My Third DaveCon!
This was my fourth Late Show taping, and my third DaveCon. I won a CBS Late Show trivia contest in May of 1996, and they flew me and my friend, Dave, to San Francisco for the May 8, 1996 taping. They covered my travel and hotel, and we had a Lincoln Town Car and driver, too. Dean Cain of Lois and Clark was the main guest at my first taping. On this fourth visit, Teri Hatcher of Lois and Clark (and that hit show about housewives) would be the guest.
I might have missed this one. On February 19, Traci Gilland was kind enough to check with Helen Read and me on the possible dates for DaveCon 2009, knowing that we had university jobs. One of the two dates would have probably made me choose between keeping my job and going to New York. Thanks for helping us out, Traci!
After having a wonderful time on the first two trips, I was more excited than ever to get to make this trip. Plus, by this time I knew my 22 fellow DaveCon pals a lot better, knew which of them are law enforcement officers, etc.
I took the picture at the top at about 2 A.M. on June 20, 2008, after DaveCon 10. If you'd like to see a larger version, here it is. Alan Page reports that "Paul Shaffer and the CBS Orchestra" was added to the marquee in December 2009, so I'll have another late night project the next time I'm in the neighborhood. Here's what the marquee looks like in the daytime.
TUESDAY, MAY 12
Travel to New York
Word came in from Traci on February 21 that DaveCon 2009 would be on Thursday, May 14. I could hop on over to New York in final week at Kansas State, then be back in time to train my summer student staff the following week. I monkeyed around and didn't make the travel arrangements until April 5, but everything worked out great. A student told me that by accidentally waiting until all the college spring breaks were over, I was getting better prices.
For the same Midwest Airlines flight, I paid 36% of what I'd paid in 2008. (The round trip ticket from Manhattan, KS to New York and back was $199.20. I couldn't have driven it for that, and I probably would have gotten lost.) For my stay in the Best Western President motel, I paid 53% of what I'd paid in 2008. I guess the change in the economy, plus my post-spring break timing, combined to make the difference. I took part of the $600 I'd saved and booked a third night's stay in New York.
It's an 1,102-mile flight from Kansas City to LaGuardia, and it takes 2 hours and 50 minutes. My drive from Manhattan, Kansas to Kansas City International takes about 2 hours and 20 minutes. It's not a bad day of travel.
Life in the Big City
Super Shuttle dropped me off at the Best Western President at 234 W. 48th St. on Tuesday, around 10:30 P.M. It's about 150 feet from Broadway, and five blocks south of the Ed Sullivan Theater. It's about a five- to seven-minute walk to the Ed or Rupert's. I had some new items on my agenda for this trip. I had an hour before the Late Show began, so I took care of item #1 right away: getting a hot dog from a cart down the street. I figured I had two days to recover before the big taping, but experienced no ill effects at all. Then I went in a little place and got a slice of New York pizza and a piece of New York cheesecake. Neither were especially good, but I'd get an upgrade on those later in the week.
I run down to Times Square every day at least once. It's at the intersection of Broadway and 7th Avenue at the 45th Street level. Here's a link to a Times Square Cam. I never get tired of walking around there!
WEDNESDAY, MAY 13
I almost got taken out by a taxicab. There's an adjustment that someone from the Little Apple has to make in the Big Apple. There's so much traffic in New York that you're not likely to hear an individual vehicle. I took one step off a curb, and a cab honked at me. The other adjustment is how closely vehicles drive by the curbs. In Manhattan, Kansas, I would have heard the cab coming a block away. I'll remember this next time.
I think I woke up fairly late on Wednesday, after a busy day of travel. My first order of business was a five-block trip north to the Ed Sullivan Theater to hang around a little bit, and have lunch at Hello Deli. I pretty much always order the Inky. It's a lunch all by itself, with roast beef, turkey, swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato and Russian dressing, on a hero bun... all for $5.65. I like to sit at one of the two or three little round tables while I gnaw on that giant sandwich, and watch Late Show staff come and go. I got to say hi to Gary Mintz, Electronic Maintenance Technician, who shows up in skits now and then. I think he was surprised that I recognized him. It was kind of a quiet time in the deli, and I got to visit with Rupert for a few minutes. When I told him I was in town for DaveCon, naturally his first question was "Where's Don?" It's kind of awful how many people come in there just to get their pictures taken with Rupert, then take a hike without ordering anything. One tourist even had the nerve to ask Rupert how much he was paid per episode. Come on, people! Get a sandwich!
