This Friday Jay Leno celebrated his fifteenth year on the Tonight Show. He had an obviously plastered Dennis Miller on the show, who only blurted out the “f” word once but did have to excuse himself to go the bathroom while another guest was talking. Dwight Yoakam finished with one of his typical country songs about the fickleness of women. On the whole, I think NBC made the right choice with Leno over Letterman. But my mind flashed back to sixteen years ago, when I was in the NBC Burbank Studios introducing a new Choices Health Care Plan that GE had developed on a corporate level and were implementing in the fall.
NBC was always a problem child to GE. They didn’t like being part of a company of Engineers. They were "Artists." But nevertheless, I wound up two full days of small group meetings and a management presentation. I was about to call it a day, get some sleep before catching my plane back east in the AM, when the Facility HR Manager came up to me and said, “Hey, my secretary just got her hands on a VIP ticket to the Carson show. Want to go?”
It wasn’t a hard choice. I showed up at the theatre, got preferred parking and was escorted to the VIP Lounge. It was next the famous “Green Room” where Tonight Show guest sit awaiting their stage appearance. The room had a full selection of beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) and enough snacks to make me a dinner plate. Soon the escort took me to front row center of the theatre where my seat was reserved.
In a couple of minutes, Ed McMann came out and warmed up the audience with a few jokes. Then came the famous, Here’s Johnny!!! The show had Bartles and James, the two characters who represented Gallo’s Wine Coolers. Then came the star attraction, Sean Connery, who had just been named the sexiest man alive. There were more screaming women than in the Delivery Room of the local hospital, when he walked on the stage. It was nice that women had voted a muscular, balding, older man with facial hair, the sexiest man alive. I had all these attributes but not as well presented. The show ended with Richard Marx, a popular singer at the time, belting out his latest.
I got back to the hotel and couldn’t wait to call the wife and then watch the show that night. Somehow or other she couldn’t figure out how to work the old VCR – who could? – and all I have is memories. It is a night I will remember all my life.