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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 enigmatic. He was notoriously inscrutable, a 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.


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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 enigmatic. He was notoriously inscrutable, a 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.

30 review for Johnny Carson

  1. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    Johnny Carson is best known as a comedian and host of the 'The Tonight Show', which he emceed from 1962 to 1992. When I plucked this (audio) book off the library shelf I thought it was a biography of the entertainer. It's not. Rather it's a memoir written by Carson's lawyer Henry Bushkin, who worked for Johnny from 1970 to 1988. Bushkin's employment began when he was in his late twenties and not very experienced with entertainment law. The young attorney caught on quickly though and discovered t Johnny Carson is best known as a comedian and host of the 'The Tonight Show', which he emceed from 1962 to 1992. When I plucked this (audio) book off the library shelf I thought it was a biography of the entertainer. It's not. Rather it's a memoir written by Carson's lawyer Henry Bushkin, who worked for Johnny from 1970 to 1988. Bushkin's employment began when he was in his late twenties and not very experienced with entertainment law. The young attorney caught on quickly though and discovered that some of Johnny's advisors and employers were enriching themselves at Carson's expense. (According to himself) Bushkin quickly put all this to rights and soon became Johnny's loyal companion - functioning as 'lawyer, advisor, assistant, companion, fixer, tennis buddy, drinking partner' and so on. Henry Bushkin (left) with Johnny Carson On television Johnny came across as genial, intelligent, and funny...and his nightly monologue was 'must-see TV' for millions of people. Off the air though, Carson was uncomfortable with people, prickly, and quick to take offense. Johnny Carson doing his monologue In addition, his personal life was turbulent. Johnny married four times but was a distant father and serial cheater who hardly hid his indiscretions. Johnny Carson and his first wife Jody Morrill Wolcott Johnny Carson, his first wife Jody, and their three sons Johnny Carson and his second wife Joanne Copeland Johnny Carson and his third wife Joanna Holland Johnny Carson and his fourth wife Alexis Maas Johnny's problems are often attributed (in large part) to his cold withholding mother, and Bushkin's anecdotes seem to support this view. Johnny Carson with his mother and father The book doesn't especially enlighten the reader about Carson but it does provide a little information about his wives, sons, luxurious homes, expensive cars, affairs, agents, managers, visits to Las Vegas, casino performances, production company (which mostly managed to sponsor flop sitcoms and mediocre movies), etc. Johnny Carson frequently appeared in Las Vegas Bushkin also details a few visits from Johnny's parents, which never went well. In fact, Carson did not attend the funeral of either of his parents when they died. On the lighter side, Bushkin sprinkles some of Carson's jokes through the book, though they really don't seem to fit the narrative. The book is largely about Bushkin himself, and being Johnny's attorney/friend/companion provided a lot of perks for the lawyer. These included: a hefty salary; a trip to the Wimbledon tennis tournament every year; cruises on yachts; dining in the best restaurants; access to classy tennis clubs; tickets to the Oscars; hob-nobbing with celebrities; visits to Las Vegas; lucrative business opportunities; etc. Johnny Carson and Henry Bushkin on a cruise Johnny Carson, Henry Bushkin, and actress Joyce DeWitt (Bushkin's girlfriend) Bushkin also describes how - with constant access to beautiful women - he became a cheating husband and neglectful father himself. Looking back Bushkin chides himself about this.....but he certainly seemed to enjoy it at the time. In this vein Bushkin also details how he did his best to manipulate business opportunities so that his and Johnny's future ex-wives would be cut out of the big profits. All this didn't endear the author to me but I guess his honesty should be acknowledged. Though Bushkin sincerely praises Johnny's immense talent this book is not flattering to the entertainer. Carson is portrayed as pampered, self-centered, entitled, unreasonable, quick-tempered, nasty, vengeful, and so on. Moreover, anyone who got on Carson's bad side was cut off completely; Johnny never spoke to him/her again. In the end, this is what happened to Bushkin. In 1988 Bushkin attempted to negotiate a business deal that Carson interpreted as trying to cheat him. Johnny immediately fired Bushkin and (except for a misdial) never exchanged another word with him. Even worse, Carson initiated a series of lawsuits that caused tremendous trouble and angst for Bushkin and his law partners. Later, when Carson died of emphysema in 2005, Bushkin asserts that he 'felt nothing.' A sad ending to a once warm relationship. Henry Bushkin fell out with Johnny Carson after 18 years of friendship and employment The book is interesting in a kind of voyeuristic, gossipy way. I was aware that Carson had a reputation as a skirt chaser but I was not aware of the rest of his bad behavior, and it detracts from my opinion of him. Still, Johnny Carson was a talented performer who made a lot of people laugh and he deserves kudos for that. If you're interested in knowing how Henry Bushkin became successful and rich this is the book for you. If you want to know more about Johnny Carson's real life, this book won't be especially helpful. One more thought: I listened to the audiobook read by Dick Hill. Hill has won awards for his audiobook narration but his VERY DRAMATIC style seems more appropriate for a wartime epic than this celebrity exposé. I found it off-putting. You can follow my reviews at: http://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot.com/

  2. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    Just know what you're getting here. While the book is titled "Johnny Carson," it more accurately would be called "Bombastic Bushkin: The True-Life Story of What It Was Like To Be Johnny Carson's Lawyer." In other words, there is little insight about Carson the icon, the entertainer, or the man. Learn instead about what it was like to be a satellite to Carson's burning sun. Did you know that after dumping his college sweetheart, Bushkin dated Three's Company's Joyce DeWitt? It's true! Weirdly enter Just know what you're getting here. While the book is titled "Johnny Carson," it more accurately would be called "Bombastic Bushkin: The True-Life Story of What It Was Like To Be Johnny Carson's Lawyer." In other words, there is little insight about Carson the icon, the entertainer, or the man. Learn instead about what it was like to be a satellite to Carson's burning sun. Did you know that after dumping his college sweetheart, Bushkin dated Three's Company's Joyce DeWitt? It's true! Weirdly entertaining.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Antigone

