David W. Tebet, 91, a television talent executive who recruited Johnny Carson for "The Tonight Show" and went on to become vice president of Carson's production company, died June 7 at a nephew's home in Coronado, Calif., after a stroke.
A former theater publicist in New York, Mr. Tebet in 1959 became NBC's vice president for talent -- or as comedian George Burns liked to call him, "the vice president in charge of caring."
It was Tebet's job to spot and recruit stars for the network and to keep them happy so they would stay, building ratings and profits. He passed out perks, stroked egos and made problems go away.
Among the entertainers he lured to and kept at NBC were Michael Landon, James Garner and Dean Martin.
When Jack Paar was about to leave "The Tonight Show" in 1962, Mr. Tebet happened to be watching daytime television.
"On ABC, I saw a young man with a sidekick," he told CNN in 1992, "and I didn't even know the name of the show, and I watched it, and it turns out to be Johnny Carson."
Impressed, Mr. Tebet lobbied hard to bring Carson to NBC, where the subtle comedian made "The Tonight Show" his own for 30 years. Throughout that tenure, Mr. Tebet became one of Carson's closest confidants.
When Carson set up his Johnny Carson Productions and bought "The Tonight Show," Mr. Tebet resigned from NBC and became executive vice president of the new company.
Mr. Tebet was born in Atlanta and raised in Philadelphia, where he began his entertainment career as a theater usher. After studying journalism at Temple University, he began doing publicity for plays and soon moved to New York to publicize Broadway shows. His entree to television came through a client, Max Liebman Productions, which produced Sid Caesar's "Your Show of Shows."
Mr. Tebet married actress Nanette Fabray in 1947. They were divorced four years later.