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Johnny Carson

Johnny Carson

3.8 84
by Henry Bushkin

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A revealing and incisive account of the King of Late Night at the height of his fame and power, by his lawyer, wingman, fixer, and closest confidant

From 1962 until 1992, Johnny Carson hosted The Tonight Show and permeated the American consciousness. In the ’70s and ’80s he was the country’s highest-paid entertainer and its most


A revealing and incisive account of the King of Late Night at the height of his fame and power, by his lawyer, wingman, fixer, and closest confidant

From 1962 until 1992, Johnny Carson hosted The Tonight Show and permeated the American consciousness. In the ’70s and ’80s he was the country’s highest-paid entertainer and its most enigmatic. He was notoriously inscrutable, as mercurial (and sometimes cruel) off-camera as he was charming and hilarious onstage. During the apex of his reign, Carson’s longtime lawyer and best friend was Henry Bushkin, who now shows us Johnny Carson with a breathtaking clarity and depth that nobody else could.

From the moment in 1970 when Carson hired Bushkin (who was just twenty-seven) until the moment eighteen years later when they parted ways, the author witnessed and often took part in a string of escapades that still retain their power to surprise and fascinate us. One of Bushkin’s first assignments was helping Carson break into a posh Manhattan apartment to gather evidence of his wife’s infidelity. More than once, Bushkin helped his client avoid entanglements with the mob. Of course, Carson’s adventures weren’t all so sordid. He hosted Ronald Reagan’s inaugural concert as a favor to the new president, and he prevented a drunken Dean Martin from appearing onstage that evening. Carson socialized with Frank Sinatra, Jack Lemmon, Jimmy Stewart, Kirk Douglas, and dozens of other boldface names who populate this atmospheric and propulsive chronicle of the King of Late Night and his world.

But this memoir isn’t just dishy. It is a tautly rendered and remarkably nuanced portrait of Carson, revealing not only how he truly was, but why. Bushkin explains why Carson, a voracious (and very talented) womanizer, felt he always had to be married; why he loathed small talk even as he excelled at it; why he couldn’t visit his son in the hospital and wouldn’t attend his mother’s funeral; and much more. Bushkin’s account is by turns shocking, poignant, and uproarious — written with a novelist’s eye for detail, a screenwriter’s ear for dialogue, and a knack for comic timing that Carson himself would relish. Johnny Carson unveils not only the hidden Carson, but also the raucous, star-studded world he ruled.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times - Janet Maslin
Henry Bushkin's Johnny Carson is that rare celebrity tell-all by an author who knows whom and what he's talking about…It's easy to approach this book thinking that its author has an ax to grind. Maybe he does, but his account sounds unexaggerated, credible and willing to place blame wherever it belongs…Other authors have generalized about Carson's moods, petulance and bad judgment. But Mr. Bushkin seems to have a true inside track.
Publishers Weekly
Bushkin performed many roles for the King of Late Night Johnny Carson during their 18-year relationship—lawyer, advisor, tennis partner, to name a few—but the role of best friend is the one that never quite fit. In this biography/memoir hybrid, Bushkin recounts his tenure working under Carson at Carson Productions and living it up with his boss in Vegas and on yachts. He provides a keen glimpse at what this iconic comedian was really like: a man who was generous and beloved but "capable of marring a nice moment with a cutting remark." And it was those cutting remarks and erratically sour moods, which Bushkin blames on Carson's fraught relationship with his mother, that pushed others away from Carson, including three wives, and eventually poisoned his relationship with the author. Bushkin constantly reevaluates their relationship as he reveals the monstrous side of Carson and how fearful Bushkin was of incurring his wrath. With all this, the book is an insightful glimpse into the world of The Tonight Show and the star-studded life of Carson. An addictive read. (Oct.)
From the Publisher

“Henry Bushkin’s ‘Johnny Carson’ is that rare celebrity tell-all by an author who knows whom and what he’s talking about.” – The New York Times

“Few books like ‘Johnny Carson’ have been more engrossing. It's not just a juicy peek inside a celebrity's life...Bushkin's memoir is also a well-written corporate tale that reveals the tough business of staying America's favorite late-night host, full of stories of money, sex and skullduggery, peppered with plenty of laughs.” – The Associated Press

“This is not a tawdry tell-all but rather, an insightful and sobering character study of a tortured man and failed husband and father, as told through the eyes and experiences of one of his closest confidantes.” – Huffington Post

