Leno to pay salaries of laid-off staffers
By Paul Bond
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - A day after they learned that they would be laid off, employees of "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" have received news that might ease the blow.
Leno has decided to pay his non-writing staff out of his pocket through next week, sources said Saturday. That could be extended if the writers' strike is not resolved by then.
"Tonight Show" executive producer Debbie Vickers is said to have been involved in the decision and reportedly began calling laid-off employees Saturday.
A couple of days after the Writers Guild of America strike began November 5, the star of "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" told about 80 of his staffers that they need not worry about their finances. Leno was so adamant about paychecks being safe, many didn't bother looking for new jobs even though NBC was forecasting layoffs.
So it came as quite a shock Friday when the entire staff was told that they were not only out of a job but also that they weren't guaranteed of being rehired once "The Tonight Show" returns.
"Some people were crying. Some people were screaming," said one employee speaking on the condition of anonymity.
NBC declined comment on the firings beyond a brief statement Friday saying that the network had "regretfully informed the people who work on 'The Tonight Show With Jay Leno' and 'Late Night With Conan O'Brien' that their services are not needed at this time due to our inability to continue production of the shows."
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