This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson", Jan. 27, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.


JACK PAAR, COMEDIAN: Tell me, they don't understand -- how we do this show. We just keep talking.

JUDY GARLAND: I know. It is agony.


JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Before Jay and Dave, even before Johnny, there was Jack Paar (search), the talk show pioneer died today at 85. Pat Sajak has spent a little time in television himself, he is here to talk about Paar's legacy. The big question, Pat, what is Jack Paar's place in television history?

PAT SAJAK, TV PERSONALITY: Well, we forget, just looking at that old piece of kinescope reminds you of how different times were then. Now there is so much entertainment on television, if someone has a new movie, the trick is not finding the guy, it is avoiding him on the dial.

Back then, if Judy Garland (search), as in that clip, or Richard Burton (search) sat down and talked as themselves, it was unique. They were movie stars. There were not talk shows then.

And Jack was not an interviewer. He was a conversationalist. He just got the most out of these people just by making them comfortable or uncomfortable and having fun.

GIBSON: A certain number of people either were not old enough to have seen Jack Paar, who are watching me now, I hope, or it was so long ago they kind of forget. What happened over at NBC? I mean, he was this huge thing, but five years and that was it.

SAJAK: That's what is amazing. He had such an impact, and yet, as you say, hosted "The Tonight Show" for only five years.

He did do a primetime weekly show for about three years but he walked away from it. He did a little bit of late night in the 1970's on ABC for a short time. In essence, he walked away from it. He didn't need it.

He always felt -- he never quite understood his own career and his own success. He was baffled by it more so that we were. And he felt -- when it was time to go, he went quietly.

GIBSON: He got into a beef with the sensors over a water closet joke.

SAJAK: To try to be brief about it, WC is short for water closet, public bathroom. But it also in religious circles meant wayside chapel. So the joke had to do with a letter that someone wrote to a clergyman about a wayside chapel, using the abbreviation WC.

But he thought it was talking about public - so that was the mix up. For example, he would say how much is a WC seat? He would say ... 300 people. It is very tame by today's standards, but NBC pulled it out of the show, did not tell Jack.

He tape it that night, he went home, watches the show. They pull out three minutes of the show because the laughs were enormous and stuck in a newscast. And Jack was incensed by this.

He thought the public is going to think he said something awful. He literally walked off the show live the next night and went off to Europe and stayed gone some months.

GIBSON: Now, you have known him for some years. Well, we see this guy in these kinescopes. What was he like? There is Robert F. Kennedy of all people.

SAJAK: And that's his beauty. He had people from all walks of life. Richard Nixon playing the piano on his show. He just humanized these folks. He was the best storyteller, because he didn't do jokes.

Just odd things happened to Jack. He would talk about his family and he would talk about his daughter and wife. And, again, not in a joke-way, not just in a story-telling way and he could unfold the most amusing anecdotes. He was amusing, witty, bright, charming fellow and remained so until his last days.

GIBSON: What did he think of what had succeeded him? Let's just say top 10 list, and super pet tricks and all of those kinds of things, jay walks?

SAJAK: Jack did not watch a lot of television. He watched a lot of Fox, I do know, Fox News, and he went to bed early. We were talking earlier, I think you missed Jack at a party a couple years ago. You got there too late. If you were there after 9:00, he was probably gone.

He did not watch a lot of late-night television. But he certainly respected, for example, what Johnny did for all of those years because he knew what a grind it was in the five years he did it.

GIBSON: But we see things now, I find myself gasping at primetime TV now. I see things on there that I know would have gotten me fired just a few years ago. And a guy like Jack Paar in this -- have to have part of his show removed over the initials WC must have just been aghast.

SAJAK: He was very genteel. He would be shocked by a lot of the stuff that's going on today. But he loved his work and he understood his place in television. When he walked off the show, he came back some months later.

The last thing he said before he walked off, he was in tears. He said, there must be a better way to make a living than this. He came back to a big ovation after months of being and gone. He said, I know I said when I left there must be an easier way to make a living than this, well, I looked, and there isn't.

GIBSON: On that note, Pat Sajak, thank you very much. Jack Paar, dead today at 85.

Copy: Content and Programming Copyright 2004 Fox News Network, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2004 eMediaMillWorks, Inc. (f/k/a Federal Document Clearing House, Inc.), which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon Fox News Network, Inc.'s and eMediaMillWorks, Inc.'s copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.