Thursday, August 20, 2015

Johnny Carson

by Henry Bushkin
Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013. 304 pgs. Biography

Johnny Carson was the king of late night TV from 1962 to 1992. A frequent question during those years was “did you see Carson last night?” Charming and funny, Johnny was the best. This biography picks up when Johnny hires Henry Bushkin to be his lawyer in 1970 and continues through the life of their working relationship. Bushkin was not just Johnny’s attorney, but also his tennis partner, business advisor, fixer, confidante, and best friend. In some ways he probably knew Johnny better than Johnny knew Johnny.

A bundle of contradictions, Johnny Carson was preeminently successful as a comedian and talk show host, but detested small talk with people and was remarkably unsuccessful in most all of his business ventures outside of the Tonight Show. Comfortable with an audience he hated social gatherings. He was demanding, inscrutable, and cruel. He was also extremely generous and caring. Carson was complex and Bushkin does a good job telling the story, explaining some of the mystery, and sharing some laughs along the way.


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