Saturday, May 23, 2009
Special to the Vintagent by John Joss
Jay Leno is exactly as he appears: a decent, straight-ahead, clever man with a lifelong passion for motorcycles. He invited me to his home in 90210 to interview and photograph him. Because I had to take a large camera case (Nikons, lenses, etc.) I had to drive in my antique Honda Civic. When I arrived he was waiting at his front gates.
"Jay," I asked, "is it okay to drive a Honda Civic in Beverly Hills? Will I be arrested?" He looked around furtively: "If we get it inside quickly they may not see you and you'll get away with it."
We entered the immense mansion and he led me into the living room, with 15'-high ceiling dominated by a huge TV screen. "Mavis is out," he said. "We can play a little." He put on a video of a Shuttle launch and cranked up the volume until the whole damn place shook. It was . . . terrific.
Then we went outside to see his latest (then) toy, his newly finished Vincent Special. I took a shot of it, several actually, and it's a gem. A Rapide engine tucked into a custom frame with Featherbed-like rear end, a Ceriani front fork with single big disk, and perfect paint. He kick-started it and it took first kick (he had not warmed it up), and grinned like a madman. The Vincent specialist in L.A. whose name I do not remember (old age, but someone who
Leno the man is the guy you'd like to ride with, hang out with and talk to about bikes. His enthusiasm is 100% genuine and every time I see him he remembers me--time, place, bike, everything--even though he lives a life of intense and complex demands. Maybe we can have him cloned so that he can spend time with bikers AND enjoy his entertainment life. If anyone who reads this would like me to scan and post some of the other pix, about 20 in all, I will be happy to do so. (email John here)