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Johnny Carson

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  7,496 ratings  ·  866 reviews
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
Kindle Edition, 304 pages
Published October 15th 2013 by Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2013)
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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
Nov 04, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Dec 21, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
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.
JoAnne Pulcino
Nov 13, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

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.
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.
Dec 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: listened-to
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
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 ...more
Karin Slaughter
Nov 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 don't think Johnny would have liked the book, but I did.
Jun 26, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
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.
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 ...more
Oct 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
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 ...more
Oct 23, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pop-culture
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 ...more
Mar 01, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enough previously unpublished stories to be a worthwhile, quick read. Clarifies the Wayne Newton feud as well.
Dec 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jul 19, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir-biography
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 ...more
Sunny Shore
Oct 24, 2013 rated it it was ok
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 ...more
Nov 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 09, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 & ...more
Richard Guion
Jan 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014-to-read
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. ...more
Victor Carson
Oct 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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 ...more
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 ...more
Mike Reuther
Jan 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, nonfiction
This revealing look into the life of Johnny Carson makes it clear that there was much more to this larger than life man than his television audience saw during the many years he was host of the popular Tonight Show. The author worked for 18 years as Carson's attorney, but makes it clear that his duties stretched much further than that of providing legal counsel. Serving as Carson's friend, tennis partner and confidante, he got to know the late comedian perhaps better than anyone. Bushkin shows t ...more
Oct 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Johnny Carson" is not a biography in the traditional sense, but a memoir of attorney Henry Buskin's relationship with Carson over a two-decade period. In this time, Bushkin served as Carson's lawyer and confidante, and this book reveals the entertainer's insecurities and sexual proclivities in great detail. You might read this book and come to the conclusion that two Johnny Carsons existed - the genial public persona people enjoyed nightly on TV, and a more private person who willingly excised ...more
Apr 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really liked this book, I think in part because I remember the era it covers. I don't have to look up who Joyce DeWitt was, and I vividly remember watching Johnny Carson hold up an issue of the National Enquirer as he called them liars and dared them to come after him for slander. So to read the behind-the-scenes stuff--such as that the Enquirer was completely right about the state of Carson's third marriage--was quite entertaining, and I zipped through this book in about three days. The autho ...more
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