Mr. Johnson, USMC – Part I


“Koji, funerals don’t do a damn thing for me anymore.”

That was Mr. Johnson’s reply while I was driving us to Old Man Jack’s funeral.  I had asked him to help hold me together as I knew I would fall apart.

“Oh-oh,” I thought to myself when I heard that curt reply.  “I guess I hit a nerve…”

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Old man Jack on the left, Mr. Johnson on the right. Taken June 30, 2005.

Mr. Johnson was Old Man Jack’s next door neighbor.

Since 1953.

Nearly SIXTY years.  Hell, I ain’t that old yet.  Well, I’m close.

They got along real well for those 60 years… except Jack was a sailor… and Mr. Johnson was a Marine.  They reminded each other of it often.

Lovingly, of course.

Old Man Jack happily reminisced that “…us white caps would also tussle with them Marines ‘cuz they thought they were better than us”.  But Jack would have gotten the short end of the stick if he took on Mr. Johnson.  He towered over Jack and me…

And Mr. Johnson was a decorated WWII Marine.

Decorated twice…that I know of.

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The neighborhood called him “Johnnie”.  I always addressed him as Mr. Johnson…He used to say, “Damn it, Koji.  I wish you’d stop calling me that.”

I never did call him Johnnie.

But in the end, we found out his real name was Doreston.  Doreston Johnson.

Born August 1, 1923 in Basile, Louisiana.  A tiny town, he said, and everyone was dirt broke.

But I wish I knew why he wanted to go by “Johnnie” but later, I discovered Doreston was his father’s name.

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After Jack passed away, I visited with him.  He opened up a bit.

The Depression made it tough on everybody but then war…

When war broke out, he was gung ho like many young boys at that time.

It was expected.  You were branded a coward if you didn’t enlist or eluded the draft.  You were at the bottom of the heap if you got classified 4F.

He said went to the Army recruiting station.  They said they met their quota, couldn’t take him right away and to try again next week.

He then went to the Navy recruiter.  They also said pretty much the same thing but that there was an outfit “over there that’ll take ya”.

It was the United States Marine Corps.

Notice the 1903 Springfield in this 1942 recruiting poster.

The Marines “took him”…right then and there, he said.

Mr. Johnson said, “I was a dumb, stupid kid at that time”  – slowly shaking his head…but with a boyish little grin.

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It was 1941…  When the United States Navy had their backs against the beaches…  MacArthur blundered after Pearl Harbor and thousands of soldiers were taken prisoner in the Philippines.

The country’s military was poorly equipped and poorly trained.  With outdated equipment like the 1903 Springfield and the Brewster Buffalo.  And most gravely, the US Navy was outgunned.

Mr. Johnson was in for it.

To be continued.  Mr. Johnson, USMC – Part II here

Two Old Men and a Father’s Day Anguish


It was Monday, Valentines’ Day 2001.  My wife was five months pregnant at the time we moved into this wonderful neighborhood smothered in US Naval glory.  After I came back from work the next day, she told me a kind old man stopped her as she was wheeling out the trash bin.  She said he hobbled from across our quiet, peppercorn lined street then kindly wheeled them out for her.

I found out the “old man” was a World War II combat vet.  Worse yet, he was a sailor in the Pacific – he fought the Japanese in World War II.

“Holy crap,” flashed through my mind, “What if he finds out we’re Japanese?”

Twelve years later, I was honored to have been a pallbearer at his funeral.

I was so far off base about my first thoughts on Old Man Jack that even George Burns could have picked me off without being called for a balk…and this while he was in his grave.

I felt so ashamed.

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I snapped this picture of a happy Jack Garrett when we went to the Chino Planes of Fame in 2003.

“Young man, get over here and plant your butt in that chair,” barked old man Jack from his cluttered garage across the street.  Having lived in that house since 1953, it was filled with his life history.

“But I have my stogie going, Jack”, said I.

“Well, I can see it and I sure as hell can smell it.  Now shut up and sit down.  I want to tell you something.”

That was old man Jack, my dear neighbor who lived across the street.  I like to think we were close.

He was 87 years old by that summer’s day in 2010 when he called me over.  While he had become feeble, his barrel chest was still prominent.  He was a rabble-rouser in his youth.  He was always “mixing it up” throughout his young years…  Well, he was mixing it up even while working at Northrup in the 50’s.  That makes me grin.

His handshake was always firm and warm; you didn’t need to be psychic to sense his insight and outlook on life.  He always spoke his mind.  He earned that right having been shot at, strafed, and bombed on “those stinkin’ islands” during a most bitter war.