    Johnny Carson was a loner. This was understood. Perhaps nowhere more so than in the city he chose to make his home. Los Angeles, as every transplant will be quick to perceive, is a very small town. It is a burg in which those six degrees of separation are pared to three, and the fundamental lesson learned by the up-and-comer is that bridges will be burned - most frequently by those in charge, and for the most practical reason of all: to keep the table settings to a minimum. Manhattan likes to lay Johnny Carson was a loner. This was understood. Perhaps nowhere more so than in the city he chose to make his home. Los Angeles, as every transplant will be quick to perceive, is a very small town. It is a burg in which those six degrees of separation are pared to three, and the fundamental lesson learned by the up-and-comer is that bridges will be burned - most frequently by those in charge, and for the most practical reason of all: to keep the table settings to a minimum. Manhattan likes to lay claim to the culture's shark-infested waters. Los Angeles, if it bothered to respond, would slyly offer up late night's king in his bespoke suit, his Malibu tan and his innocently arched eyebrow. No one held more power in this cutthroat industry - no actor, no director, no studio head - than did Mr. Carson in his ascendancy. Careers were made on the offer of a seat at his side, and broken by its denial. Such influence, while hungered after, doesn't lend itself to creating a wide circle of friends. Which was, intriguingly enough, just fine with him. There are two points here to consider. The first will be the paucity of first-hand accounts on life with Johnny Carson. Few possessed the privilege, and even fewer hold the urge to write about it. Second, allowances should be made for the type of individual who did. Because it stands to reason that the person who obtained admittance to this rarefied arena, and was permitted to remain within it over time, would own certain qualities or traits that set him apart from other men. Henry Bushkin was Carson's lawyer, and a good deal more besides. But nothing shocked him quite so much as reading in an interview that Johnny considered him his best friend. Forty-three years after they met, eight years after Carson's death, amidst the writing of this book, Bushkin is still obsessed with his client's declaration. He returns to it over and over again, mystified by Carson's perception; unwilling to find it troublesome or tragic or by any means informative. It's simply strange to him - due largely, of course, to Bushkin's own social dysfunction. A dysfunction illustrated (rather unwittingly) in the recollection of an early meeting: "The more Johnny talked, the weirder this moment seemed. People I'd known all my life, my best friends, none of them would ever unburden themselves to me. But here's a man I'd known for two days baring his soul, and I had nothing to say? Maybe that's why I was here." This memoir can best be appreciated, and perhaps only be appreciated, through the recognition of its being written by an unreliable narrator. Pull back far enough and you'll find the fascinations abound. Bushkin seems to me a man, and there are many of them, whose identity grafted on to the alpha force of the most powerful figure in his vicinity. Carson caught him at twenty-seven in New York, fresh to entertainment law and dazzled by the plucking. He doesn't give a lot of thought to the "Why me?" element of the equation, but instead rolls with the 1970s celebrity flow. Legal and financial maneuvers are made, temperaments are tolerated, questionable moral choices overlooked; Bushkin is well on the way to becoming indispensable. And with this comes the magic carpet ride of fame, wealth and excess. He embraces the move to Hollywood, the trips to Vegas and London; tennis with Johnny, parties with Johnny, negotiations on Johnny's behalf. There are Friar's Roasts and Academy Awards and presidential inaugurations - and there are late nights, and last minutes, and unreasonable demands; and there are women, because there are always women, and this is always part of the code. (The Rat Pack misogyny gets a little irksome.) And somewhere in all of this he loses a wife and a life of his own, but he'll be damned if he gives a flip. He's "Bombastic Bushkin" after all, so knighted by the king on network television; part of the monologue patter now, right there in the swing. The relationship begins to sour when the men enter into business together - a development Bushkin refuses, even today, to view with an eye toward conflict of interest. He tries to own the white hat as the union crumbles, but that's awfully hard to do when one's sharing the headboard with the black. Bitterness and its soulmate, a heated self-defense, bleed forth in the recounting of the crash and burn. You might expect some moment of clarity or hard-won insight, but Bushkin's not in that place yet and may never be. The closest he comes is a bizarre attempt to lay it all on Carson's mother, Ruth, and the legacy of her heartlessness toward this singularly-favored son. He can't blame Johnny, I suspect, because in some decidedly twisted way it would be too much like blaming himself. That he titled the book Johnny Carson, in the absence of all but the most rudimentary biographical sketch, delivers proof enough for me of his difficulty in distinguishing the difference.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Terry Cornell

    More of a memoir than a true biography, Bushkin wrote about his experiences with Carson as his attorney and friend. Although some of Carson's previous life is mentioned, the focus is from when Bushkin met Carson and started working for him in 1979, and through the late 1980s when they had a falling out. I don't usually read books about celebrities--sort of the dish-the-dirt genre, but I always thought Carson was interesting and I didn't know much about him personally. A complex man, that seemed More of a memoir than a true biography, Bushkin wrote about his experiences with Carson as his attorney and friend. Although some of Carson's previous life is mentioned, the focus is from when Bushkin met Carson and started working for him in 1979, and through the late 1980s when they had a falling out. I don't usually read books about celebrities--sort of the dish-the-dirt genre, but I always thought Carson was interesting and I didn't know much about him personally. A complex man, that seemed to be searching for happiness, and not knowing when he was living in the midst of it. Bushkin does some analyzing of why Carson was self-destructive in this way. Apparently he had a mother that he could never get approval from. The book mentions Carson served in the US Navy during WWII, but not much other than that. I discovered from other sources that he enlisted in hopes of being trained as a pilot, but instead became a communications officer in charge of decoding messages aboard the USS Pennsylvania. He also had a 10-0 amateur boxing record, with most of his bouts taking place aboard ship. If you want to know about one of the late night hosts from back when they were actually funny, this book is a good place to start.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jkhickel