Rupert writes up a very fancy order.
I also went in the CBS Store to pick up some souvenirs. It's next door to Hello Deli, at 53rd and Broadway.
My Visit to Donz's Place!
The #1 Letterman fan in all the land was not going to be able to make the taping on Thursday, and we were disappointed that he couldn't be with us. I was thrilled when Donz (a.k.a. Don Giller) very kindly invited me to come and hang at his apartment on Wednesday afternoon. We'd been acquainted via e-mail for 13 years by that time, and had visited for a little bit after the 2008 taping. This visit alone would make the trip to New York worthwhile.
I was going to need some tutoring from a real New Yorker, as his apartment is 58 blocks north of my hotel. I was going to cross something else off my New York bucket list: taking the subway (part of the Metropolitan Transit Authority), but I didn't have the slightest idea how that worked. Don explained that there were northbound and southbound trains around Broadway, and I could get on just a couple of blocks from my hotel. I'd get off at a station about three blocks from his apartment. I'd need to buy a MetroCard, which you slide through the reader on the turnstile to pay for the trip. Each trip costs $2.25. Starts and stops are fairly abrupt, so it's best to hang onto a rail inside the car. This trip was around the peak of the swine flu scare, so I took a ½-ounce bottle of Purell® with me to execute the H1N1 bugs.
Don was waiting for me outside when I arrived for what was for me a very enjoyable and fascinating visit. He is a musician by training, and found his way to New York for graduate school at Columbia University. He is self-employed as a music transcriptionist. When someone has a composition, he prepares it for printing (like a typesetter for music). Don knows not only music theory, but many well-known personalities in the music industry.
There was so much to see and learn about! I got to see the Letterman tapes. Don has a recording of almost every episode of Late Night and the Late Show. His VHS tape collection makes my 275 tapes look pathetic. Ballpark, he has around 5,000 hours of Letterman on tape.
We spent time looking at the Supersecret Database (SSDB). This is Don's record of everything that's ever happened on a Letterman show, everyone who's been seen on air, staff and employees over the years, and all manner of cross-referenced information. He has a staggering amount of information about the shows at his fingertips. When you read historical information in the Wahoo Gazette, or in the weekly Late Show Newsletter, and you find out something like who was on Letterman on the day when a young guest was born, the producers generally have gotten that info from Don.
Donz and I are both longtime Beach Boys fans. (I've been to 17 Beach Boys concerts, plus one amazing Brian Wilson concert.) As a music professional, he has an appreciation of the Beach Boys' music that is way over my head, but I've been to enough concerts and watched enough documentaries that I can compare notes on the legendary band. Don fixed me up with some awesome CDs with alternate takes of some of their tunes... sort of when they were works in progress. Yes... Don Giller has talked to Brian Wilson. I, on the other hand, have talked to Mike Love. So there.
When you're hanging around the Ed Sullivan Theater and mention that you're in town for DaveCon, various Late Show staff will ask, "Where's Don?" He actually doesn't hang around the theater very often, but over the years many staff have gotten to know him. He's introduced me to band members and other staff, but I'm still waiting for my introduction to Sarah Billington and Paul Shaffer. Maybe next year.
I could go on and on, but what a thrill to have a nice, long visit with the #1 fan, and actually sit before the Supersecret Database and see it in action. Thanks, Donzie!
I joined a group for dinner at Joshua Tree, at 366 West 46th Street. Traci Gilland, Helen Read and Tom Wolper, I believe, were there. I had a very good hamburger.
