Trip Report to Letterman Show

I bought a VCR in 1985 for the sole purpose of taping David Letterman, and I
believe I have seen 99% of the shows since, so when I went to NYC in May
2000 for a wedding my number one priority was to scope out the Ed
Sullivan Theater and do all things Dave.

I got to my hotel, the Milburn, at 76th and Broadway about 6 pm on
Wednesday the 17th, and immediately set out down Broadway for Daveland.
I came around the back way from 8th Avenue, and immediately noticed a
crowd of what Dave refers to as “losers” clustered around the side stage
door on 53rd Street. Why someone would hang around a stage door for a
possible glimpse of a celebrity is impossible for me to comprehend,
nevertheless, there they were. I squeezed past the crowd towards the
Hello Deli, mouth watering for a sandwich, and was brought up short by
the shuttered door. I was very surprised to see it closed when it wasn’t
even seven, but if the evidence of my eyes and cold steel was to be believed,
that was indeed the case.

Determined not to be disheartened by this setback, I went around the corner
on to Broadway and walked in Joe G’s front door for a slice. The place was
smaller than I had imagined, but plenty big enough, and I got myself some
pepperoni. The pizza was adequate if not great, and a reasonable bargain at
$2.25. I had purposely left room for some chili, so I went next door to the
Manhattan Chili Company and sat at the bar. I finally decided that the lamb
chili would be a good bet, and then started deciding what to drink. Since I
live in Salt Lake City where a decent drink can be hard to come by, I gazed
longingly at the many interesting liquors above the bar. I finally got the
pretty bartender to pay attention to me, and told her I wanted to try something
different. I said that under ordinary circumstances I would have ordered a
Maker’s Mark or some Jameson’s, and asked her to recommend something interesting
of a comparable quality amongst her other wares. She pointed at one section
and said that it contained vodka and gin, and that those drinks were a lot
different than whiskeys. I was pleased with this bit of “stop the presses”
advice, but nevertheless reluctantly concluded that little in the way of
quality assistance could be expected from this source, comely though she may
be. I quickly ordered a shot of Chambord, reasoning that this would be an
interesting mix with spicy lamb chili. The chili came quickly and was quite
good, although overpriced at $10. When my bill arrived I was surprised to
see that my single shot of Chambord had cost $6.50. My New York education had

I then walked about 2 doors up to Rock America, and found Mujiber sitting
rather glumly in the back next to a pile of Dave-themed t-shirts. Sirajul
was not around, and Mujiber appeared to be thinking of all the places he
would rather be. Although I wanted some souvenirs I couldn’t bring myself
to interrupt Mujiber’s dour reverie, and left. Next door were a couple of
delis with Dave pictures in front, so I wandered in for a lark. I found a
small buffet in one of them featuring teritaki chicken, but I was full by
then and merely bought a bagel that tasted slightly musty. I noticed
Flashdancers across the street, but decided I would head down to Times
Square first. I have it on the best of authority that a Times Square
hooker will blow ON you for $50 if the weather is too hot, and I decided
this was an experience I was unwilling to forego, even though it was a bit

Times Square is just a short walk down Broadway, and it was nothing
like I had expected. I had heard that it used to be sleazy but is now
cleaned up, and the place was rather uninteresting, no hookers, no strip
joints or porno stands, just chain restaurants and other homogenized fare.
I went into a huge Virgin music store to see if I could find any of the
things I have been looking for so long in Utah. If you want Britney’s
latest, or think Justin Timberlake and N’Sync are just dreamy, I can
heartily recommend this store. If your taste is slightly more elevated,
it is a disappointment.

It was getting late, so I decided to head back towards Flashdancers.
Having learned my lesson at the Chili Company, I asked the shill out
front how much admission was and how much the drinks were. Both were
$10, but he highly recommended it anyway because he said there were 60
beautiful girls inside. I did the math in my head, 60 girls=120 breasts
divided by $10 = 8 cents per breast. That was beginning to sound a
little more manageable, but then I began to wonder if I would see all
120 breasts in the half hour I could spend there, and when I explained
my mathematical analysis to the doorman as part of my query as to
whether all the girls would cycle through in 30 minutes he seemed
bewildered by the whole question. Go figure. Ultimately I decided
against the Flashdancers investment, because I am a cheap bastard, and
further because I generally avoid strip joints, likening them to going
to a restaurant and not eating. I get extremely “hungry” in strip
joints. My business concluded, I headed back to my hotel.

