Book Review: Johnny Carson

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Book Title: Johnny Carson

Author: Henry Bushkin

Genre: Nonfiction – Biography

Rating (out of 5 stars): StarStar

This memoir was packed with juicy tidbits into the King of Late Night’s personal life.

Johnny Carson was a uniquely interesting man.  He was charming yet volatile.  He had a combination of ego and insecurity that kept him unpredictable to wives and friends. The author portrays the Carson as a man who was naïve enough to have been taken advantage of by unethical managers, lawyers, and television moguls. Bushkin also made sure we understood that Johnny was both a harsh son of a bitch and an insecure, needy juvenile.   In the short time it took to read this book, the author replaced the dream of the smooth host of late night TV with a more seemly depiction of Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde.

While this was a fascinating perception into the life Johnny Carson, it felt more like the autobiography of Henry Bushkin.

Bushkin takes us through his years as Johnny’s personal lawyer.  He highlighted that the role also included agent, confidant, business manager, tennis partner, and drinking buddy. Bushkin provided abundant detail on the complications surrounding the management of Johnny’s affairs. Yet for the most part, he presented himself as the observer or unwilling partner of Johnny’s less than stellar behavior. This made the book feel more like a tale of how much it took for the author to be a 24/7 friend and confidant to the giant Carson. Bushkin seemed very proud of humble servitude, his martyrdom.

If book was presented in a more honest vane, as the autobiography of Johnny Carson’s attorney and friend rather than the biography of Carson himself, I would have been far less skeptical of the material presented. It became painfully evident that Bushkin was only giving us a view that would best illustrate how hard he worked and how much he gave up for Johnny Carson. It’s probably all truth, but it’s truth from only one perspective. If nothing else, it makes me want to read another biography of Carson, just to get a second point of view.


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