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.

David Letterman Is Retiring

David Letterman autographed photoSome presents are meant to be remembered. While we were dating, Helaine got me an autographed photo of David Letterman. This was at the beginning of the morning show era. He was my hero.

What a caring gift. Thank you again, baby.

David Letterman has done some of the funniest off-the-wall material seen on TV. Not recently.

Since the heart attack? Since his affair? Since the birth of Harry? At some point his TV spark went away.

Don’t get me wrong. I’d see him tomorrow. I’m still a huge fan. He is not doing his best work today.

letterman-ticketWith Leno gone and Jimmy Fallon very strong out of the gate, it’s time. He said so a few nights ago.

So, who? The NY Post says CBS likes Colbert.

Are they talking the character he currently plays or legit Stephen Colbert? Is either a good choice? With the real Stephen, you risk fans who might not like his actual persona as much as his alter ego and feel cheated.

I like Jon Stewart a lot. That choice would make me happy and I think he could be a force.

letterman-studioHoward Stern is a good choice too. He’s intellectually curious and a great interviewer. Does he play close to the line a little too often for CBS? Maybe.

Stern had major public battles with Les Moonves who runs the network and its attendant empire. It got very nasty.

Does money trump personal animosity? Here? In SoCal? In show biz? Survey says, yes!

CBS needs to hit a home run. Late night is fabulously profitable in an era of pinched bottom lines. They will suffer greatly without the revenue Letterman brought.

This will be interesting to watch. Dave said his run ends in 2015.

Darlene Love Alert

Late Show with David Letterman Guests   CBS.comThis Friday marks David Letterman’s annual Christmas show, always featuring Darlene Love singing “Christmas, Baby Please Come Home.” I wait for this performance every year. Last year, as the grateful guest of Matt Scott, I watched Darlene perform it live!

There is a formula followed year-after-year, which is why I’m currently worried.

First there’s Jay Thomas. He tells the story of the Lone Ranger at a car dealership. Then a guest with something to promote comes on. Last year the beautiful, but cold as a fish, Naomi Watts. Then (after an interminable production stop while the studio gets reconfigured) Darlene, full orchestra with strings and a choir.

I checked this year’s lineup. John McEnroe, Kristen Wiig, Darlene. No Jay Thomas!

Uh, oh. This isn’t good. I’ll keep my ear to the tracks to find out what’s happened, kimosabee.

Note: See the comments for more on Jay’s absence.

I Got To See Darlene Love Live!

I’ve been spending a lot of time home recently. You can imagine. With that in mind, when Matt Scott called a few days ago and asked if I wanted to see Darlene Love perform “Christmas, Baby Please Come Home” live on the Letterman show how could I say no!

Actually, I could. That was my gut reaction. Helaine convinced me getting out of the house would be good–and it was.

We met at the Fairfield train station and caught an express to GCT. We needed to be at the Ed Sullivan Theater by 4:30 PM. Our train opened its doors on the lower level at 4:15 PM.

We ran the 1.1 miles!

It’s been a long time since I was an Olympic track star&#185, but we made it to the theater at 4:35 PM.

Uh oh. They’re strict when it comes to punctuality.

A woman who seemed in charge took mercy on us, wrote RED (with a line through it) on the back of our tickets and told us to be back at 5:10 (also, which local bar didn’t mind Late Show audience members using their bathroom)!

This was my fifth time to see David Letterman, twice at NBC and now three times at CBS. On one trip with my friend Harold I wrote how we had the worst seats in the house. Wrong! Matt and I ended up with an obstructed view in folding chairs behind the last row!

Let me pause a second. None of what I’ve written until now matters. For years I’ve raved about this particular Letterman show and how I’ve grown to love Darlene Love’s iconic performance of Phil Spector’s classic. Now I would see it live!

The show started with Jay Thomas telling his Lone Ranger story, then knocking a meatball off a Christmas tree with a football. Honest, this happens every year.

The second guest was Naomi Watts promoting her new movie, “The Impossible.” Matt and I agreed she was cold, aloof and not a very good guest.

She left, meaning it was time for Darlene’s number, but as I looked down (far down) at the studio floor there were no horns or strings or choir–all fixtures of this performance. And then, as the band played (and tape was undoubtedly stopped), stagehands set up chairs and music stands and out came the players.

Oh my God, it was magical.

I stood in the back row and sang every word with Darlene. At the point where she and the choir alternate, “please, please, please…” I threw out my pointed finger in sync with the chorus.