“[a] gracefully written, often insightful memoir” – The Daily Beast

"Twenty years since retiring and eight since his death, Carson remains the god of late night and the dean of American comedy." – New York Magazine, Fall Preview

"Most readers will be captivated by this high-definition, off-camera, extreme close-up view of the enigmatic entertainer." – Kirkus

"The book bears effective witness to a swinging era when celebrities were 'entertainers,' the highball glass was never empty, there were only three channels on TV, and Carson was its king.”– Bloomberg Businessweek

"Show-business junkies old enough to have spent many of their late nights between 1962 and 1992 watching Johnny Carson, 'the King of Late Night,' will likely devour this long-anticipated memoir in one gulp...The portrait of Carson offered here, though, goes way beyond dish: it is a genuinely multifaceted look at the burdens and the excesses of celebrity. Equally fascinating, though, is Bushkin’s own story." - Booklist

"An insightful glimpse into the world of The Tonight Show and the star-studded life of Carson. An addictive read." - Publishers Weekly

Kirkus Reviews
The King of Late Night's lawyer, confidant, tennis partner and butt of his "Bombastic Bushkin" gags appraises their 18-year relationship. Mainly due to the often bitter jokes he began making about marriage, often at his own expense, around the time of his expensive divorce from his third wife in the early 1980s, Johnny Carson (1925–2005) is known for his marital troubles. Though the late-night host is also known for his reclusiveness from the Hollywood scene--a reputation Bushkin demonstrates was not entirely warranted--most casual observers may not know that Carson had difficulty with all sorts of relationships, beginning with his praise-stingy mother Ruth, whose approval Carson vainly sought until her death, and continuing with his three sons (Carson admitted to being a poor, distant father). Fresh out of Vanderbilt Law School at 23, Bushkin began working for Carson in 1970 and had, arguably, the closest and sturdiest relationship with Carson of the entertainer's entire life until its acrimonious end in 1988 ("Johnny terminated our relationship in a mere three-minute conversation….There was no final act"). The secret to his success? At the expense of his own marriage and relationships with his children, Bushkin made it his career to keep Carson happy at all hours of the day and night. This might mean getting him a contract with NBC that made him the highest-paid entertainer in the world. It could also mean breaking and entering into Carson's second wife's adulterous "love nest" to gather evidence for divorce, listening to a drunken Caron's self-psychoanalysis at an after-hours watering hole, disappearing discreetly when one of the boss's many voluptuous playmates appeared, or stepping between Carson and people he wanted to hit or who wanted to hit him. Carson partisans may find this memoir self-serving (what memoir isn't?), but most readers will be captivated by this high-definition, off-camera, extreme close-up view of the enigmatic entertainer.

Product Details

Brilliance Audio
Publication date:
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5.00(w) x 5.60(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet the Author

