Jane Birnbaum
May 08, 1992 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Every talk show has one, but none has been nearly as legendary as The Tonight Show‘s greenroom, the windowless, subterranean way station at NBC’s Burbank studios where Carson’s guests wait before stepping in front of the cameras. A smallish (about 10′ by 35’), plainish (two couches, two chairs, an out-of-tune piano), gray-beige-ish place (it’s not the slightest bit green), the chamber has probably sheltered more queasy celebrities than Cedars Sinai. Carrie Fisher, for one, went white with stage fright one time she sat there. And Tony Randall, though he has appeared on the show more than 100 times, has frequently paled there as well: Before sitting down with Johnny, he has always asked everyone backstage to wish him luck. To keep the jittery stars occupied, NBC staffers provide food — a small tray of decidedly un-Spago-like cold cuts — and drink — distinctly un-vintage wine. ”It’s the crappy kind they serve at no-host dinners,” says comedian Red Buttons. Still, in vino veritas and all that. Hey, anything that gets you through the curtain.

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