Bellbottom Blog

Scratching A Writing Itch From Time To Time

Letterman Calls It A Night

CBS used to have a mandatory retirement age.  The number was 70.

So, by that standard, Dave is leaving early.

The word of his announcement was revealed on Twitter yesterday afternoon.  Shock followed by people remembering their favorite moments of the show soon followed.

I set my DVR to record the show.  Watching and waiting for the reaction from the studio audience was fascinating.  As he told a story about spending time with his son, the crowd was going along, laughing in all the right places.

He followed that story with a recital of the numbers associated with his late night career.  Even mentioning the morning show.  If you watch Dave a lot, you get to play the game of “Where is he going with this?” from time to time.  This was one of those times.

And then, he said the word “retiring”.  Stunned silence.  It seemed as if they were waiting for a punchline.  Slowly, they came to the realization Dave wasn’t kidding. Eventually they gave him a standing ovation.

Way back in 1980, I was a young postal worker who was on the evening shift.  I would wake up to morning television which was all game shows.  Buzzers, flashing lights and Ruta Lee.

NBC canceled Ruta and put a young man from Indiana on with a talk show.  David Letterman was his name.

The show made me laugh.  It was refreshing and irreverent.  And all of a sudden, it was canceled.  What the Hell? The show won an Emmy award for writing.

Finally, NBC found a home for Dave.  He would get the hour after the Tonight Show With Johnny Carson. They had all the usual trappings of a talk show. Desk with a couple of chairs to it. A band led by Paul Shaffer.

What made the show work was an amazing writing staff led by Head Writer Merrill Markoe.  Every story I have ever read by any writer who worked for Letterman talks about writing for his voice. I would agree with the point while also insisting he had a treasure trove of material to chose from.

Go to IMDB and type in Late Night With David Letterman. Look at the list of writers.  Then, search for Late Show With David Letterman.  Look at that list of writers.

Eventually, CBS became the new home for Dave.  Bigger band for Paul. CBS renovated the old Ed Sullivan theater.

The first show had Paul Newman standing up in the audience asking Dave, “Where the Hell are the singing cats?”

I remember the first show after 9/11.  We wanted to know what Dave had to say.

When he came back after the heart attack.

The show with a dying Warren Zevon.

Keith Olbermann talks about the show he did with Dave on the night Sen. McCain bailed at the last minute only to be spotted doing an interview with Katie Couric.

Now we are nearing the end of a long successful run.

What’s next is the latest game people are playing.

For Dave, he has a couple of  hundred more shows to crank out.

Who will take his place?  Well, someone will occupy that time slot but no one can take his place.

He is the best we have ever seen in the history of late night talk shows.  The funniest, the most creative, the best with an ad-lib. He was always willing to give the guest a chance to shine.

Just a thought about the ratings…….the Tonight Show has done better over the years.

If you put two restaurants next to each other: One, a fine steakhouse. The other, a fast-food joint.  The fast-food place will probably have more customers but the experience will be forgettable. The steakhouse will be better in every way.  More satisfying.

I wish Dave all the best with his retirement.  I hope he has many, many years of enjoyment with his wife and son.

I know how I want the show to end.

At the end of the last show, Dave has a flashback.

A grainy tape of Larry “Bud” Melman appears. Larry says, ” So long, suckers!”

Fade to black.









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