Though Johnny Carson never hosted Elvis Presley on The Tonight Show, the two were supposedly mutual fans. Of course, the King of Late Night sometimes included humorous comments about the King of Rock and Roll in his monologues. And on one occasion, when Presley had been gifting Cadillacs by the dozen, the host joked he’d been checking to see if one of Presley’s many pets received one yet.
Elvis Presley and the Cadillac gifting spree
As Presley was beginning his rise to fame, luxury cars were a significant status symbol. And he took great pride in his Cadillacs. Through the years, he reportedly bought hundreds of cars he hardly drove, only to gift them to other people later. According to the Guardian, Presley gave up to 200 Cadillacs away before his 1977 death.
Those who knew him said he would go to a dealership and buy dozens of the cars at a time. In fact, he was said to have once bought more than 30 in a day to give them all away by the same afternoon.
And, of course, such gifting didn’t go unnoticed when someone as famous as Presley was involved. Carson was known to scan the news for material for his monologues on The Tonight Show. After reading about Presley’s love for giving away cars, he joked about checking in on the status of Presley’s pets.
Johnny Carson: ‘Let’s see if Elvis Presley gave his parakeet a new Cadillac’
In 1976, Carson joked about Presley’s gift-giving habits in a Tonight Show monologue when he said, “Well, let’s go to the news and see if Elvis Presley gave his parakeet a new Cadillac.”
“Did you notice that? Presley’s giving everybody Cadillacs,” he added. “You say hello and Elvis gives you a Cadillac.”
While Presley’s love for animals is well documented — and he even had a “Bird Room” at Graceland — it’s not clear if he had a parakeet, with or without a Cadillac.
And on a related note, some sources suggested Carson was cruel in his jokes about Presley before his death. According to them, Presley was a big fan of The Tonight Show and its host until Carson supposedly said he was “fat and 40.”
But that seems to be an embellishment or misconception, as there’s no apparent record of Carson making such jokes. He did some playful ribbing about aging, though, including material about orthopedic blue suede shoes and Presley only being allowed to swivel his hips in the presence of a nurse.
It also feels important to point out Presley was about a decade younger than Carson. Furthermore, he was supposedly a loyal viewer of The Tonight Show. And Carson was said to be a fan of his, as well. So, Carson’s Presley-related humor seemingly stayed in the same ballpark as parakeets in Cadillacs.
And a point to add to how Carson felt about Presley — as his Tonight Show co-host, Ed McMahon, wrote in his memoir, Here’s Johnny — is how he once remarked Presley would still be alive if life were fair.
Johnny Carson shared Elvis Presley’s generosity
Though Carson wasn’t a big car collector like Presley, he did collect an impressive fortune before he died in 2005. So, he had some prized possessions, of course, like a giant yacht and a cliffside mansion. And according to Celebrity Net Worth, his net worth was $300 million at his time of death.
CNN reported Carson was making donations of up to $2 million a year to his foundation from 1988 until he died. Among other causes, he assisted “environmental organizations, AIDS charities, schools, children’s aid groups and not-for-profits in Nebraska …” where he spent his childhood.
Then, he split his fortune and gave a little more than half — about $156 million — to his foundation for charitable causes upon his death.