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Taken on Father’s Day 2010

I had invited Jack to Father’s Day dinner that summer just two years ago; my Dad who was 91 was coming as well.

Jack knew my dad was US Army but I fretted over what they would say to each other when they first met.  Or how they would react to one another.  It was more than just a concern over the centuries old rivalry between Army and Navy.

Dad was in the front room when Jack rang the bell – right on time as always.  Jack had on his favorite blue plaid shirt; he wore it often as it had a pocket for his glasses.  I often wondered how often he washed it, though.  Jack and Dad are shown here on Father’s Day 2010.

“Dad,” I said, “This is Jack, US Navy, Aviation Machinist’s Mate, First Class, the Pacific.”

“Jack, this is my Dad.  US 8th Army, sergeant, Military Intelligence Service.”

Although not as agile as they once were, they immediately saluted each other.

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You didn’t need a sound system to hear them.  Dad and Jack are both hard of hearing.

It was easy to hear Jack ask Dad what he did in the Army.  Dad explained he went into a room once a week and retrieved a crate from a room that reeked of dry cleaning.  (The crates contained documents, photos and other personal items written in Japanese.  They were removed from a WWII battlefield.)  He would then translate them for military intelligence.

I had to tend to cooking so I lost track of the conversation.  It was regretful I didn’t keep tuned in.

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So back to being called over by Jack.  He was sitting in his favorite blue wheelchair.  He didn’t need it but it belonged to his beloved wife Carol who passed away ten years before.  They married in the waning days of the war.  They had been married for 55 strong years.

“So what did you want to tell me, Jack?” I asked.

He then went into his trance – one signaling evident anguish and remembrances.  When he went into these trances, he always started by staring at his hands while picking at his right thumbnail with his left ring finger.  He would lift his once thick eyebrows then begin talking in a slow, deliberate pace, never taking his eyes off his hands.

“I went on ID patrol…” Jack whispered.

“ID patrol?  What is that?” I asked.

“They would issue six of us white caps M1s with bayonets…  Then we’d follow two Marines on a patrol into the jungle.”

“Patrol?  You?  You were ground crew, Jack,” I remarked.

“Ain’t enough of them (Marines) to go around on those stinkin’ islands so we got picked,” he said, still speaking in a lifeless monotone.  He added, “If you got killed, you rotted real quick in that heat.  And if you got killed with shit in your pants, you got buried with shit in your pants.”

His stare doesn’t change.  His eyes have glassed over.  He is in a different world – one that only combat veterans understand.  You and I never will.  Thankfully.

“The Marines had two bags – one small one and a big one.  When we found one, the two Marines would stand guard.  We’d hold the rifle by the butt end and use the fixed bayonet to fish out the tags.”

I then realized what he was painfully regurgitating.  They were going back into the jungle to locate the dead Marines they had to leave behind after a “tussle” with the enemy as Jack liked to say.  Jack was only 20 years old.  The Marines were likely younger.  Ponder that thought.

“We weren’t allowed to touch the (dead Marine) as the Japs would booby-trap ‘em.  We’d hand over the tags hanging on the the end of the bayonet to one of the Marines who would put a tag in the small bag.  They marked a map for the graves registration guys to come back later.”

Jack’s delivery dimmed even further.  “But we’d come across a dead Jap.  Nobody cared about them so they rotted where they were.  But we’d have to stick the bayonet into the rotting goo and try to fish stuff out.  The prize was a pouch or a satchel.  Those would go into the big duffel bag.  We headed back to CP and that’s the last I saw of those bags,” he said.

He abruptly ended but his unconscious stare didn’t change.  He was still picking at his thumbnail all this time.  His head hardly moved while he sat in the blue wheelchair that belonged to his beloved wife.

I thought to myself, “Is that the end, Jack?  That’s it?  Why did you tell me this?”  I knew not to pry any more so I kept the thoughts to myself.  He was in torment already.  Seventy years had passed but he was reliving the awfulness of a brutal war.  Nevertheless, I wondered why he chose that time to tell me about this horrific recall of something he experienced so very young.

It bugged me for several weeks.

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About a month later, I understood why Jack told me the story.  Apparently, the items they recovered from Japanese corpses were dry cleaned to remove the rotting body fluids.  After getting dry cleaned, they ended up in the crates that were in the room my Dad went into once a week when he was in the Military Intelligence Service…and why the room reeked of dry cleaning.

The brief chat with my dad on Father’s Day sparked that memory back to life.  It had been eating at him since that day.  He wanted to get it off his barrel chest.

