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Johnny Carson and Alexis Maas Marriage Profile

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Johnny Carson and Alexis Maas

American comedian and television personality Johnny Carson and his wife, Alexis, attending a taping of the Television Academy Hall of Fame special during which Carson was named an inductee, Fox Studios, Los Angeles, California in November 1987.

Photo: Darlene Hammond / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Johnny Carson was married four times.

Fast Marriage Facts - Alexis and Johnny

Met: On the beach.
Married: June 20, 1987.
Marriage ended: January 23, 2005, when Johnny died.
First Marriage: No.

Did You Know?
Three of Johnny's wives had similar names.

"Devotees had long known, for instance, that he married four times and divorced thrice from a trio of wives with ridiculously similar surnames: Joan Wolcott (his University of Nebraska college sweetheart who bore him three sons while absorbing all of his career birthing pains as well), Joanne Copeland (whose impassioned loyalty propelled his early stratospheric Tonight Show stewardship), and Joanna Ulrich Holland (who gracefully enhanced and broadened his relocated lifestyle of California kingliness). He took his final and considerably younger bride Alexis Mass in 1987, making theirs his longest turn at wedlock, inevitable bumps in the last years notwithstanding. 'Marriage takes a lot of work,' he once said, certain of his limitations. 'Some fellas have a proclivity for that, and some can make model airplanes ... I do well with this show.'”
Source: Peter Jones. "Biographic Essay: Johnny Carson's Legacy." PBS.org. 5/07/2012.

Born:

John William Carson: October 23, 1925 in Corning, Iowa. He was raised in Norfolk, Nebraska.

Alexis Maas: Abt. 1952 and raised in the Pittsburg North Hills area, Pennsylvania.

Ages at Marriages:

First marriage, Johnny, 23 and Joan, 23 ; second marriage, Johnny, 36 and Joanne, 31; third marriage, Johnny, 46 and Joanna, 31; fourth marriage, Johnny, 61 and Alexis, 35.

Died:

Johnny Carson: At the age of 79, on January 23, 2005, Johnny Carson died from emphysema in Malibu, California.
 

How They Met:

Alexis was walking the beach holding an empty wine glass near Johnny's Malibu home. He saw her, and offered to fill the glass for her.

Myrna Oliver: "Carson saw Alexis Maas walking by his Malibu Beach home, one evening, carrying an empty wine class. She'd allegedly talked a guard into letting her on his property. He went out to meet her, carrying a bottle of wine, and supposedly said, 'Can I fill you up?' ... It was his longest and, presumably, happiest marriage. If nothing else, it broke the "Joan" jinx."
Source: Myrna Oliver. "William Hogoboom, 84; Judge Was Expert on Juvenile Law, Divorce." LATimes.com. 8/26/2003.

Wedding Date and Information:

Engaged in December, Johnny and Alexis were married on June 20, 1987 by Superior Court Judge William P. Hogoboom "outside Carson's Malibu estate with only the bridal couple, Carson's brother Dick, Hogoboom and his wife present."
Source: Myrna Oliver. "William Hogoboom, 84; Judge Was Expert on Juvenile Law, Divorce." LATimes.com. 8/26/2003.

They spent their honeymoon cruising the Mediterranean on the Parts V, a $6.5 million, 147-foot yacht. Some reports say they honeymooned in England, watching the Wimbledon tennis matches.

 

Previous Marriages:

Johnny had three previous marriages.

  • Joan "Jody" Morrill Wolcott: Joan was born in 1926. College sweehearts, Joan and Johnny were married on October 1, 1949 before 150 guests at the North Platte Episcopalian Church. The Reverend Seward H. Bean officiated at their wedding. They divorced in 1963 in a quickie Mexican divorce. Johnny and Joan had three children. Joan tried to increase her alimony in 1990, but lost the case.
Laurence Leamer: "Jody wore a wedding gown of ice-blue satin. A fingertip veil graced her brown hair. Johnny's parents were there, and his brother served as best man ... The reception was held in the Crystal Room of the Pawnee Hotel ... Jody wore a smartly styled wool-garbardine suit and a white orchid when they left that day. They had no time or money for a real honeymoon."
Source: Laurence Leamer. King of the Night: The Life of Johnny Carson. 2005. pgs. 58-59.

 

 

  • Joanne Copeland: Joanne was born in 1932. Johnny and Joanne were married on August 17, 1963 at the Marble Collegiate Church on Fifth Avenue in New York City and had a small reception in their apartment. After a separation in June 1970, hey divorced in June 1972. Joanne received $500,000 in cash and art, and lifetime alimony payments of $100,000 a year.

