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Jay Leno's New Edd-Ition

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THEY’RE JUST GETTING TO KNOW EACH other, but it’s clear that Jay Leno and Edd Hall are at the beginning of a beautiful relationship. Soon after Leno chose Hall to be his announcer when he takes over The Tonight Show in May, Hall found himself seated near the heir apparent at a mutual friend’s wedding. According to Hall’s wife, Liza Forster, a free-lance talent coordinator. “Jay was tormenting him by sticking wedding flowers in Edd’s ears.”

Hall, 33, a former NBC page and graphic designer for Late Night with David Letterman (he added the d in Edd for pizzazz), got the Leno floral treatment by beating out 100 contenders with his mellifluous pipes. Leno’s reaction upon hearing Hall’s demo: an exuberant “Yes!” On that audition tape were samples of Hall’s repertoire of more than 150 voices, which he has let loose on such shows as Married…with Children and Letterman. The voices should serve him well in his new mike job, which is conceived as strictly offstage. “I don’t mind being behind the camera,” he says. “I am basically a lazy guy.” But Ed McMahon advises Hall to stay alert: “Eventually he may earn the couch.”

By 14, Hall was already tuning up his vocal cords as a deejay in Corning, N.Y., where he grew up with three sisters. At age 3, he lost his father, a hockey coach, who died of a heart attack after being hit in the chest by a puck. His mother, Thelma, a nurse, subsequently married Bill Hall, then a school administrator, who adopted Edd. Though Hall, who lives with Liza in a rented two-bedroom house in Encino, refuses to rehearse his new part (“I don’t walk around saying, ‘Heeere’s Jay’ “), Bill says Edd already has some of the lines down pat. “When he gave us his new phone number, he told us not to release it to anyone—the words of a true rising star.”