Life is full of surprises, and one unexpected moment changed the trajectory of David Tolley’s life. On December 19, 1985, he was a member of the studio audience for Johnny Carson’s
Tonight Show when the unexpected occurred. Carson revealed that the intended guest, Horatio Gutierrez, a classical pianist, had damaged his hand and would be unable to perform. Carson wondered if anyone in the audience could play the piano without missing a beat.
Tolley, who had been playing the piano since infancy, jumped right in. He ascended the stage and sang «Memory» from the hit musical Cats. The impromptu performance garnered him a standing ovation from the audience as well as newfound fame.
Tolley’s phone started ringing off the hook the day following the event. He received phone calls from people offering him jobs on cruise ships, movie acting roles, and other opportunities.
A accidental encounter on a late-night talk show had irrevocably altered his life. The story of Tolley’s unexpected success serves as a reminder that we never know what opportunities or challenges may come our way in life, and it’s critical to be ready to seize them when they do.