Marty & Jay Leno
Marty & Jay Leno
 
 
JAW-DROPPER By Greg Johnson Frontiersman Published on Saturday, October 9, 2010 8:25 PM AKDT It took just a handshake and autograph from Jay Leno to rev Marty Sieler’s engine past the red line. The former radio DJ rolled up in his 1923 T-bucket roadster with a Corvette engine to meet the late-night television legend and show off his hot rod Saturday at the military recruiting office at the Parks and Palmer-Wasilla highways. The “Tonight Show” host was in the Valley to mark the opening of the new U.S. Air Force Reserves recruiting office. ROBERT DeBERRY/Frontiersman Palmer resident Marty Sieler, right, shows “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno his 1923 T-bucket roadster Saturday morning at a U.S. Air Force induction ceremony and ribbon cutting in Wasilla. Sieler was holding a sign asking Leno to autograph his hot rod. At right, Leno’s autograph. (Use arrows above to view more photos) When the comedian saw Sieler’s candy-apple red roadster, Leno, a serious collector of vintage automobiles, made a bee-line for the cherry ride. “You do all this yourself?” Leno asked. “Very nice, nice job.” Leno autographed the car, leaving Sieler and his heart racing nearly as fast as the 140 mph his roadster can pull. “I feel like crying right now,” he said. “Thank you, Mr. Leno! That was Jay Leno. That was awesome! I can’t believe it. I can’t believe Jay Leno just signed my car. It’s just been a great day for Marty.” It was also a great day for the U.S. Air Force Reserves in the Valley, said Lt. Col. Bryan Winter. Because of the area’s growing population and connection with the military, “it just makes sense” that the reserves recruiting office joins others from the full-time branches already here, he said. “We have a new group here, the 477th Fighter Group. There are about 500 people we’re looking to hire, and we’re looking for all kinds of job specialties for people to come out and help us support the defense of the nation,” Winter said. Leno isn’t local, but has demonstrated tremendous support for the military, Winter said. His Alaska visit is all donated time. The funny man was personable and humble, taking time to talk with local residents, sign autographs and see some of the unique automobiles they brought for him to see. And Sieler’s made an impression. “It’s nice,” Leno said. “He did a nice job. That’s the kind of stuff I like, home-built stuff.” Because of his well-publicized love for anything that rolls, Leno is often greeted by people wanting to show off their prized automobiles. “Oh, all the time,” he said, adding he appreciates that people take a special effort to feed his personal interests. “That’s what’s fun. That’s the cool thing when you have a TV show and you play yourself. Your interests are real. You play a doctor on TV, they all want to know doctor stuff, and you’re not a doctor. I’m into cars and motorcycles, so whenever I go places people want to show me.” The event was also a venue for Gretchen O’Barr to see the man who usually comes on television later than she can stay awake. She told Leno he was better looking in person than on TV. “You need to get a new TV,” Leno quipped back. It made O’Barr’s day. “I was so excited,” she said. “I can’t stay up late enough to watch him. He’s very personable, and I kind of expected that. With his silvery hair, he looked kind of sexy.” While Leno’s Valley visit was enough to draw more than 100 out on a chilly Saturday, the grand opening and induction of 13 new recruits into the U.S. Air Force Reserves also highlighted the event. Roman Gimeno is a recent University of Alaska Anchorage graduate who was sworn in. “I think it’s a great opportunity,” he said of his enlistment. “I get to serve, and I also can have my career on the side. I just graduated from college and this is going to help me pay for school. It’s going to be a good opportunity for me to get on my feet, and the leadership experience is going to help me be more well-rounded.” Those were also reasons cited by inductee Larisa Hennessy, who also had another motive for seeking the reserves. “I was hoping to learn a lot about weaponry and stuff,” she said. Wasilla Mayor Verne Rupright told the recruits he can still remember the day nearly 40 years ago when he took his Air Force oath. He served four years. That Leno would go so far out of his way to show support for the military is impressive, the mayor said. “For a personality like Jay to come up here, to give up his time to support the military functions in this country and people here locally, that’s outstanding,” Rupright said. Leno may be best known for his quick wit and late-night political lampoons, but said he’s honored to give something back to those who serve. “It’s a great thing, actually,” he said. “We do a lot of these USO things and stuff all around the country. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for these guys.”
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