I lament to this day that a Father’s Day dinner had resulted in an unwanted recall of horror Jack was very much trying to forget.  More so, I lament he relived such horrors each night for the last 70 years of his life.  Seventy years.

Jack was a great man to have endured combat in the Pacific during World War II.  He was an immeasurable giant in learning to forgive – although he was never able to forget.

I miss him greatly.  I thanked him for all we have when I visited him today at his grave on this glorious Memorial Day.

One Million Steps


Feel Their Sacrifice

Through the recommendation of a patriot, educator, military historian, WordPress blogger and friend Mustang USMC, I read “One Million Steps” in a one day marathon.  I only put it down to tend to my kids or chores.

It was riveting.

It had sad moments.

It describes how our young Marines would have to patrol through fields of opium poppy  and marijuana to seek out the Taliban intent on killing them and not be able to do anything about it.

It tells of how they had to resort to using Walmart metal detectors, called Vallons, to keep them scant inches from stepping on an IED.

It tells about how policies established by the White House “for” conducting war collide head on with the Marines’ job – “to” conduct war – at the cost of our young boys’ lives.

It showed that 75% of our volunteer Marines of the Third Platoon in 3/5 – the 3rd Battalion, Fifth Marines, 1st Division – came from two parent families.  Think about that for a minute.

And it is humbling to see what Marines are all about: Semper Fidelis.

Always Faithful.

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A short civilian’s look into the honored history of 3/5, and more specifically, the Third Platoon…

The 3rd Battalion, Fifth Marines was organized in 1917 in preparation for WWI combat, just one of which was the Battle of Balleau Wood.

During WWII, they endured and won in costly combat at Guadalcanal, New Guinea, Peleliu, and Okinawa.  E. B. Sledge, or “Sledgehammer”, scribbled notes in an Old Testament during combat as a mortarman on Pelilieu and Okinawa.  At the urging of his family, his notes became the foundation for his historic book, “With the Old Breed”.  Sledgehammer was part of the Third Platoon.

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During the Korean War, they left their bloodied mark in history once again at battlefields called Inchon and Chosin Reservoir to name just two.

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Marines in combat in Viet Nam.  http://www.grunt.com

Called again into action during the Viet Nam War, they heroically fought at god-forsaken places such as Chu-Lai, DaNang, Quang Nam and Que Son.  A few of our readers served in that war and are thanked greatly.

After waging war in Operation Desert Storm, they now have Sangin in Afghanistan to add to their battle history.  This is where the story takes place.

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This high school wrestler on top is Matt Abbate. He would be awarded the Navy Cross for his actions in 2010 but was later KIA in Sangin. The award would be posthumous. Photo: http://www.thefoothillsfocus.com/010511-cswrestling.asp

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I do not wish to steal the thunder from Mustang in case he wanted to write about the excellent book… Indeed, he would do a much better job.  But I could not NOT write something about it as I hope a few of you would read it.  Our boys dying in combat for YOU deserve your support, understanding and compassion.

As I do not wish to taint the book’s message with opinion, what I propose to do (if it’s legal – I’m no lawyer nor writer) is just reference a few passages from “One Million Steps”, a book by Bing West.  Perhaps it will tempt you into also picking up a copy (also available for Kindle):

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Excerpt from “One Million Steps” by Bing West. Random House, 277 pages

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Laird would return home.  Excerpt from “One Million Steps” by Bing West. Random House, 277 pages

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Excerpt from “One Million Steps” by Bing West. Random House, 277 pages

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Espinoza returned home an amputee.  Laird suffered two crushed vertebrae while rescuing Espinoza.  Always Faithful.  Excerpt from “One Million Steps” by Bing West. Random House, 277 pages

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Excerpt from “One Million Steps” by Bing West. Random House, 277 pages

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Yaz would also return home as an amputee.  Excerpt from “One Million Steps” by Bing West. Random House, 277 pages

These boys are fighting under orders from the White House…

They WILL be fighting for you under orders from the White House.

To protect YOU.

Read about them – these young American men.

Feel for them.

Appreciate them.

Semper Fi.

 

 

Marine Dog – Lucca


Mustang.Koji:

Man, this got my eye plumbing leaking…

Originally posted on pacificparatrooper:

Two Heroes!

Two Heroes!

Marine dog, Lucca, was given a wonderful tribute in the Parade Sunday magazine.  After more than 400 missions in Afghanistan, no one had been hurt by an IED when they were with her.  She was the only one that the Green Berets felt comfortable hugging after a tough day.