The next day my sister Kay asked me to explore the town with her, and I
told her I still had to get a sandwich from Rupert. She didn’t want to
walk all the way like I had, so we took the subway. About a block from
the theater I had my first genuine sighting of a showmember, Biff was
standing out front of a store talking to a woman. I excitedly pointed
him out to Kay, who is not a Dave fan and was only vaguely aware of who
Biff was. As we walked to the front of the theater my sister asked me
why I hadn’t tried to see the show while I was in town, and I told her
how hard tickets were to get. At this moment fate stepped in, and a
young woman named Heather walked up to us and asked if we wanted to see
the show that night, explaining that they had had some cancellations.
We said yes and she said we had to answer three questions first. The
first question was “Who is Biff Henderson?” I pointed down the street
to where he was still standing. She asked me what he did on the show
and I told her “stage manager.” She then asked me who Dave’s first
guest was when he started at CBS, I told her that the answer she was
looking for was Bill Murray, but that the first celebrity appearance on
CBS had been who? She couldn’t answer so I told her Paul Newman, and
then asked her if she remembered what he said. She had no idea, and
still couldn’t answer when I mentioned “cats.” I then determined that
she didn’t know that Larry “Bud” Melman was the first person to appear
on the screen when Dave started at NBC, and that in general she didn’t
know a whole lot about the show. We never got the third question I was
supposed to answer. She gave us our pick of early or late shows, and we
took the later Friday broadcast.

I then went to get my sandwich. Rupert was exactly how you would think
he was based on his behavior on the show, very personable and friendly.
I told him I had missed him the night before, and he actually
apologized, he said he generally closes at 5 unless he has a “bit” with
Dave. I wanted something a little spicy, so he gave me an italian
sandwich made with salami, $4. None of the “name” sandwiches appealed
to me. I had to get a t-shirt, of course, and he showed me some
new-fangled thing, but I wanted a “Chairman Mao” shirt, so he dug an old
one up for me and signed it. My sister and I then went to sit on a
doorstep and watch the activity from theater. Pat and Kenny were
wandering around moving things out of trucks and into the theater.

As we prepared for the show that night I looked at my sister’s wardrobe,
and noticed a very tight sparkly number. Inspiration struck. My sister
is a former Playboy model (nom de nude “Jessica Chase”), and she can
still do justice to a tight outfit. I asked her to put on the sparkler
and again we headed for the theater. Kay was getting a lot of looks on
the subway, but she digs that kind of stuff. When we got to the theater
we had to stand in several lines and get several short interviews. Kay
poured on the charm, and with the tight dress managed to get us in the
high-rent seats, rather than sitting with the riff-raff in the
balcony. I knew that Dave would come out and talk to us before the
show, and my plan was to ask him to make Kay an honorary Hi-Ho Babe for
the night and let her walk him out from the wings. Her dress was
exactly like the official Hi-Ho dresses with the exception of some
fluffy stuff at the shoulders. After some preliminaries, including a
mildly interesting warm-up from “Fat Jack,” Dave literally ran out
on the stage and started working us. He didn’t seem to like the crowd
much, however, and left abruptly, my hopes of Hi-Ho stardom for my
sister dashed. I had also thought about shouting out a marriage
proposal for Maria Pope, but I guess the star of Campaign 2000 will have
to soldier on without me.

The band was cooking, and I found myself fixated on Felicia’s beautiful
hair, watching her flick it around while she played. I asked my sister
if she was wearing extensions, and she thought not. I was devastated by
the news Monday night that she had cut 6.5 inches of it, in spite of
Paul’s help. Dave’s monologue seemed a bit “off” to me, he told several
serial lame jokes about cab drivers taking cold medicines that turned
out to be their names, but he did get excited when he mentioned he had a
surprise for us later in the show. After a few hints I realized that
the bowling ball/brick guy was going to do his stuff, and this turned
out to be the case. Ringo Starr was the first guest, and I was excited
about that. However, the interview was a bit pedestrian, including one
singularly uninspired question about if he could remember the phone call
he got asking him to join the Beatles. Trooper that he is, Ringo did
not seem too bored to tell a story he must have repeated 10,000 times.
Since Jesus has been doing so much better than Regis in the ratings
lately, I was idly wondering if Dave would ask Ringo if he still thought
the Beatles were more popular than either Jesus or Regis, but this
didn’t happen.

The second guest was Jane Krakowski, and I thought she was excellent.
The crowd was laughing quite a bit while she told her story of singing
the National Anthem at San Francisco. I hope he has her back soon.
During the breaks you could see a lot of people that generally stay
off-camera. Barbara Gaines, whom I haven’t seen in months, would come
out every break, looking dishevelled but sweet. Although you seldom see
Laurie Diamond on camera, she was always hovering in the background,
watching Dave. She also dances ecstatically when the band is playing.

Ringo then came back with his All-Star Band, including Eric Carmen on
keyboards and Jack Bruce (Cream) on bass. I didn’t catch the names of
his other musicians. They did a moderately entertaining version of
“With a Little Help from my Friends,” and as that ended and the crowd
clapping died down Paul launched into Cream’s “White Room.” Jack Bruce
almost looked surprised when that happened, and gave a very appreciative
glance and “thumbs-up” at Paul, and I wasn’t sure if this had been
planned or not. However, he immediately started singing along, sounding
great, and I decided they must have rehearsed. That was probably the
highlight of the evening for me.

The whole thing was an adventure for me, and an amazing million-to-one
shot that I would be walking by the theater at the exact moment they
decided to get more audience members. I know this post is rather long,
but those were my experiences, and I wanted to share them..