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Johnny Carson Hardcover – October 15, 2013

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Editorial Reviews Review

Featured Photos of Johnny Carson

Johnny Carson with Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra and Johnny Carson during rehearsals for the 1981 Reagan Inaugural Gala.
Bushkin's Aston Martin and Carson's Daimler limo
Henry Bushkin’s Aston Martin, with the Daimler limo behind it that Johnny Carson drove to London, shirtless, during a horrible heat wave.
Carson and Bushkin on a cruise
Johnny Carson and Henry Bushkin during a 1981 cruise to the Greek isles.

From Booklist

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. Notorious for keeping his distance from one and all, even those he purportedly loved, Carson was perhaps closest to Henry Bushkin, his lawyer and consigliere for 18 years, from 1970 to 1988; the relationship ended badly, but Bushkin—self-described as Carson’s “lawyer, counselor, partner, employee, business advisor, earpiece, mouthpiece, enforcer, running buddy, tennis pal, drinking and dining companion, and foil”—may be the one living person capable of giving readers at least a glimpse of the man behind the genial, oh-so-smooth mask. Naturally, there is more than one man back there. Carson, Bushkin says, “was endlessly witty and enormously fun to be around,” but he also could be “the nastiest son of a bitch on earth.” The text provides multiple examples of both sides of Carson’s Mr. Hyde personality, but, of course, it is the petulant, boozing, womanizing Johnny that will draw the most attention: throwing tantrums over perceived slights at Ronald Reagan’s inauguration, at having to wait for a suite at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, at Joan Rivers’ decision to launch a competing late-night show without first informing Carson, and, above all, at his mother’s refusal to acknowledge both Carson’s success and his lavish gifts to her (his mother’s coldness, Bushkin and many others believe, was at the root of Carson’s own iciness in personal relationships). 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: how a young entertainment lawyer fell into a honey pot but became stuck in the sweetness, obsessed with trying to keep his client “happy” while his own personal life and marriage tumbled into disarray. What would Carson have made of this book? Perhaps he might have recognized Bushkin’s undying regard, even love, for his former running buddy, but more likely, Bad Johnny would have quoted from his Tonight Show character Carnac the Magnificent: “May a love-starved fruit fly molest your sister’s nectarines.” --Bill Ott

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Edition edition (October 15, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0544217624
  • ISBN-13: 978-0544217621
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2,000 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #30,395 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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

He has practiced law for over three decades, and he has also represented international clients building business ventures throughout Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, Italy, Central Asia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Kirghiz Republic and China.

*Photograph Sylvan Mason

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

87 of 91 people found the following review helpful By T. I. Farmer on October 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Perhaps the saddest Hollywood bio in recent memory, Henry Bushkin's "Johnny Carson" paints a vivid picture of a kind of genius savant. Johnny was a brilliant live broadcaster. He was not much good at anything else. Bushkin was Carson's personal attorney and business advisor in the 1970s and 80s and saw every private wart there was to see. With a thoroughness that makes you wonder whatever happened to attorney-client privilege, Bushkin spills everything, and for the reader the cringes outnumber the laughs.

We have heard for years that Carson was aloof, demanding, and harsh -- but never read proof like this. As his fame and power grew so did his ego, and his suspicion of everyone around him, from NBC, to friends and family, and eventually Bushkin himself.

Carson nursed a terrifying, irrational hair-trigger temper and numberless grudges. It is difficult to square our memories of the genial, gracious late-night star who chatted up tourists playing "Stump the Band" with Bushkin's portrait of the compulsive, drunken womanizer who nearly got himself rubbed out for trying to take a Mob figure's girl to bed. Or the lunatic egomaniac who required a personal apology from President Reagan after his equally out-of-balance wife Joanna dissolved into hysterics over the location of her seat at Reagan's inaugural celebration.

"He's insane," Bushkin says he muttered to a companion after a Carson outburst ruined a vacation on a luxury yacht in the Mediterranean, and as you read Bushkin's account you will come to think so too. He forces you to reappraise Johnny even if you revered his work on TV.
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244 of 275 people found the following review helpful By Richardson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
And I loved Johnny Carson. Perhaps like any aging baby boomer, or anyone from most any generation , we think what we had was the best. When it comes to late night TV hacks, er hosts, I think they all fall far below Johnny Carson. The documentary that came out a bit back Johnny Carson: King of Late Night [HD] was terrific and only increased my appetite for more. Sadly there aren't any really good books about the King of Late night that I could find. One author , Bill Zehme , that they interview on the documentary has allegedly written a book that has been delayed for years and I hear could be the basis for a movie, but it is odd that the "biographer" on the excellent documentary has yet to publish same? I do find it interesting that for a guy as huge as Johnny was the dearth of literary material about his life and years at the top of the entertainment industry is remarkable and only ads to the enigma that continues to be Johnny Carson.

Well.. when I was offered the early read of this book I jumped at the opportunity, not because it was a book about Carson but I recognized the author's name , Henry Bushkin. You can't have watched the Tonight Show and not remembered Johnny talking about his lawyer "Bombastic Bushkin".... so I was thinking just maybe a real book by a real insider. I should also add at this point that I'm not looking for "dirt" on Johnny, just something, anything , beyond the stage of the Tonight Show.

This was easily the quickest 300 pages I've ever turned, one sitting, and I'm sad it wasn't longer. Bushkin does dish some serious dirt at times but he doesn't do it in a mean spirited way.
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144 of 165 people found the following review helpful By wogan TOP 500 REVIEWER on August 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Henry Bushkin was a new lawyer, just starting out when he fell into the job of being Johnny Carson's lawyer.
He became his friend, his confidant, professional advisor and more. He has a high regard for Johnny despite a multitude of incidents and actions that would have made many leave. He does admit he was attracted to the money and the power and the nearness to fame. He consistently describes Johnny as the most talented and powerful man in show business and gives him credit for formulating the late night show style with desk and announcing guests - despite the fact that Jack Parr did it years before.

Buskin's stories and life with Johnny are both fun and awful. Carson was, if nothing else volatile and admitted he could not love, which he blamed on his mother.
For all of Buskin's help and strategizing and solving many of Johnny's problems, much of the book is about Bushkin too - he was intertwined with Carson for so many years. He finds much of what Carson does funny and even acceptable...peeing in a wine bucket at a Friar's roast and his serial womanizing. There are blunt observations on Johnny's drinking and his love life. We are also informed of the power and importance of Johnny Carson the star, with all his amazing influence and prestige and huge ego. Carson's cursing; bad sportsmanship on the tennis courts, his arrogance and nastiness is all described. Yet amazingly Bushkin still appreciates him, even with the tantrums and the inexplicable firings in this book.

We learn much about Johnny Carson and much about Henry Bushkin. Despite the fact much of Carson's behavior and actions leave a bad taste one can still see his talent and why so many still adore and admire the man in this easy to read and compelling book.
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