November 2013 Archives

Johnny Carson

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Click for availability and more information Johnny Carson, by Henry Bushkin
 
When I was growing up, I used to hear everyone talking about The Tonight Show with host Johnny Carson. He seemed to be larger than life. I usually didn't stay up that late to watch him, so I didn't really know that much about him. Recently, I spotted a downloadable book by Henry Bushkin titled (what else) Johnny Carson. I've always been curious about the rich and famous, and since Carson was so popular in the 1960s, I thought I'd do a little research.

The book picks up as Carson is firmly entrenched as the host of The Tonight Show. Henry Bushkin becomes Carson's attorney, as well as adviser, confidant and friend. Bushkin determines Carson's previous advisers were not looking after his best interests, but were worried about lining their own pockets. In fact, Carson was signed to a surprisingly large number of unprofitable deals. Despite making tons of money for NBC, he had little to show for it. Bushkin turned this all around, and helped make Carson the most successful star in TV history. The book describes a lot of the wheeling and dealing that goes on behind the scenes.

Despite all this success, Carson was a very insecure and unhappy person. He grew up in Nebraska. His mother was uncompassionate, unappreciative and very cold. Not what you'd call very loving. In a case of "the nut not falling far from the tree", Carson became estranged from his 3 children, the result of 3 failed marriages. The fact that he was a heavy drinker and womanizer didn't help matters any. Bushkin devoted a lot of time to his demanding boss, and started emulating his womanizing ways - resulting in his failed marriage. When Carson announces he wants to leave the "Tonight Show" because he is burned out, this sets into motion a series of events which has an interesting end. Sometimes, despite all the celebrity, someone can be struggling with life. Johnny Carson was a prime example.

This book presents a very balanced look at the great entertainer. Bushkin is in a unique position to describe Carson's personal and professional life firsthand. It's well-written and easy to follow. Every time I picked it up to read, I had a hard time putting it down. You should give it a try.
-Carl

The Seven Treasure Hunts

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Click for availability and more information The Seven Treasure Hunts, by Betsy Byars
 
Two boys make up a series of treasure hunts for each other , with disastrous and hilarious results.
-Deirdre

Mike Stellar: Nerves of Steel

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Click for availability and more information Mike Stellar: Nerves of Steel, by K.A. Holt
 
Mike is whisked away on a trip to Mars on only eight hours' notice, and while that sounds kind of cool. . . things aren't quite right. His parents might be involved in a sabotage plot; the know-it-all, talks-too-much girl in his class seems out of this world; and his sister back on Earth is missing. As if all that weren't enough, Mike's teacher seems to come from the Dark Ages of the twenty-first century, and his mom's assistant is a creepy goon.
-Deirdre

Looper

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Click for availability and more information Looper
 
The film Looper has a very interesting and suspenseful plot. Loopers are assassins hired by the mob to kill problem people sent back from the future (2074). Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays such a hired gun. He is paid with silver bars that are strapped to the target's body. One day, a target escapes, and he finds out it's his future self (Bruce Willis). The mob wants him to kill himself to "close the loop". The plot gets complicated when his future self seeks to stop the person who has ordered the loop closed so he can reunite with his deceased wife. Levitt tries to protect the person (who is a child) from Willis, who is trying to kill him. Jeff Daniels plays a mob boss who returns from the future. The special effects are excellent, and the acting is superb. I give this movie 4-and-a-half stars out of 5.
-Carl

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