Blog Tour – Spotlight: A Hard Act to Follow by Henry Bushkin with a guest post and excerpt

A Hard Act to Follow 
written by Henry Bushkin

find it here:, Goodreads

About the book: 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 A Hard Act to Follow

“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. 

Every Free Chance Book Reviews is pleased to welcome Henry Bushkin, author of A Hard Act to Follow, to the blog today. He has answered some questions that I had for all of you.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book? The thing most challenging was trying to find the right voice.  The right tone.  The right sensitivity.  And that required a lot of introspective thinking.  The first two years I was merely writing anecdotes and it took two more years to shape the story as well as the book.  Which has a beginning middle and an end.  It was easy to write the anecdotes.  And much harder to insert the emotional impact on what was going on in that moment in time.  
How did you handle doing Mr. Carson’s “dirty work” and being referred to as “that prick lawyer”? History of the entertainment business in Los Angeles is ripe with stories of close relationships between very visible celebrity clients with their attorneys at their side. Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Howard Hughes, are but a few examples of very famous people who were connected with very well known lawyers. My job in representing Carson was no different than many others who had come before me.  Mickey Rudin, who was Frank Sinatra’s lawyer, was always the one to deliver the news someone didn’t want to hear. Rudin played that role for Sinatra,  I played that role for Carson. Particularly when Johnny had no agent or manager to share in the “dirty work”. It came with the territory but I had thick enough skin to deal with the abuse that came with it.
I am a licensed attorney, not currently practicing, but I always found that I had to maintain a professional distance from my clients. This was not the case between you and Mr. Carson. Was that hard to balance…being his attorney and being his friend? What was the most challenging part of being Mr. Carson’s attorney and friend? Johnny and Frank Sinatra were similar in many ways.  Frank and Johnny never had the ability to confront a problem head-on. It was always easier for Johnny to do it through me and for me to deal with the consequences of the probably unpleasant act. It can be said that my role is quite similar to many lawyers today who have important celebrity clients who socialize regularly with them.  If Johnny invites you over to dinner, or a weekend in Spain, are you really gonna say no? 

About the author: 

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.

Find Mr. Bushkin here: TwitterWebsite 

Please enjoy the following excerpts from 
A Hard Act to Follow.

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 big part of every day continued to be devoted to my number one client. His show taped at 5:30 in the afternoon and he didn’t go to the office until around 2 p,m. He had lots of time to kill, and I made sure to swing by and spend at least an hour with him every day. Sometimes that meant sunning ourselves by his kidney-shaped pool, but more often it meant hitting the courts at the Bel Air Country Club, at least until his home court was built. Later I often met Johnny at the studio after the program. He and his producers critiqued every show immediately after completion. There were days when everything was perfect, and there were days that nothing worked. The skit sucked, the comedian flopped, and the sound went bad for ZZ Top. Fred de Cordova was the master of blowing smoke up Carson’s ass. Bobby Quinn and Peter Lassally were far more accurate in the observations. But Johnny always knew if the show worked. He always knew.

I never said anything, and that’s why people tolerated my presence. I never tried to use my relationship with Johnny to undermine anyone at the program or force a role for myself in a place I didn’t belong. People knew that I had only one interest and that was Johnny’s well-being, and for that reason, I was treated warmly, like a friend of the family.

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