    Proving exactly what kind of a clever lawyer he is, Henry Bushkin waited until Johnny Carson was dead and cold in his grave before publishing this book, giving Bushkin some measure of protection against any possible charges of libel or violating Carson’s attorney-client confidentiality. Very professional, Bushkin. Here is Bombastic Bushkin’s book, in a nutshell: When he first met Bushkin, Johnny Carson led a cold, lonely, suspicious life, and he was surrounded by incompetence and corruption. Bush Proving exactly what kind of a clever lawyer he is, Henry Bushkin waited until Johnny Carson was dead and cold in his grave before publishing this book, giving Bushkin some measure of protection against any possible charges of libel or violating Carson’s attorney-client confidentiality. Very professional, Bushkin. Here is Bombastic Bushkin’s book, in a nutshell: When he first met Bushkin, Johnny Carson led a cold, lonely, suspicious life, and he was surrounded by incompetence and corruption. Bushkin managed to almost single-handedly save Carson, by immediately getting rid of the other idiots in Carson’s entourage, and straightening out Carson’s financial and legal activities. But years later, when Carson was getting old and cranky, he came to mistrust the innocent, hardworking, and results-producing Bushkin, and unwisely got rid of him. And as a result, Carson died alone and lonely, without the wisdom and comfort of Bushkin to get him through his final years. I never knew Carson, beyond the talented and engaging performer I used to watch on television, but this book seemed ridiculous on its face. (That’s “prima facie” if Bushkin’s reading this.) I’m sure that, as one of the youngest members of Carson’s team, he was counting on the other members of the Carson entourage to be too old, or too dead, to respond to some of his more ludicrous stories. But Doc Severinson, who was Carson’s legendary band leader and at 86 is still very active, had this to say about Bushkin’s book: “I know Henry Bushkin and I knew Johnny Carson. And the idea that anybody would ask any single person to write a book about Johnny Carson and have it be Bushkin is beyond disgusting.” BOTTOM LINE: Bushkin was cuckolded by Carson, and this book is his cowardly revenge. Please read it in that light. And please take it out from a library, or borrow it from a friend. Don’t contribute to the royalties of a grave robber.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mac

    Who wants to read about a demanding, difficult, and damaged person with a suave, confident persona on air and a shy, sad, isolated life when not before an audience? Who wants to read about such a mercurial personality who hurts others, fires people, and divorces wives with cruel, bitter remarks? Who wants to read about someone who so cavalierly cheats on his wives and ignores his children? And who wants to listen to a self-serving author who believes Johnny would be pleased the book is cruelly r Who wants to read about a demanding, difficult, and damaged person with a suave, confident persona on air and a shy, sad, isolated life when not before an audience? Who wants to read about such a mercurial personality who hurts others, fires people, and divorces wives with cruel, bitter remarks? Who wants to read about someone who so cavalierly cheats on his wives and ignores his children? And who wants to listen to a self-serving author who believes Johnny would be pleased the book is cruelly revealing and not a gloss? Well, I do (though I'm embarrassed to admit it). I liked the insights into Johnny's personalities, the anecdotes, the dialogue, the negotiating, the high life, and the petty jealousies. Johnny Carson is not good literature, but it is a good read. Some editorial comments: What happened to Ed McMahon? It's almost as if he never existed. Henry, I guess you should get some props for admitting you acted poorly during you time with Johnny, cheating on your wife and ignoring your family. But your apology seems pro forma, and you make no apology for having betrayed so many confidences in this book and for having betrayed Johnny himself, a man who above all valued loyalty. And Henry, some advice for your next book. If you're going to break from the chronological structure (an effective structure in this case), please do a better job of letting us know where you are in your digressions. In Johnny Carson, some events are introduced, or repeated, out of their natural order; it's confusing and disconcerting.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Una Tiers

    While the book and information about Carson was mildly interesting, the repetitive back patting of this book forced me to scan more than read. I found one awesome quote by Carson: If things were fair, Elvis would be alive and all the impersonators would be dead.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Blaine DeSantis

    Book started out strong and ended poorly. I did not expect a book of Carson jokes or every inside detail but as the book went on it became more about the author. As Johnny got more tired of the show, the author seemed to get more tired of writing. OK, but not great.

