On December 19, 1985, a man was plucked from the Tonight Show audience to perform a piano piece. His name is David Tolley and he chose to play “Memory” from the “Cats” musical. No, it wasn’t staged. He had just come from the beach and attended the taping with his brother.
YouTube comment by David Tolley: It really wasnt a setup, my brother and I were at the beach and sightseeing all day, and my brother really wanted to see the TONIGHT SHOW LIVE before he flew back to OHIO the next day. The fact that I wasnt nervous was because I had no idea 28 million people were watching that night, quite honestly it was like a dream.
I never knew about this. Although, I was only 10 years old at the time. It is a great example of why Johnny Carson is/was so beloved.
David was just another guy in the “Tonight Show” studio audience when Johnny Carson said, “Horatio Gutierrez (a classical pianist) couldn’t come tonight because he accidentally shut his hand in a car door and didn’t want to chance playing the Tonight Show. Can anybody here play the piano?” David volunteered; he played “Memory” (from the Cats musical). The next day, David got tons of phone calls — everything from playing on cruise ships to acting in movies. Since then, David’s career has gone up and down.