This Week's Late Night Classic 'SNL' Rerun -- Behind the Scenes Info

By Sean Bradley

This Saturday's late night classic "Saturday Night Live" rerun, airing after the live episode in most parts of the country, will be the Chevy Chase / Billy Joel episode from February 18, 1978. Trivia buffs know that about five minutes before the show went on the air, host Chase and cast member Bill Murray got in a fist fight.

Here's is how the book "Saturday Night: A Backstage History," by Doug Hill and Jeff Weingrad, remembers it:

The friction between Chevy and Billy started sparking before the dress rehearsal on Saturday. Chevy was sitting in Franken and Davis's office when Billy burst in and told Chevy he'd heard what an asshole he's been while he was on the show. Chevy said later he was shocked--this was the first time anyone had confronted him with what they thought, and he knew then why everyone had been treating him so badly. They started shouting and finally Chevy told Billy to get out. There was more tension during dress, while they were rehearsing a sketch together called "Celebrity Crack-Up," and more words were exchanged after dress in the hallway outside 8H. It had gotten around that Chevy was having troubles at home with Jackie Carlin, and Billy twisted the knife. "Go f**k your wife," he said. "She needs it."

Chevy came back with a put-down about Billy's face, saying it looked as if Neil Armstrong had landed on it. Their shouts echoed through the eight and ninth floors.

Billy and Chevy came to the notes meeting between dress and air furious but contained. Five minutes before air, though, it boiled over. Chevy found Billy in John's dressing room and called him out.

"Let's go, sucker," he said. The thought ran through Chevy's mind as he put up his fists that maybe he'd made a mistake, since, as Chevy put it later, Billy was from a tougher side of the tracks than he, and Billy liked to fight. Billy didn't have to be asked twice, and he came at Chevy swinging. 'This is my show now!' he yelled.

Belushi somehow wedged himself between them, and Brian Murray grabbed at Chevy's arms. Gilda and Laraine tried to get out of the way; Tom Schiller did nothing, since he was pinned behind the dressing room door. Both Chevy and Billy were throwing punches, most of which hit John. They were quickly pulled apart and everyone went out, shaken, to get in place for the show.

The acrid air of the fight hung over 8H as the show went of. The studio audience gave Chevy a standing ovation when he entered, but to those backstage he'd clearly been thrown off his stride. Lorne, watching on his monitor and saddened by what had occurred, whispered to no one in particular as he watched, 'Chevy doesn't have it tonight.'

At the end of the show, as Chevy stood onstage with the rest of the cast members waving goodnight, Billy paced back and forth behind the group with a menacing smile on his face, like a tiger pacing a cage, looking as though he might jump over them all to throttle Chevy as soon as the camera went off. Danny and John slipped back from the front of the stage to stand beside him. The show scored "Saturday Night's" highest rating ever to that point.

BACK to Late Breaking "SNL" News