It might not surprise you to hear this Jay Leno started his working life doing errands for a foreign luxury car dealership. He was the self-proclaimed “lot boy” who delivered Mercedes, BMW and Rolls-Royce cars to customers. But somewhat more surprisingly, it was actually the dealer’s work that was instrumental in launching Jay Leno’s acting career that resulted in hosting The show tonight.
Jay Leno had to deliver Mercedes, Rolls-Royce and BMW cars for the dealership
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Jay Leno says he’s been into old cars ever since he found and repaired an abandoned one in his hometown of Andover, Massachusetts. After saving money from summer jobs, 14-year-old Jay Leno bought a 1934 Ford pickup truck.
Leno wrote in Hagerty that he found himself drawn to a dealership called Foreign Motors on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston. The young enthusiast entered the garage and announced: “I’m the new one” and the mechanics immediately found him work.
Three days later, someone realized that no one had officially hired Leno. But he had to do a good job, because they kept him. This is how Jay Leno’s dealership career began.
Leno ended up preparing a new car. It also delivered BMW, Rolls-Royce and Mercedes-Benz cars sold by Foreign Motors. Little did he know it at the time, but the cars’ eccentric new owners would leave as lasting an impact as the exotic cars.
Jay has met “all kinds of weird people”
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Jay Leno’s dealership career may have been inspired by beautiful classic cars, but he’ll remember the quirky car owners he encountered for decades.
Sometimes it must have taken all of Leno’s self-control to act like those quirky people weren’t. A particularly wealthy family often ordered Rolls-Royces, and while traveling asked Leno to pick up a family member. She jumped in the brand new car with a baby lion.
Leno was able to laugh at his encounter with the cub and even found a tennis ball to play with after dropping off the car. Much to his dismay, the tiny creature flattened the ball. The woman explained that she had a new baby every six months. Rolls-Royce cars with jagged interiors made a lot more sense to Leno.
Young Leno has bonded with some of his clients. Boston bandleader Arthur Fiedler stayed in touch. In fact, he called Jay to drive him often. It took him a while to get used to the fact that he called Leno every time a building in Boston caught fire because he wanted to go see the fire department put it out.
“I liked it, and it was a lot of fun, partly because selling those kinds of cars meant you always met all kinds of weird people.”
Jay Leno’s dealer job launched his acting career
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In addition to delivering new cars, Jay Leno had to pick up the brand new Rolls-Royces when they rolled off the boat in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He would drive them 200 miles to Boston where the dealership would place them right on the showroom floor.
But Leno had a certain interest in stand-up comedy. And thanks to his work at the dealership, he now had plenty of material. So on his way home he would stop at Improv in Manhattan to try out a comedy set. Soon Leno was hooked.
Once a customer from New York ordered a new Rolls-Royce Corniche and insisted on paying cash. So Jay Leno put a paper bag with $34,000 in his pocket, drove to the New Jersey docks, got another brand new car, and drove to Manhattan.
He parked the brand new car in “the worst part of Hell’s Kitchen”, walked into the club and took the stage. Then he put the bag of money on the piano and told everyone it was his “lunch”.
Jay finished his set and said he heard “everyone laughing”. Then he got into the Rolls Royce and drove to the Connectictu toll before realizing he had forgotten the money.
Leno booked it all the way to the comedy club and, miraculously, the money was still on the piano. Jay Leno continued his acting career and continued to collect cars. Today, he is as eccentric and as respected as the people to whom he once delivered luxury cars.
Watch Jay Leno find a 1960s Rolls-Royce in the video below:
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