LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Thirty years ago, on May 15, KLAS-TV’s 5 p.m. newscast aired a live interview with a man we called “Dennis.”  His true identity wouldn’t be revealed for another seven-and-a-half months.

But the allegations made by “Dennis” in that 5-minute segment caught the attention of the whole world. The public came to know about a top secret place known as Area 51.

I-Team Reporter George Knapp was part of that conversation. The person who was interviewed was named Bob Lazar.

“I was the co-anchor of the 5 p.m. news with Paula Francis,” Knapp said. “And our newscast back then featured a nightly interview segment. The guest we scheduled for that day bailed on us at the last minute, so I placed a call to famed aviator John Lear because he’d been telling me he knew someone who had been hired to work at an ultra-secret military base near Groom Lake. We had no idea at the time that this interview would grow legs.”

(Photo: Area 51)

“I have no way of proving it without revealing my identity and getting myself into more trouble than I already have,” said “Dennis.”

He told Knapp what was happening at the base.

They have nine flying saucers, flying discs, of extraterrestrial origin. They’re in various stages. Some are being test flown,” he said.

Anchor Paula Francis asked Lazar how the tests were going?

“Some of them are 100 percent intact and are operational. I worked in propulsion, on the power source, about half of them are being torn down,” he said.

When asked where the sauces were from and how we got them, Lazar replied, “I have no idea. The information is highly compartmentalized.”

The interview had been set up at the last minute. “Dennis” met a news unit in front of the home of John Lear, put on a microphone, and then sent shock waves, not only through UFO circles but to a much larger public. Lazar recalls what was going through his mind at the time. 

“I was rethinking it right up until the last minute,” he said.

Within days, the story of the Dennis interview had traveled around the world. Busloads of the saucer-curious descended on the outskirts of Area 51. The little town of Rachel became a hub of E.T. enthusiasm. And the search was on for the true identity of the man in the shadows.

“I’ve thought many times whether it was a good idea or not, and now am wondering again,” he said.

When the shadowy Dennis told Knapp he was concerned about getting into more trouble than he was already in, he was referring to taking his friends into the desert for a viewing party.

Two months before the Dennis interview, Lazar began taking a few friends out to the desert on Wednesday nights. They focused their attention, not on Groom Lake, but in the direction of Papoose Dry Lake, which is where Lazar said he worked, a facility he called S-4.

And sure enough, on each of three outings, the groups witnessed a glowing disk rise above Papoose, even though — officially — there has never been a base or facility there. How did he know? Three decades later, the public is still fascinated with the story Lazar unleashed.

“I’m amazed people are still talking about it 30 years later,” Lazar said.