The question that people most frequently ask me is what Johnny was really like. They are usually happy to hear the first part of the answer: he was endlessly witty and enormously fun to be around. Their interest flags when I get to the second part, 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. Never have I met a man possessed of a greater abundance of social gifts—intelligence, looks, manners, style, humor—and never have I met a man with less aptitude for and an even lesser interest in maintaining real relationships. But to understand Johnny in his complexity is to first understand his artistry and the esteem in which he was held. It is not an easy thing to do. If we were to talk about a great movie actor, it would be simpler: his transformation into his character would be evident; the range of behavior he depicts would be obvious; the subtlety and nuance of the human experience that he illustrates would grab you by the throat. But what Johnny seemed to do was more commonplace. He came out and told a few jokes. He then kidded with Ed (McMahon) and Doc (Severinsen), played a game with the audience or per- formed in a ridiculous skit, and then made chitchat with celebrities. And it was the same thing, every night. What was so damn special about that?
"A Hard Act to Follow," is a non-fiction literary account of Henry Bushkin's tenure as Johnny Carson's lawyer, business partner, and friend. The book gives genuine insight into the 'Carson behind Johnny' with candid personal vignettes about the two, during the rollicking years when Johnny was the undisputed king of television. This is an engaging, eye-opening, anecdote-packed story about a young lawyer and his client, one of the biggest celebrities in the country. This funny, unfiltered account gives readers a look at the Johnny Carson that none but a select few really knew.
“A Hard Act to Follow” by Henry Bushkin provides a stirring account into Johnny Carson’s world—as told by Carson’s closest confidant.
The New Yorker article by Kenneth Tynan from 1978, included the following question and answer:
Tynan: When you’re at home, whom do you entertain?
Carson: My lawyer, Henry Bushkin, who’s probably my best friend.
Praise for the Book"I loved the book." ~Wayne Newton
"Henry was Johnny's closest friend for many years which becomes clear through many of the wonderful chapters of the book." ~Bob Trapenberg
"The book is full of tough love, humor, cultural history, sadness, humor, love, loss, well I guess I am saying it is full of life." ~Rupert Garcia
" Henry's portrayal of Johnny was spot on. I highly recommend this book which is the closest the reader will ever get to know the real Carson." ~ Ed Weinberger, former Tonight Show writer and Producer for Carson Productions
"A beautifully easy read that pulls you in to an effortless journey through Johnny Carson’s effortful life. The glamour the fellow celebrities behind the curtain, the loyalties, and the betrayals. It certainly provides new insight on decisions and the lives that are behind the scenes." ~Kathy Davis, Kathy Takes on Books
"I have read this book and it is FAB! If you love reading about celebrities, this is awesome. It is also a great memoir as well. I am a huge memoir fan so this one was a real treat and one of the best I have read in this genre in a long time" ~Mary, Bookhounds Blog
"Bushkin's easy, unpretentious style allows the reader to be a fly on the wall as this inside story plays out in the rarified air on which Johnny thrived. "A HARD ACT TO FOLLOW" is a must read whether you grew up on Johnny or never heard of him. And then there are the supporting characters -- from the Rat Pack to Johnny's Ice Queen mother ranging around the pages disturbing the peace. I read it straight through in 90 minutes and was left wanting more." ~Sandy Ignon, Screenwriter (RANSOM).
"The tales are epic in nature and stretch from the first page to the last. “A Hard Act to Follow” is an honest appraisal of Carson and shows his dark side. In this, Bushkin strikes the right blend of salacious detail with an appropriate dose of discretion. Sure, you’ll learn more detail about Carson’s marriages-- in a tasteful way. Bushkin will leave you wanting more. Great books will do that." ~Barry Mordis, Senior VP at Merryl-Lynch
"No one would describe Johnny as easy going-there was an edge to him that Bushkin always managed to soften. He continues to do that in this book. There was that challenging side of Johnny which is also captured in the book. Henry was Johnny's closest friend for many years which becomes clear through many of the wonderful chapters of the book. All in all a great book to read." ~Bob Trapenberg, Johnny's former Tennis Pro.
Author Henry Bushkin
Henry Bushkin is an experienced lawyer who practices in both California and New York. He currently lives in Los Angeles where his children also reside.