Picks and Pans Review: Dear Johnny: Johnny Carson's Most Hilarious & Bizarre Fan Mail

updated 10/04/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/04/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Barbara Bowen and Mike Huber

Bizarre certainly describes this collection of fan letters sent to Carson during his 29-year tenure as host of NBC's Tonight Show. How...bizarre...were...they? Well, one correspondent sent toenail clippings; another mailed a hunk of cow dung that had been spray-painted gold.

Fortunately, most of Johnny's mail (which Tonight staffers Bowen and Huber were assigned to respond to) was of the handwritten variety—even though the writing (reproduced in page-size photographs) is, in many cases, barely legible (the authors provide helpful translations on facing pages), the grammar atrocious and the spelling virtually phonetic.

"Hilarious," however, doesn't quite do some of these writers justice. "Pitiful" is more like it. "I wrote you last year about the fact I know 175 jokes," wrote one aspiring guest. "Well, I now know over 200 jokes." Others, after hearing about Carson's ballyhooed retirement in May 1992, simply wrote to express their appreciation.

And still others waxed poetic. Scrawled one bard: "Oh, Johnny, Oh, Johnny/What will I do/I can't go to sleep without you/I'll just cry Johnny-Cry Johnny Cry!" Arsenio, Chevy, Conan, Dave and Jay should only be so blessed. (Optima Books, $12.95)

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