  9. 4 out of 5

    JoAnne Pulcino

    JOHNNY CARSON Henry Bushkin I'm going to remember Johnny Carson as the master of the late night talk shows. Other than that there's not much to say about him personally. He was a remote, angry, drinker and womanizer with very little warmth. He himself said he was not a good husband or father. He was not a nice man, and I'm surprised his attorney and friend Henry Bushkin wrote this book revealing so much especially considering his great personal losses due to his relationship with Mr. Carson. JOHNNY CARSON Henry Bushkin I'm going to remember Johnny Carson as the master of the late night talk shows. Other than that there's not much to say about him personally. He was a remote, angry, drinker and womanizer with very little warmth. He himself said he was not a good husband or father. He was not a nice man, and I'm surprised his attorney and friend Henry Bushkin wrote this book revealing so much especially considering his great personal losses due to his relationship with Mr. Carson.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    As a child my very first hero was Johnny. If anyone ever asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would always say, I want to be a comedian like Johnny Carson. It's not hard to see why he would be such a fascinating figure to a small Nebraskan boy. He too came from a small Nebraskan town and made a living making people laugh. Let's just say, that sounded like the greatest thing in the world to a strange, silly kid who enjoyed making his brother laugh with (usually comically bad) impressions As a child my very first hero was Johnny. If anyone ever asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would always say, I want to be a comedian like Johnny Carson. It's not hard to see why he would be such a fascinating figure to a small Nebraskan boy. He too came from a small Nebraskan town and made a living making people laugh. Let's just say, that sounded like the greatest thing in the world to a strange, silly kid who enjoyed making his brother laugh with (usually comically bad) impressions of various authority figures. Johnny Carson was a hometown boy made good. He was living proof that the dream of Hollywood was real and could happen to anyone! It also helps that he was one of the funniest performers I've ever seen in my life. To this day, no one can work an audience like Johnny. He had the fantastic talent of actually being funnier when the material bombed, a trick later picked up by so many other comedians from Conan O'Brien to Aziz Ansari. I have always considered that skill what makes a performer truly gifted because if you can still make people laugh under those circumstances, then it is you that is funny, not just the material. I say all this information only as an introduction. Everybody knows, or kind of remembers, or think they know who Johnny Carson was. That's where Henry Bushkin comes in. Bushkin was a young attorney plucked out of obscurity by Carson who went on to have a personal and professional relationship with him for over 20 years. Bushkin waited for 8 years after Carson died to publish this book. Upon reading it, I can see why. Some people will be mad at him for putting many of these stories in the book. Stories that show Johnny to be cold, harsh, mean, drunk, petulant, and emotionally immature. But the stories also show him to be generous, hilarious, sharp, and at the top of his game. Going into this book, I held Johnny in the highest regard and still do. It was so interesting to read about his relationship with his mother and how he was never able to get her approval. How he used his humor which seemed so warm and inviting to keep people at arms length. After all, if everybody felt like they knew him, then no one would ever actually try to get to know him. Johnny was hiding right out in the open and the public never realized it. He didn't let anybody inside his head because nobody hated Johnny more than Johnny. I highly recommend this read to anyone who wants to understand humor and the dark costs and causes that can sometimes lurk behind that veneer. Even after all this, I still want to be Johnny when I grow up.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Karin Slaughter

    I kind of felt weird about this, because it was fascinating, but I was keenly aware that Carson would've been furious about having his secrets told. I also wondered about the author saying he's the only one who never took advantage of Carson (as so many people did), but here's this book... I kind of felt weird about this, because it was fascinating, but I was keenly aware that Carson would've been furious about having his secrets told. I also wondered about the author saying he's the only one who never took advantage of Carson (as so many people did), but here's this book...

  12. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    A story of an unrequited love. I think we all have stories that we hear our elders tell about us when we were younger that we have to smile at, even if we're not sure they're true. One story along those lines for me is about how the mother of one of my childhood friend's came into her living room at 11:45 to find me sitting on the floor watching The Tonight Show. She said when she asked me what I was doing up, I replied "Watching Johnny." Apparently, there was no reasoning with me when I was A story of an unrequited love. I think we all have stories that we hear our elders tell about us when we were younger that we have to smile at, even if we're not sure they're true. One story along those lines for me is about how the mother of one of my childhood friend's came into her living room at 11:45 to find me sitting on the floor watching The Tonight Show. She said when she asked me what I was doing up, I replied "Watching Johnny." Apparently, there was no reasoning with me when I was watching Johnny Carson and she left me to my show. From a young age, I was fascinated with Johnny Carson. This book did a brilliant job of enhancing that fascination and pulling those memories back to the front of my mind. Henry Bushkin tells multiple stories of his time as Carson's lawyer. Bushkin was more than just his lawyer -- he was his confidant, his business manager, his friend and, in the end, another broken heart left behind by Carson. The book was well written and drew me into the stories. I felt like I was there with Bushkin and Carson, experiencing contract negotiations, Wimbledon, and so much more. If you are a Carson fan, I highly recommend this book. It made me laugh, smile and, at one point, cry because it hurt my heart.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Loe

    Carson indisputably was suave and commanding on the air and sad and isolated behind the scenes. His massive success of course came with a price. NBC's desire to continue making millions of dollars by keep Carson happy had a predictably corrosive effect on the entertainer, making him more difficult and demanding than can be imagined. Newly inaugurated president Ronald Reagan had to call him personally to apologize for the inferior seat Carson's third wife had at the pre-inaugural festivities. Ed Carson indisputably was suave and commanding on the air and sad and isolated behind the scenes. His massive success of course came with a price. NBC's desire to continue making millions of dollars by keep Carson happy had a predictably corrosive effect on the entertainer, making him more difficult and demanding than can be imagined. Newly inaugurated president Ronald Reagan had to call him personally to apologize for the inferior seat Carson's third wife had at the pre-inaugural festivities. Ed McMahon's wife supposedly had a better seat than Mrs. Carson's and I find it chilling that on a day when the hostages were being released, Reagan was absorbed with sucking up to Carson and massaging his massive ego. However reprehensible Carson was, his lawyer and the author of this book is vastly more despicable. Bushkin blames others and always lets himself off the hook for his own bad behavior in his personal and professional ife. While this might be a moderately juicy read, the book itself is a questionable work, self-serving in the extreme and violating attorney-client privilege. Conveniently published when the subject was dead and the author in need of (yet another) quick buck, I'm sorry to say I read it, but am glad at least I only borrowed it from the library.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Melody

    I don't think Johnny would have liked the book, but I did. I don't think Johnny would have liked the book, but I did.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Don

    This isn't really a biography of Johnny Carson, not in the way you're thinking. This is a memoir written by Carson's lawyer chronicling the relationship between the two men. This behind-the-scenes account is at times fascinating, and it offers some interesting insight into Carson, who seems to have been a deeply unhappy and not so nice man. This isn't really a biography of Johnny Carson, not in the way you're thinking. This is a memoir written by Carson's lawyer chronicling the relationship between the two men. This behind-the-scenes account is at times fascinating, and it offers some interesting insight into Carson, who seems to have been a deeply unhappy and not so nice man.

