How talent manager Sandy Gallin tried to salvage Joan Rivers’ relationship with Johnny Carson

Months before her shocking death after a throat surgery gone wrong, legendary comedian Joan Rivers returned to the program that launched her career: The Tonight Show, from which she was banned for nearly 30 years because of a feud with her former mentor, longtime host Johnny Carson,

In 1986, Rivers left her guest gig with Carson to launch her own late-night show on Fox. Though the series was short-lived, the stars never repaired their friendship, and Carson died in 2005.

Appearing on Radio Andy‘s Deep & Shallow on Tuesday, talent manager Sandy Gallin recalled the advice he gave to Rivers on how to handle the sensitive situation — guidance he said her husband, Edgar Rosenberg, convinced her not to follow.

“Joan was guesting on the Carson show. The next day or the day after she was having a press conference to announce Fox, being run by Barry Dillow, was going to be doing a late-night show with her,” said Gallin, 76. “I said, ‘I will tell you what you have to do.’ I said, ‘Go on the show as a guest and tell Johnny there comes a time in every daughter’s life when she has to leave home and become a woman. Thank him. I know you know that he is responsible for your whole career. Thank him, thank him, thank him, thank him and say you have to take this shot, it may never come again, and become the underdog. Explain you’re not in competition with him.’ ”

Rosenberg, however, argued that NBC would “go to black” and cut the broadcast.

“Johnny Carson is a gentleman, he would never do that, and if Joan can really show her feelings, how scared she is to make this move and how difficult it is for her to make this move and get emotional about it and ask Johnny to understand it, there is a shot that it will work,” Gallin recalled of his response. “Otherwise, she has to call him and say, ‘I’m doing this, would you like to have me not appear as a guest on the show?'”

“She did neither,” said Andy Cohen, 47. “And it famously killed her relationship with Johnny.”

“Johnny Carson never talked to her again,” Gallin confirmed.

In a 2012 essay for The Hollywood Reporter, Rivers insisted that she did call Carson, who she claims hung up on her and then trashed her in the press.

“I kept saying, ‘I don’t understand, why is he mad?’ He was not angry at anybody else. I think he really felt because I was a woman that I just was his,” she wrote. “That I wouldn’t leave him. I know this sounds very warped. But I don’t understand otherwise what was going on. For years, I thought that maybe he liked me better than the others. But I think it was a question of, ‘I found you, and you’re my property.’ He didn’t like that as a woman, I went up against him.”

Deep & Shallow with Andy Cohen airs on Radio Andy (Ch. 102).

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