Sunday, April 15, 2007

Memories of Dave

Now that David Letterman has celebrated his 25th year on air and his 60th birthday, I guess he's no longer the upstart young late night host. Yes, I know, everyone else figured that out at least a decade ago, but I haven't watched much late night TV for about that long.

I remember the days when my friends and I, inspired by the Friends episode, came up with our own list of five celebrities we'd be allowed to sleep with without our boyfriends getting upset. Letterman was on mine. Hey, it was years ago, and women really do find a sense of humour and intelligence attractive. Now, well, he's old. (Also on the list? John Cusack, David Duchovny, David E. Kelley, and ... someone else. Hmm, this woman also seems to find Davids attractive.)

I also remember the day I got to see his show in person. This was in 1993, days after the car bombing of the World Trade Centre, when I was living in New Brunswick and a couple of friends and I drove down to Boston and New York on a break from work.

Dave was in the waning days of his NBC contract; it had already been announced that he was moving to CBS for an obscene amount of money. (One of my favourite segments from the early CBS years was when some of Dave's staff were "hypnotized" and one moaned about his boss's salary increase: "You could give me a million dollars and you'd still have THIRTEEN MILLION DOLLARS.")

We hadn't planned the trip in advance, so we lined up early at 30 Rockefeller Plaza for stand-by tickets. All of us in the line got in - this wasn't the peak of his popularity, it wasn't the peak of tourist season, and the guest lineup was not at the peak of spectacular.

Letterman came out before the taping began to warm up the crowd, engaging in some lighthearted banter with the audience. There was an exchange with a woman named Meredith that ended up being a moment in the show itself - during the monologue, Dave randomly shouted "Party at Meredith's!" while the camera panned to her. We in the audience loved the shoutout, but I had to wonder how puzzled the people watching at home must have been.

After a wacky segment on rejected products, like the Phil Donahue head cotton-ball dispenser, Raquel Welch was the first guest. Dave was in fawning mode, but I remember being less than impressed with her intellect, though she was probably just trying to be cute. She made an unfortunate if appropriate mispronunciation of Joey Buttafuoco's name, calling him "Joey Buttafucko." I'd never heard of the second guest, Nigel Mansell, but he was a race car driver and Dave is a race car nut, and he had a sense of humour, so the interview was lighter and much more fun.

These were the dark days before YouTube - in fact, the days when only early adopters had e-mail, and Al Gore had barely started to invent the World Wide Web - but one friend's mother taped the show for us. I hung onto that tape for years, until accidentally recording something over it. Sadly, YouTube hasn't come through for me with clips of that particular episode.

This year, Letterman kept things low-key for his anniversary and birthday. Drew Barrymore wouldn't dare do something like this to a birthday guy who's had heart surgery:

And there was no anniversary fanfare, like there was for his 10th:

But I've got my fond memories of being at his show, even if YouTube doesn't.