Johnny Carson Confidante and Book Author Reveals Carson's Discontent
INSIDE EDITION sat down with Henry Bushkin, Johnny Carson's longtime friend, for a glimpse into the very private side of the King of Late Night.
We're hearing for the first time from the author of the tell-all book, Johnny Carson that is shocking the nation.
Henry Bushkin was Carson's lawyer and closest confidante for 18 years. He's known to millions of Tonight show viewers by this memorable nickname: "Bombastic Bushkin."
INSIDE EDITION's Jim Moret asked Bushkin, "Do you think Johnny Carson was a happy person?"
"He would tell you he's not a happy guy. He would tell you, 'My personality is basically unhappy,' " said Bushkin.
Watch Bushkin Talk More About Carson
Bushkin is now pulling back the curtain on Johnny Carson's secret life, revealing his bitter relationship with his mother, Ruth. Carson's comment when she died: "The wicked witch is dead" and he refused to attend her funeral.
"His own mom never viewed him as a success?" asked Moret.
"It constantly got to him. Her, sort of lack of any sort of emotion towards him. And certainly, never giving him the great satisfaction of being the giant star he became," revealed Bushkin.
Bushkin says Carson—who was married four times—was a notorious womanizer and dated gorgeous actresses like Angie Dickinson and Ali MacGraw.
When Bushkin was dating Joyce DeWitt from Three's Company, he says Carson even tried to hit on her.
"He saw her as a very attractive girl that he would like to, let's say, get to know better," said Bushkin.
Carson once told Bushkin: "I'm a (blank). I have three kids with my first wife and I don't see any of them."
But when his son, Rick, died in a car crash in 1991, viewers saw a rare display of emotion from Carson when he said to viewers, "Well, first of all, I want to thank all of you. Very thoughtful and compassionate with your letters and it meant a great deal to me."
Carson's longtime executive producer Fred De Cordova gave him a sign to wrap it up because they were running out of time. The new book says Carson became so furious he "banned De Cordova from the floor of The Tonight Show set and never permitted him to return."
Carson possessed a volcanic temper, coupled with a serious drinking problem, and it was Bushkin's job to smooth over the King of Late Night's prickly personality.
"He had a hair trigger on many things. So, I think I added some humanity over the years to him that he couldn't really exhibit because of what he got from his mother," said Bushkin.
"He was an incredibly complex man," Bushkin writes. "One moment gracious, funny and generous; and curt, aloof and hard-hearted the next."
Bushkin himself faced Carson's wrath in 1981 when Carson actually fired him.
Carson had relunctantly agreed to emcee Ronald Reagan's inaugural festivities in 1981, but felt the event was an unmitigated disaster, and blamed Bushkin. It took a phone call from Ronald Reagan himself for Bushkin to get his job back.
Bushkin recalls, "He got a call from the President of the United States right after the inauguration in 1981 when he was dealing with the Iran hostage crisis, and he called Carson to apologize for several screw ups during that weekend, which I was blamed for. That got me off the hook when the president called and told him to give me a break."
Carson retired from The Tonight Show in 1992, at the height of his popularity. He was rarely seen in public again and Bushkin says that didn't surprise him.
"He essentially died alone, which is terribly sad, somewhat reminiscent of Citizen Kane," said Bushkin.
Now, this confidante of Johnny Carson is telling generations of TV viewers who stayed up late every night, what a television icon was really like.
Moret asked, "Do you miss him?"
"Sure, I miss times. I miss many times. And I don't miss many times," said Bushkin.
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