Lost clips of “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” were discovered in a military visual information storage facility in Riverside, Calif., and turned over to one of Carson’s family members.
The clips, dating back to 1963, were found on an archived 16 mm film reel stored at the Defense Imagery Management Operations Center, just outside of March Air Reserve Base.
They were given to Jeff Sotzing, a nephew of Johnny Carson, who worked on the show as a producer.
“Everything from the 1960s is considered lost,” he said. “That’s what they did with everybody’s show,” said Sotzing, CEO of the Carson Entertainment Group.
In the 1960s, the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service received film reels from the production studios and distributed the programming to its stations for service members around the world. After the footage was shown and no longer needed, it was returned to the studios, destroyed, or sometimes kept on site at the AFRTS facility, now called the American Forces Network Broadcast Center.
Mary Carnes, a retired program support manager at the broadcast center, discovered the reel as she was sorting through a box of old items that had been overlooked for years.
“As soon as I saw it, I knew it was a gem,” Carnes said. “Giving it back to the family and the Carson archives will be like a birthday or Christmas for them.