As the host of The Tonight Show, Johnny Carson was used to entertaining audiences. But for one particular episode of the show in December 1985 he had a problem. That unexpected issue, however, was to change a young man’s life forever – and it would bring down the house in the process.
The young man concerned, David Tolley, was to enter The Tonight Show’s Burbank studio as an unknown – yet he was to emerge as anything but. Such are the twists of fate that can define lives. And more than three decades later, the drama that was about to unfold seems as unexpected now as it did then.
In 1985 Carson had already hosted The Tonight Show for over two decades, and this episode started much like any other. There was one hitch, though, which would soon be made clear. “Now let me explain something here: we are in somewhat of a dilemma tonight,” Carson announces in footage from the show. And at first, the audience can’t be sure what’s happening.