Johnny Carson's $81.5 million Malibu paradise offers up some of the King of Late Night's secrets

Key Points
  • Johnny Carson's former Malibu home is on the market for $81.5 million.
  • Many of Carson's touches remain, including his koi fish pond and tennis court.
  • A look inside also shows how Carson loved his privacy. The main house only had one bedroom when he lived there.
Take a look inside Johnny Carson's $81.5 million Malibu mansion
Take a look inside Johnny Carson's $81.5 million Malibu mansion

You can tell a lot about a person from their house. And Johnny Carson's former compound in Malibu, California, is full of revealing details about the late great King of Late Night.

"Secret Lives of the Super Rich" got a full tour of the Carson estate with super-brokers Linda May and Chris Cortazzo, who are trying to sell it for $81.5 million. Of course, it's been years since Carson lived there — he died in 2005 and it's been owned for a decade by fashion mogul and Hollywood producer Sidney Kimmel and his wife.

But many of Carson's touches remain — including his fish.

On the back patio, with one of the best views in Malibu overlooking the Pacific, Carson had a sparkling blue pool, waterfall and a koi pond. His 12 pet koi are still swimming in their crystal clear pond, a swarm of gold, brown and white.

Source: Mary E. Nichols

Koi fish, it turns out, can live to over 100, so Carson's koi were not even middle age by koi standards. Carson apparently loved to lounge by the pool to wash away the hustle and stress of TV life. And sitting by the pool, with the view of the ocean and watching the giant gentle koi glide around their pond, I could see the appeal.

Indeed, Carson bought the house in the 1980s even though it wasn't on the market. He was living in Malibu and went to a party at the home, and within minutes made the hosts an offer. The owners told him it wasn't for sale, but "he made them an offer they couldn't refuse," said Cortazzo.

So Carson knew what he wanted — and usually got it.

Carson also wanted peace and quiet at his home. The large main house only had one bedroom when he lived there — proof that he didn't like guests or family staying with him. They could stay across the street at a guest house.

Source: Mary E. Nichols

But perhaps the most revealing detail of the home is Carson's tennis court. He loved playing tennis, which was his main passion. And the only sure way to get to his house was to be a good tennis player and get invited to play on his court.

And it's not just another backyard tennis court. Johnny's tennis complex has a sunken, pro-tour-sized court with a massive clubhouse pavilion that has locker rooms, a bar, gym and two bedrooms. The benches on the court used to be on center court at Wimbledon.

Carson's court was far and away the nicest I've ever seen on any estate. May said NBC gave the late night host the court "to show him their appreciation" for all his years in television.

He was among the best at keeping the public's attention on television — but at home, he was the king at keeping it out.

Watch an all new episode of "Secret Lives of the Super Rich" Thursday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CNBC.

Disclosure: NBC and CNBC are owned by Comcast's NBCUniversal unit.