 

 

  • Joanna Holland: Joanna was born in 1941. She was previously married to Alan Frendel, a businessman, then to golf champion Tim Holland in 1960. Tim and Joanna had a son Tim, Jr. Johnny and Joanna, a fashion model, were married in a secret wedding on September 30, 1972, the afternoon of his talk show's tenth anniversary party. They separated in 1982 and divorced on March 8, 1983. She received $20 million settlement in 1985 in cash and property.
Laurence Leamer: "He had walked down no aisle today, run no gamut of rice and well-wishers. His bride wore a stunning designer gown ... As the assemblage applauded, waiters wheeled an eleven-foot-high, eleven-tier wedding cake into the Crystal Room [of the Beverly Hills Hotel]."
Source: Laurence Leamer. King of the Night: The Life of Johnny Carson. 2005. pg. 243.

 

Children:

Johnny had three children.

  • Christopher Carson: Born in 1950. Chris worked as a golf instructor and lived in Florida.
  • Richard (Ricky) Wolcott Carson: Born in 1952. Ricky died on June 21, 1991, in a car accident. His car plunged down a steep embankment on Highway 1 near the town of Cayucos, north of San Luis Obispo, California. He was a photographer.
  • Cory Carson: Born in 1953. Cory has worked as a guitar musician in Los Angeles.

 

Education:

Johhny: Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi and University of Nebraska at Lincoln (1947-1949) where he received a BA in Radio and Speech.

Occupations:

Johnny: Ensign in the U.S. Navy from 1943-1946. Johnny served on the USS Pennsylvania. Magician, bow and arrow performer, radio announcer, comedy writer, comedian, television host. He composed the theme song for his talk show with Paul Anka.

Alexis: Legal secretary, former aide to Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis in 1987.

 

Hobbies:

Johnny enjoyed playing tennis and did so even in his 70's. He and Alexis traveled together a great deal. Other hobbies of Johnny were archery, poker, sailing, reading, and astronomy.

Residence:

Johnny and Alexis lived in Malibu, California.

 

Miscellaneous:

Johnny's late-night talk show ran from October 1, 1962 to May 22, 1992 for 4,531 episodes.

Johnny Carson set up the John W. Carson Foundation. The foundation has donated millions to many charities such as animal conservation groups, various medical causes in Africa and the United States, youth groups, and educational foundations. In his hometown of Norfolk, Nebraska, Johnny also contributed to the the Carson Regional Cancer Center, the public library, the community college, the local arts center, and the Norfolk high school's Johnny Carson Theatre. He donated $5.3 million the performing arts department at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.

Health Issues:

He had quadruple bypass surgery on March 19, 1999 in Santa Monica, California. In 2002, Johnny announced he was suffering from emphysema.

Johnny Carson Quotes on Love and Marriage:

Johnny before marrying Alex Maas:  "Look, I'm not going through this [deleted] again. If I ever get married again, put a .38 to my head, and if we don't have a prenup, pull the damn trigger."
Source: Henry Bushkin. Johnny Carson. 2013. pg. 229.

Johnny: "Married men live longer than single men. But married men are a lot more willing to die."

George Pollard: "Family life for Carson was decidedly not Midwestern. He married four times. Comments about break ups, alimony and the demands of former wives littered his monologues."
Source: Dr. George Pollard. "Johnny Carson." Grubstreet.ca. 2011.

Johnny: "If I'd given as much to marriage as I gave to Tonight, I'd probably have a hell of a marriage."
Source: Beth Lipton. "Johnny Carson, 1925-2005." People.com.

George Pollard: "The financial burden of divorce was a theme of his life and monologues. In a monologue, just after Christmas, 1982, Carson said, "My producer, Freddy de Cordova, gave me something I needed for Christmas ... a gift certificate to the Law Offices of Jacoby & Meyers." Carson told reporters he repeatedly married women with similar first names so he didn't have "to change the monogram on the towels." Supposedly, the morning after Bob Newhart repeated this line, at a televised Carson roast, Holland filed for divorce."
Source: Dr. George Pollard. "Johnny Carson." Grubstreet.ca. 2011.

Ed McMahon: "In the years after he left the show, Johnny was a happy man. He was married to a woman he adored ... If you have a happy marriage, a tennis court, and a yacht, what else do you need?"
Source: Ed McMahon. Here's Johnny! 2006. pg. 212.

Bob Newhart at a Dean Martin Roast for Johnny: "Johnny's first wife was named Jody. His second was JoAnne, and now he's married to Joanna ... the man just won't go for new towels."

 

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