King of the Night Summary
by Laurence Leamer

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King of the Night

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

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There is no doubt that Johnny Carson is easily the most successful performer in the history of television. His appearances in connection with “The Tonight Show” have taken him into countless homes for more than a quarter-century. He has successfully vanquished all challengers to his dominance of late-night television. Yet, this “friend” to millions of Americans remains the most private and illusive of individuals--an amazing feat, when it is considered that he has lived in the punchbowl of public scrutiny for all of his adult life. KING OF THE NIGHT attempts to reveal the man behind the facade which flickers across the screens of American television five nights a week.

Mr. Leamer claims to have based his account on more than seven hundred interviews, many of them exclusive, with the men and women who witnessed the birth and the development of a genuine legend. It is not a pretty picture, to say the least. John W. Carson is exposed as a young man driven by his mother’s disdain to seek approval from strangers; a man who feels compelled to possess women by the score, only to discard them by the wayside in pursuit of yet another; an alcoholic and abusive individual whose desire to avenge himself upon those who thwart him remains undiminished by time, space, or past services; an entertainer who will sacrifice anyone or anything in a single-minded desire to remain “king of the night.”

Leamer’s biography is the most exhaustive treatment of the Carson phenomenon to date. Nevertheless, this book would have profited from more severe and careful editing. Moreover, the supporting information for some of Leamer’s sensational charges will strike many readers as being a bit thin. In fact, in some cases, an alternate interpretation seems readily available. Such flaws aside, KING OF THE NIGHT amply supports the popular assumption that those who would achieve stardom will find that the candle is not worth the game.