The 8 Biggest Behind-the-Scenes Diva Stories From a New 'Tonight Show' Book


It's no shocker that celebs can be very different backstage at a late-night talk show than they are on the air.

But even if you aren't surprised by the diva antics detailed in a new book by a former producer for The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, you'll still be entertained by the examples laid out. Dave Berg, who was hired as a segment producer by Leno in 1992, dishes up helpings of celeb dirt and on-set scoop in Behind the Curtain: An Insider's View of Jay Leno's Tonight Show, available from Pelican Publishing on June 30.

Jessica Simpson, Eddie Murphy, Christian Bale, Jesse Jackson, Quentin Tarantino, Teri Hatcher, Bill Clinton, Howard Stern, Kobe Bryant, Dr. Phil, Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne, Dennis Rodman (who earns his own chapter), John F. Kennedy Jr., and Shirley MacLaine are among the famous names found in the book, which includes a foreword by Leno. "On the pages that follow, Dave has written about his experiences at the show as well as his thoughts about what it all meant," Leno writes. "To be honest, I haven't read it. I'll read it when everyone else does. Who knows, I might even disagree with some of his points. … But I trust Dave, and I'm certain he'll do right by the show."

1. The prize for the biggest Tonight Show guest diva was a tossup between Desperate Housewives star Teri Hatcher and pop star Jessica Simpson. Berg recalls a Hatcher rep asked for a Louis Vuitton bag when the actress was bumped from the show in March 2009 so President Obama could become the first sitting POTUS to appear on a late-night talk show; Hatcher got an apology and a bouquet of flowers.

"I called her Teri One and Teri Two, though not to her face," Berg writes of working with the "complicated" Hatcher. "Teri One was charming, smart, witty, and flirtatious. Terri Two was moody. She would call me late the night before her scheduled appearance, scream at me for not having better ideas, and then hang up. The next day, she would come to the show as Teri One, acting as if nothing had ever happened."

Simpson, meanwhile, demanded the show pay for her hair and makeup — which would have cost $18,000 — if she were to appear. Leno and company refused.


2. Oh, but there's a male contender for the diva title, too. For the 45 minutes he would be in a dressing room before his appearance on the show, Eddie Murphy had a list of demands that included the room be stocked with 12 Snapples (in Fruit Punch, Orangeade, and Grapeade varieties), 8 Dr. Brown's sodas (cream soda and root beer flavors), Coke (in glass bottles), bananas, cherries, Evian, Snickers, Milky Ways, Juicy Fruit gum, writing pads and writing utensils, regular-size towels and small washcloths, and peppermints and York Peppermint Patties (the comedian apparently really liked the taste of mint).

3. Murphy also would have had access to "the Jay Bar," a Leno-conceived mobile alcohol unit from which Tonight Show guests could enjoy libations to calm their pre-show nerves. Quentin Tarantino once imbibed so freely at the Jay Bar, Berg shares, he was incoherent during his appearance with Jay.

4. Leno believed O.J. Simpson was guilty of the murders of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman, so he refused to invite Simpson attorney Johnnie Cochran onto the show. He did host Simpson prosecutors Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden.

5. Christian Bale's reputation for being difficult was well-earned at The Tonight Show, where he dropped out of an appearance because he felt the pre-interview process got too personal. The questions Berg had asked him: where he grew up, how many siblings he had, and what his first job was. "[He] didn't seem to have even a basic understanding of how The Tonight Show worked. I was glad he dropped out, thus averting an awkward on-air exchange with Jay," Berg writes.

6. Helen Hunt did appear on the show in May 1994, but, peeved after one of the producers "gently critiqued" her performance on Mad About You, she refused to return for 14 years. Danny DeVito made one appearance on the show in 1994, but, "for reasons that are very murky," never appeared again, Berg writes.

7. Howard Stern once made Leno so angry the host walked off the set. During a 1995 appearance on The Tonight Show, Stern hid two scantily clad porn stars in his dressing room, then brought them on air, where he asked them to kiss each other for "the first Tonight Show lesbian kiss," Berg writes. He later spanked another one on air, and the entire appearance earned the show a negative review in the Chicago Tribune. "We … learned a lesson … never trust Howard Stern," Berg writes.

8. Comedian Bobcat Goldthwait, Berg writes, is the only Tonight Show guest ever convicted for committing a crime on the show. In 1994, he used lighter fluid to set a chair on fire on air. He was fined $3,880 in a Burbank courtroom (including $698 for the chair) and was never invited for a return appearance, Berg writes. In a timely footnote, Berg suggests one of the reasons Goldthwait might have set the chair ablaze: He was protesting the cancellation of the Arsenio Hall Show. Guess there's no chance Leno's replacement, Jimmy Fallon, will book Bobcat to see how he'd respond 20 years later to the most recent Arsenio cancellation…

And a few interesting facts about Leno's Tonight Show itself:

Guests were paid a $500 appearance fee to sit down for a chat with Jay; Leno usually slept just four hours a night while doing the show and was often the first member of the show staff in the office in the morning; and though Leno used roughly 25 jokes a night in his monologue, he and his writers penned hundreds each day, as many as 1,500 jokes daily, Berg writes.

No wonder he was ready to retire, after 22 seasons of that.

Hmmm I don't know if he was ready to retire. But yesss to some dirt.