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Mamma Lucca, as she is nicknamed, was injured herself.  Handler Col. Juan “Rod” Rodriguez quickly applied a tourniquet and she was air-lifted to one veterinary team after another in all-out attempts to save her life.  They succeeded, but Lucca lost her right left leg in the action.  You can see her honorary Purple Heart on her harness.  Today she lives with her original trainer, Gunnery Sgt. Chris Willingham and his family.  She continues to serve at VA hospitals and in schools.

Could someone please explain to me WHY this Hero’s Purple Heart is considered HONORARY??

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Farewell Salutes – 

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She’s Killing Me #2


I’m telling ya, she’s killing me.

My little Cake Boss.  She’s become a girlie.  Totally.

Nails.  Brushing her hair for dance classes.  Face timing.  Trying on different clothes just to go to a supermarket.  Spending 15 minutes in a soap store and not finding a single one she likes.  Never ready on time.

3 kids bolsa chicka

My little Cake Boss on the right with two of her BFFs, K and N.

All summer long, she asked if it was OK to go to the beach or something with her friends.  I said no problem; just don’t do it at the last minute.

I even took her to two stores to buy a new bikini.  Egads.  She even asked me what color she should get to which I replied, “A warm color; I think purple looks best on you.”

So she buys a pink one.  Why ask?? See, she’s killing me.

Oh…  I said to get a beach towel since she had her pink Disney princesses towel since she was three.  Plus, they were on sale.  She said she didn’t need one.

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I had my kids for two straight weeks this time…  but she has dance five days a week plus the last two Saturdays were all day rehearsals. I had also promised to take my son to the range but my ex ruined my plans once again by interfering.

So this last Monday, my little Cake Boss – with the days now getting cooler – asked if she and two of her best friends could go to the beach.  Again, I said sure but let me know now so we can be ready.

On Tuesday, I asked, “Brooke, so can your friends go?”

“Papa, I asked, OK?  Just wait, OK?”

On Wednesday, I asked, “So Brooke, are they coming?”

“Papa…  They haven’t gotten back to me so wait, OK? Sheesh!”  Never mind they are classmates, BFF and spend all day together.

On Thursday, I asked, “Brooke.  So what’s the story with the beach this Sunday?”

“Papa!  I’ll let you know, OK??!”

On Friday, I asked, “Brooke…  So is it on?  Sunday’s the day after tomorrow!”

“Papaaaa!”

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GZ

So guess what?  After picking her up from rehearsal Saturday night and after eating dinner, she says, “Papa.  So they’re coming at 11:30 TOMORROW (caps added) and we’re going to watch Godzilla afterwards… but K needs to be home by 6:30 PM.”

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

SO SUNDAY MORNING at 9:00 AM…  Guess what?  She coyly asks, “Papa…  Can we go get a beach towel?  Its kinda old now. Heh heh, heh.”

We’re off to Target to get a beach towel with her friends coming a little over two hours…  October 1st is just a few days away.  Who’s gonna have a beach towel let alone a one she likes???

We can’t find one, of course…and she gets mad at me.

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We then we made a mad dash to Stater Bros. to get stuff to make hamburgers and BBQ for them afterwards… “Papa…  Why do you have to rush?!

So her  two BFF arrive and at 12, I say, “Brooke, you said you all wanted to watch Godzilla afterwards and K needs to be home by 6:30 so we need to go.”

“Papa, OK!!  Just wait 30 seconds, OK?!  Sheesh!”

Five minutes.

Ten minutes.  I’m waiting outside with the car loaded up.  I go back inside.  I find they’re still in her room… yakking away.

“Brooke! We need to go,” I yell through her door.

“Papa!!!  We’re trying on clothes so just wait!”

WTF??

Fifteen minutes.  Sure is a long 30 seconds.

After 25 minutes…  They are finally ready to leave and come out… but then she realizes she needs to “use the bathroom” and runs back into the house.  Criminy!

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BFF… with my ringleader Cake Boss in the middle.

Well, we finally made it to the beach around 1 PM…  But in a little over an hour, she says, “OK, Papa.  We’re ready to go home now because it’s getting a little cold.”

She’s killing me, I tell ya.  But at least they saw three dolphins just 40 yards off the beach… and they had a great time.

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Three dolphins just off the beach and right in front of them.

BFF…

Green Eggs and Ham… Not


So tonight, the kiddies asked if I could make something new.  Something different.

Not my Fettuccine Alfredo nor my grilled chicken with lemon and chive pan sauce nor my szechuan tofu…nor Hamburger Helper.

Nor green eggs and ham – but it was close.

They asked for bowtie pasta with (classic) pesto.

