Skip to comments.Behind the Curtain: An Insiderís View of Jay Lenoís Tonight Show
Posted on 08/03/2014 1:37:55 PM PDT by Kaslin
For decades, The Tonight Show has served as a barometer for the country. Johnny Carsons monologue was used to skewer politicians and celebrities every night. Appearing on The Tonight Show was the pinnacle of national celebrity.
When Jay Leno succeeded Carson in 1992, he not only had big shoes to fill, but also had increased competition that Carson never faced. While David Letterman, the host of Late Night left NBC for CBS after being denied The Tonight Show position, other talk show hosts like Arsenio Hall hit the airwaves.
Dave Berg, one of Lenos top producers, chronicles this transition and Lenos rise to ratings dominance in his entertaining and informative new book, Behind the Curtain: An Insiders View of Jay Lenos Tonight Show [Pelican Publishing, 2014]. Berg describes himself as the token conservative on the production staff. Unlike his colleagues, Berg had a background in news production rather than entertainment.
Behind the Curtain begins with a chapter about Jay Leno (who also wrote the books Foreword). Leno is described as a hardworking boss who rarely took time off, who battled to overcome dyslexia, and only lived off income he earned as a stand-up comedian. Subsequent chapters cover the delicate art of booking high-profile guests, the guests he could not book, and the interview with President Obama, the first by a sitting president on a late-night talk show.
Like many Hollywood memoirs the author is happy to dish about personality quirks of the many guests that have sat in the guest chair. Berg nicknamed actress Teri Hatcher Teri One and Teri Two. Teri One was sweet. Teri Two would call Berg the night before her appearance and scream at him for not planning a better segment. Flamboyant Chicago Bulls star Dennis Rodman was late for nearly every appearance on The Tonight Show. Berg had to arrange for a helicopter to be standing by in case he was in danger of missing his interview.
[Disclosure: Shirley & Banister Public Afairs, the firm that employs this writer, worked with Dave Berg while he was a producer of The Tonight Show]
When Berg began working for The Tonight Show in 1992, he wanted to book Bill Clinton as a guest. Helen Kushnick, the executive producer vetoed the idea because Clinton was viewed as a longshot candidate. Several months later, Clinton played the saxophone on The Arsenio Hall Show and gained huge ratings.
After Bill Clinton became President, and even after he left the White House, Berg could not get him to appear on the show. His sources close to Clinton said it was because of Lenos endless stream of Monica Lewinsky jokes in his nightly monologue.
Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, did appear on the show during her 2000 campaign for the U.S. Senate. She made it clear there was one subject she would not discuss: baseball. She had previously professed her allegiance to the Chicago Cubs, but was now trying to curry favor with New York Yankee fans.
Berg is frank about which candidates helped their cause by appearing on the show and which ones could not pull it off. Despite being a conservative, Berg reveals that his favorite guest was a famous Democrat and he had a good working relationship with liberal comedian Bill Maher.
As a news producer, Berg enjoyed booking journalists and commentators. They are, according to the author, natural story tellers. Berg eagerly wanted to book Rush Limbaugh on the show. His colleagues balked calling him too polarizing, too bigoted. Berg notes that the rest of the staff never listened to Limbaughs show. They relied on the opinions of those in the mainstream media.
It was not easy to land Limbaugh. He viewed Leno as part of the mainstream media. Roger Ailes, the producer of Limbaughs short-lived television show who would go on to launch FOX News Channel, urged him to appear. The interview generated a great deal of coverage, and encouraged the producers to book guests with whom they disagreed.
Berg gives a sober account of the ill-conceived decision to move Jay Leno to primetime, and to install Conan OBrien as the host of The Tonight Show, only to have Leno return several months later.
There is a chapter on Jay Lenos classic car collection, which can be skipped by those who are only looking for behind-the-scenes stories on entertainment.
Behind the Curtain is an excellent insiders account. The reader gets the sense that Berg gained satisfaction from his work. He enjoyed working with celebrities, but does not seem to envy their lifestyle.
Berg concludes the acknowledgments with: I have to say Amen to God for showering me with blessings beyond belief. May any good that comes from this book be to His glory. He clearly had a substantial impact in Hollywood without selling his soul.
Pretty much says it all.
“”””””””” Berg eagerly wanted to book Rush Limbaugh on the show. His colleagues balked calling him too polarizing, too bigoted. Berg notes that the rest of the staff never listened to Limbaughs show. They relied on the opinions of those in the mainstream media. “””””””””””””””””””
“They relied on the opinions of those in the mainstream media.”
The people voting for Obama and the other dems are not thinking for themselves or adhering to any personal set of ethics. They vote and otherwise support what others tell them to vote and support. Those others simply look at what conservatives do and say, and choose the polar opposites.
That is why the average dem can’t articulate a defense for their way of thinking/voting and resort to slander spewing and hate mongering.
Rather than calling it a mental disorder, this should be seen as basic stupidity on the part of low information voters.
He wasn't "Hollywoodized" so to speak.
The Bills are the only NFL team that calls New York home ;)
Trisham darling, is this site that broke? I’ve always donated something. Now y’all need $100 pp?
Supposedly a book to get. Looking forward to it.
The rest can continue to join the masses and give less.