  16. 4 out of 5

    tina

    My end of year reading left big holes in my reading heart. It's my own fault. what was i expecting from books entitled "merde" and "johnny carson" ? oh well - at least i didn't buy this book. i did however expect to laugh at "johnny carson". (I also expected to laugh at "merde"). But I didn't laugh once. Not once. Although I was very young when this man was in his prime, I watched and liked his show. I expected to like the book. Bushkin does not want that; his goal is to dispel generally favorab My end of year reading left big holes in my reading heart. It's my own fault. what was i expecting from books entitled "merde" and "johnny carson" ? oh well - at least i didn't buy this book. i did however expect to laugh at "johnny carson". (I also expected to laugh at "merde"). But I didn't laugh once. Not once. Although I was very young when this man was in his prime, I watched and liked his show. I expected to like the book. Bushkin does not want that; his goal is to dispel generally favorable public opinion of the man and reveal the flawed person behind the personality. (why do I feel like i'm writing for a tabloid?) The book takes a reader back to a mad men era of one on one lawyering, opulence (in one of the pictures carson looks like liberace) and hypocrisies. It seems like bushkin turned out to be a good lawyer for carson, until the end where he starts to negotiate the sale of carson's company where he would secure a position without disclosing the fact to his client. that's an ethical conflict. anyway, what's lacking, aside from a narrative, is the recognition of a different era, when men were less than people. at least bushkin could have acknowledged his own screwed up values and how they meshed well with his boss's. Instead, bushkin blame carson for his own poor choices, including his infidelities and lack of devotion to his own family. Last time i checked a penis belongs to just one man. But hey, i'm not expert. Bushkin nonetheless apologizes to his ex-wife and a former friend. But what good is an apology when it's accompanied with a pointed finger toward a grave? Buskhin returns repeatedly to the theme of carson's terrible mother and how she made him the incapable of happiness and satisfaction. something about that is rather rotten. he was a grown ass man by the age of 60. maybe his midwestern sensible mother was rightly disappointed to have raised a son who couldn't keep his dick in his pants despite his desire to have a family and marry again and again. maybe she didn't approve of how he failed to raise his own family and knew that throwing money at a problem helps but is no substitute for presence. anyway, i'm diverging from the point here. the point is that bushkin makes excuses for his friend while blaming him at the same time. which makes this reader feel bad. I suspect that bushkin meant to paint such an terrible portrait of his purported best friend for 18 years. which is all very sad, not funny.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Roy

    Interesting to read this during the handoff of Leno to Fallon; the ads playing while I read the book showed Carson, Leno and Fallon, suggesting generation-passing of the Carson legacy. The book is a fascinating read on a figure that dominated the 1960s and 1970s. It gives a better view of Carson as a person than anything I've read. It is, by necessity, a biography only of the 18 years that Bushkin was Carson's lawyer and confidant, but those are the critical years of Carson's career. There are s Interesting to read this during the handoff of Leno to Fallon; the ads playing while I read the book showed Carson, Leno and Fallon, suggesting generation-passing of the Carson legacy. The book is a fascinating read on a figure that dominated the 1960s and 1970s. It gives a better view of Carson as a person than anything I've read. It is, by necessity, a biography only of the 18 years that Bushkin was Carson's lawyer and confidant, but those are the critical years of Carson's career. There are several reason I found this fascinating. Carson was a part of my life, at least if media is a part of it. Bushkin (who himself became an element in Carson monologues) is a very natural writer, which made this an easy read, more like a conversation. Bushkin does an interesting admission of his own problems upon being brought into Carson's orbit, and how he couldn't move away but also paid a price for being committed to an "always #1 client". Additionally, Carson seems to be a really interesting perspective on how someone can respond to an upbringing where he felt he was never able to get his mother's approval. I don't think Carson's failure at relationships and need to both perform and to be in control are the only possible impacts from such a psychological imprint, but I think that I've seen many others react in similar fashions. In the end, though, I came to feel that I learned more about Bushkin than Carson, because I'm not sure anyone fully understood Carson -- even Johnny himself.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    This is a book written by Henry Bushkin. He was Johnny Carson's Lawyer for almost 20 years. Mr.Bushkin was more than just a lawyer. He was with Carson constantly, Playing tennis, traveling on vacations and many more chores than just his lawyer. he witnessed first hand what Johnny Carson was like in person. He was the lawyer for two of Carson's divorces and was hired to handle many other business deals for Carson. he gives an up close behind the doors description of Carson. Johnny could be a gene This is a book written by Henry Bushkin. He was Johnny Carson's Lawyer for almost 20 years. Mr.Bushkin was more than just a lawyer. He was with Carson constantly, Playing tennis, traveling on vacations and many more chores than just his lawyer. he witnessed first hand what Johnny Carson was like in person. He was the lawyer for two of Carson's divorces and was hired to handle many other business deals for Carson. he gives an up close behind the doors description of Carson. Johnny could be a generous man at times and cruel and vindictive other times. I think Bushkin tried to be fair in this book. I know this is Henry Bushkin's opinion of the man he knew for 20 years before Carson fired him. A pretty interesting read. I was a fan of Johnny Carson and his show. still am.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    If you have read any of the recent articles reviewing this book, you won't be surprised by much. I think everything remotely shocking was covered and exaggerated to its fullest before this book hit the shelves. Yes, Johnny was at times nice and at times nasty. Yes, the mob makes a scary appearance, and so does Frank Gifford, or at least his apartment. Johnny was the most generous man in the world one minute, yet cold-blooded and ruthless the next. Friendships end and begin on a dime. Yes, Johnny If you have read any of the recent articles reviewing this book, you won't be surprised by much. I think everything remotely shocking was covered and exaggerated to its fullest before this book hit the shelves. Yes, Johnny was at times nice and at times nasty. Yes, the mob makes a scary appearance, and so does Frank Gifford, or at least his apartment. Johnny was the most generous man in the world one minute, yet cold-blooded and ruthless the next. Friendships end and begin on a dime. Yes, Johnny was more comfortable in front of a million viewers than a handful of admirers. Essentially this is the same story you'll find if you look at Elvis, Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan or any other big-time entertainment personality at the top of their field. It seems to be a necessary pattern of traits even for those who make it so big. I found this book extremely comparable to Mr. S: My Life with Frank Sinatra. Both were up-close accounts from people with all-access passes to the lives of their famous employers, and both eventually wound up dumped, forgotten and never spoken to again. Curiously enough, both seemed to enjoy the good times so much though that any ill-will they had for their subject eventually faded. Given how interesting it must have been traipsing around the world with Carson, I can't blame Bushkin much. Add to that the fact that he made many millions doing it, and you start to wonder why he even bothered with the work of writing this book. He surely doesn't need the money. My guess is that he had a lot of fun reminiscing, and that fortunately translates into a nice, breezy read.

