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The Tonight Show, with warmup provided by Sturza and Sturza


My mother and I recently spent our first Mother’s Day together in the

10 years since I moved from Maryland, and attending a taping of “The

Tonight Show with Jay Leno” was a top-rank event.


What got us going was being picked to join the show’s warmup


The experience confirmed what I learned during the first solo

holiday I’ve had with mom since I’ve been an adult -- that she and I


are grafted together in ways we are just now discovering.

Some I would rather deny, like laughing so loud that we turn

heads. Others are more attractive, like a shared passion for dancing.

The former Evelyn Cantor, who became a Sturza 51 years ago, was a

one-time queen of the lindy hop, rumba, conga and jitterbug.

“When I was in the service, I really was an outstanding dancer,”

she said. “I would go until three in the morning. The men would throw

me over their heads.”


I turned up a few years later in green go-go boots, shakin’ it to

records by The Hullabaloos.

So when Bob Perlo, who revs up Leno’s audience before the show,

asked for a half-dozen hams to rock the house to the Tonight Show’s

mighty band, I was all over it. My 77-year-old mother didn’t make

quite as much of a show of it, but we both managed to get ourselves

picked from the 350 people in the audience.

Having covered the studio industry for the Leader for a year, I’ve


met people who view their work from a high perch, not unlike people

in any line of work. But for the most part, folks I’ve interviewed

see their job as a way to use their talents and support themselves.

What struck me about being one of the warmup dancers was the

somewhat ordinary nature of it. Like the security guards who checked

people entering the NBC studios and the camera operators taping the

show, we were doing our part to keep things moving. Granted, ours was

a small part.

That’s not to say it wasn’t big fun. It was. We were on a cool

stage with killer music and a crowd of people cheering us along.

Our task was to individually shake some booty when Bob pointed to

us. Fellow audience members, likely imagining themselves in our

shoes, received the show of bravado wholeheartedly.

After the taping, I set Mom outside of the studio while I got the

car. Seated there, she held court as people stopped to tell her how

she had kicked butt.

At an event the next night where she met some of my friends, she

asked what became a popular question; “Did Laura tell you about the

Leno show?”

Though our bit on the program was not taped and my mother has yet

to learn how to operate her VCR, she understands the power of

hitting replay, and is milking her story for all it’s worth.

Apparently, she and I have that in common as well.

* LAURA STURZA is the Show Business reporter for The Leader. She

can be reached by e-mail at