Johnny Carson’s ex wives say he was addicted to alcohol and sex in PBS American Masters documentary

Tonight’s PBS documentary series American Masters covers the life of late night legend Johnny Carson. Filmmaker Peter Jones sat down for a teaser interview with The Insider to talk about what he discovered about Johnny’s alleged addictions to alcohol and sex. Jones spoke with three out of four of Johnny’s wives, and they all had a common experience with Johnny’s drinking and philandering. Apparently he (like a lot of people) would have a couple of drinks to relieve stress, but from Johnny’s own admission, he was not a happy drunk.

On a taped interview Johnny admits that a few drinks will make him mean: Rrather than a lot of people who would become fun-loving and gregarious and love everybody, I would go the opposite, and it would happen just like *snaps* that.”

Third wife Joanna commented in another interview:

“When we’d be out would seem to go out with one person, and come back with someone who was completely different in temperament. It got to be very difficult.”

Filmmaker Jones also says Johnny would have multiple sexual relationships on the side throughout his marriages: “Johnny had a lot of sex, and he enjoyed sex. There were multiple relationships that Johnny Carson had while he was married.” Jones also claims that Johnny drank abusively until he died in 2005; according to Jones he was also alone when he died, having been separated from his fourth wife Alex for two years.

The documentary, airing tonight @ 9, isn’t just about Johnny’s demons, though; it’s supposed to paint a rich picture of Johnny Carson’s life, and features interviews from his colleagues, friends, and mentees including Dick Cavett, Doc Severinsen, David Letterman, Jay Leno, Mel Brooks, Jerry Seinfeld, Ray Romano, Drew Carey, Garry Shandling, Steve Martin, Angie Dickinson, Ellen DeGeneres, Carl Reiner, Don Rickles, Bob Newhart, Joan Rivers, David Steinberg, Jimmy Fallon and Conan O’Brien. You can also read the gist of a fascinating interview Mike Wallace had with Johnny Carson in 1979 here.

Watch Johnny Carson: King of Late Night Preview on PBS. See more from American Masters.