Simpson was Leno’s Most Frequent Joke Fodder

Media reports of Jay Leno’s last hurrah on his “Tonight Show” last night noted that football pro-turned-movie comic and ad pitchman, now Nevada convict, O.J. Simpson was the celebrity who was the most frequent butt of Leno’s jokes.

That brought back memories for me, most of which included Simpson criminal trial judge Lance Ito. Leno’s jokes and what became the iconic Dancing Itos are what the public knows about the Leno-Simpson connection.

Unknown to most was the behind-the-scenes connection, which included Leno’s private performance at a sheriff’s academy for the members of the Simpson jury.

How that came about is detailed on pages 115 and 120 of my book, Anatomy of a Trial: Public Loss, Lessons Learned from The People vs. O.J. Simpson

Most memorable for me, related to that event, was Leno calling me himself, instead of having a member of his staff do it for him. In all of my years as a newspaper reporter and editor and as director of public information for the Los Angeles courts, that was a first. In all other instances in which I either initiated a call to a celebrity or a celebrity was getting back to me, it was always one of the celebrity’s “people” doing the calling or taking my call. The fact that Leno handled his own calls himself — at least he did mine and I have no reason to think that was an anomaly — put him in a class above the rest.

I’ve been a regular Leno viewer for many years, and had the opportunity to give him a copy of Anatomy, which was memorialized by this photo.

Author presents book to Jay Leno

I’ll miss him on the “Tonight Show” and hope to see him in other entertainment venues in the future.


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