Henry Bushkin is a lawyer living in Los Angeles. For 18 years, he was Johnny Carson's personal legal adviser, fixer, confidant, and close friend.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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Johnny Carson 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 84 reviews.
HappyDancer More than 1 year ago
Johnny Carson by Henry Bushkin is an exceptional biography of the one-time King of Late Night. As the attorney for Carson, Bushkin has an unprecedented insight into the comedian. This story focuses on Carson at the height of his fame. It is extremely well researched and extremely well written. It is a fascinating book.
DianeCascade More than 1 year ago
Henry Bushkin knows how to tell a good story. Johnny Carson by Bushkin is a frank and telling look at the life of Johnny Carson during his tenure as host of the Tonight Show. You don’t have to be a Johnny Carson fan to enjoy Bushkin’s story. It is a wonderful book filled with insight. The information on Johnny’s mother and his strained relationship with her gives new light to Johnny’s adult problems with relationships. Five stars.
coreyblissford More than 1 year ago
I was touched by how sad Johnny Carson's life was. I thought this was a phenomenal book. It kept my attention the whole way through.
Tutielynn More than 1 year ago
Thanks Mr. Bushkin for letting us know Johnny Carson was an SOB who disliked his mother but wanted her approval. Or, what an SOB he was in Buisness, or what and SOB he was top his employees. You say he was a difficult person to work for, but you sure as hell enjoyed the perks. Women, booze, traveling, money, dating celebrities, even the notoriety . Seems to me you enjoyed the entire Carson trip. Too bad your wife had a cheating, lying man for a husband. But let me tell you what I came away with after reading this book. Your total greed for money and self importance. Johnny Carson may have been an SOB but you, you were a leach. Too bad it took him 10 years to get rid of you. Oh, and for those people reading this review. This book is really all about Mr. Bushkin and what he got out of being Johnny's lawyer and, so called friend.
MahMah More than 1 year ago
The author of this book asks the question "WHAT ABOUT ME?", literally and suggestively throughout its 300 + pages, yet while reading it, admittedly google-eyed, to its rather predictable conclusion, I couldn't help but feel that it is he, Henry Bushkin, whom this bizarro bio is really all about! Johnny Carson in death remains the enigmatic person that he always was when he lived, but I certainly got an insightful picture of what makes Henry BUSHKIN tick --and I can't say that I particularly like the picture!
Robynn More than 1 year ago
Well Wriiten! This is a must read if you grew up watching the Tonight Show with Johhny Carson. An in-depth look at his life and written in an easy read fashion. I really enjoyed this peek into Johnny's world.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Bushkin skips over salient facts such as his scamming money from Carson. He should have been fired years before. Such a parasite.
Bookworm1951 3 months ago
A real eye-opener. However, this story was as much about the author as about Johnny Carson. Whenever I read a bio, I take what the author says with a grain of salt since the book is written from their personal perspective. If all that is written can be believed, Johnny was not the happy comedian we all grew to love through the Tonight Show. Bushkin depicts both himself and Johnny as human beings who triumphed and failed in many aspects of their lives. Candid. I just wish this book contained less of Bushkin's bio and more about Johnny. A better title would have been something like Bushkin's Life and My Association with Johnny Carson!
Gibletmom More than 1 year ago
Not a great Carson lover to begin with it just brought out more flaws I didnt know about. It was a quick read (thank goodness( and a personal story. Not a nice person overall, but made too much money and had too many temptations in front of him. Would not re-read.
Lace1cat More than 1 year ago
No surprises here! I always knew he was a unique man! I loved the man so much that I NEVER watched the Tonight Show again! This remains true today. Jay Leno could be the funniest, most entertaining person in the world and I could care little. There will never be another Carson!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
For fans of Johnny this bio makes him real; a human granted great fame and fortune, but still a human with all the temptations and weaknesses. sadly, you find out that his life was not as happy as his persona, but his experiences are many and this book guides you through them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading about someone I enjoyed watching for many years. Mr. Carson was a unique individual and very complex. What we saw, was not always the real Johnny Carson. I think this was an honestly written book by someone who knew him about as much as Johnny Carson allowed anyone to really know him. He certainly was not always likeable, but he is still remembered fondly.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Johnny always seemed sad to me. He had expert timing and was funny but you cant buy real love. Well written with interesting insight but author was only in it for money and perks just as all the others were.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Was not worth the money. Good form in writing style but never developed the characters, carson or the author himself . A book of facts events - boring.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Into these minor tell all and dont quick read. no in dept or angst musings the personality star rather than actor is always hard to bio or auto bio since they are foils to others
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the most honest and rivetting biographies I've ever read. A must-have for any Carson fan, young or old!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book and was suprised by his excessive womanizing and drinking! I still miss him, Johnny was and will always be King of Late Night TV !!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
sp61 More than 1 year ago
truth and insight versus Bushkins ego / spin? Some interesting stories about Johnny.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book was okay but mostly about Carson's business deals with some insight to his tantrums, power and "kiss my ass" or you are out of my realm attitude. Other information is about Bushkin's career thanks to Johnny. Though interesting and feel reading is knowledge, I am most thankful that I live a normal life and not around drunks, arrogance, cigarette addictions, womanizing males who think think this is a grand life which is also the brunt of this book. Yes, money was there and this book truly says money does not bring happiness. This book continues with the true Johnny and places the blame on his mother for the way he is. He wasn't smart enough to let his mother go but instead continued to try harder, and then develop very bad marriages instead of trying to figure out the real problem, himself, and get help. Thank goodness I cannot relate to this lifestyle, and will appreciate being poor but content. I can't believe Bushkin even put up with him- well money speaks I guess along with his own but huge lack of self esteem and ethics. Yes Johnny had talent but he had nothing else. Bushkin kissed Carson's butt and made money but had nothing else as well. (No sympathy from me) Sad life for both of them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago