I haven't watched him for at least twenty years, since his show was called "Late Night With David Letterman". Still, I was compelled to watch his final show the other night. A friend had posted a clip of Bob Dylan singing "The Night We Called It A Day" from earlier in the week, and had I found it a tremendously moving coda for Letterman the man, and all he had meant for all those years he was so relevant to those of us who watched him. I seriously doubt there's another person Dylan would honor like that.
I also watched the Tina Fey's #LastDressEver segment (on YouTube) because, well, Tina Fey.
I DVR'd the final show, and found it slow and unsatisfying until the video montage at the end of the show, played over the Foo Fighters performance. It was all quick-cut, but very moving, and it really underlined for me how much the show has been on autopilot for the past twenty years. The New Yorker had a very good takeaway on the finale.
I actually appeared on "The Late Show With David Letterman" in 1991, when it was still that hip-ish show that followed "The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson" on NBC at 12:30 AM, and was broadcast from 30 Rockefeller Plaza in Manhattan. The third edition of The Great American Baseball Card Flipping, Trading And Bubblegum Book had just been published, and our publisher arranged an extensive media campaign, which included David Letterman and Larry King. Brendan had done the author tour and promotional appearances for the first edition (described eloquently in our book), and this time it was my turn.
What I most remember about that appearance is the amount of time I spent on the phone with the show's Producer in the weeks prior to my appearance. I discovered that what looks spontaneous on television may possibly be spontaneous, but usually it's the result of careful planning. The Producer really got to know me over the phone and discovered which parts of the book would be the most fun for Dave, and what themes in the book would generate the most laughs. He had read the book (I don't think Dave had) and was the person who realized in the first place that the sarcastic tone of our writing would match up well with the show. But he had to get a sense of the potential guest (me) and what I might bring to the table, and he had to make me comfortable in advance so that I wouldn't get blindsided by anything once my segment actually began. It was planned, but not scripted. It was trememdous fun.
My most lasting and clearest memory of that appearance doesn't have anything to do with my segment (which went very well), but rather with how small the studio was, and how close the audience was. And especially with that particular night's musical guests - Booker T and the MGs. They played through all the commercial breaks, as well as performing a song or two during the show. They happen to be one of my favorite groups and that was better than any big venue concert they would ever do. It was very much like a club date.
So here's to you, Dave. All the best, and thanks for everything!