“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.
A few years later, Johnny sent his parents around the world on a cruise to mark one of their wedding anniversaries. It was a forty- seven-day trip, with all accommodations entirely first class. Johnny even gave them an American Express card to cover anything they wanted to buy. “Dad,” he said “use the card for everything you buy on the trip. It’s all on me.’’ A lot of us fantasize about being able to give our parents a gift as wonderful.
Johnny never heard from them during the trip. Every few days he would bring up the fact that they had not called. “Can you believe it? Not a goddamn word. I send them on a trip of a lifetime and they don’t call. ‘This continued on for the month and a half that they were gone.
Johnny knew exactly when they would be arriving back in Scottsdale. Days passed, and he still hadn’t heard from them. Furious at their lack of fundamental courtesy, he finally called them. His dad answered. “How was the trip?” Johnny asked.
“Hold on, son,’’ his father responded blandly. “I’ll get your mother on the line.”
“All she said when she picked up the phone,’’ Johnny reported later, “was ‘Well, son, we are so happy to be home.’ That was it! No talk about the sights they saw, no comments on the food or rooms, no comments even about the weather! And certainly no thanks!’’ As before, Johnny laughed at his mother’s rudeness, but he didn’t really find it funny.
Another time, Johnny sent his mother a mink coat for her birthday. This time mom called to say she was sending it back. “It’s too fancy for Nebraska,” she explained, adding that better than a fur coat would be spending the winter in a warmer climate.”That led to Johnny buying his folks a home in Scottsdale, Arizona. It would be nice to say that this made Ruth happy, but nothing did. The best that can be said is that she and Homer moved there, and that she didn’t complain.
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.
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