Whatever Darlene once had, she has retained. Her performance was magical.

The lights came up and we went to leave the theater, but before we exited Matt stopped and passed a note to Alan Kalter, who he knows. We went up to the stage and spent a few minutes chatting. He was a nice guy and quite gracious.

Matt’s two children were with the sitter, so we rushed toward Times Square in the rain, got a sandwich at GCT and caught the 8:04 express back to Fairfield.

Thank you Matt. This was among my coolest experiences ever!

Note: Darlene’s performance airs tonight (12/21/12) at 11:35 PM on CBS. Don’t miss it.

&#185 – Never.

No Sooner Are We Home Then We’re Gone!

Here are a few of the early shots. These are reprocessed panoramas.

Central Park South pano from Central Park.jpg

times square stairs pano.jpg

“You realize we only left yesterday?” was Helaine’s question as we left New Haven’s Union Station headed for the ‘overflow’ garage across the way. Yeah–I get it. We packed a lot into 36 hours: two Broadway shows, David Letterman, a little city walking and a few meals.

Still, tomorrow we’re leaving before noon for another adventure. First stop is Colin McEnroe’s show on Connecticut Public Radio. Colin is one of those crazily smart people you only hope to keep up with. He’s doing the dinner and late show at the same time!

The show is heard at 1:00 PM on the multiple frequencies of WNPR plus Internet streaming on

My biggest post-trip chore will be to work on my photos–around 550.

I have been working with a new, faster ‘walkaround’ lens, a Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8. It’s image stabilized which is causing trouble.

The problem isn’t the lens–it’s me! Right now it’s more than I can handle! This lens allows critical mistakes never possible before. It’s going to take some time to figure out how to handle them.

Here’s an example. Because I had slower lenses without any stabilization my nighttime shots were always underexposed. Now they can be properly exposed which should be good, right?

Unfortunately the incredible contrast between bare light points and background elements now becomes a problem. Points of light are heavily overexposed because the rest of the photo is properly exposed! Sometimes they’re too hot to be handled by Photoshop.

I also haven’t figured out how much of the stabilization I can get away with. Some shots are blurry because I tried to let the camera find a proper shutter speed–much too slow.

I’ll figure it out. Until then I’m wasting frames which is frustrating.

This entry has a few quick panoramas. As always, click the photo for a larger more detailed view.


Should I Care About Letterman? I Do

It was obvious the audience was also caught off guard. They didn’t seem to get the drift of what he was saying.

“I’m glad you folks are here tonight, and I’m glad you folks are in such a pleasant mood, because I have a story I’d like to tell you and the home viewers as well.” – David Letterman

letterman-ticket.jpgI rushed home and quickly turned on the TV. I wanted to watch David Letterman’s mea culpa. I am not proud this was must see TV.

A few quick notes. The Letterman extortion story exploded because of the Internet and social media. It wasn’t long after Letterman’s audience exited the Ed Sullivan Theater that the twittering began. Though Letterman was mum the accused perp’s name surfaced by 11:00p and his CBS News affiliation a few minutes later.

Social media led mainstream media by a mile. The Washington Post/CNN’s Howard Kurtz is a perfect example of the new pecking order.

“Weird: I tweeted, Anderson Cooper’s person saw it, seconds later I’m phoning in to CNN on the Letterman affair(s). Talk about Twitter power” – Howard Kurtz via Twitter

I’m a big Letterman fan and have been for nearly 30 years. I watched his confession tonight–that’s what it was.

I knew Dave was a flawed man, but this wasn’t a flaw I’d expected. My assumption was his shortcomings were beyond his control. This decidedly is not.

It was obvious the audience was caught off guard. There was no context so they originally felt Dave was setting up some bit. They didn’t get the drift of what he was saying. More than once there was awkward silence as they grasped to understand what was unfolding. They would have benefited by being pre-tweeted.

I wish I knew if tonight’s revelations would affect my ongoing viewing or even my opinion of Letterman in general. Though disappointing, these affairs of his aren’t at the Polanski level nor what suspect was Michael Jackson’s dysfunctional worst. I still enjoy Woody Allen movies and he’s been pretty skeevy as an adult.

I am conflicted. My opinion will certainly be swayed by the opinions of others.

Why should I care anyway? But I do.

Sandra Day O’Connor

Even justices whose judicial decisions totally evade me (I’m talking about you Antonin Scalia) are remarkably intellectual.

I am watching Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on with David Letterman.