  20. 4 out of 5

    John

    Enough previously unpublished stories to be a worthwhile, quick read. Clarifies the Wayne Newton feud as well.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Doug

    For a lifelong fan of Johnny Carson like me this was an interesting but bittersweet read. Johnny helped me through many an evening back in the day when there was nothing to do and little to watch on the three or four channels in existence at the time. Henry Bushkin - I remember Johnny's references on the show to "Bombastic Bushkin" - started as Johnny's lawyer but quickly became his tennis partner, advisor, even business partner. Although The Tonight Show is discussed, Bushkin's real contributio For a lifelong fan of Johnny Carson like me this was an interesting but bittersweet read. Johnny helped me through many an evening back in the day when there was nothing to do and little to watch on the three or four channels in existence at the time. Henry Bushkin - I remember Johnny's references on the show to "Bombastic Bushkin" - started as Johnny's lawyer but quickly became his tennis partner, advisor, even business partner. Although The Tonight Show is discussed, Bushkin's real contribution is a detailed behind-the-scenes look at the rest of Johnny's life: his relationships with his wives, parents, children, friends and other celebrities; and his business dealings. Bushkin loved Johnny but pulls no punches. I say the book is bittersweet because it is not easy to read convincing evidence that the person I idolized growing up was in many ways a complete asshole. The blame is often put, including by Bushkin, on his mother, who seemed incapable of providing the love and support one expects; Johnny emerged emotionally scarred and cynical of the motives of anyone close to him. I am not a psychiatrist but Carson comes across as a person who only valued relationships where he was the primary beneficiary. He was chronically unfaithful to his wives. He accepted as "friends" only those who stroked his ego and prioritized Johnny above all else. He dumped, instantly, anyone who he determined failed that standard. Quite the jerk. And yet there was also a good side (apart from his being the brightest of the stars of his generation). Bushkin documents, for example, numerous acts of generosity, from consistently large tipping to surprise cash gifts to acquaintances in need. There are also charming stories of Johnny holding court with his celebrity colleagues - and as bright as their lights shined they found themselves irresistibly drawn to Johnny. By the end, however, he had burnt all his bridges. The book mentions a comparison that had been made to Jay Gatsby, craving adulation but unable to connect on a personal level. But Gatsby deliberately drew the crowds to his house; Johnny detested being in such an unstructured setting, where he might have to converse with a fan or a stranger. Reading of Johnny’s dying alone I thought instead of the closing scene of Citizen Kane, where the dying Kane desperately remembers the time in his childhood when he was truly happy. I wonder if such a time existed in Johnny’s mind.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    I hoped for better. This is not a biography of Johnny since it starts at the height of Johnny's success. It's really a memoir of the author, Johnny's lawyer, of his time working with Johnny. The subjects are primarily Johnny's marriages and entertainment contracts. In fact, the first 25% of the book is only about Johnny's second marriage's divorce and the beginning of his third marriage. Then the author turns to the new contracts he developed for Johnny and the sleazy life of Johnny (and the aut I hoped for better. This is not a biography of Johnny since it starts at the height of Johnny's success. It's really a memoir of the author, Johnny's lawyer, of his time working with Johnny. The subjects are primarily Johnny's marriages and entertainment contracts. In fact, the first 25% of the book is only about Johnny's second marriage's divorce and the beginning of his third marriage. Then the author turns to the new contracts he developed for Johnny and the sleazy life of Johnny (and the author, who let his marriage break up over being Johnny's nursemaid). There is no real insight into Johnny's talent, how it was developed, who discovered it, etc - all the stuff you'd expect in a real biography except a few comments about how nasty Johnny's mother was. Indeed, it's strange that his friend and attorney would write this book because it seems to betray all the confidences of a good friend and personal attorney, stressing the negative instead of the positive except for a few good jokes. But then at the end the author explains that Johnny dumped him and hurt him, which then colors the truth of everything you just read though if Johnny was as nasty as the book says, he certainly was a sad figure. I didn't particularly like the book or learn from it but stayed with it because my family has Johnny fans who were curious enough to want to finish it. If you like entertainment law or reading about the sleazy life of a very rich and very famous star, then you might like it.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sunny Shore

