There’s an expression when it comes to meeting your heroes: you should never meet them. However, in recent months I’ve had the good fortune of meeting and speaking to many of my own personal heroes and each one has been more surreal than the last. This week, I got a chance to speak with one of the most famous car guys out there – Mr. Jay Leno himself.
I, like many others, grew up watching Jay Leno on the Tonight show. My mother being a huge Johnny Carson fan introduced me to the Tonight show as a child. When I discovered that Jay Leno was also a huge car nut I instantly became a fan. When I found out that Jay Leno was going to perform standup at the Majestic Theater in San Antonio, TX, on February 3rd I knew I had to find a way to interview him. After two months of sending emails I got a spontaneous phone call from Big Dog Productions, informing me that I was going to get a chance to do a phone interview with Mr. Leno.
Thirty minutes later I was answering a phone call from a number with no caller ID and hearing a familiar voice say, “Hello Jesus? Hi, this is Jay Leno – how are ya?” First time I’ve ever been starstruck over the phone. Not to mention that I was still at my day job when he called, but there was no way I was going to pass up this bucket list-worthy opportunity.
Pen in hand and phone in the other I dug deep into my brain to find questions to ask him…but there was nothing there. My mind had locked its brakes in disbelief of the moment, so I fell back on the obvious – cars. Giving him a brief overview about who I was I asked him about three cars in his collection that I’ve always been fond of: the 1966 Hemi Dodge Coronet, 1970 Hemi Dodge Challenger RT and his father’s 1966 Ford Galaxy 500. To get the ball rolling, he referred to the ’70 Hemi Challenger to having a rolled up sock in your pants, an 8-mpg relic of a time when 0-60 under 7 seconds was considered greased lightning and status was measured in cubic inches. A fun car that throws partiality out the window and showers it with tire smoke.
The topic of cars shifted to talking about road movies of the 70’s, like Vanishing Point. One thing I learned about Jay Leno is that he gets a kick out of watching car mistakes in TV and film; mistakes like when you see an actor jump a Harley motorcycle and then cuts to a stuntman who’s clearly riding a dirt bike in the air before cutting back to the Harley after clearing the jump. Mistakes that weren’t given a second thought because film directors and editors don’t really target car enthusiasts in their screen tests.
We briefly talked about Jay Leno’s Garage Advanced Vehicle Care products. If anyone knows the struggle of keeping a vehicle looking showroom fresh it’s Mr. Leno, and that’s why his team developed their own products in-house. I checked out the variety of products at Lenosgarage.com and I was surprised how affordable they are compared to other traditional car cleaning products you see at local auto parts stores.
People that I know who have met him have always told me that Jay Leno is exactly how he appears on television. A fun-loving guy who is easy to talk to with a joke tucked in his denim sleeve. Now I can also say that he is genuine. I’m very grateful that he was able to take time away from his busy schedule to talk to a 24-year old car geek who’s still on the stepping stones of his automotive writing career. It shows you what kind of person Mr. Leno is.
Jay Leno will be performing stand-up across the country, having started in late January and touring through August. Be sure to check out his schedule to see if he’ll be stopping – and laughing – in your town this year.