“Well, I like to shoot gophers” – Justice O’Connor

He has wisely chosen to sit back and let her speak. She is full of stories. She is no shrinking violet.

Wow–she blows me away. She is 79, but there’s no way you’d know that without Wikipedia.

I have only seen a handful of “The Supremes” appear in public. I’ve been incredibly impressed each time. Even justices whose judicial decisions totally evade me (I’m talking about you, Antonin Scalia) are remarkably intellectual.

The Supreme Court is by no means infallible. Separate but equal was equal w-a-y too long. Still, the court might be the most consistently good thing in our government.

I look forward some day to arguments before the court being seen on TV. It’s too important an institution to keep hidden from public view.

Leno To 10PM–Very Smart

With this one move NBC guarantees its future going forward. It’s an offensive, defensive and strategic move all at the same time.

“NBC will keep Jay Leno five nights a week, but in prime time, competing not with David Letterman, but with shows like “C.S.I. Miami.” The network will announce Tuesday that Mr. Leno’s new show will appear at 10 o’clock each weeknight in a format similar to “The Tonight Show,” which he has hosted since 1993. – Bill Carter, NY Times

jay-conan.jpgThis is genius. With this one move NBC guarantees its future going forward. It’s an offensive, defensive and strategic move all at the same time.

No secret here–network television (and local television) is in sad shape. Our business model continues to deteriorate in this horrible economic climate and in the face of increased competition from the Internet. NBC and the other networks have to do something to remain viable.

Moving Jay Leno to 10:00 PM is a cost saving move. The Tonight Show, even with an enlarged budget, is light years cheaper to produce than scripted episodic television. I would guess the demographics are comparable, maybe even better than episodic fare.

Moving Jay Leno to 10:00 PM lets NBC run a program that it controls 100%. There is no one but Leno to deal with. I’d guess he’s getting a long term commitment.

Moving Jay Leno to 10:00 PM is a defensive move. With Conan O’Brien set to take the 11:35 PM slot there were rumors of Leno jumping to ABC. Obviously, that’s off the table. At this moment, NBC ‘owns’ all the established talk show talent except David Letterman–who has seen much better days.

This is bad news for the Hollywood production community. Five weekly hours of high budget TV will no longer be produced. That will throw a lot of people out-of-work.

How this move do anything but benefit NBC? Even slightly lower ratings than what’s being replaced (if that happens) still has the potential to produce higher net revenue. Whether the affiliates benefit remains to be seen. Over the past decade networks have shown less than unwavering support for their local stations.

Tweeting on Twitter, the Times Brian Stelter says, “Leno at 10 would seem somewhat DVR-proof and Web-proof — a smart move by NBC, right?”

I wonder if he’ll do the show live? He should.

Late Night Shows Return

The DVR has two tuners. Tonight, I recorded Letterman and Leno simultaneously.

The truth is, I wanted Leno to suck because I’d like to see the writers prevail against the producers. I’m not going to lie. Over the long run, what they get will help a lot of others… maybe someday me.

Letterman first. You’ve read by now, he’s bearded.

Because of a deal his production company cut with the writers, he was back with a full crew. It is a strategic move on the part of the writers to put NBC at a competitive disadvantage. Leno has no such waiver.

The show was fresh. Robin Williams was manic. The prepared bits weren’t anything special, but the show has been allowed to catch its breath and was very enjoyable.

There was more than one gratuitous nod to the Writers Guild, including the top-10 list. Alan Zweibel and Nora Ephron were among the ten writers presenting.

The writers continue to win the PR war versus the producers. So far, it’s a Pyrrhic victory.

Leno also came back fresh. I was surprised and disappointed the monologue and a taped bit were pre-written. The Guild had hoped there would be no written material. There will be cries of “scab” tomorrow.

I understand Jay’s in a tough position. On one hand, his writers are striking. On the other, his mortal opponent, David Letterman, has a full staff.

Should he risk a fatal blow to his show in order to morally support the writers?

Leno claimed to have written the monologue and other material himself. I can’t imagine how that’s true.

The big guest was Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate. Huckabee is very at ease on TV and came across warm and approachable. He played bass guitar as they came out of commercial.

People applauded the intricate guitar lead, but that wasn’t Huckabee’s part. It made no difference. A ‘guy off the street’ jumping in with that band is still impressive.

Jay’s show was entertaining, for Jay’s show. I suspect tomorrow’s ratings will show writers to be overvalued and Leno outranking Letterman. The real effect won’t be seen until later in the week… or maybe next.

