This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," January 24, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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JOHNNY CARSON, HOST, "TONIGHT SHOW": I can only tell you that it has been an honor and a privilege to come into your homes all these years and entertain you. And I hope when I find something that I want to do and I think you will like and come back that you'll be as gracious inviting me into your home as you have been.

I bid you a very heartfelt good night.



JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Johnny Carson (search) kept America up late with a smile for 30 years. He made fun of seven presidents in his monologues and welcomed more than 22,000 guests to his couch. One of Johnny's most frequent visitors, Phyllis Diller (search), joins us from Los Angeles to help us pay tribute to the all-time, undisputed king of late-night television.

Ms. Diller, we're all sad about this and miss Johnny Carson, but what do you think it means that he's gone?

PHYLLIS DILLER, COMEDIAN: Well, it means he's dead, John.

GIBSON: I know that, Phyllis, but give me any of these straight lines.

DILLER: Well, I'll tell you what, we have lost one of the greatest entertainers that we will ever know. And that goes for continuity forever, clearly went way back to the cave age and on out to the space age. He was one of the great entertainers of all time.

GIBSON: Why was he great?

DILLER: Number one, he was a gentleman and a scholar. And he was true and honest and he approached his job as a comedian and a show host with great temerity and great perfectionism. He was a hands-on show person. In other words, it was his show.

And what talent he had. Good God, the talent is just mind-boggling.

GIBSON: What is different about the same people you see in those same slots today?

DILLER: I don't feel the taste and the class that I felt with Johnny. He was just pure class.

GIBSON: People talk about a young boy from Nebraska, and that that was the basis of all this. Do you think that's it? Is this sort of a red state story?

DILLER: You know, I don't know the difference between red and blue. I don't go into the color thing, but what do you mean by red state?

GIBSON: Well, the heartland, the middle of America.

DILLER: Oh, heart, yes, yes. He was, what we call, the Midwest. That's what you mean, isn't it?

GIBSON: Yes, it is what I mean. So, how did that factor into him being so successful: America accepting him so much?

DILLER: Well, you see in those mid-American states, honesty and honesty is the best policy still goes and honesty and truth and hard work and your nose to the grindstone and your shoulder to the wheel, and those things apply and people who grew up in those states often have their finger on the pulse of real America.

There are the big cities on the coasts and they have a different kind of atmosphere.

GIBSON: What did he do for your career?

DILLER: Oh, well, he made me very happy every time he had me on. It was always a lovely encounter.

GIBSON: Was he a big factor in your career?

DILLER: Well, no. The big factor in my career was his precedent, his predecessor, his Jack Parr is the one who did for me what Johnny did for Seinfeld, Letterman, Leno, and Ellen DeGeneres and Roseanne Barr. You see, I'd already been launched by Jack Parr.

GIBSON: A lot of people weren't old enough to be up watching Johnny Carson and don't have an appreciation for what he meant to the country. Could you explain that?

DILLER: He was clean, wonderful show biz, late at night, unfortunately, that way some kids couldn't watch him. But he was the quintessential showman. He was funny for the whole hour. He was just delightfully funny and always prepare and always wonderful. And he couldn't be touched.

GIBSON: Why do you think he never reappeared after his retirement? Why just he did keep to himself, stay so private?

DILLER: Well, that's what he wanted. He wanted to enjoy his life alone and in private without botheration. You had to be Johnny Carson to know the stress and strain it is to be Johnny Carson in a public situation.

Imagine, if everywhere you went, you knew every eye is on you and every person wants to talk to you. It becomes draining and it becomes stressful, so that to be oh, boy, out on his yacht on the beautiful blue Pacific and that beautiful home, who wouldn't want to just shut the gate and enjoy?

GIBSON: Sign me up. Phyllis Diller, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.

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