    A light little read about Johnny Carson that didn't satisfy. I had heard he was a rotten person and this really backed it up. Henry Bushkin was a money grubbing, fame seeking young lawyer when he met Carson and became part of his entourage. Carson pretty much said "jump" and Bushkin said "how high"? However, Bushkin says he loved the guy - they did have a falling out with money, etc. and eventually the friendship ended just like most relationships Carson had. Sad man, but haunted by demons of hi A light little read about Johnny Carson that didn't satisfy. I had heard he was a rotten person and this really backed it up. Henry Bushkin was a money grubbing, fame seeking young lawyer when he met Carson and became part of his entourage. Carson pretty much said "jump" and Bushkin said "how high"? However, Bushkin says he loved the guy - they did have a falling out with money, etc. and eventually the friendship ended just like most relationships Carson had. Sad man, but haunted by demons of his youth, which I would've liked to know more about as well as his first marriage. However, he treated people like dirt while being loved by the entire country as they watched the Tonight Show for about 30 years as the host. Talented and funny man who hid behind a mask. Bushkin even sold his wife down the river to spend his time with Carson, carousing with other women. I found Bushkin to be too much of a name dropper and a showoff, so the book had little appeal for me. It was also less about Johnny Carson and more about television in the 70's and 80's. It was a page turner , but I was looking forward to the conclusion, so I could go onto something with more substance.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Still

    Terrific read for anyone old enough to have been able to appreciate what a rare talent Carson was as host of a tv talk show. Review to follow. Well ... if it's a review you want check out my updates. I do want to clarify/correct one important fact I got wrong in one of the updates. The former Carson wife who cared for Truman Capote in his fading months was Joanne -wife #2- NOT Joanna -wife #3-. All that vampire ever did was teach Johnny the difference between Boone's Farm and Château Haut-Brion and Terrific read for anyone old enough to have been able to appreciate what a rare talent Carson was as host of a tv talk show. Review to follow. Well ... if it's a review you want check out my updates. I do want to clarify/correct one important fact I got wrong in one of the updates. The former Carson wife who cared for Truman Capote in his fading months was Joanne -wife #2- NOT Joanna -wife #3-. All that vampire ever did was teach Johnny the difference between Boone's Farm and Château Haut-Brion and how to over-bid on a Picasso at a Sotheby's free-for-all. This book is best taken in stiff little shots -no beer chaser. The vignettes are just dandy if at times a tad tawdry but when Bushkin goes defending an honor (his own) he feels was impugned wrongly in previous books about Johnny Carson the going gets froggy. Hardboiled/Pulp fans will like one aspect of this memoir: Johnny sure gets beat up a lot. Quick wit - no moves.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    I guess that old adage about knowing your heroes holds true. I knew Johnny wasn't a peach but holy moly! Am just not sure this book really needed to be written. About 3/4 through I realized I was really repulsed by all of the main players: Johnny, his 3rd wife & his lawyer (the author). The lawyer excused his infidelity with a "That's what Johnny expected, so..." And the 3rd wife - she would receive expensive jewelry after a fight with Carson, wear them a few times, return them to the jeweler & I guess that old adage about knowing your heroes holds true. I knew Johnny wasn't a peach but holy moly! Am just not sure this book really needed to be written. About 3/4 through I realized I was really repulsed by all of the main players: Johnny, his 3rd wife & his lawyer (the author). The lawyer excused his infidelity with a "That's what Johnny expected, so..." And the 3rd wife - she would receive expensive jewelry after a fight with Carson, wear them a few times, return them to the jeweler & then STASH THE CASH. Oh and Johnny's vindictiveness was just unbelievable. Just some really selfish, petty & lousy people on the whole. Not really worth the time unless you dislike Carson & want that to be confirmed.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rob Eelkema

    Johnny Carson was someone who everybody watched no matter how old or young you were. His delivery was impeccable and his side kick Ed McMahon and Ed’s laugh was ingrained in your head. My thoughts and feelings of Johnny were much different from starting the book to finishing the book. Johnny was a dick simply put. I always feel that If someone is really good at something they are lacking in other areas of their life. People are never good at everything. Johnny had his hang ups and his mom did a Johnny Carson was someone who everybody watched no matter how old or young you were. His delivery was impeccable and his side kick Ed McMahon and Ed’s laugh was ingrained in your head. My thoughts and feelings of Johnny were much different from starting the book to finishing the book. Johnny was a dick simply put. I always feel that If someone is really good at something they are lacking in other areas of their life. People are never good at everything. Johnny had his hang ups and his mom did a number on him. The perspective of his lawyer and “mess cleaner upper” was enlightening and very well written. Johnny was needy and he required constant attention which could be nauseating. His relationship with his boys was non existent and that was sad. He died alone and without much fan fare but made a big mark on late night TV and set the bar high for those to come after him. Highly recommend the book

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Before I read this book, I imagined Johnny Carson to be a much more genial figure. I think this author who had an inside look at the public and personal life of Johnny has done a good job of portraying the actual kind of man he was. He acknowledges all the reasons for this and the sadness it gives the author. It was an interesting book and I believe it accomplished what the author set out to do.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Richard Guion

