by Henry Bushkin
By now I should have learned this lesson: Whenever I pick up a book about a celebrity I’ve admired, I am likely to wind up disillusioned with said celebrity. Exhibit A: I read a biography of Bob Hope a couple of years ago. Since then, I have a hard time watching Hope’s movies without wondering which of his comely co-stars the sexually predacious comedian was bedding – or at least trying to bed – while upholding his image as a wholesome family man. Johnny Carson, penned by longtime Carson lawyer/playmate Henry Bushkin, is another depressing read – although it’s undeniably juicy.
Pros: 1) Bushkin’s split with Carson 25 years ago was not amicable, but his account of their 18 years together seems fair and balanced. 2) If you are seeking dirt, Bushkin doesn’t hold back on stories about Carson’s peevish moods, drunken brawls, and countless extramarital flings. 3) The author’s theory about what motivated (and tormented) Carson – an emotionally cold mother – appears plausible.
Cons: 1) When you buy a book about the undisputed king of late-night TV, I don’t think it’s asking too much to expect a few anecdotes about The Tonight Show itself. But Bushkin is far more interested in high-stakes contract negotiations with NBC than with Hollywood gossip. 2) Seriously, no more than a few brief mentions of Ed McMahon? That’s like writing a book about Abbott and Costello and omitting Costello.
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