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.
I love listening to books when cycling, paddleboarding, etc but I press pause when I need to concentrate. Its safer & I don't lose the plot!
I’ve listened to 130 Audible books so far, and this one was only my fourth biography/autobiography, the other 3 being Winston Churchill, David Attenborough and Tiger Woods. Those 3 people don’t have very much in common and my fourth choice, Johnny Carson, doesn’t help to establish a pattern.
I don’t know what made me choose this book. I have never seen the ‘Tonight’ show and am (or was) very unfamiliar with Johnny Carson’s work, but something tempted me and I bought the book, and enjoyed it thoroughly.
Johnny’s story is told from the perspective of his lawyer. Henry Bushkin. When Bushkin met Carson he was a young man just starting out in his career, and he was flattered and astonished when Carson decided to put his faith in him and appoint Bushkin as his attorney. Bushkin is modest and doesn’t sing his own praises too loudly, but he must have been a brilliant lawyer because he sorted out Carson’s perilous financial position and dismissed all the parasites who had been exploiting Carson. Bushkin then became Carson’s Everything-Man, sorting out all Johnny’s personal and professional problems, which were manifold.
Why did Carson have so many problems for Bushkin to solve? Because, although he was charming, witty, handsome and a great talk-show host, he was an utterly selfish egomaniac. He was a hedonist who drank heavily, smoked four packets of cigarettes every day and had casual sex with countless women. He enjoyed being rich but didn’t like to put much effort into the lucrative business interests supplementing his income, such as posing for photographs advertising the range of clothing bearing his name. Johnny’s amoral lifestyle created lots of problems which Bushkin solved resourcefully and tactfully until he eventually grew tired of the role after 18 years, when they parted acrimoniously.
Was Johnny Carson all bad? Not quite. He would occasionally do an impulsive good deed and could be very generous, but instances of brutal nastiness are more the norm according to Bushkin’s account of their time together. This book is a fascinating insight into the relationship between 2 very interesting people.
Typical uncontainable lawyer. Greedy and jealous to the extreme. To ridicule a person who has brought so much enjoyment to MILLIONS all over the world and Millions$$$ to this creep who screwed up, by going to an Alexis cohort or just stupid judgement of not doing what he was being paid to do is dam lucky to wind up with so much $$$$, but I guess it wasn't enough so now he will make more from this stupid novel. If it wasn't for JOHNY where would this newbie lawyer have gone? I know the user who introduced him to JOHNY they make a great pair!
Excellent listen. Narrator was terrific. Makes you consider how one spends his or her few short years on earth no matter how "successful" in the world you think you are.
Excerpts from The Johnny Carson Show. There may have been some but I stopped listening.
It was not interesting to me.
Most likely not
It is more of a my life with Johnny than a book directly about Johnny. It does not cover his rise to fame or much of early life. It does not cover his final years either.
While it does not cover some of those key items most people would be looking for from a book about Johnny, it is a very interesting character study and I enjoyed the narrator & story. I would recommend this book but you should know what you are getting.
Great read and exciting story. Author was very candid about highs and lows which doesn't happen too often in books like these.
Henry Bushkin's biography of JohnnyCarson is both funny and tragic and yet incredibly interesting to listen to. It's read by the author who has an excellent voice and holds our attention. As a huge fan of The Tonight Show and as someone who was fascinated by Carson's personality growing up, this book is a wonderful way to relive the 60's, 70's and 80's!
It provides interesting information about Carson but too much about Bushkin himself.
Not a good actor.
Who would be the main character, Bushkin or Carson?
The book is worthwhile but should not be presented as a biography of Carson. It is a memoir of one person's years with Carson.
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