JOHNNY Carson's longtime lawyer is blowing the lid off the secret life of the beloved "Tonight Show" host - painting him as a sad, depressed man who cheated on his wives, was tormented by his mom and refused to visit his son in a mental hospital.
"He was a great star, but not a great man," Henry Bushkin - who was jokingly dubbed "Bombastic Bushkin" by Carson on his late-night NBC gabfest - told Page Six.
"Many great comedians were miserable human beings . . . Johnny suffered a great many demons brought about by what I call a toxic sort of mother," Bushkin said. "His mother couldn't give a compliment. He's the biggest star in the world and she couldn't even acknowledge it."
Bushkin, who was also Carson's agent and manager, is shopping a warts-and-all memoir about the late-night legend through superagent David Vigliano, in which he'll tell how the comic:
* Was so miserable at the top of his game that he constantly "questioned his own ability to have happiness in his life."
* Enjoyed the use of a 10,000-square-foot penthouse with a private pool at Caesars Palace when he played Vegas and routinely entertained the "18 beautiful girls in the chorus line that opened his act . . . and he was certainly involved with some of them."
* Refused to visit his son, Rick, when he was committed to Bellevue with severe emotional problems. "The kid was there for 4½ months and he never went. I had to take care of everything and was there almost every day. Rick [who died in a car crash in 1991] was a lovely human being."
* Abandoned many of his closest friends, including Bushkin, who says, "At one time we did everything together. At the end, he treated me like everybody else - like I didn't exist. At the end, it was like I was an irritant. In many respects, he was the saddest guy I ever knew."