Several of us went in search of New York cheesecake for a late night snack. There's no better place for that than Junior's Cheesecake. It's on West 45th Street, between Broadway and 8th Avenue. Traci Gilland and Helen Read had tickets for Hair, playing at the Al Hirschfield Theater at 302 West 45th Street, so (lacking a cellular phone) I waited outside the theater for them. As I was waiting, I was asked to move away from the theater. I wondered what law I'd broken, then was told that the cast runs out of the theater and back in at the end of the show, so I got to see all of them in their hippie costumes. We joined Dr. Rod Fernandez, Brady Cox and Tom Wolper at Junior's. (I'm writing this trip report seven months late, by the way, so forgive me if some of the facts are fuzzy.)
Junior's is a beautiful place... very cool, but I had no idea what was in store for me. I got an outrageously huge serving of cheesecake. It must have been four inches high, and was two different kinds of cheesecake, like regular and chocolate. I seriously wondered if I'd survive eating all of it. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. We had an interesting and fun discussion about everything from Dave to our personal happenings, until we finally had to let them close the place at about 1 A.M.
We visited the Times Square Junior's, but there are others. Just look at the link above. Have some of their cheesecake sent to you! Click on the "Shop" link, and it'll arrive a couple of days later.
THURSDAY, MAY 14
The Ed Sullivan Theater
The Ed Sullivan Theater has quite a history. It's had several names over the years. It was built by Arthur Hammerstein between 1925 and 1927, according to Wikipedia, so it's 81 years old. Converted by CBS for television broadcasts in 1950, over the years it's been home to such well-known shows as What's My Line?, To Tell the Truth, Password, The Honeymooners, The Merv Griffin Show and of course, The Ed Sullivan Show. CBS bought the theatre in February 1993 for a reported $4 million, when the deal for David Letterman to switch networks was finalized. As is well known, the first Late Show was broadcast from the Ed on August 30, 1993. It's an interesting feeling to stand on the stage where the Beatles played their first American performance, which I clearly remember watching on TV. Every second or third season, the theater takes a break from Dave long enough to host the Survivor finale on a Sunday evening. I have a bit more information on the Ed in my 2008 Trip Report.
Lunch at Angelo's
Our first official conference activity was lunch at the great Italian (Dave's mom would say eyetalian) restaurant, Angelo's. Its entrance is next to the Ed Sullivan Theater's front doors. Our lunch is always upstairs. If you look out the second-floor windows to Broadway, the main thing you'll see is the top side of the Late Show with David Letterman marquee. If you look up, you'll see the 1700 Broadway building. Why is that important?
I went together with some others and got a gigantic pizza. I really like Italian food, but I'm not familiar with a lot of the dishes, so I don't know what to order. Anyway, at Angelo's you get real New York pizza, and you won't find it better anywhere.
This lunch is one of our best times to catch up, take pictures, etc. We're all dressed in our warmest winter outfits, because the next stop is the Late Show studio, where it's about 55° F. (OK, we're not dressed for winter, but several in the group will have sweatshirts on. I've been to four tapings, and I've always done fine with a long-sleeved dress shirt.)
Bob Shriver brought Catherine's Chocolates from Great Barrington, Massachusetts. They're out of this world. He drives almost three hours each way to get them for us. You can order some of the yummy treats on the Internet. Thanks, Bob!
The DaveCon group picked up tickets for the show fairly early in the afternoon. We were told to be ready to line up at 2 P.M. for the 4:30 P.M. taping. I don't recall that anyone left. We hung around on 53rd Street, hoping to visit with each and every unsuspecting Late Show staffer who happens by. I visited again this year with a very nice staffer who doesn't like his (or her) name put on the Internet. Kate Crenshaw and I visited with bassist extraordinaire Will Lee, who has always been friendly and fun to talk to. Look for some of Kate's pictures with Will in the gallery below. Will has been with the show since Day One in 1982!
As the hour drew close, Marilyn Sargent distributed complimentary Altoids. It's a DaveCon tradition. We were in the midst of the aforementioned swine flu/H1N1 scare, so Marilyn was gloved up with little piggie gloves for distribution of our halitosis medication. (See photo #9 below.) Thanks, Marilyn, for always looking out for us.
