WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Legendary television entertainer Johnny Carson has died of emphysema at age 79, the NBC television network reported on its Web site on Sunday.
Carson hosted NBC's popular "The Tonight Show" for nearly 30 years, long dominating late-night television with an estimated 12 million viewers each night. He did his final show on Friday, May 22, 1992, seen by 55 million, and was replaced the next Monday by the current host, Jay Leno.
Sidekick Ed McMahon introduced him nightly with the rallying cry of "Heeeeeeere's Johnny!" Carson's blend of humor, music and conversation was the last thing millions of Americans heard before drifting off to sleep.
"I am one of the lucky people in the world. I have found something I liked to do, and I have enjoyed every single minute of it," a teary-eyed Carson said as he closed the show for the last time. "I bid you a very heartfelt goodnight."
In later years, Carson became something of a recluse in his Malibu, California, home, rarely venturing into the public eye.
After a 1999 quadruple bypass heart operation, Carson cut back on his tennis and discontinued his annual treks to Africa, the French Riviera and the Wimbledon tennis tournament. He had battled emphysema for years.