Johnny Carson asked the audience if anyone could play the piano. This man raised his hand, and his life changed forever.

Life is full of surprises, and one such unexpected incident altered David Tolley’s course. On December 19, 1985, while watching Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show in the studio, something unexpected occurred. The guest was supposed to be classical pianist Horatio Gutierrez, but Carson disclosed that he would be unable to perform due to a hand injury. Carson asked if anyone in the audience could play any odd rhythms on the piano.

Having played piano as a youngster, Tolley immediately settled in. He walked onto the stage and started to play “Memory,” from the hit musical Cats. He received a standing ovation from the crowd and gained notoriety for his unexpected performance.

The day following the event, Tolley’s phone started ringing incessantly. Calls offering parts in films, positions on cruise ships, and other chances were made to him. An accidental late-night encounter on a chat program had altered his life irrevocably. The story of Tolley’s unexpected triumph serves as a cautionary tale about being ready to seize life’s opportunities and overcome its challenges at all times.

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