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 27) until the moment 18 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.
©2013 Henry Bushkin (P)2013 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
The book is punctuated with memorable moments. Moments that depict Johnny Carson as a mean vindictive person one moment and a smiling king of late night TV the next. It is interesting to watch Johnny change.
I regularly watched "The Tonight Show" and enjoyed learning about the whys and wherefores of backstage intrigue but was particularly stuck by the events leading up to and after President Reagan's inaugural celebrations. I dare say we would never know about the inner life of Johnny Carson without Henry Bushkin's presence.
I always loved Johnny Carson's life and career. Knowing what I know now, I am a little more guarded in my appreciation of Carson's life. He was obviously very talented and respected but he was also a devious heavy handed manager of his product. Undoubtedly it would never have been so successful without his hand on the wheel guiding every aspect of its success.
Bushkin was there for just about every major moment of Carson's career. As his best friend and personal advisor, he holds back nothing. He doesn't hesitate to share the good with the bad and points out Carson's shortcomings from his early days while still celebrating his many notable successes.
Talented, intelligent, and psycho.
The writer seemed to be honest with his story.
Several really. Possibly a scene with Carson, some criminal types, and a few cops breaking into his wife's secret apartment. Breaking into her apartment Johnny learned a number of facts about his wife he did not like.
I would have if time permitted.
Very interesting man. I am thankful I did not know him.
Bushkin provided an interesting narrative about Carson, his life and the entertainment world he lived in. But at times, I couldn't help wondering if Bushkin should have kept some of his grievances to himself, given his long personal and professional relationship with Carson. Still, it was a good listen, even though the narrator's voice got annoying at times.
The story would have been better if it was more about Johnny Carson and less about Henry Bushkin. It just seemed like a chance for Mr. Bushkin to write his autobiography and get people to read it when they never would have by putting Johnnies name on it
This book contains a number of interesting anecdotes, stories and insights; however, it is poorly written and terribly narrated. It is the self-aggrandizing story of someone who was in the right place at the right time, initially did a good job, and finally grew "too big for his britches."
As a veteran of the Hollywood Hustle, Henry's detailed account of the "business" of the Business rings all too true for me. The back story often has little to do with the entertainment we experience on screen. As long as Johnny was the "Tonight Show" I watched it religiously...and I was rarely disappointed in its contents. This book is a "buddy" story told by a caring friend and former employee who honors the subject with his candor, and the accuracy of 20/20 hindsight. By the end of the book, you too will miss the King of night time television all over again.
Chris Abraham is a leading expert in digital: online reputation management (ORM), Internet privacy, social media marketing, and digital PR w
My buddy David Gelles recommended this book. The recommendation was random from such a young man and also because I had never mentioned Johnny Carson before. The Tonight Show was the background music of my entire growing up -- Carson and David Letterman. While I turned on Late Night with David Letterman on my own, my mom and dad watched the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and so the memories of the man were shallow and woven into family time (yes, either my parents stayed up late or maybe they broadcast it earlier in Hawaii). And, I loved the wry and oddly-sharp-dressed man. His hi-jinx and charm. This book dirties this a little bit, since Carson was both the worst of the worst when it came to living the high-life as well as loyal and strangely Midwestern. Henry Bushkin, Carson's lawyer and best friend for 17 or so years, opened the door on all of his skeletons, revealing so many insights into his life that Johnny Carson, the private man that he was, would probably be completely freaked and offended while also being touched. And, in the end, you both revile and admire the man. It's a good book. Henry Bushkin does a very good job and making what could be very much an insider's book, written only for the Hollywood set, into a very readable and accessible book. Entertaining, even. And, what's more: you also get a side-glance at quite a few other people, relationships, stars, and starlets (to Kathie Lee's chagrin). I wholly recommend this book. I read it as an audiobook and the voice actor was very good. With his tone and cadence, it really felt like it could have been Henry Bushkin reading. Thanks, Mr. Gelles.
70 year old grandmother of 2 teenagers. Still working in real estate appraisal field, live in OH and SC - spend time listening & traveling.
I don't think so. Maybe in a year or two but most of it is still fresh in my mind. This book told me EVERYTHING about Johnny Carson I ever want to know.
It is a truly candid look at a man very few knew personally. Most of the books I have read are autobiographical and it's the writer "spilling the beans" about family, failures, embarassments, etc. This is a second person view of Carson but still shows an unvarnished side of the slick comedian, interviewer amd host. Lots of juicy stuff.
I forgot several times that it wasn't Mr. Bushkin telling the story. Dick Hill's voice isn't the most pleasant but he does sound as if he has actually lived the book and knew Carson very well. He really doesn't do characters.
NOT Mr. Nice Guy. Carson wasn't a very nice guy. His relationships with co-workers, family, wives, business partners were all surface and he just didn't like people much. He comes across as a cold, insecure, manipulative, ego-centric individual.
I understand why people wait until the subject they want to write about is dead. They are aware that they could only be truthful and honest if the subject was unable to retailiate.
The narrator was speaking in a pseudo-wise guy voice which made listening hard. Then its also not really about the life of Johnny Carson, I learned nothing about his early life and his art, all you get are the worst sides of his life during the time he was working with the author. The fact that the author was a lawyer should have been a tipoff.
Lawrence in Arabia
A different narrator who does not try to speak in a pseudo-wise guy voice.
Get another author who would write a real bio not character assassination and stories that make him seem more important than he was.
This book is not about Johnny Carson as its more about the authors life with Johnny Carson.
Interesting. Few people could ever write this story. Such a private man was Carson.
At first the readers performance was bordering on annoying until I got the idea that Carson's New York attorney may sound like this...then it seemed appropriate. Many interesting stories and you learned quite a bit more about one of this countries most popular entertainers. It was certainly a complicated personal and business relationship between the author and Carson it ended as strangely as it began...which could also be said of Johnny Carson's own life and certainly of many of his personal relationships. If you are curious about the life of Johnny Carson...this book should be very enlightening and is also very entertaining.
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