Carson was known for a few things, but one of the main ones was that he had a serious drinking problem. And because he had a drinking problem, he wound up acting overly aggressive in public a lot. When he was arrested for drunk driving in 1982, it only made matters worse.
Lucky for him, he ended up pleading no contest and was charged with a misdemeanor. As a part of his three-year sentence on probation, Carson had to participate in a court-ordered program for alcohol and drunk drivers. The sentence also required that he only use his car for transportation to and from work, and he was not able to have anyone in his car with him while he drove.
More Family Hardships
Rick Carson, one of three of Johnny’s sons from his first marriage, was diagnosed with mental illness. In the days of his diagnosis, these types of ailments were less understood than they are today, and Johnny couldn’t even bear to be around him, as he was embarrassed by the whole thing. Rick ended up being committed to an institution, and Johnny never visited. Little did he know that decision would have even more serious consequences than he could imagine.
In 1991, Rick drove his car through Morro Bay, California, when he lost control of the vehicle, and it tumbled over one hundred feet down a levee. Rick was dead upon the impact of the accident. Johnny did pay his respects to his son on "The Tonight Show," but he also acknowledged that there were some issues with their relationship or lack thereof.
The Apple and the Tree
Carson’s controversial behavior was again put on display for the world to see when he and his son, Rick, got into an argument at a party that was thrown in his honor. NBC put together a posh affair on the Queen Mary for his 25th year as a host on the network. Johnny and his son both threw back one too many drinks and ended up getting into a shouting match in front of a boat full of NBC execs, along with Carson’s relatives and close friends.
When people spoke about the account, they all seemed to agree that Carson himself was the instigator of the fight. Johnny stepped not only started yelling but also, at one point, became violent toward his son before another party guest stopped him. But this wasn’t the first time, nor would it be the last, that he would take things too far.
Johnny Carson knew that he had an alcohol issue, but he didn’t like to talk about it. In fact, he actively kept away from the press so he wouldn’t have to. But it wasn’t just that he didn’t like to talk about it, he didn’t like to think about it. However, eventually, he did, and in a very public fashion.
Carson appeared on "60 Minutes" in 1977 and discussed the issue with host Ed McMahon. When asked, he told Ed that he knew he couldn’t “handle” his liquor but that while drinking, he had some “good times.” The people around him spin a different story, though. Carson’s habits were no secret in Hollywood, and many celebrities wouldn’t even consider coming to his show because they knew he would be a jerk.
The Sky’s the Limit
Johnny Carson met wife number two, Joanne Copeland, in 1960 when she was working as a flight attendant and he was hosting "Who Do You Trust?" But not long after her marriage to the television star, Copeland found herself having an affair with Frank Gifford, a big name in the sports world. Johnny discovered this when he found out about an apartment that Joanne leased behind his back – however, he was having a few of his own.
Johnny and Joanne were married for nine years before finally splitting up in 1972. The couple had seen their fair share of turmoil, and the public could see it too, so no one was very surprised when they finalized their divorce. Joanne stuck by Carson’s side in terms of business and was committed to assisting him to rise through the ranks in the entertainment industry.