Greetings afl. It's Pat/teadrinker checking in on my actual birthday day. I've loved reading other trip reports, so I'm writing one, too. This is really long, but, what the hell... Here goes:
Part 1 – Background
June 2000: My terrific husband, George, asked what I wanted to do to celebrate my birthday the following January 23, 2001. This in & of itself was shocking, because we're pretty much last-minute/spur-of-the-moment types and don't plan ahead. We've moved around the country a lot with various job transfers, so are lucky to have friends everywhere. I didn't think it would be logistically possible to have a big party with them all. So, I said, "Let's go to New York City and see Dave!" He said OK!
I jumped on-line, and found the ticket entry form on the CBS website, completed it and sent it in via snail mail. Just a week later, I got a phone message from Benji at the Late Show, saying we'd won 2 tickets and please call him back for more info!
My heart was pounding. This was unbelievably cool. Turns out Benji was a summer intern and very nice. A kid. We talked and he explained that George & I were on the Gold List with confirmation #113607. He said I'd have to call back 3 months prior to the date to get specifics about what guests would be on that night, ticket pick-up procedures, etc.
I dutifully called back in October. They still didn't know anything about the January 2001 schedule, but said to try later. I called in November – still nothing. I called in December and got a return call from a new intern, Jessica. By now, we'd been psyching-up for months. We had our airline tickets and hotel room booked, limo service scheduled, dinner reservations made at a couple restaurants and arranged with neighbors to gather papers & mail. George scheduled a business meeting one day as well. I'd been shopping and tried to decide which clothes would be best for all events. We told all our friends & family about the plan. I'd been online re-reading & gleaning tips from the Trip Reports written by all the good people in alt.fan.letterman.
Jessica & I played phone tag, and then finally connected. She said, "I'm so sorry, Pat, but the theatre is dark during the week of January 22nd – 26th. Everyone at the Late Show will be on vacation."
"WHAT?" I couldn't believe what I was hearing.
I couldn't even talk to this poor girl. She could tell I was crushed. She was very kind & patient as I tried to take this in. I told her I'd just have to collect myself and call her back. I hung up the phone, sat on the floor and cried. How silly is that? But, I was really disappointed. I thought, "OK, take a deep breath. Call George."
He calmly says, "Well, when *are* they taping? We'll just rearrange our schedule and go when he does have a show." This was such a simple solution but hadn't occurred to me, I guess, because of my birthday date & the work connection he'd made which I thought was firm.
Jessica and I made another phone connection. She couldn't have been nicer about it. She said as Gold List people (I guess that means Internet contest winners), we were guaranteed tickets any date we wanted. She explained that January 18th would be the last date prior to the dark week, and there would be 2 tapings made (for Thursday 18th & Friday 19th airdates). I had to specify which show we wanted, still not knowing the guest list. I chose Thursday, thinking it was "Know Your Current Events" day where Dave might come down into the audience. Done.
Part 2 – Week before the show
I float a trial balloon out in afl newsgroup – mentioning in a thread about football, I think - that we'd be leaving Minneapolis and heading for New York to see the show. This was around playoff time when the Vikings were in a match-up with the Giants to determine who'd go to Superbowl XXXV.
At this same time, I wrote to Mike McIntee, esteemed editor of the Wahoo Gazette. Amazingly, the stars were lining up, and I got a Wahoo mention (as teadrinker1). The next day he also ran my story (as Pat Fleet) of what it's like in the women's restroom at the Metrodome during a Viking game.
For posterity, although it's totally humiliating, the playoff score was Giants 41, Vikings ZERO.
It turns out that EZMAMA (Renee) was feeling some guilt about a little pre-game posting in afl about her rats being able to beat up the mighty Norsemen. When they actually did (!), she emailed me personally to confirm it had only been a joke. That began a wonderful stream of emails & phone calls.
As an aside – by now I had told everybody I knew, and many strangers, that we were going to the Late Show, and that I had loved Dave for a long time. *Everyone* responded with, "If anyone will talk to him, it'll be you! We'll be watching."
At this point, to myself, I was starting to actually believe that. I started planning what to wear (I'd heard that plaids were too busy and white wasn't as good as blue on camera. Black was slimming. Red was an eye-catcher & power color.) I got my haircut and a manicure. I even did some sit-ups. It felt like I was getting ready for the prom, or my wedding. I started thinking that this was minor compared to how the actual female guests must feel.
Part 3 – Day before the show
Minneapolis had very cold 7-degree temps, but no new snow. This meant flights were on time. We went early enough to get upgraded to first class (Geo flies a lot & gets an automatic seat up front when available – he did some fast talking to put me with him).
