September 28, 1987 12:00 PM

by Paul Corkery

Attention everyone who’s been waiting eagerly for an unauthorized, unskilled, uninspired, unrevealing—and ungrammatical—biography of Johnny Carson. Run, don’t walk, to your nearest bookstore for a copy of Carson. You’ll gulp it down faster than a dog eating Alpo on a Tonight Show commercial. Corkery, who, in this wet sloppy kiss of a book, describes Carson as “a keystone of American culture,” is also given to musings like, “But who was Johnny Carson, the man to whom audiences had given such great power?” and “I began to wonder why no major book had ever been written about Carson…. I wondered—not to be melodramatic—if there were barriers and perhaps dangers associated with looking into his past.” In the author’s hands, there are no barriers, there is just boredom. Admittedly, Corkery was hindered by Carson’s refusal to be interviewed and obliged to rely on press clips, the memories of Carson’s high school classmates in Norfolk, Nebr., and easily researched facts like the number of seats in The Tonight Show studio audience (about 500). But Corkery did have access to the keystone’s three ex-wives, who, perhaps out of fear and fondness for their generous settlements, offered up toothless comments like these: “What’s wrong with men is their egos—and this is especially true with men who are celebrities” (wife number one, Jody Carson); “I don’t know what caused the split…. There was no other reason than that Johnny wanted his freedom” (wife number two, Joanne Carson); “I think somewhere along the way, you try so hard, you try to resolve things when…. I just kind of lost respect for him” (wife number three, Joanna Carson). Corkery also spoke to old friends of Carson, including game-show host Jack (Seven Keys) Narz, whose tedious reminiscences take up four pages. But the natterings of Narz are decidedly preferable to those of Corkery, who at one point notes of Carson, “He needed, like most people in their 30s, a chance to grow again.” Can we balk? (Randt, $17.95)

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