Like the one they ate at California Pizza Kitchen.

Egads.

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So Cook’s Illustrated came to my rescue again.  They had a recipe AND even a video!

Now…if I could only follow the instructions.  And I was determined NOT to leave a bag of groceries at the check out line like my blogging bud Jan Morrill did when she made pesto. :-)

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Per Cook’s Illustrated’s recipe, the ingredients were simple:

2 “packed” cups fresh basil

2 tbsp “packed” flat leaf parsley (i.e., Italian parsley)

1/4 cup pine nuts (raw)

3 (skewered) garlic

7 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup grated Parmesan Reggiano

(The trouble here in SoCal is the drought.  EVERYTHING is getting expensive.  Fresh pine nuts were $8.99 for a small carton!)

Also, note the type of parsley:

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It does taste different and with all that garlic, I felt the parsley was important. :-)

Boil the water but do NOT salt yet.  Skewer the three cloves of garlic and submerge in the boiling water for about 30 seconds then plunge into an ice bath.  Mince but it needn’t be too fine as it will go into the processor.

After generously salting the boiling water, start to boil the pasta while keeping a measuring cup in the colander; you need to remember to reserve about 1/2 cup of the water.

After toasting the pine nuts in a skillet over medium low heat for about 3 to 4 minutes, everything went into the food processor except for the Parmesan and the water.  Scrape down the sides with a spatula as necessary until you get a relatively smooth mixture.  You should still be able to make out small pieces of the basil.  (Oh, you had to put the basil and parsley into a Ziploc and pound it maybe a dozen times to bruise the leaves before throwing them into the processor.  Doing so helps release the savory oils.)  Salt as necessary.

This is what it should look like:

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The rest is easy.  When your pasta is al dente, reserve about 1/2 cup.  Add about 1/4 cup of the reserved water into the pesto along with the Parmesan.  Toss with the pasta and you’re done!

 

Brendan Tevlin….It took Todd Pettingill to get your story out


Mustang.Koji:

A very important bit of information – for you and your family to digest…

Originally posted on Geeez Blog:

brendanYou must (MUST, please!) read THIS ARTICLE.   I’m hoping Bill Maher (see my post beneath this one today) hears about this and talks about it.

Then, because you’ll be SO MAD at what you read in the article,  HERE is the audio on The Todd Show.  The DJ, Todd Pettingill is trying to wake Americans up to the fact that domestic terror IS here.  The killer admits he was on a jihad.   He shot poor Brendan Tevlin, 19 year old kid who was a wholesome, nice boy, but whom the police apparently suggested was in a drug deal because they don’t want folks to hear about this incident and find out it IS terrorism!

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As Todd puts it “He was a young boy who was killed for being an American”   …I will add “…on American soil!”  The killer admitted this was a retribution for muslims being killed abroad.  And…

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Just Some Snapshots #8


I hope you all are well and I pray for our young souls going into combat for our sakes.

In addition to investing time into reading WWII history books, my snapshot side of me still beckons.

“EXPLORE” is a featured group on the photo website flickr.com.  Out of the close to 2,000,000 photo uploads daily, about 500 are selected for “EXPLORE” by the website for “interestingness”.  Some of my photos have been fortunate enough to be “interesting”, 19 in total.

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The last four are below; hope they are “interesting” to you.  Clicking on the images will take you to the actual photograph.  :-)

This is called “painting with light”.  You leave the shutter open then use a flashlight to illuminate the subject.
Tried Painting with Light - EXPLORED 9/11/2014

A Lantana
Lantana - EXPLORED Sept. 7, 2014

A blue Balloon flower
Blue - EXPLORED Sept. 6, 2014

An Amarcrinum Lily X taken at Descanso Gardens
Amarcrinum Lily X - EXPLORED Aug. 25, 2014

A summary as of today of my photographs selected for “Explore” on flickr:

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Airmen, Marines, soldiers and sailors – be safe.

Johnny Carson’s Best Practical Joke


Mustang.Koji:

While I am not a supporter of the entertainment industry using their power to call attention to one of their own for whatever reason, I felt this reblog would perhaps bring a smile into your day…

Originally posted on Masako and Spam Musubi:

Yes, I was a fan of Johnny Carson.  Although I could never really watch his shows as they aired so late at night…

But he was a great practical joker.  And this is my absolute favorite.  Always fun to watch – and listen to – again.

Put aside the joke was played on Joan Rivers.  But then again, she is what makes the joke so precious…and this was before she became the Queen of Plastic.

The last few seconds alone are worth the view!

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