sotzing said. “He would be thrilled to get this. A lot of young people don’t know who Johnny Carson is. This helps show them.”
The newly discovered footage will be digitally recorded, transcribed and then made available for users of the Carson Entertainment Group’s searchable online archives. The physical film will be stored at a former salt mine in Hutchinson, Kan., which currently houses the Carson archives as well as many other Hollywood film archives, Sotzing said.