I was ever on the alert for the arrival of the lovely Teri Hatcher. The barricades were in place and security personnel were waiting, but alas, we had to go inside before her arrival. I was also on the lookout for beautiful Talent Coordinator Sarah Billington. Sure enough, she sped by us once. Dr. Rod tried to get her attention, but she seemed to be on a deadline. Maybe next time. Sarah has since been promoted to Segment Producer. (You can see her in a couple of appearances in my Video Archives. Look under the Ss.)
Into the Real Home Office
When you go inside, you enter a zigzag pattern of crowd control ropes, as the lobby of the theater is small. The pages are always full of energy. All audience members receive a warm-up session from a page standing on a folding chair. It lasts about 10 minutes. They want us to understand that Dave feeds off the energy of the audience and, when in doubt, laugh. Before being admitted to the theater, we're duly warned about no-nos, which include sound effects from electronic gadgets, anything resembling photography, getting up and running around, wearing of DaveCon buttons, shrieking, hollering when our home towns are mentioned, and various Arsenio Hall audience antics (although not mentioned by name).
The pages line you up in pairs to enter the theater, and you're directed to one of the aisles to be loaded into your seats. This time I was paired with Tom Wolper. We were sent over to the right side of the theater, in row three, if I recall. There are advantages to various seats. If you're front and center, you may end up on television and your boss, who thought you were home with swine flu, is enlightened to your little fib. The first row of the balcony seats are considered by the show to be the best seats in the house. They give an unobstructed view of the stage, and are about as close as you can get to the action. These seats often go to CBS guests.
Talent Coordinator Eddie Brill, as usual, was in charge of warming us up. Since he has a relationship with the audience, he lets us know what to do during the show. One of Eddie's responsibilities is to evaluate comedians who hope to appear on the show. Eddie introduced the members of the CBS Orchestra, one by one.
The CBSO gave us a mini-concert, and we clapped along with the highly energetic group of pages, strategically positioned around the theater. The band began with Greenday's Basketcase. An hour or two earlier, I'd asked Will Lee if they could please play Basketcase, and he promised me they would, just for me. He also happened to mention something about them always playing Basketcase. Next up was The Rolling Stones' Brown Sugar. Getting to hear the CBSO in person always makes your trip to Letterman worthwhile. They are the best in the business.
Next on the agenda, David Letterman, a comedian and talk show host known throughout the Tri-State Area, came onstage to complete the audience warm-up procedure. One of his duties is to check the handheld microphone provided for his use. Usually eight or ten smart raps on the side of Dave Dorsett's HD camera are sufficient. Dave's right-handed. If you ever see Dave's floor camera on TV, check out the dents on its left side.
Dave generally takes one or two questions from audience members before he gets kicked offstage, although he keeps threatening that he's gonna quit it. In 2008, my friend Dr. Rod Fernandez wore a very fine suit, hoping to be called upon. Nope. The lovely Shirlee DiBacco got the question. This time Dr. Rod (who was seated in the same exact place I sat in last year) got Dave's attention. Rod, the legendary anethesiologist, had secretly brought in three high quality ties in a bag of some sort. He asked Dave if he'd consider trading ties. This kind of stunt almost always guarantees air time. Nope. It was swine flu season. Dave said he'd have to pass on Rod's germy ties. A few seconds later, Dave softened up and said he'd think about it.
Dave finished up, said he'd see us in a couple of minutes, and Paul fired up the theme song as Dave turned to walk offstage, and Alan Kalter began his voice-over. Dave has about 45 seconds backstage to put on the jacket of his suit and appear onstage.
Late Show with David Letterman, #3116
If you'd like a professional report of the happenings of the May 14 episode, read Mike McIntee's Wahoo Gazette. Use the pull-down lists to get to the right date. (Oops. I checked. For some reason or other this archived edition has disappeared from the links.)
The first video segment featured Tom Hanks. He's in a cave, looking for an ancient artifact, which is a tie-in to his 2009 film, Angels & Demons. Eventually his flashlight beam lands on something promising. Gently brushing dust aside, Tom realizes that he has unearthed an ancient Oreo&trade.
