Jay Leno, The Man Who Defamed Me

Earlier this week, when I read on the covers of other subway riders’ copies of the Daily News and New York Post (having sworn off all news media until after the election as a precautionary measure against apoplexy) that Jay Leno will hand over the reins of The Tonight Show to Conan O’Brien in 2009, I felt an unexpected pang. You see, while I don’t watch television and I certainly don’t watch non-fictional television, Jay Leno and I have a special connection. He once mocked me in front of our entire country.

If you are new to this blog and therefore the peculiar facts of my existence, a brief summary of What I Do For Money: I spent my angsty suburban adolesence partying very little and doing all my homework. Now that I have come to my senses with regard to organized education (a waste of time and money during which you are indoctrinated with lies!), it seems only fair that I should be able to parlay my misspent youth into some filthy lucre, or at least enough lucre to feed and shelter myself. I do this by putting the three remaining brain cells that still get smug satisfaction out of factoring a polynomial to work as a self-employed private tutor.

Way back in 2003, when I was just starting out in this small business venture, I still deemed it acceptable to travel by commuter rail to outlying suburbs to make money. I thought it might be a good idea to place an ad in the local papers of my unfortunate adolescent homeland, a.k.a., Long Island. I have since realized that tutoring within city limits is more interesting, more lucrative and a shorter commute, though there is something very special about the kids in suburbia that no Upper West Sider will ever be able to match.

So I called up Anton Newspapers to place an ad in all eighteen community newspapers of Nassau County, advertising myself as a “Regents and Test Prep Tutor.” I painstakingly read this ad to a man named Gerry, spelling out every single word, and paid $156.00 for four weeks of advertising. When the bill arrived, complete with a tearsheet with my ad circled in marker, it revealed that I had been advertised to the good people of Nassau County as a “Test Prep tudor.”

I called Gerry, who claimed to be “fixing the ad on the computer.” This should have been a warning sign to me, as the previous week, during my initial phone conversation with Gerry, when I inquired as to whether my ad would also appear on the internet, he admitted that he 1) didn’t know how to use a computer 2) had “never seen the internet” (and therefore had no idea what format internet ads appeared in and 3) had no email address to which I could email the correct spelling of the ad. Sure enough, the next week, the ad again ran as “Test Prep Tudor.” This would have been amusing if the next day at my then-office job, a co-worker had not come in and jokingly asked if I was the tutor with the misspelled ad Jay Leno had showed last night on The Tonight Show.

Apparently they have a running segment on stupid ads and misprints of all kinds, on which MY VERY OWN AD (name and phone number blacked out) was derided on NATIONAL TELEVISON by none other than JAY HIMSELF. YES. They even highlighted the word “tudor” with a little spotlight, then proceeded to mock me as they mocked the woman on the street who could not identify the picture of Abraham Lincoln.

At the time, I was rather irate. I wrote this short warning to the people who had wronged me:

“A message to Donna, Gerry, and Anton Newspapers as a WHOLE: LOOK OUT. You have awakened the sleeping dragon of my rage and I will not stop until vengence is mine. Jay Leno has defamed my good name and you will suffer the consequences. I haven’t been this mad since I was repeatedly called to jury duty in Nassau County after thrice proving my Brooklyn residence.”

I have been defamed. I only hope to one day be infamed, if that is the state of being infamous. Being famed, I’ve always thought, would be not unlike having a continous paranoid schizophrenic episode. Everyone on the street knows who you are, but you don’t know who they are.

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