Finally, Glaser looked across the room to where Conan was sitting and asked him, “What do you want to do?”His chest muscles were so constricted, Conan wondered briefly if he might be having a heart attack. “What I want to do,” he said, haltingly, his voice rough and raw, “is something that all of you are going to tell me I can’t do.”He had their full attention now, all eyes pinned to him. “I want to write a statement that says exactly how I feel about it. You guys are going to tell me that I’m giving up all my leverage if I’m supposed to go to another network or something, but I can’t wait. I don’t want to play games here.”All his life, Conan O’Brien had lived through periods of debilitating self-doubt and insecurity, knowing that when the moment came to stand up for himself, when he was truly pressed against a wall, he would find a way to push all that aside, straighten his long Irish backbone, and be at his best. He described how much the show meant to him, the legacy of Carson, the offers he had passed up to get this chance, and how losing it would be crushing—and unfair. Because they were never really given a chance.
Vanity Fair has an excerpt from New York Times media reporter and author of The Late Shift Bill Carter’s upcoming book on the Leno/Conan Tonight Show debacle, The War for Late Night. It’s an incredible inside look at exactly what happened during the tumultuous battle for the show, and based on this excerpt, the book is going to be essential reading. Here’s Conan deciding to write his “People of the World” letter: Consider this book pre-ordered.