When Sophia Loren stopped by The Tonight Show for her first interview with Johnny Carson in 1979, he’d already read her autobiography. And one of his research notes was that she liked to wear something red — “seen or unseen” — every day for good luck. In that, he saw an opportunity to present the Hollywood icon with an addition to her collection of charms.
What gift did he give her with the understanding it may have been “a little presumptuous”? And what did she give to him in return?
Johnny Carson gave Sophia Loren a red garter for good luck
As the pair started their Tonight Show chat in 1979, Carson offered Loren a box and explained that he bought her a gift after reading her book. Eventually, she opened it and unveiled a red garter to her own apparent surprise.
“I want you to understand it may be a little presumptuous,” he explained of his offering. In a letter accompanying the gift, he noted that he had purchased it just in case she didn’t have anything red with her for their interview.
After she asked if she should put it on, the sometimes flirtatious host told her she didn’t have to. But she slipped it on anyway, much to the crowd’s rowdy delight. In return, she gave Carson a little good luck gift of his own.
Johnny Carson wondered if Sophia Loren’s gift for him was the ‘good stuff’
When she slid the garter from Carson onto her leg, Loren reached into her pocket and pulled out a little, red sack. Apparently, it was the charm she’d brought along with her for luck the day of their 1979 interview.
Then, she presented it to the host and requested he keep it. After he smelled it, he asked, “Is this good stuff in here?”
For the record, it was only salt — considered good luck in many different cultures around the world. And the television icon seemed grateful for that “good stuff,” as he noted the other would have gotten them in trouble.
Sophia Loren said she trusted Johnny Carson ‘completely’
During her visit to The Tonight Show in 1979, Loren explained to Carson that she wasn’t very comfortable giving interviews. The host said that he hoped she wasn’t uncomfortable with him despite that but she told him she, indeed, was. “Because I didn’t write anything about you in my book,” she joked.
Carson told her with a wink it was “damn unfair” but he would be “magnanimous” and forgive her. But later in the interview, she said that she trusted the late host “completely” and was happy for their chat. At one point, she even remarked to him that she might be able to get to know him better later on. “You play your cards right, you will,” he assured her.
Notably, the two didn’t chat at all about their brief time together on What’s My Line in 1961, when Loren was the show’s mystery guest and Carson’s question for her was, “Are you busy tonight?”