Searching for Jay Leno

Making a movie, or maybe it is just any project, there are going to be some side trips and diversions; you pursue something thinking it will yield a great angle for the film.

Here’s an example:

I had been told that Jay Leno got his start as a comic at the Orson Welles Restaurant. There is even a poster with his name on it. It’s a nice looking poster too–it’s in our archive. Anyway, the story goes that Jay talks about his time at the Orson Welles in his autobiography. Being the sometimes smart fellow that I think I am, I went to the local library to see if they had the book. Besides being a fledgling film maker, I am also frugal. Why buy a book when you can borrow out of the library? Heck, Jimmy Stewart complained about that very thing in The Philadelphia Story. Here he was an author who only sold a few of his books because libraries had them for free.

Living in s small town in New Hampshire, the library isn’t that big. They did not have a copy of the book. Then it occurred to me that maybe they would have an audio book, and if Jay himself read the audiobook, I could use the quote on the web site or a trailer. Yep, that would be a good use for some found material.

Well, the library had neither, but they could place an order from the inter-library service. So, a form was filled out . They asserted they would call me when the search was done. A few days later the cheerful and quite young voice of Jennifer was on my phone. There was no audio book to be found in New Hampshire, but they could secure the book. The book was ordered and I wandered over to my computer. A quick search revealed that there were no CDs of the book, but there was a cassette tape.

OK, a cassette would do. I have decent playback machine and the necessary software to convert it into a digital signal. The cost plus shipping would be $6.25. A few clicks with Paypal and the deal was done.

The cassette arrived a few days later. I immediately placed it in my player, plugged everything into my computer and downloaded the cassette’s contents into my computer. I listened to that section where Jay talks about the Welles.

It was disappointingly brief.

All he said was that he played in some places around Cambridge including the Nameless Coffeehouse and the Orson Welles Café. That was it. At this point I figured the audiobook was hopefully abridged and when I got a copy of the book, that section would be more expansive.

A few days later the lovely voice of Jennifer informed that the book was in and I could pick it up anytime. So I did.

Alas, that which was on the audio tape was in the book. Just a brief mention of the Welles, nothing more.

Is there a moral to the story? I suppose so. In this pursuit of tracking down information and bits of history about a place, there will be dead ends galore. This was just one of them. But I did learn that Jay’s Scottish born mother spent part of her childhood in a Glasgow brothel–another useless piece of trivia for an already over-crowded mind.

In the meantime, I do want to speak to Jay and invite him to our upcoming reunion. If anyone knows him or knows how to reach him , please share. Thanks. ~ Garen

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