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Helen Kushnick (August 18, 1946-August 28 1996), born Helen Gorman in New York, was the agent of comedians, Jimmie Walker, Elayne Boosler and Jay Leno for much of his early career. Leno had been performing stand-up comedy in a variety of venues when she found him, and afterwards, Kushnick was with him all the way to his role hosting The Tonight Show.

Her strong-arm tactics in her role as executive producer created a great deal of conflict with NBC. (For example, she reportedly banned stars from appearing on the program if they appeared on any other talk show.) These practices led to her dismissal only four months into her tenure in that position.


The Late Shift

A 1996 HBO TV movie called The Late Shift was about the network politics that occurred after the retirement of Johnny Carson from the Tonight Show on NBC. The movie starred Kathy Bates, who received an Emmy Award nomination for portraying Helen Kushnick and won a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award.


Kushnick's son, Samuel, died of AIDS due to an infected blood transfusion.

Her daughter (Samuel's twin sister), Sara, became an AIDS advocate, founding AmFar with Elizabeth Taylor, and testified before Congress about changing blood supply rules. Former surgeon general C. Everett Koop dedicated a book to the memory of Samuel Kushnick.

Kushnick's husband, Jerrold, died of cancer in 1989. Kushnick died of breast cancer in Los Angeles, Californiamarker, aged 50.

Helen's only brother, Joseph Gorman, works for Burson Marsteller, a public relations firm in New York City.


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