J & P backstage at the Tonight Show, 1968
- From: Leo Batfish <jimmycarlwhite@xxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Thu, 17 Jul 2008 08:02:11 -0700 (PDT)
--- The following is from the book Johnny Tonight, published in 1980,
by Pocket Books. The author is Craig Tennis, former Tonight Show staff
During guest host stints, there have been a few times when Johnny's
professionalism...were missed. The most memorable was years ago in New
York, when John Lennon and Paul McCartney had astounded us all by
offering, through their attorney to appear on the show. As I recall,
they wanted to announce the formation of their new corporation, Apple,
and while nobody could understand in the slightest why they would feel
the need to promote it by coming on the Tonight Show, we weren't about
to blow it by telling them so.
The pre-interview was, as you can imagine, not held in the usual
manner. They were at the peak of their popularity...recognized as
musical geniuses, and the security precautions that had to be taken
for their appearances were taking up all my time. It was decided that
they would be brought into the studio via a loading ramp which
appeared to go into Radio City Music Hall, but which actually wound
around subterraneanly and into the basement of the RCA building. They
were brought up in an obtrusive freight elevator under heavy N.Y.P.D.
internal security guard. They were then put in an out of the way
dressing room two floors above where the show was being taped, and
they were miraculously, never discovered there by fans. Teenagers had
been swarming out all the exits and entrances to the building since
dawn, and all day we had been finding girls hidden on the sixth floor
in dressing rooms and in closets and even behind water fountains--
We also had unbelievable problems with tickets to the show. People of
major importance were calling up...demanding tickets when they were
all long gone. I remember putting aside two tickets for Simon &
Garfunkel, and when they arrived, they discovered that two people
impersonating them had picked up their tickets, and there was no way
they could possibly get in.
When I finally got a chance to go up and talk to John and Paul before
the show, I found that while Paul was easygoing and polite, John
was...a wiseacre. The interview wasn't easy for me--in fact I was
freaked. How does one interview the biggest superstars in history at
the apex of their glory without coming off like a boob? So I went the
direct route and tried to find out what basically, they wanted to say
to the audience and why.
Apparently, the half dozen or so questions I asked made sense to them,
and after the last one--which I don't remember, but at which their
eyebrows shot up--they said,"Now, who is this man who's going to
interview us, this Joe Garagiola person?" I told them who he was, (all
in praise) but they had apparently already made up their minds that
they didn't want Joe to interview them.
What they wanted, to my horror, was for me to interview them. I spent
five or ten minutes trying to explain to them that that was not
possible, but it didn't sink in--at one point they even threatened not
to do the show unless I would go on with them and do their interview.
My life flashed before my eyes, I can tell you, because their was no
way I was going to go out in front of that camera with the Beatles;
not only would it have been a ridiculous condition upon which to end
my tenure on the Tonight Show, but I knew that it would also cripple
my career permanently. Eventually, I talked them out of it and they
agreed to go on.
But when they finally joined Joe, disaster struck. He started by
asking one or two really silly questions and they went downhill from
there. He just sat there saying things like, "Gee, I hope my kids get
to see this," and "Boy, am I going to be a popular guy in the
neighborhood." It was so inane that the Beatles became visibly
uncomfortable, and Joe had to actually let them leave. The Beatles
left believing that they had been sloughed off by this guy, and in a
way, I guess they had been.
I remember, too, some unfortunate and genuinely stupid highlights of
their appearance. First of all, Tony Bennett, had gotten out of a
sickbed to bring his eight-year-old son to the studio to meet them.
Because of security, he couldnt get near them before the taping.
Waiting backstage for them to come off, security whisked them by
before he could even say hello. Tony shrugged philisophically, and his
son seemed thrilled just having been that close to the legends he
considered more important than his own father.
The day before their apperance, I brought over the security director
to NBC to meet with the head of our security. The Beatles' man was
about six feet, three inches tall, distinguished looking in a blue
three piece suit, and unusual for the times, had huge gray muttonchop
whiskers. They discussed the routing for nearly an hour. Then when
John and Paul were leaving from the underground garage, we were
suddenly mobbed by kids who had somehow gotten in. So, what did the
head of security do? He grabbed the Englishman by the muttonchops and
banged his head against the limousine.
Copyright © 2002 Craig Tennis
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