John David Carson
|John David Carson|
March 6, 1952|
North Hollywood, California, U.S.
|Died||October 27, 2009
Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.
John David Carson (March 6, 1952 - October 27, 2009) was an American actor. He was born in North Hollywood, California. Carson began his career at a young age, acting in television advertisements, and later doing cartoon voice-acting for Hanna-Barbera. He attended Los Angeles Valley College where he played a lead role in their 1969 production of The Taming Of The Shrew. Upon beginning his Hollywood career he was immediately engaged in a dispute with Johnny Carson over the use of their shared name - he subsequently went by his full name, "John David Carson." He appeared in many B-movies and television shows throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
Carson's first feature film was Pretty Maids All in a Row in 1971, a sex comedy set in a high school, also featuring Rock Hudson. Carson portrayed "Ponce de Leon Harper", a nerdy and sexually inexperienced young man who is tormented with lust at the pretty young women around him at school and suffers from chronic priapism. Ponce is eventually "mentored" by his guidance counselor, played by Hudson, an expert at seducing younger women, who takes him under his wing and persuades an attractive female teacher to sleep with him. This film was directed by Roger Vadim and the screenplay was written by Gene Roddenberry of Star Trek fame. Besides Hudson, the cast also included Telly Savalas, Angie Dickinson, Roddy McDowall and James Doohan – by all rights, an "all-star" cast both behind and in front of the camera. Nevertheless this was an anomaly of Carson's career, and he was thereafter relegated mostly to background roles despite his standout performance.
Aside from Pretty Maids All in a Row, Carson's most notable role was in the 1976 film Stay Hungry, alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jeff Bridges and Sally Field. He portrayed the notorious troublemaker "Halsey", whose obnoxious antics and mockery of Joe Santo (Schwarzenegger) touch off one of the primary conflicts of the film.
Carson appeared in a great deal of television productions, including Hawaii Five-O and Charlie's Angels. He portrayed "Jay Spence" on Falcon Crest, a prime-time soap opera. He played "Larry Burns", a television repairman who is framed for a woman's murder by a corrupt sheriff, on Murder She Wrote and an Irish jockey named "Kevin Ryan" on Charlie's Angels. He appeared in various B-movies such as Empire of the Ants – an adaptation of an H. G. Wells story about gigantic, man-eating ants – and The Creature from Black Lake, and acted alongside George C. Scott in The Day of the Dolphin. He again appeared opposite Scott, playing his character's son, in The Savage is Loose. Carson continued acting in small parts up until 1990, appearing in the Julia Roberts hit Pretty Woman, which marked his very last appearance on film. He voluntarily retired from acting after this role.
He wrote a screenplay while living in Las Vegas, which was semi-autobiographical and reflected the trials and experiences of his life as an actor. George C. Scott was to be featured in it, though the character representing Carson would be played by a young, "unknown" actor with the same background as himself. Scott, who was close with Carson, was to help produce the screenplay; after Scott's death, the plans for production were abandoned. The current whereabouts of the screenplay are not known.
Carson was the son of Western actor Aldrich "Kit" Carson and Rosamonde "Boots" James Carson, a fashion model, and was of Irish and Cherokee ancestry. He entered Hollywood from a theater background; at the time of his arrival on the motion-picture scene, he had already undergone several traumatic incidents. His parents had split up; furthermore, he had been involved in a serious motorcycle accident which left him almost completely deaf in his left ear, according to an interview in Interview Magazine. At only 17 years old, Carson was quite overwhelmed by these personal issues and by the pressure he felt in his acting career. He turned to LSD to attempt to gain some self-realization. By his own admission, "it provided a catharsis" for him, but also left him frequently confused.
In this same interview he complained of sexual advances towards him by male directors of films and theater productions. In his own words - "I don't care about anybody's sexual preferences - I really don't; I wouldn't want anyone to object to my sexual preferences. But when it's forced on you, for reasons of personal gain - when they say it's going to be the end of your career if you don't comply with their wishes - I think it's low, it's cheap." Carson attributed some of his lack of success in theater to this issue.
He was passionate about acting, but decided to retire from the business, citing his desire not to be "a pawn in Hollywood."
He died on October 27, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada. He was survived by his long-time girlfriend and wife of 3 years, Diana Carson, and their daughter.