Lawyer writes tell-all book about his life with late-night TV king Johnny Carson
Posted Oct 21, 2013 3:11 PM CST
By Martha Neil
Henry Bushkin was a junior attorney at an entertainment law firm when he first met Johnny Carson, far from an obvious choice of counsel for a man who could afford pretty much whatever he wanted.
But the NBC late-night entertainment show host took a shine to the 27-year-old, and wound up using him as his personal lawyer, confidant, wingman and tennis partner for nearly two decades, from 1970 to 1988. Then, encouraged by his fourth wife, who disliked Bushkin, Carson fired Bushkin over a business matter, as the attorney tells the story. After Carson died in 2005, Bushkin began writing a book about his onetime client and mentor that seemingly pulls no punches.
“The question that people most frequently ask me is what was Johnny really like. They are usually happy to hear the first part of my answer: he was endlessly witty and enormously fun to be around," Bushkin writes. "Their interest flags when I add that he could also be the nastiest son of a bitch on earth. The truth is that he was an incredibly complex man: one moment gracious, funny, and generous; and curt, aloof and hard-hearted in the next.”
The Associated Press, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) are among the publications that review the book. All describe a compelling and unusually candid account of the life of a man who did what he did in front of the television camera about as well as it can be done, yet struggled in his private life to enjoy the riches that life offered him.
Bushkin writes in the book that an early assignment that helped prove his mettle involved joining a pistol-packing Carson and others in a raid on a secret love nest shared by the entertainer's then-wife (two more followed) and sportscaster Frank Gifford. Carson cried as he realized he and his wife were at the end of the road on their marriage, then quipped: "Joanne has broken my heart ... to the extent that I even have one."
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