WHEN YOUR PHONE RINGS IN HOLLYWOOD-PART 2 – JULY 2020
If you haven’t read PART 1 of this blog, please do so now.
I don’t know for sure how I got the call from Scott at the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. I always wanted to be on the show when Johnny Carson was doing it, so I submitted my picture and resume every few months. I never heard from the Carson Show, but my submissions must have remained in their files when Jay took over the show. At least, they didn’t wind up in the trash. It was one of the times my diligence paid off.
My first gig on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno was a comedy skit that had me at a poker table in the fictitious Johnny Stunad’s Hotel and Casino. Jay was in the scene narrating the action. When it came to my part, I was asked if I wanted to draw any cards. My reply was pleading the 5th Amendment.
That was the beginning of my relationship with Jay Leno and his show. They would call me from time-to-time and would have me come in to work with them, or I would call them. For the first time in my acting career I could call a casting person, get them on the phone, and ask if they had any work for me. They were always fun comedy skits, usually shot before or after that evening’s show.
For that first show, I shared a dressing room with another gentleman. I don’t remember if he was a guest that night or what. After that, the blue card with my name on it was on my dressing room door whenever I went back to work there, and I was the only occupant.
On one occasion, I met a guy that was in an acting class I had taken once. I knew he did stand-up, but I didn’t know he became one of the writers on the show. On another occasion, Harry Connick Jr. was a guest on the show that night. He was in a movie that I had just seen. I told him how much I enjoyed him in the movie. He was so humble and thanked me. We had a nice conversation while we sat next to each other in the makeup room being made up.
Every holiday season Jay would have his version of Hollywood’s holiday parade. Jay’s parade floats usually featured a reenactment of some current news item. One year, I was the guy that got drunk on an airline flight. When they cut off the alcohol for him, he climbed onto the drink trolley, dropped his pants and took a crap on the cart. Another year, I played a tax preparer who was punching out his partner in their bankrupted, H&R Block-type, firm.
There was a trend in the 1990s, and because of the bad economy, adult children were moving back home to live in their parent’s basement. I played the father of one of those kids and I was beating my son with the newspaper want ads to go out and look for a job.
It was always fun to hangout in the show’s green room, where there was usually pizza, one of Jay’s favorite foods. Jay would be there sometimes to chat with. Walking onto any studio lot in Hollywood was always an honor and a thrill. You never knew who you were going to see: a famous actor, producer, or director.
I probably would have had many more appearances on the show if I hadn’t moved to Colorado in 1998. That’s when the phone stopped ringing for me as an actor.