    This book has all the inside dirt and gossipy details a Tonight Show fan could ask for. Johnny Carson was one of the greatest TV personalities of all time - I watched the Tonight Show from the 1970s to Carson's final show on May 22, 1992. No one's come close to having his wit or style. As this book details, written by his lawyer of 18 years, Henry Bushkin - Carson wasn't a very happy man and died alone. He was a wild womanizer, probably an alcoholic, with a mean streak that could turn on a dime. This book has all the inside dirt and gossipy details a Tonight Show fan could ask for. Johnny Carson was one of the greatest TV personalities of all time - I watched the Tonight Show from the 1970s to Carson's final show on May 22, 1992. No one's come close to having his wit or style. As this book details, written by his lawyer of 18 years, Henry Bushkin - Carson wasn't a very happy man and died alone. He was a wild womanizer, probably an alcoholic, with a mean streak that could turn on a dime. Is this surprising at all? Not so much, if you knew anything about Carson, you were aware of his problems with marriage (being divorced 3 times, a subject he often mentioned on the Tonight Show) and that he caroused with various Hollywood stars. He openly flirted with ladies like Angie Dickinson and Ann-Margaret. I knew he had problems relating to his children after witnessing a tribute to his departed son Rick in 1991. It doesn't really cheapen or take away from his accomplishments in TV; Johnny was just part of that post WW 2 era Mad Men generation. Bushkin's tale of how he met Carson and got involved with breaking into Joanne Carson's love nest really sets the stage for what is to come. More than just Carson's lawyer, Bushkin became his one-man entourage, his tennis partner, go-between, etc. When NBC moves Carson from New York to Los Angeles, Bushkin receives a prince of a deal from Johnny to move his family out as well. Carson absorbs so much of Bushkin's life that he loses his first marriage - although he goes on to date Joyce DeWitt (Three's Company) and Mary Hart (Entertainment Tonight). Bushkin saves Carson from financial ruin and negotiates deals that make Carson one of the richest men in Hollywood. Yet, when their relationship is severed, Bushkin pays a heavy financial price. Would love for this to be made into a movie with Kevin Spacey playing Carson. He does a killer impression of him already.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Victor Carson

    As a Carson who is unfortunately not related to Johnny, and as an adult who grew up watching Jack Parr and, then, Johnny Carson, I jumped at the chance to read an account of Johnny’s life from the real insider, “Bombastic” Henry Bushkin. I was not disappointed. Bushkin was Johnny’s lawyer, confidante, business manager, and “best friend”, according to Johnny himself, for over twenty years. Carson fired Bushkin and accused him of malpractice when the relationship ended, shortly after Johnny’s four As a Carson who is unfortunately not related to Johnny, and as an adult who grew up watching Jack Parr and, then, Johnny Carson, I jumped at the chance to read an account of Johnny’s life from the real insider, “Bombastic” Henry Bushkin. I was not disappointed. Bushkin was Johnny’s lawyer, confidante, business manager, and “best friend”, according to Johnny himself, for over twenty years. Carson fired Bushkin and accused him of malpractice when the relationship ended, shortly after Johnny’s fourth marriage, but Bushkin was exonerated in court and the acrimonious ending of the relationship does not appear to color Bushkin’s portrayal. The good and the bad and the sad are covered in a very even-handed manner. While the story of Johnny the comedian is not meant to be very funny, Bushkin’s description of Carson’s divorces, professional-sports level of sexual infidelity, love and hate for his mother and father, and dread of being committed to any relationship for a set period of time, will provoke a certain measure of sad laughter from many readers. Who among us would abandon weekend gigs in Las Vegas that earned Johnny $250,000 per week? Johnny did not need the money. Who could pay a divorce settlement of $35 million dollars to a third wife? That Johnny died alone in 2005 is sad, but he lived the high life while he could. What other Carsons might do the same if given the chance, and the arrogance?

  30. 5 out of 5

    Don Massenzio

    When I was a kid, I remember sneaking out to the television to watch Johnny Carson. It wasn't "The Tonight Show" in my mind, it was "The Johnny Carson Show". Johnny had his finger on the pulse of what was happening in the country and 15-20 million viewers wanted to here his opinions and laugh at his jokes every night. This book, by his attorney and confidante of 20 years, Henry Bushkin, gives a bit more insight into the man. The book portrays the many conflicts in Johnny Carson. He could be conc When I was a kid, I remember sneaking out to the television to watch Johnny Carson. It wasn't "The Tonight Show" in my mind, it was "The Johnny Carson Show". Johnny had his finger on the pulse of what was happening in the country and 15-20 million viewers wanted to here his opinions and laugh at his jokes every night. This book, by his attorney and confidante of 20 years, Henry Bushkin, gives a bit more insight into the man. The book portrays the many conflicts in Johnny Carson. He could be concerned about money and then not concerned at all. He could be generous and then question people who might be freeloading in his entourage. While Carson referred to Bushkin as his best friend, the relationship described in the book says otherwise. Bushkin describes being on call to Carson 24 hours per day which cost him his own marriage. Bushkin tries to reflect on this and, when reading between the lines, there is a tone of blame against Carson for the misfortune encountered by Bushkin. As a reader, however, it seems that Bushkin was in awe of his client and enjoyed the overflow of Johnny's lavish lifestyle. It is hard to feel sorry for Bushkin who, at times, uses his book as a way to atone for his mistakes wile rationalizing them. Overall, the book is a quick read with additional insight into this complex man who enjoyed entertaining on his own terms but loathed the business of entertainment.

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