‘Johnny Carson’ Author On Late Night, And Kathie Lee Gifford

By Alex Weprin Comment

Mediabistro’s “So What Do You Do? column this week talks to Henry Bushkin, the former attorney and confidant to late night legend Johnny Carson. We talk to Bushkin about his book Johnny Carson, including the revelation that Carson’s wife apparently had an affair with NFL legend Frank Gifford. Gifford’s wife, Kathie Lee Gifford, reportedly confronted her husband about it.

Did you read Kathie Lee Gifford’s reaction to Chapter Two?
No. As far as the media coverage of Chapter Two, that’s something that happened 43 years ago and the point of me writing that chapter was not to create controversy between Carson fans and myself, or between Frank Gifford and me, or whoever. It was to really show how I met the guy. That’s how I met him! What am I supposed to do, not write it? I don’t know what more to say other than to me, Gifford was not the punchline of the chapter at all. The punchline of that chapter is the bar scene, where we’re sitting in the corner of the place at 3 a.m., and there’s nobody else there “except you and me.” That’s what I thought the telling part of that chapter was. And the fact that the media focused on Joanne Carson and Frank Gifford, to me that was like the “So what?” part of it.

Everybody pays attention to that, and it’s not comforting to me. That’s like sensationalizing something I never intended to be sensational. That’s what they go for and that’s what annoyed me. Because that had really nothing to do with what I intended in the chapter. The controversy bothers me because it’s so ridiculous. What am I supposed to think, that I didn’t go into Joanne’s apartment?

And listen to this. The CEO of Houghton Mifflin gets a communiqué from Joanne Carson’s personal assistant at the time, saying that Joanne Carson is a liar, please call me, I’ll give you all details if you need them. To the publisher! And I say to myself, “How silly is this? Who cares? Why do they care now about this kind of thing?”