Saturday, October 19, 2013

"Johnny Carson"

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.

My Thoughts...

Well what can I say..."Hereeee's Johnny" in a whole new light...If what Henry Bushkin writes in this book is to be believed...This certainly is an eyeopening story about Carson and his lawyer Bushkin. If all he says is true we get a whole different picture of the good old boy, Johnny. How his wives ever stayed with him as many years as they did is beyond comprehension. I guess with the last three wives it was the recognition as being the "wife" of Johnny Carson, and then lets not forget the money and expensive gifts. According to Bushkin Johnny was very generous. 

It kept my attention right to the end. The picture I had of Johnny being shy and withdrawn, a quiet kind of personality...well that bubble was burst. All I can say is that it was an interesting kind of story, if it is to be believed.

I enjoyed it enough to award it 4 stars, because it was entertaining and gave a whole different outlook on the life of the one and only "Johnny Carson."

This book is a part of my Nook library.


  1. Wow, sounds like is could be a shocking one. I think a lot of these Hollywood marriages are just for having a title or for living a lavish lifestyle.
    Great post!

  2. Not sure I have the "stomach" for this one. Great review, Gigi Ann!

  3. Naida, I agree about the Hollywood marriages. I just think how lonely that kind of marriage would be. I remember a friend said to my husband and myself one evening, "You two are always talking about something, and you are together 24/7. What do you find to talk about?" We just laughed with him.

    Suko. LOL, it was an interesting read, I learned much about Hollywood life.

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  5. I read a book by this author last year called A Hard Act to Follow and it was about Carson. I wonder if this is an updated version. I see the book I read is no longer available on Amazon. Weird.

  6. Thanks for your review, Ann! I always loved Johnny's show and admired his talent. I'll definitely read this...!

  7. This isn't normally the kind of book I go for, I prefer fiction but have been known to pick up one every now and then. This sounds like a great read and certainly one to keep an eye out for.


  8. Sounds like a good read. We didn't get his show here in the UK but I've seen clips on Youtube.

    I usually read fiction but occasionally I read a biography. You have to be prepared to have your illusions shattered!

    One memorable & enjoyable read was of James Cagney. If it was true he was a really nice bloke nothing like most of his tough guy characters. I did like watching him & think he was an amazing dancer.

    The funniest yet sometimes saddest was David Niven's The Moon's a Balloon & Bring on the Empty Horses. I cried with laughter at some sections! He really lifted the lid on Hollywood's darker side.