THE TONIGHT SHOW (TV program - NBC) with host Jay Leno November 28, 1994
Jay Leno: Alrighty. My next guest is an Emmy nominated actor who plays Niles Crane on the hit series "Frasier." It airs Tuesdays at 9 o'clock, right here on NBC. Please welcome David Hyde Pierce. Good to see you again.
David Hyde Pierce: Thank you. Good to be back.
JL: Didn't you tell me that you once worked with a...
Dolly Parton: Hi.
JL: ... with Dolly?
DHP: I... I worked... I was actually Dolly's security guard. [laughter]
JL: Security guard? Really?
DHP: Yes, yes.
DP: When? When was that?
DHP: You... you... you probably don't remember. I was a... [laughter] It was a... I mean, I wasn't literally your security guard. I mean, not at all actually but it was a... [laughter] It was at the Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs?
DP: Um hum.
DHP: Remember? Yep.
DP: Well, I remember being there.
DHP: Yep. And uh... I was a... I was a security guard and I remember, at the performer's gate... Uh, and they had a lot of concerts. There was a big open air theater and you performed there and I remember because all these people in the audience had binoculars and when you came out, you said, "Oh, look at all the binoculars!" And then you turned profile and said, "Put those things away... [laughter] You don't need those binoculars." And I just thought, 'I would take a bullet for that woman.' [laughter and clapping]
JL: Oh, very good. Now...
DP: I'm a big fan of yours. You're doing a great job.
DHP: Thank you.
JL: Hey, nothing personal, but I'd be interested in meeting the person who hired you to be a security guard. I mean you don't ... [laughter] Again, you're a very nice man and very talented and all, but when you go some place and security guards tend to be sort of beefy and threatening.
JL: I mean, if I approached you, I would just want...
DHP: What's the problem? [laughter]
JL: Well, I just... I think I would just want to crash on general principle, going this security guard, you know.
DHP: [DHP laughs] Well, see the thing is, this place... the main, like, performers at this place was the Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York City Ballet.
DHP: So I was dealing with mostly very old people with walkers... [laughter]
DHP: ...and I could handle them. But...
JL: Yeah, like "Come on, pops. Take a hike."
DHP: Mostly, mostly, yeah, yeah. Settle down there. But on Mondays, they would have other kinds of performances like Dolly or they would have people like Guns 'N Roses.
JL: Uhh. [laughter]
DHP: And I'd be there in my little coat and tie and these guys in leather jackets would be chaining their motorcycles to the fence to pull it down and I would just go in my hut and read a book. [laughter]
JL: Oh, really? So not very affective.
DHP: Well, it worked. I'm alive.
JL: Right, right.
JL: Now, do you play an instrument? Were you a musician at one time?
DHP: I did. I used to be a musician. I was going to be a pianist which is a tricky word to say on television. [laughter]
JL: Yes, it is.
DHP: But I had... [laughter] you all know [gesturing to the band]. I had a bad incident when I was starting out. I was playing the piano at a cocktail party, which I didn't do a lot of, I was mainly a classical musician, but I was playing cocktail music at this party. There was older people at the party and there I was playing like "Melancholy Baby" or something and this very old woman came up and sat on my bench and put a dollar in my kiddy and said, "Do you know 'Yank My Doodle It's a Dandy'? [laughter] And that was it for me, I thought no more.
DHP: No, no. I'm out of this business.
JL: But you never played any other gigs? You didn't do bar mitzvahs and things like that?
DHP: No, no, nothing... well, I was an organist...
JL: An organist?
DHP: ...which is another tricky word because you know...
JL: Yeah, it is. It's almost as tricky as being a pianist.
DHP: Yes, but I had a bad incident there cause I was... I was a... they're both actually felonies if you want to get into it. [laughter]
DHP: I was playing the organ for my sister's wedding.
DHP: And that was the end of my organ career cause I was... you know, a wedding is a big... I mean, it's a religious event but also timing is of the essence. It's a big dramatic event.
DHP: And the big climax is when the minister says 'You may kiss the bride' and the bride kisses the groom and the organ crashes in with, you know, 'get out while you still can' or whatever the music is that you play at the end of the wedding. And so it came to the time and the minister... we'd rehearsed it and everything... and the minister said 'you may now kiss the bride' and there was my sister who I, you know, love and there was the groom and they kissed and I burst into tears and I couldn't play the damn organ. I was sitting there moaning, "Oh, she looks so beautiful." [laughter]
DHP: But fortunately the minister, Father Park, had a background in radio before he became a minister and he turned to me as I was weeping and he put one hand over his ear and he went [gestures] like this and oh, oh, oh and I played. So that was the end of that career.
DP: But your character plays on the show.
DHP: Yes, a little bit.
DP: You're supposed to be a concert pianist, right? You and your brother, Frasier.
DHP: Yeah, that's right, I play a little bit. Yep, we both play, they both play.
JL: Let's take a little break. I want to ask you about... now you said you went to your first Hollywood premiere.
