Ayn Rand on the Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson

This web page presents documentation on the dates of Ayn Rand’s three appearances on Johnny Carson’s long-running late-night NBC-network talk show.  The newspaper clippings are in every case from the same date as the broadcast, and demonstrate that in every case there were other guests scheduled to appear on that night’s program.  The programs were not recorded until later in the day, after the newspapers had gone to press (and been delivered to subscribers and retailers), so it is possible that some guests listed in the clippings here did not appear on the final programs.  On the broadcast of Ayn Rand’s first appearance (recently made available on YouTube at part 1 and part 2), Carson states on-air that Buster Crabbe’s appearance on the show (not listed in the clipping reproduced here, although he may have been subsumed under “others”) had been rescheduled for the following week, apparently so that Ayn Rand could be allotted more time.


August 11, 1967

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(listing for August 11, 1967, from The New York Times)


October 26, 1967

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(listings for October 26, 1967, from Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles
Times, The New York Times, Baltimore Sun, in that order)


December 13, 1967

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(listings for December 13, 1967, from Chicago
Tribune, The New York Times, in that order)


May 18 and 19, 1968 (repeat)


May 18th-19th formed a weekend in 1968, and policy of The Tonight Show at the time was to issue a repeat broadcast for stations to run after the late local news on one of the two nights.  On this particular weekend, the episode provided by the network to run as the Tonight Show repeat was the first episode on which Ayn Rand appeared.  Above: the listing for the repeat broadcast in the May 18, 1968, issue of the Philadelphia edition of TV Guide, documenting that the NBC affiliate in Lancaster, Penn., scheduled the episode for late-night Sunday, beginning at 12:00 midnight (technically, pre-dawn on Monday, May 20).

In New York City and Waterbury, Conn., the NBC stations (4 in NY, 20 in Waterbury) broadcast the repeat program Saturday night, May 18, at 11:30 p.m.  In Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Md., and Lancaster, Penn., the NBC stations (4 in Washington, 8 in Lancaster, 11 in Baltimore) broadcast the repeat program Sunday night, May 19, at 12:00 midnight (technically, Monday, May 20).  In each case, the description which appeared in TV Guide magazine read, “Guests include singers Florence Henderson, and the Temptations; and novelist Ayn Rand (‘The Fountainhead’).”  There was also a designation of “Rerun”.

(source listings for May 18-19, 1968, from TV Guide, May 18, 1968, issue: New York Metropolitan edition, pg. A-20, Washington-Baltimore edition, pg. A-28 [the Lancaster station was listed in both the Washington-Baltimore and Philadelphia editions])

(The Chicago Tribune and The New York Times for May 18, and the Baltimore Sun and Boston Globe for May 19 list Carson repeats for those nights without specifying any guests.  The Los Angeles Times lists the Los Angeles NBC station carrying the repeat on May 18 and the San Diego NBC station carrying the repeat on May 19, again without ever listing any guests.  The New York Amsterdam News specifies the Temptations as Tonight Show guests on May 18 at 11:30 p.m. without naming any other guests.)

Ayn Rand’s periodical, The Objectivist, in its February 1968 issue, reported, “Ayn Rand’s first appearance on Johnny Carson’s ‘The Tonight Show,’ originally broadcast on August 11, 1967, will be re-run on May 18 or 19 on NBC-TV.”  A sufficient amount of the above information confirms this.


Johnny Carson remarked on the August 11 broadcast that Buster Crabbe would be rescheduled to appear the following week.  Crabbe’s name appeared on the guest list for the August 18 Tonight Show, according to the television listings in the Boston Globe and Chicago Tribune issues of that date.  Searches through the Tonight Show listings for the two-week periods following each of Ayn Rand’s appearances on the program, revealed no additional instances where a guest scheduled for the same program as Ayn Rand was scheduled again so quickly, which provides some validation to the idea that no further guests were “bumped” from the program so that Ayn Rand could be allotted more time.  (Caveat: guest listings are incomplete, the number of newspapers searched was limited.)

The Library of Congress has in its collection an LP recording made for distribution by the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service which contains audio of Florence Henderson and Ayn Rand on The Tonight Show, Johnny Carson hosting, distributed to military locations November 1967.  This lends credence to the understanding that other guests appeared on the same program as Ayn Rand when broadcast, on at least this occasion.  The newspaper announcement for the August 11, 1967, program lists both Henderson and Rand; Ayn Rand’s reference on-air to a performance of a song “sung magnificently” which preceded her coming on stage may have been to Henderson’s songstress skills.  (Florence Henderson’s reputation was established as a singer prior to her being cast as Carol Brady on The Brady Bunch.)  The Library of Congress catalogue description may be viewed at https://lccn.loc.gov/2002571051.

Ayn Rand’s bumping of Buster Crabbe off the schedule on the August 11 episode gives unintended, peculiar irony to her discussion of Buck Rogers as a prototypical hero suitable for adolescents to be exposed to so that they may form Romanticist ideals of human capabilities.  She made her remarks in “Art and Moral Treason,” in the March 1965 issue of The Objectivist Newsletter (reprinted in The Romantic Manifesto), and incorporated these passages within a new context in her lecture “Ethics in Education.”  Buster Crabbe achieved a stellar reputation as a champion swimmer in the 1928 and 1932 Olympics, parlayed that into a lead movie role as Tarzan in 1933, then remained in the public eye portraying supporting roles as nice young men in numerous films, and portraying heroic lead roles in fantasy films (e.g., as Flash Gordon).  Nonetheless, his most lasting fame probably comes from playing Buck Rogers in Universal’s twelve-part 1939 film Buck Rogers, based on the radio serial and comic strip about the 25th-century spaceship captain of that name.


(This web page updated August 1, 2012, to add the box for May 18-19, 1968, which did not appear when this web page was originally offered July 27, 2012;
updated November 22, 2012, to add illustration from Philadelphia TV Guide and related text)




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© 2012 David P. Hayes