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'THE TONIGHT SHOW' Local man makes strong showing



Published: Wed, February 16, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



He can also roll up a frying pan so it looks like a burrito.

NEW CASTLE, Pa. - For Steve McGranahan, television fame was in the cards. All 520 of them.

McGrahanan, a self-described strong man, was featured Thursday on the "Don't Try This At Home" segment of "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." His stunt? Ripping full decks of playing cards in two while holding them in his teeth. And he didn't just do it once - he ripped 10 decks of cards in 30 seconds.

McGrahanan's brush with fame began about three months ago when his wife, Gina, e-mailed the show to tell them about her husband's feats of strength. McGranahan, who is 6 feet tall and weighs 340 pounds, can do more than just rip cards - he also bends horseshoes and wrenches and rolls frying pans up like a burrito.

But it was his ability to rip cards that caught the eye of the talent coordinators at "The Tonight Show." They emailed him and asked if he'd send an audition tape and then called back again to extend an invitation to Burbank, Calif.

Touchdown to star treatment

The McGranahans flew to California last week. On the plane, McGranahan said, he was nervous, but when the plane landed his apprehension stopped and the red carpet treatment started. A driver met them at the airport and took them to the Burbank Hilton in a Lincoln sedan. Everything - airfare, hotel and a per diem for expenses - was paid by the show. He was paid for his appearance too - a "nice chunk of change," he said.

On Thursday morning, a stretch limo picked up McGrahanan and the other "Don't Try This at Home" guests and drove them to the "Tonight Show" studio to rehearse. After ripping a few decks, McGranahan went into the Green Room - a waiting room of sorts - and sat down on a couch to relax for a moment.

"I was really just sitting there with my eyes closed, kind of pinching myself, thinking I just can't believe where I am, and there's this knock at the door," he said. In walked Jay Leno.

Leno walked over and extended his hand to McGranahan.

"What a gentleman," McGrahanan said of Leno. "So kind. You can tell he didn't forget where he came from. He thanked me for coming, for being on his show. He said, 'I really want to thank you for being here.' He was just a super nice guy. A really classy guy."

The taping started at 4:35 p.m., and McGranahan's segment went off without a hitch. After he finished, he said, he went back to the Green Room and said a prayer. "I just thanked God for the strength he's given me," McGranahan said. "I'm blessed. I'm really blessed."

Once the taping was finished, McGranahan continued to perform. He bent several wrenches and horseshoes for "Tonight Show" staffers to keep as souvenirs. "

I had a lot of pent-up energy," he said.

After a steak and ribs dinner, the McGranahans went back to their hotel for what he said was "the weirdest thing I've ever done." He watched himself on TV.

"I was watching, thinking, 'This isn't happening. This is not real,'" he said.

The couple came home late Saturday after doing some sightseeing around southern California.




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