DHP: I did. I went to my first...
JL: Yeah, but I don't see how that can be possible cause... well, alright we'll take a break. More with David right after this. Be right back.
JL: As I mentioned before the commercial, I saw this, one of them goofy Hollywood celebrity columns...
DHP: Uh hum.
JL: David Hyde Pierce attending his first Hollywood premiere.
DHP: Yes I did.
JL: For uh... what movie was it?
DHP: "Frankenstein." It was the premiere of "Frankenstein."
JL: Right. But you were in "Wolf" with Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer?
DHP: Uh hum. Yep. Yes I was.
JL: So obviously, this is not your first premiere, you went to that.
DHP: Not that was the first one I went to. They didn't ask.
JL: They didn't ask you to come to your own...?
DHP: No, no. I'm sure it was a postal mistake.
JL: Oh, I see.
DHP: Like, you know, the thing is coming eventually.
JL: Right, right. So I see. So you missed your own premiere?
DHP: Yeah. I saw a screening with like the crew. [laughter]
JL: Oh, well that's nice.
DHP: We had a good time.
JL: And that's more fun anyway. Sure.
DHP: Yeah, yeah. Who wants to hang out with Jack and Michelle?
JL: Right, right. [laughter]
DP: But now that you're such a big star from the TV show, I'm sure that you'll be the first to be asked next time.
DHP: Now they'll be calling. I think so. Actually, this is kind of amazing. I feel... it's like being part of Mt. Rushmore sitting up here with like you and you [gesturing to Dolly and Jay].
DP: Oh, well that's a nice thing to say.
JL: Yeah, I guess that's good, Mt. Rushmore. [clapping]
DHP: It's a compliment. No, it was a compliment. Yeah.
JL: Yes, it is. Thank you very much. So tell me about the...
DHP: So I went to the...
JL: Is that the "Frankenstein" premiere that had all the big...
DHP: It was a big deal. The Prince, not formally called Prince, but the actual Prince of Wales, Prince Charles... [laughter]
JL: [laughs] Oh, Prince Charles.
DHP: ...was there. Yes. And it was amazing. It was very exciting and he was at the... It was weird because we were all sitting in this theater and they keep coming down with bulletins saying 'the royal party is on its way' and 'you have to be in your sits when the royal party gets here.' Then the royal party is flossing its teeth or something I don't know. Finally, we're all sitting down and nothing happens. Just all of a sudden everyone in the audience stands up and we all do this [looks around without seeing anything and sits down again] [laughter] and they start the movie. And you would never know that the guy was there because no one said... there were no trumpets, there was no anything. But afterwards he spoke at the big banquet. And the thing about Prince Charles is that... he's obviously, he's a very smart guy, he's very well-educated and you know, all that, but he does this sort of 'royalty speak' which is where... I've heard that they all do this but I never heard it live before. It's where he says something that's perfectly reasonable, but then he keeps talking until you have no idea what he's saying [laughter] . So it's like, he says, "this film was a work of genius as so many films of a similar quality and like nature. Ah, I think." And everyone's just sort of... and he just kept doing that, but it was exciting to be there with him.
JL: Oh, yeah. Did you get to shake hands or anything like that?
DHP: No. [laughter]
JL: Cause I read some of the people...
DHP: They didn't ask.
JL: Some of the people got to meet him.
DHP: Yeah, a lot of people die. No. Jack Nicholson was there though.
DHP: He was at the screening. Wasn't even in the movie, but he was at the screening. [laughter]
JL: Yeah. Yeah [laughs]. Did he...?
DHP: I had actually... I knew that because I was standing next to a security guard, this big huge security guard, who was by the way, escorting me to the banquet. [laughter] Finally. And he was this big huge guy and he had his little earphone and I heard him say into the microphone, "Are you OK with Nicholson?" and I said, "I certainly am!" [laughter] And he gave me this look like 'I'm just going to shoot you now because at this rate, you're never going to make it through the party.' But I had fun anyway so.
JL: And you did "Celebrity Jeopardy"?
DHP: I did. I played "Celebrity Jeopardy" a few weeks ago.
JL: You did very well, by the way.
DHP: I won. I won.
JL: Oh, you did win?
DHP: I did win. [applause]
JL: You were the big champ?
DHP: Uh, well, no. No. I...
JL: You get the applause and then you go no.
DHP: I won, yeah. Well, I sort of... I won my night. The winner for the week was General Norman Schwarzkopf.
JL: Well, that's pretty good.
DHP: And I was second.
JL: Well, that's pretty good.
DHP: And I think Saddam Hussein was third, I think [laughter].
JL: I know you beat out Goober from the Mayberry Archive.
DHP: Yes, yes, yes.
JL: Very good.
[piano plays lightly to signal commercial break]
DHP: So... are we having an other worldly experience?
JL: It's an out of body experience. When we come back, Dolly will sing.
JL: She'll be right here, be right back. David Hyde Pierce.