Out of commercial, Dave strolled into the audience and approached our DaveCon friend, Dr. Rod Fernandez. Dave had three ties, which he offered to my friends Dr. Rod, Bill Lehecka and Micah White, as the CBSO played "Tie Me Kangaroo Down." Helen Read was also on camera. Dave scored a very nice red tie from Rod, which he displayed for the home viewers a bit later in the telecast.
Next on the agenda was a surprise guest, the one and only Ron Howard, Angels and Demons director, here to present the Top Ten Things You Don't Want to Hear from Your Director. As Dave introduced him, he coughed, "Opie." It's unlikely that Dr. Rod's tie will be seen on Dave in a future episode. As Ron prepared to exit the stage, Dave draped Rod's red tie around his neck. At least we know it has a good home.
We were all excited to learn that an episode of "Kid Scientists" was on today's agenda. That's because Dave always misbehaves and acts silly with the kids. It was a great segment, with the usual 'splosions and flames and oversized safety goggles. Lee Marek, a science teacher from Naperville, Illinois, has been selecting kid scientists for Dave since way back in the 80s. He used to come onstage with them, but hasn't in many years.
Now it's time for what I've been waiting for. My future bride, Teri Hatcher, appeared to plug the fifth season finale of Desperate Housewives. She also told about her latest racetrack adventures. Apparently it's kind of a tradition in her household. The whole family goes. Teri was a math major in college, and she must like figuring odds and so on. Also, we got to hear about a nasty bee problem in her house. My, oh my, Teri looked whatever is beyond stunning. I was about 30 feet away, and admired from a distance. I was quite taken with her when she was on Lois and Clark, and she's long been on my unwritten list of top five favorite Late Show guests. (I have five of her appearances in my Video Archives. Look under the Ts.) Teri's daughter, Emerson, by the way, has the same name as my father. Maybe she's named for legendary Indy car champ, Emerson Fittipaldi. I don't know. Here's a link to CelebritiesWonder.net, which has some fine pictures of Teri on her way into the theater.
A musical performance by Rick Ross concluded tonight's program.
NOTE: There was way too much fun tonight. We learned from Tony Mendez that the episode had run 11 minutes long. The "Cool/Not Cool" segment was later aired on May 18. Alan's Big Show Highlights (as Act 1 ended) were eliminated. "Kid Scientists" was trimmed as much as possible. I knew we were running long when the Act 5 audience pan (with the boom camera) wasn't even done. Part of Dave's monologue was probably trimmed, too. Many of us agreed that it was the best episode we'd ever seen in person.
The Tony Mendez Show
Once the audience made their way out, the DaveCon group (about 23 of us) gathered to begin taping the Tony Mendez Show. Our friend Al Chez from the CBS Orchestra's horn section dropped by to say hello. He has always gone out of his way to acknowledge us, and we all really appreciate it.
The plot for the TMS episode is - that's right - swine flu. Every last DaveCon attendee is sick as a doggie, and we're going to have to be quarantined in the inner lobby of the Ed Sullivan Theater. Beds are not available, so we'll just curl up under some warm blankies and cough our guts out. Moaning is encouraged. Dr. Rod tosses his cookies. Bill Emswiler has a gigantic bandage on his noggin. I'm not sure what therapeutic value it provides, in terms of antiviral action. David Letterman, a renowned hypochondriac, should have joined us for this production. He's always been good at describing his various afflictions, and he especially enjoys reporting anytime he's had a fever.
I just want to be sure to say how much we all enjoy hanging with Tony Mendez and Creative Directors Walter Kim and Jay Johnson. This is extra work for them, and they do it simply because they're nice to their customers. They go out of their way to give us a fun time, and every one of us appreciates them.
Once again... my most recent acting work was on Broadway!
Post-Show Dinner and Whoop-Tee-Do
Cascina puts together an excellent Italian buffet, and they're always patient with us when we linger too long, as this is the last time we'll all be together.
