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Dave Letterman's Impact on a Homesick New Yorker

In one week dis May, we said goodbye to Don Draper, B.B. King and Dave Letterman. While I'll miss all three, Letterman's void is the widest and the deepest as I've watched him for most of my life and most of his late night career.

Dave Letterman on NBC.
When it was Late Night with The World's Most Dangerous Band led by the incomparable Paul Schaffer, Letterman's antics were unpredictable, unusual and darn funny. I can recall being sick one summer and it seemed the only relief was Letterman and his "crash cam," a camera mounted on a skateboard that would crash into bottles and other visually impressive obstacles that would shatter and splash. Back then it seemed like Johnny Carson was Dave's opening act.

When I was at SUNY Buffalo, my roommates and I could barely afford rent much less cable or a decent TV. We'd have to shift the furniture around the living room to get reception and somehow, The Late Show always came through clearly. We'd gather like clockwork and no matter how broke we were, someone would scrape together a joint and we'd be glued to the set, critiquing his monologue, wondering whether or not his guests were really upset or if they enjoyed sparring with him. Who can forget Madonna's "nice rug" and his immediate retort "nice swim cap?" When I got back to NYC, I was determined to see him live and fill up on pizza and bagels.


I took my mom to my first show. I recall Nathan Lane was a guest and he killed it. I also recall getting a coffee from Hello Deli for the first time. The next show I had tickets to was on St. Patrick's Day in March of 1998 with Van Morrison and The Chieftans as the musical guest. The show was overbooked and I was turned away; however, the staff said I could come back to any other show as long as I let them know a day in advance. I picked his May 1, 1998 show, which was his 1,000th. Salma Hayek was supposed to be the first guest, but she cancelled at the last minute, leaving Norm MacDonald to cover two segments before Pearl Jam played Wishlist. I took my best friend to that one. We were seated in the balcony and while they discourage you from getting up, we both had to use the bathroom due to an aggressive happy hour beforehand. I remember running through the Ed Sullivan Theater and back to my seat just in time to see Pearl Jam take the stage.


In the year 2000, I worked across the street from Dave Letterman and would see Paul Schaffer on the street and Biff Henderson on his smoke break often. From high above, we could see where the guests arrived on 53rd street. I remember watching The Edge unload his guitar from a black SUV on October 29, 2001. Later, I would catch that performance on my rabbit-eared TV. For those who did not have cable then, CBS was the only channel you could get after September 11 as its antenna was on the Empire State Building.


Pumpkins blowing up on 53rd Street, Audioslave playing atop the marquee and the infamous Hello Deli Saga are memories I owe to Dave Letterman. Like a sailor out at sea, the iconic intro "From New York ..." was a beacon on the horizon welcoming you home, the image of the Tribeca Bridge, a bridge you once shoveled snow from despite its being covered, as familiar as the street you grew up on and Dave Letterman standing in the doorway, centerstage, smiling that smile, happy to see you ... and you, happy to see him each night.

Thanks for the memories, Dave!


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