The producer’s great strength in this fight is, they’re a faceless monolith who sell no product directly to consumers. In essence, they’re anonymous.

Mr. Wizard Dies

Helaine sent me a link a few minutes ago. Don Herbert, Mr. Wizard, has died.

Here’s what I wrote about him three years ago.

Don Herbert had a profound influence on my formative years. He was “American Idol” for many 1950’s nerds. He’ll be missed.

Continue reading “Mr. Wizard Dies”

Which Commerical Was Best?

Here’s something I never thought I’d say: “It was a bad year for commercials.” It was. There were few to like in the Super Bowl (though the game itself was unusually entertaining).

I have two favorites – and one isn’t really a commercial. It was a very short CBS promo featuring David Letterman and Oprah Winfrey. If you blinked, it was gone.

It was totally nuance. You had to concentrate. Did you recognize Oprah? Did you think about their back story? Did you realize he was from Indianapolis, she lives in Chicago?

Unless you connected all these on a visceral level, it was gone before you could think about it.

My other favorite was more in your face… and animated. It was the Blockbuster commercial featuring a mouse portraying a mouse. It was clever and really well animated.

Unfortunately, when I went to type this blog entry, I wasn’t able to remember who paid for it!

Among my other favorites were the Budweiser faux dalmatian (including animated blink) and the T-Mobile spot with Dwayne Wade and Charles Barkley.

So, to summarize. It was a good year for the game and a bad year for what came in between the plays.

Here’s how visitors rated the first quarter (where the Blockbuster ad first ran).

Blockbuster: Mouse.............46%

Bud Light: Faceoff...............15%

Snickers: Mechanic.............11%

Doritos: Crash.....................9%

Bud Light: Wedding..............7%

Chevrolet: Singers...............5%

Sierra Mist: Combover.........3%

FedEx: Moon Office..............2%

Toyota: Tundra...................1%

Sierra Mist: Karate..............1%

Schick: Quattro...................0%

Total Votes: 67,823

How would you like being the creative head for an ad agency that produced anything lower than Chevy? Must have been tough to come in to work this morning. Ouch!

Darlene Returns With Dave

I can’t believe I almost forgot! It wasn’t until a few minutes before I left work that I remembered it was the night of Darlene Love’s annual appearance with David Letterman.

Actually, Friday night on Letterman must have been really weird for Cate Blanchett. She was the middle guest, between Jay Thomas’ yearly retelling of the Lone Ranger story and his football toss (trying to knock a meatball off a Christmas tree) and Darlene Love’s singing Christmas (Baby, please come home).

There must have been a “what am I doing here moment” for poor Cate.

This was not the best I’ve ever seen Darlene. But, to paraphrase an old saying, even her worst would be amazing.

This is a big budget night with strings, extra horns, a standup bass and various percussionists. As ridiculous as it sounds, I enjoyed hearing Paul count down (1,2,1,2,3,4) under Dave’s intro.

I remember seeing a full gospel chorus backing Darlene a few years ago. This year it was nine singers. Hey, nine is a pretty big number.

Not everything was perfect. It looked like the timing for the ‘delivery’ of Bruce Kapler&#185 and his saxophone was off, but the effect was still nice. He came out in red, head-to-toe.

I so look forward to this performance every year. A minute or two before it aired, I switched on my homebuilt DVR. This afternoon, I edited a clean version which now sits on my computer desktop.

It isn’t Christmas without Darlene Love.

&#185 – I originally credited the sax playing to David Sandborn. I appreciate the correction.

Letterman’s Impressionists

My DVR was set to record David Letterman tonight. It’s been a long time since I did that. His show is must see TV for me this week, because it’s “Impressionist Week.”

I love impressionists. I remember watching them perform on Ed Sullivan when I was a kid. They did voices that made my parents laugh, based on references I didn’t get at the time. My dad’s laugh of approval was good enough for me.

I knew Rich Little would have to be part of the Letterman line-up at some point, but I didn’t expect him to be the first up.

Thirty years ago… can that be right… Thirty years ago, Rich Little was as hot as a comedian gets. The intervening years hadn’t been kind. I saw him a while ago and he was lackluster – like a guy just going through the motions.

I forget what show he was on, but it demanded more than just an impressionist. As a person, he seemed drab and cold.

Obviously, my hopes were not high as he walked out. The first thing I noticed was his hair. I’m 56 and people complain, thinking mine’s colored (it’s not). Little has twelve years on me and has bright brown hair.