Tony Mendez came by for a nice, long visit. He couldn't be nicer to us, and it's wonderful to visit with him every year. Tony has been a ballet dancer in years gone by, and this year he wanted to tell us about Veronika Part, the beautiful principal ballerina of the American Ballet Theater. Guess what! Veronika was a guest on the Late Show on July 9. I know Tony loved that.
I asked Tony why Dave has taken to pointing to his pretend watch when he comes onstage. He looks at some unknown staffer backstage while doing it. Tony doesn't know! Dave's still doing it, months later. Maybe he has an imaginary friend.
I also asked about Bob "B.B." Boberson, who'd been appearing in "True Tales of the Old West." B.B. is played by Dave's friend from his Comedy Store days, Tim Thomerson. Tony reports that Dave himself writes those stories of rough riding and dying young.
Some guests of Late Show with David Letterman received complimentary pencils, which somehow became reallocated during the whirlwind conversion of the Ed Sullivan Theater to a Survivor set. The non-writing utensils are specially built to exacting CBS/Worldwide Pants Incorporated specifications, so Dave doesn't put an eye out when he's flipping them at the desk.
At Large in the City
After a post-dinner gathering at a place which shall be known only as "Smith's," some of us went to Dr. Rod's hotel room to watch Late Show #3116 on WCBS. It was fun to compare notes on what all had been edited out in the six or seven hours prior to air time.
Another Visit to the Apple Store
I believe it was this night that I walked up to visit the Apple store at 767 Fifth Avenue. I think this is considered their flagship store. It's just one block from the southeast corner of Central Park, so I detoured into the park in the middle of the night, just to say I'd been. I just walked in a couple of blocks, and it looked very nice. There's another thing to cross off my New York bucket list. I didn't buy anything at the store, but because of my difficulties with communicating during DaveCon, I did get an iPhone a couple of months later.
I feel safe walking on Fifth Avenue in the dark of night. There are police all over the place, and it's what you would call a nice neighborhood. On the way home I got stopped at a police barricade. I asked what was going on. This was at 3 or 4 A.M. An officer pointed two or three blocks away, where a Nicolas Cage movie was being filmed. I took a detour for a couple of blocks.
On the way back south on Fifth Avenue, I saw lots of famous businesses and landmarks: Trump Tower, Tiffany & Co., Louis Vuitton, Van Cleef & Arpels, Prada, Rolex, Armani, a huge Presbyterian church, DeBeers, Gucci, St. Thomas Episcopalian Church, Hickey Freeman, St. Patrick's Cathedral and Versace. As I said, it's a nice neighborhood.
FRIDAY, MAY 15
I Like Pie.
Some remaining DaveCon pals planned an outing to the Little Pie Company, on 43rd St. between Ninth and Tenth Avenues. We had better luck this time. In 2008, we arrived to find that it had been shut down by the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. I had already been back to Hello Deli for lunch, so by the time I loaded up on pie, I was done eating for the week.
By the way, when I went back to Hello Deli, I got to see a whirlwind of activity at the Ed Sullivan Theater. Friday's show was taped on Monday, and a crew was taking apart Dave's set and substituting the set for the Survivor finale, to be aired on Sunday evening. There were truckloads of torches and palm trees, etc., and all kinds of activity.
SATURDAY, MAY 16
Back to Kansas
I booked a later return flight this year, so I'd be able to go for pie and not worry about waking up too late, etc. I was supposed to leave LaGuardia at 7:40 P.M., to land at Kansas City International at 10:05 P.M. Not so fast. A nasty band of thunderstorms set in over Kansas City, and my flight didn't leave New York until about 11:30 P.M. We landed about 3 A.M., if I recall, and I drove back to Manhattan after that, arriving home at around 5:30 A.M. Somehow or other, I made it up at 8-something, in time for my nephew's fiance's graduation from the university. I still don't know how I managed that.
As I wrote earlier, my work took full attention from the time I returned, through the summer, and the next thing I know, I'm writing this trip report on New Year's Day. It was a great trip, and once again I thank Traci and friends for including me. (And thanks to Dr. Rod for the souvenir DaveCon 2009 pen!)
DAVECON IN REVIEW
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