While on the air, Johnny Carson was sunshine and sweetness, and the embodiment of the friendly guy you’d like to have as a neighbor. Away from the cameras, however, Carson was a total jerk who bullied and abused others and even physically assaulted people in fits of rage. Examples of Carson being a jackass include an attempt to strangle NBC colleague Tom Snyder, his refusal to visit his son who was institutionalized in a mental asylum, and his verbal and physical abuse of his wives.
Many celebrities abused by Carson stayed quiet to protect their careers from the notoriously vindictive icon. An exception was singer and actor Wayne Newton, who resented Carson’s cracking gay jokes about him on national TV. Newton thought that he and Carson were buddies, and begged him to cut it out. Carson persisted, however. So an incensed Newton barged into Carson’s office, and slapped him around silly. It wasn’t live at the Oscars, but it got Carson’s attention. It was one of the few times that the star TV host got his comeuppance. The gay jokes stopped.
Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading