Route 66 News

Route 66 roadies’ memories of Jay Leno

In case you missed it, Jay Leno logged his last night Thursday as host of NBC’s “The Tonight Show” after 22 years in the chair.

You can watch the entire episode online, but here’s his emotional and graceful goodbye:

Even though Leno is known as a car nut, not many roadies can claim they had dinner with him and hung out in his humongous garage. But Sal Santoro and his buddy Bob Walton got to after the publication of their “Route 66: The People, The Places, The Dream” in 2012.

The Bradenton Herald interviewed Santoro, who lives in nearby Manatee, Fla., about the experience:

Leno spent the better part of a Saturday with them, interviewing them about the book for an eight-minute segment posted on jaylenosgarage.com. They also got to check out Leno’s private collection of more than 100 cars and 80 motorcycles, and he treated them to a pizza lunch. That’s when Santoro broke Leno’s pepper mill after furiously trying to grind some black pepper onto a slice.

“It’s electric — there’s a button at the top,” Leno pointed out after an embarrassed Santoro was left holding the broken mill in two pieces.

Santoro gave Leno a replacement a few days later when they were invited back into the green room following a taping of “The Tonight Show.”

“He was wonderful to us,” Santoro said. “A real regular guy. A true car guy.”

Here’s the Jay’s Garage interview:

Leno also met author Jim Hinckley when he was promoting his “The Big Book of Car Culture” in 2011.

Laurel Kane, co-owner of Afton Station in Afton, Okla., said Leno called her on the phone in 2013, inquiring about the station’s collection of Packards. He promised to visit the next time he was in Tulsa.

Now that Leno has all this time on his hands, maybe he’ll take a road trip.

UPDATE: Per Michael Wallis, I forgot one. Kansas Route 66er Dean Walker appeared on Leno’s show in 2007. Alas, there doesn’t seem to be any footage available of this leg-turning event.

(Image of a ticket to “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” by Sherry Ezuthachan via Flickr)

2 thoughts on “Route 66 roadies’ memories of Jay Leno

  1. Sal Paradise

    Too bad, I think he did a great job making the show transistion from the Carson version to a more modern one. But, he knows his history and knew to pay respects to the generation before him. Had he agreed I’m sure Leno would have had Carson on as guest.

    I saw Leno back while I was in college, in the 70’s, in Connecticut. He used to do schools and dives in New England then, before he hit it. I actually talked to him at one while he chilled out at the bar between sets. You could tell, even then, he had what it took to make it. That same bar/club, a real ‘shore dive’ near Rhode Island, also hosted several Aerosmith gigs in the 70’s. All for a $2 cover and as much cheap Narrangansett pitchers you could drink.

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