Sunday, May 19, 2024

Johnny Carson: FBI Agent Said He Had “Brass Balls” After Death Threat and Secret “Ransom” Drop


Johnny Carson: we’ve had a lot of revelations this week about his life and long run on the Tonight show. Now that I’ve got the whole manuscript of Henry Bushkin‘s eye opening memoir about his late friend and former client, there’s even more.

In the mid 1970s, Carson found a live hand grenade on his front lawn with a death threat and instructions. It did turn out the grenade was a fake, Bushkin reports, but “the threat was taken seriously” in light of recent episodes like Patty Hearst and the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III. Plus, Frank Sinatra Jr had been famously kidnapped in 1963.

Carson was told to deliver $250,000 in cash to a specific spot. The FBI didn’t want to let him go, but Carson finally convinced them to let him do it. The threat had said that if he didn’t deliver the money, harm would come to his family. “Don’t insult our intelligence by dismissing this matter,” the note read.

Bushkin recalls that Carson still had that .38 revolver I wrote about earlier this week. Bushkin says he had a license to carry the gun. Johnny had a bad with him that looked like it was filled with money, but it was just “cut up paper stacked and wrapped in 125 bill sized bundles.”

Bushkin says a helicopter hovered over Carson at 4,000 feet so it wouldn’t be noticed. Johnny drove the money to a nearby laundromat in Burbank, as instructed. Police immediately apprehended a 26 year German national named Richard Dziabacinski and his wife. They went to jail for a year, and got five years’ probation.

Carson was certainly a Nebraska cowboy in his heart. Earlier this week I told you that Henry Bushkin, Johnny Carson’s lawyer, noticed he was wearing .38 pistol on a holster under his coat. Now that I’ve been able to go through Bushkin’s book, coming out on Tuesday, I noticed another similar anecdote. Carson was dating Alexis Maas, who would be his fourth wife. He told Bushkin in 1985: “Look, I’m not going through this bullshit again. If I ever get married again, put a .38 to my head and if we don’t have a pre-nup, pull the trigger.”

Bushkin recalls that the police at the time covered up the whole incident and refused to admit that Carson himself was involved in the drop. One FBI agent told Bushkin of Johnny: “He has brass balls.”

PS I think this book is going to fly off the shelves next week. Bushkin knows everything about Carson and the whole time period from 1967-87. We are never going to have stories like this about Kimmel, Fallon, Meyers, Ferguson. Maybe Letterman. What a read!


Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

Read more

In Other News