Maybe I’m wrong about his hair as people are about mine. I doubt it, but maybe.

He started his act doing Dr. Phil – and he killed. I am thrilled to say, Rich Little was as good tonight as I’ve ever seen him. I was happy for him – happy for me.

He then proceeded to run through some ‘names.’ He was Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and Andy Rooney.

He finished with his signature, Johnny Carson. As fresh as Johnny is in my mind, that show hasn’t been on since 1992! And, I’ve seen Rich Little do Carson a zillion times.

This time, he began with a new set-up (at least for me), explaining how his inspiration for the Carson impression came after seeing an ostrich at the zoo. Without saying a word, he began posturing, shifting his body and moving his head.

He was Johnny Carson before he spoke a word! He killed some more. And then he did a silly, slightly off color Carnac joke. Letterman’s audience ate it up.

Is it possible for a performer to ever get too used to… to be blas

My Charitable Weekend

Helaine and I went to New Haven for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation gala last night. Helaine looked spectacular – slinky in her black dress. I wore in a tuxedo, meaning I was dressed like the waiters.

I have been told $400,000 was raised last night. That’s a lot of money for a very worthy cause.

As is so often the case at events like this, there was a silent auction first. Hundreds of team from sports memorabilia to artwork to food to eclectic one-of-a-kind articles were up for grabs.

We bid on… actually outbid Mike Laptino from WPLR… for a dumpster rental. Say what you will, but having the dumpster for a week or two while you clean the house in wholesale fashion is a helluva good deal.

The evening went well. Mary Kessler, who runs the local JDRF chapter, looked on edge all evening – but if she was waiting for something bad to happen, she had to be disappointed. It was smooth as can be.

I had one awkward moment. One of the auction items was a trip to Chicago to see Oprah. Later, I said it was a misprint. It was actually a trip to Chicago to eat Okra.


David Letterman proved, and I have now confirmed, Oprah’s name doesn’t work in humor. I mean really, really silent… really.

We got home around 11:00, which was good because we were starting early this morning. That’s not to say I went to bed at 11:00, but at least I was a little earlier than usual – around 3:00 AM.

Helaine woke me at 8:15 AM. A friend of Helaine’s had invited us to Brooksvale Park in Hamden for a walk in support of Autistic children.

Like diabetes, autism doesn’t stop with just the person who is autistic. The entire family is brought in, because care is a family affair. And, like diabetes, you’ve got to hope research will bring us closer to understanding, treating and preventing.

I am always struck by the strength and commitment of those thrust into this situation. No one has a child with the thought that child will need a lifetime of special care. You play the hand you’re dealt.

I’m sure it happens, but I’ve never seen anyone in this situation say “why me,” or approach life in a grudging way.

Weather conditions were perfect and everyone was in a good mood. There were lots of families and lots of dogs – including one dressed as Elvis.

Don’t ask. I have no idea why.

Along with all the partying was a demonstration of radio controlled planes and helicopters. These copters are amazing little devices. I watched one loop upside down and fly with its nose pointed straight up.

The guy in charge told me any of these model fliers could pilot a real helicopter, though a copter pilot would surely crash the model!

The culmination of the morning was a walk from Brooksvale up the ‘linear park’ into Cheshire. Again, it’s great to watch all these families sharing the day and working for a good cause.

For Helaine and me, a busy weekend – but very rewarding… and don’t forget the dumpster!

Jon Stewart On The Oscars

My friend Farrell has already written me four or five times on this subject. The last time, attaching an article, he wrote the single word, “Ouch!”

Jon Stewart was a major disappointment at the Oscars.

I guess the good news is, he was a disappointment because he’s normally so good. The bad news is, for many people, this is their introduction – and possibly their final impression.

Tom Shales was brutal in today’s Washington Post – but Shales specializes in being brutal&#185.

It’s hard to believe that professional entertainers could have put together a show less entertaining than this year’s Oscars, hosted with a smug humorlessness by comic Jon Stewart, a sad and pale shadow of great hosts gone by.

I wonder what’s going through Stewart’s mind today? Is he having second thoughts about he approached the broadcast? Has he just tossed it off and moved back to his ‘real’ life?

&#185 – After I put this online, Farrell called and questioned my characterization of Shales.

Shales does not specialize in being brutal. He writes better than anyone on the subject of television period. He’s honest, frank. Likes TV and when he sees something good, he praises it. When he sees something bad, he’ll write and say so. And you can quote me, WeatherBoy&#153!

Continue reading “Jon Stewart On The Oscars”