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Jay Leno breaks bones in 2nd accident after announcing Vegas return

Updated January 27, 2023 - 12:15 pm

If his run of tough luck continues, Jay Leno will be known as the comedy star who performs his own stunts.

Prepping for his return to the Strip in March, Leno is recovering from a fire in his garage in Los Angeles last November. He suffered second-degree burns over his upper body and part of his face while repairing the fuel line in a 1907 White Steam Car.

That’s the incident we know about. But there’s another mishap, this month, which Leno disclosed in a phone chat Thursday.

Referring to the November fire, I asked, “How are you doing, especially after the accident?”

“It’s so funny you should say that,” said Leno, headlining for Encore Theater for the first time on March 31, his first Vegas show since the November incident. “That was the first accident. OK? Then just last week, I got knocked off my motorcycle. So I’ve got a broken collarbone. I’ve got two broken ribs. I’ve got two cracked kneecaps.”

“Whoa,” I said. “Whoa, Sir.”

“But I’m OK!” Leno said. “I’m OK, I’m working. I’m working this weekend.”

Leno specified the accident happened nine days earlier (or, Jan. 17), again as he was working on a vintage vehicle. He was testing a 1940 Indian motorcycle and noticed the scent of leaking gas (fuel lines have been unkind to Leno recently).

“So I turned down a side street and cut through a parking lot, and unbeknownst to me, some guy had a wire strung across the parking lot but with no flag hanging from it,” Leno said. “So, you know, I didn’t see it until it was too late. It just clothesline me and, boom, knocked me off the bike.

“The bike kept going, and you know how that works out.”

Under medical care, usually.

Leno said he hadn’t said anything about the accident because of the massive amount of coverage from his November hospitalization and recovery.

“You know, after getting burned up, you get that one for free,” Leno said. “After that, you’re Harrison Ford, crashing airplanes. You just want to keep your head down (laughs).”

Leno has been featured in the Aces of Comedy series at Mirage Theater for about 15 years. But he was impressed with Encore Theater at the Wynn when he was in town as a superstar guest at the Concours d’Elegance car show last October.

“I saw that theater and said, ‘I’d love to play here,’ and just made the call,” Leno said. “It worked out well. The great thing about Vegas is the lights, the sound, it’s all a given. It’s done right. You play some gigs, like the Holiday Inn in Chicago, and it’s, ‘Hey, everybody WOOOOP! WOOOOP!’ In Vegas, you have a high level of professionalism from the crews, and everybody. It’s really cool.”

Leno has cleared out any political references in his act. In his days as host of “The Tonight Show” he took on elected officials from both parties. Not now.

“When I was doing ‘The Tonight Show,’ you would get people pissed on both sides, ‘Leno, you and your Democratic friends,’ or, ‘Leno, you and your Republican friends,’” the 72-year-old comedian said. “I was proud of myself for not giving away any political beliefs. It was just about the joke.”

But Leno has detected a shift in response during his concert appearances.

“Nowadays, people are mad if you don’t say how you feel,” he said. “I’ve just taken politics out of the act, altogether. I just don’t discuss anymore. It’s like before the punch line, they’re deciding, ‘Is he pro-my guy, or against my guy?’”

Leno was friends with one comedy legend for decades, and this topic was never discussed.

“Rodney Dangerfield and I were friends for 40 years,” Leno said. “I have no idea who Rodney voted for. I have no idea if he was Republican or Democrat, how we felt about the Middle East or any issue. It was all just silly, funny jokes with Rodney. That’s what made him great.”

Ode to Lefty

“I’d Rather Be Lucky Than Good,” is the theme of the next Oscar’s Dinner Series presentation at Oscar’s Steakhouse at the Plaza. The event is Feb. 8, and already sold out.

The star of the show, former Las Vegas Mayor and mob attorney Oscar Goodman loves the phrase.

“It’s perfect theme for Las Vegas,” Goodman said during a phone chat Thursday. “You know who first said that?”

“Actually, I don’t,” I said.

“Lefty!” Goodman said.

“Lefty …” I repeated, about to add “Rosenthal?”

“Gomez!” Goodman finished, referring to the verbose New York Yankees pitcher.

Gomez is the “other” Lefty in Goodman’s life.

Another from Gomez, “I talked to the ball a lot of times in my career. I yelled, “Go foul! Go foul!’” That would be another theme, for another time.

A show old enough to drink

Venerable Vegas magician Murray Sawchuck celebrated his 21st year on the Strip on Tuesday. He opened Jan. 26, 2002 at the Frontier. Sawchuck was actually second on the bill to the Fajita Feast for Two $13.95 special at Margarita’s. Sawchuck’s show was $12.95, and also priceless.

Cool Hang Alert

Live music is heating up — heating, I tell you — at the Hard Hat Lounge at 1675 South Industrial Road, which hosts the Las Vegas Jazz Syndicate from 10 p.m.-1 a.m. during its Monday Industry Nights. No cover, go to hardhatloungelv.com for info, and try the pizza.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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