Jack Paar, the mercurial late-night talk host of The Tonight Show
from 1957 to '62, will be remembered at least as well for his bouts of tears and network feuds as for anything else. He died after a long illness on Jan. 27 in Greenwich, Conn. He was 85.
Paar was a superb monologist and interviewer, at home with guests that included the mighty, like President John F. Kennedy, and a group of regulars that included Zsa Zsa Gabor, Hermione Gingold and Cliff Arquette, who portrayed the folksy Charlie Weaver.
Dick Cavett, who was one of his writers, last week in a New York Times
appreciation called Paar "smart, sentimental, witty, irritable, loyal, insecure, infuriating, hilarious, neurotic and totally entertaining."
Unlike on most talk shows today, Paar and his guests really had conversation. He made famous the phrase "I kid you not" when, while chatting, he recounted some improbable occurrence. Most notably, he walked off the show in 1960 after censors edited out a joke that referred to water closets. He returned, though, for a couple more years. Yet, at age 47, he quit the show (replaced by Johnny Carson) and within a few years largely quit show business, except for some sporadic appearances. Sadly, reported The Washington Post, a Today
show graphic during a tribute last week misspelled his name "Parr."