The end of an era
Tomorrow night marks the end of an era, as one of the best late night hosts of all time leaves the air. Maybe Jay was your guy. Or Carson before him. My late night host of preference has always been David Letterman. Living in the NYC area in the mid- to late 90s, I had the opportunity to see one of his last shows on NBC, months prior to his move to CBS. It was May 7, 1993 and an unremarkable guest list – Martin Mull, David Sanborn, Dinosaur Jr., and Mike Lupica – but we were there. Lining up on the street waiting to enter the theater, watching the monologue, shivering in the 60° studio. We were there. And it was something special.
Then Dave moved to CBS and the Ed Sullivan Theatre, and though I walked past the hallowed venue many times, I never got to see a live taping of The Late Show. I even stopped into Rupert Jee’s Hello Deli a couple times, but he was nowhere to be seen.
For me, the most memorable show – maybe even the most memorable television moment of my life – was Letterman’s monologue on September 19, 2001, his first show back on the air after 9/11. He was the perfect guy to do it, to bring some sense of normalcy back to a frightened and out-of-sorts nation. Sure, he’s human and far from perfect. Made some very public and embarrassing blunders. But who among us would stand up to such scrutiny and keep on rolling, keep on doing great work?
One thing that has always impressed me about David Letterman is his ability to shift seamlessly from interviewing a brilliant thinker one day (e.g., Elizabeth Warren long before she made it onto the public stage as a U.S. Senator) to a pop figure like Pamela Anderson the next. Although Letterman never had as guests the leagues of authors Jon Stewart has hosted, he had some famous ones like Carolyn Kennedy, Pete Townshend, and Martha Stewart. Here’s a (complete?) list of author appearances on The Late Show.
I’ll leave you with a few of Dave’s words that might just inspire – and amuse – you a bit:
There is no off position on the genius switch.
Next in importance to having a good aim is to recognize when to pull the trigger.
I have found that the only thing that does bring you happiness is doing something good for somebody who is incapable of doing it for themselves.
Sometimes something worth doing is worth overdoing.
I’m just trying to make a smudge on the collective unconscious.
Fine art and pizza delivery. What we do falls neatly in between.
For the love of God, folks, don’t try this at home.
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