Do You Know Westchester's 'The Tonight Show' Connection?
America’s late-night icon has 60-year-old roots in Westchester.
Photos of Paar, Varson, Rivers via wikipedia; Jay Leno photo courtesy of the White House/Photo by Pete Souza
The Tonight Show, the longest-running entertainment program on TV, has a unique bond with Westchester County… and it’s still going strong.
It began in 1957, when a little-known Bronxville resident of Studio Lane (how appropriate) named Jack Paar took over The Tonight Show after original host Steve Allen’s departure. Paar hosted the program for four often-tumultuous years (water closet, anyone?) until Johnny Carson, who had been a resident of Rye, succeeded him in 1962.
Carson’s most frequent guest host during the 1980’s was Joan Rivers, who even casual TV watchers know was identified with Larchmont as closely as the Beatles were with Liverpool.
After Carson retired, hosting duties were passed to Jay Leno, who despite his New England nasal twang was born in New Rochelle and spent his first nine years on Leland Avenue.
Leno becoming host did not sit well with David Letterman, but Letterman apparently did well enough after CBS offered him a late-night show opposite Leno that he was able to relocate to a North Salem estate roughly one-fifth the size of Monaco. And although The Tonight Show’s current host, Jimmy Fallon, was not born in Westchester and does not live here, his sister Gloria, who runs his show’s daily blog, lives in Larchmont.
So, what about Conan O’Brien, whose Tonight Show tenure barely lasted longer than William Henry Harrison’s presidency? Well, Conan the Bostonian has no direct ties to Westchester, but if you consider that unless he drove to Orient Point and took the ferry to New London, Conan would have had to go through Westchester every time he drove to Boston.