What happened to Johnny Carson’s Matinee Lady?

Carol Wayne death mystery
Carol Wayne on the Johnny Carson show.

Carol Wayne, the buxom blonde actress who appeared many times on the Johnny Carson show in the 1970s, couldn’t swim.

She didn’t even like to go near the water. She was terrified of water, her personal assistant said.

On January 10, 1985, she was on vacation at the Las Hadas resort in Manzanillo, Mexico, with a man named Ed Durston. There is confusion over whether this Ed Durston was an L.A. car salesman named Edward Dale Durston, who would have been 43 at the time of Carol’s death, or horror movie director David Edward Durston, who went by the name of Ed and who would have been 54 at that time.

Carol Wayne death mystery
Ed Durston the movie director

Carol and this Ed Durston guy had a heated argument and Carol took a walk on the beach to “cool off.”

Three days later, January 13, a fisherman found her body in Santiago Bay. She was 42.

When local officials went looking for Durston he had checked out of the hotel and was back in L.A., apparently unconcerned about Carol’s fate. Unless, of course, he knew! He left her luggage at the airport with a message that she would pick it up next morning.

There were no drugs or alcohol in Carol’s body. She was quickly cremated and her ashes shipped back to her 13-year-old son in Los Angeles.

Carol Wayne’s death was ruled an accident by Mexican authorities, but few people believed that.

“Carol Wayne’s death is unsolved,” the U.S. Consul said at the time. “But I don’t think it was a drowning. There is much more to it than that.”

To this day, no one knows what really happened to Carol Wayne.

Here’s the kicker about that guy named Ed Durston. In 1969 he was the last person to be with TV host Art Linkletter’s daughter Diane before she plunged six floors to her death from a West Hollywood apartment building. This Ed Durston was reported to be 27. at the time, meaning it couldn’t have been Ed Durston the movie director, who would have been 38 at the time. In any case, Diane’s death was ruled a suicide.

Whatever Ed Durston did or whatever he knew, he took to the grave with him.

carol-wayne-death-mystery
Diane Linkletter and Carol Wayne, their true fates unknown.

And the death of Johnny Carson’s skit mate is still a mystery.


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4 thoughts on “What happened to Johnny Carson’s Matinee Lady?

  1. I enjoyed her antics on Carson’s show. The perfect dumb blonde and straight woman. I always thought there was something amiss with her death. Television is awful compared to those days. Kimmel and Fallon are a shadow of Carson, Bishop and Cavett. Nice points to bring up.

  2. You’re so right about the late-night talk shows these past few years — a bunch of smirking unfunny fools who obsess on politics, especially that arrogant foul-mouthed Colbert. I used to watch Johnny Carson just about every night but these new guys, cannot stand them. There will never be another Johnny. And Cavett was one of a kind too.

  3. You’re confusing Ed Durston with director David Durston — they’re two completely different people, and the latter (director of I DRINK YOUR BLOOD and STIGMA) had no connection to Wayne (he was also gay), while the former was not in the film industry. See the Wikipedia entry for the director, which corrects this.

  4. Yes, I was confused about that when I wrote it — whether the “Ed Durston” who was linked to the deaths of Carol Wayne and Diane Linkletter was the horror movie director David Edward Durston, who went by the name of Ed and who would have been 54 at the time of Carol’s death, or a former L.A. car salesman named Edward Dale Durston, who would have been 43 at the time.
    Thanks for bringing this to light. I have corrected the post to the best of my new research (thanks to you) and it indicates that it was, in fact, Ed Durston the former car salesman who was linked to both deaths, and not Ed Durston the director.

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