Everyone shocked that Johnny Carson is the guy I told you he was

Many of the stories in the new Carson bio are new to us, because the author was Carson’s lawyer for almost 20 years and he was there when the incidents went down — and stayed mum about them at the time, of course.

(h/t for the link.)

Other stories have been in the public domain for years, though.

Carson (…) ruthlessly banished “disloyal” favorites [like Joan Rivers] in a heartbeat. Prickly and private, the story goes that when Madonna and Sean Penn got married next door, “Carson was so annoyed by paparazzi helicopters, he went out and spelled FUCK OFF on his front lawn with rocks.”)


Carson’s cool-warmth — that charming-yet-menacing mien — was always obvious to me, and I say that as an admirer of his abilities.

Maybe you had to grow up around a man like that to spot it.

That particular cocktail of character traits inspires (most) others to curry the cold-warm individual’s favor to avoid their wrath; in some cases, it brings out the best in those others (which is great news if you’re performing in front of millions) and spawns a kind of twisted loyalty.

The old “sacred monster” thing. Very powerful.

That kind of “energy” or “vibe” or whatever usually has the opposite affect on me, at least in person:

Confronted with Ted Bundy-used-car-salesman “charm,” I turn cold-cold in self-defense.

However, cold-warmth is filtered through music, radio and television (and/or death); the seductive menace is safely diffused and far away, and I’m the one with the remote control, so I can get off on it just like a normal person.

That’s why quite a few television legends have that cool-warmth:

Martha Stewart is another perfect example. So is Richard Dawson and Bob Barker.

Dawson’s one-time co-star Bob Crane is too. When they die, all the truth (or something like it) comes out and (almost) everyone is shocked.

Roger Ebert’s review of Auto-Focus is as perceptive as the movie:

Eddie Cantor once told Bob Crane, “likability is 90 percent of the battle.” It seems to be 100 percent of Bob Crane’s battle; there is nothing there except likability–no values, no self-awareness, no judgment, no perspective, not even an instinct for survival. Just likability, and the need to be liked in a sexual way every single day. Paul Schrader’s “Auto Focus,” based on Crane’s life, is a deep portrait of a shallow man, lonely and empty, going through the motions of having a good time.

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