This Is Only An Exhibition. This is Not A Competition. Please, No Wagering

When Dave took a few questions from the audience, Helaine asked about his makeup.

“My boyfriend is a weatherman in Buffalo…”


After 33 years on nighttime TV, David Letterman calls it quits tonight. He’s pretty much admitted to no longer being contemporary in this era of YouTube clips and Twitter memes. Sad.

I was a Letterman fan from Day One, back when he was a young stand-up comedian appearing on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. He was edgy and vital, always willing to bite the hand that fed him.

I was in Buffalo when Dave started in late night. It was a show we, an NBC affiliate, didn’t carry. Vicky Gregorian, our program director, heard my pleas to clear “Late Night” nearly every day.

It took time, but we did finally air him. My kvetching probably had little to do with it in the long run.

David Letterman autographed photoThe photo on the left was an early 80s gift from my girlfriend, Helaine. It’s an autographed Happy Birthday greeting from Dave, standing on 5th Avenue across from St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

David Letterman was so strong at one point I forced myself to stop watching! I was inadvertently doing my Letterman impression on-the-air.

Helaine and I first visited the show in 1982. Andrea Martin was a guest. Maybe July 11?

We’d gotten tickets through a friend, were brought in early, sat up front and schmoozed with Biff Henderson. When Dave took a few questions from the audience, Helaine asked about his makeup.

“My boyfriend is a weatherman in Buffalo…”

geoff-at-ed-sullivan-theaterLetterman answered her question, started the show, then referred back to his conversation with Helaine.

“Sir, Where are you a weatherman?” Letterman asked coast-to-coast.

“Buffalo,” I shouted in my network debut (voice only).

I’ve been back to see Dave a few times since. The latest was when Matt Scott invited me to the Christmas show with Darlene Love. Dream fulfilled.

I rooted for Dave when Carson decided to retire. Dave was shafted. Everyone knew it. Alas, the revenge we all hoped for, Dave beating Jay Leno, never came.

Dave was the cutting edge. No more. That’s the saddest part for me. He had it, but let it slip away. As a performer I work hard every day making sure my flame is always lit, my passion always there. Dave seemed to have given up.

Though I no longer watch as often, I will miss knowing Letterman is there. Like his hero, Johnny Carson, Dave will probably fade into the woodwork out-of-the public eye.

Dave is my hero.

6 thoughts on “This Is Only An Exhibition. This is Not A Competition. Please, No Wagering”

  1. Losing the Letterman show is certainly sad! Going to miss it. My son, roommate and I, thanks to me, got free tickets a few years back. We sat in the balcony. Sean Penn was the guest; Peter Frampton joined Paul Schafer’s band! I was also thrilled to see the stage that the Beatles had played on. It was quite the experience. Every time I watched the show since I would look at the balcony and think “That’s where we were! The three of us watched the last show tonight. Bittersweet. Letterman’s show will be missed.

  2. Liked ALL the Late night “Guys” Carson, Letterman, Leno, etc….they all had me laughing at one time or another….not playing favorites…still remember Steve Allen too…..I was a night owl even as a kid…..Fallon, Kimmell …make me laugh too….you too Geoff….appreciate your dry wit also….keep us laughing …even if it’s unintentional….

  3. I saw tapings at both NBC and CBS.

    NBC was the only time I saw David Brenner live and Dave just destroyed Victoria Jackson.(April 9, 1992)

    Most memorable taping I attended was just before Christmas in 2000. George Clooney was the guest but early in the show Dave made a crack about Dr. Pepper being ‘liquid manure’ and when they went to commercial they stopped tape. For 20-25 minutes an angry Dave was arguing with suits from CBS who wanted him to redo the segment and he refused and it did wind up airing. CBS was sued and the settlement was the episode would never air again and Dr. Pepper got a free ad in the 2001 Super Bowl.

    I read tonight that Studio 50 is being completely gutted for Colbert and even the audience seats were being thrown in the dumpster this morning.

    Dave’s finest moment was the first show after 9/11 – we as a country needed to laugh again and he found a way to help us heal.

    But if I had to pick the greatest Letterman stunt it has to be this one from 1986. It captures Dave at his best.

  4. I wasn’t a regular Letterman watcher, but I somehow managed to catch a lot of his most iconic moments (I’ll never forget the Velcro suit).

    One of the best things about the show, for me, was what a supporter of underground/indie music it was. If Dave heard something he liked, it made it onto the show — never mind who the band’s publicist was or how many records they were selling. One Saturday morning he was driving on the Merritt and heard a segment on NPR’s Weekend Edition about a young unknown artist named Vienna Teng. He immediately left a voice mail on the talent booker’s machine “get her on the show as soon as possible”. It was her television debut, and to this day the only national TV she’s done. He single-handedly jump-started her career, just because he heard her music on the radio and liked it. *Nobody* does that.

    A close friend’s brother-in-law was one of the head writers/executive producers for many years, so I got to hear a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff that, sadly, made me less of a fan. But I still think the television landscape will be a lesser place without Letterman in it.

  5. I kind of liked Letterman in the beginning but he got to be too nasty with things that he said. I heard him say things that were really mean spirited and not at all funny so I stopped watching him. I started watching Jay instead because he didn’t say mean spirited things. He too his share of shots at just about everyone, some of them were borderline, but never really crossed the line. He always was funny and self-effacing of jokes went bad. I think Jay was a better fit for Carson’s spot because he was less acerbic and would be better accepted by Carson’s older more conservative fan base. It worked. Jay was a big hit. In the end HE got screwed over too. Not once but twice.
    The entertainment biz can be really heartless. No one knows that better than you do Geoff.

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