I was wearing my favorite ceramic lapel pin of a cute little dog wearing a party hat. I wear it on my birthday. People always ask about it, and the flight attendant was no exception. I told her the whole story and she brought us more free drinks. Adrenaline was pumping and I couldn't stop talking a-mile-a-minute.
We checked in to the Omni Berkshire Place hotel in midtown Manhattan. It was just as lovely as expected. Our 9th floor window overlooked Madison Avenue between 52nd & 53rd streets. Surprise – the phone message light was on! It was Renee with a welcome to town & maybe a connection to a 'dotter' at the Late Show. We talked, and it was great to feel that she was almost as excited for me, as I was myself!
After checking out many maps, Geo & I started walking around the city. It was warm – almost 40 degrees – and drizzling rain. Very romantic as we walked arm-in-arm sharing an umbrella. We found ourselves approaching Broadway, turned the corner, and George says, "There's the theatre!" I honestly stopped dead in my tracks, and looked at the big yellow & blue marquee.
Then I got my bearings: I saw the papered-over windows where Joe G's pizza had been. We peeked into K&L Rock America, but did not see Sirajul or Mujiber. Across the street was the coffee shop, where Dave had packed-in guys wearing bear suits, or football jerseys. There was Flash Dancers strip club. The Hello Deli was closed at night.
For the occasion, George took a photo of me under all the neon lights, with my hands signifying the Big 5 and 0 birthday. Then we were off to dinner at the delicious & trendy Mr. Chows, and returned back to the hotel to watch Dave at 11:30 pm. We wanted to be up on any recurring themes for the next day's show.
Part 4 – Day of the show
We slept late, then worked-out in the hotel health club to control some of the nervous energy. I kept imagining Dave, the Late Show staff, the band, and guests Neve Campbell & George Miller, all getting up today and preparing for the show, just like us.
Intern Jessica had explained on the phone that the Ed Sullivan theatre doors would be open from 2:15 to 3:00 pm for us to pick up tickets for the Thursday show. Our taping would be from 4:30 to 5:30 pm. The Friday tickets could be picked up later the same day, with that show taping from 7:00 to 8:00 pm.
We arrived outside the theatre about 1:10 pm. A few individuals were reading a sign posted on one of the left theatre doors about cancellations and same day ticket availability. A lady was manning the center doors from the inside; opening and closing it as a few LS pages were coming & going. They were identifiable because all were wearing dark blue Late Show jackets – it was cold & rainy. She wasn't really smiling – just all business controlling the doors. I finally asked her when the ticket line would form, and she said it would start over there & pointed at the fire hydrant by the curb near the street. (I interpreted that as "stay away from my doors.")
George & I walk over to the hydrant. There is one guy standing nearby, around 30ish, tall, wearing khakis, jacket & a baseball cap with a big, green "O" on it. "Hi." He says he's waiting for tickets to the show. I explained that the line was supposed to start at the hydrant and that since he was here first he was 1, and we were 2 & 3. He liked that.
His name was Matt from Oregon, and pointed to his hat. We shared stories & our common Dave fanaticism. Soon others began to form a line behind us: Joanne from Buffalo with her adult son & daughter-in-law. A couple from Sonoma County, CA, celebrating their 20th anniversary. It seemed like everyone had a special occasion or reason to see Dave. It was my 50th birthday celebration, and I was wearing my dog pin to prove it!
We were protected under the Late Show canopy, but as the line got longer and wound around, most people were standing in the rain. Yucky for them. We took breaks and went around the corner to see Rupert and get hot coffee. I was too excited to eat anything. I cracked up when in this busy place, the phone rang, and a small woman who works with Rupert answered it and said, "Hello. (Pause) Deli." I'd never thought about it that way before!
Back in line, and the doors opened! A young female intern at the door handed us all pink *Late Show with David Letterman* tickets and asked what type of ticket we had. Matt had a Blue confirmation number so he took off down an empty velvet rope line to one podium. We said we were on the Gold List, and were told to go down another row to a person at another podium. Then we were asked who talked to us on the phone. I said, "Jessica." They flipped to her page on a clipboard and found our names to check off that list. Then she used a red marker to number our tickets in the upper left corners with a little 1 and 2!
It was all happening very fast. She told us to turn around and walk back out to the street. Mid way in the lobby we were stopped again by another LS person. This time she was a bit older, and you could tell she'd been around the show a while. Again, she was all business. She stopped us until a cluster of 6 or so was quickly assembled and asked, abruptly, "Where are you from?" This surprised me. I hesitated, and finally said in a normal voice, "Originally Indianapolis" (which was true & I'd decided was my line for the night). She looked over us all with a scan, no smile, and said, "OK, thanks for coming. Head on out the door." I turned back and tried to make a little conversation with her. I asked her name. "Jane." I realized too late that this was a possible dotting opportunity missed.
Then a young male intern, Scott, stopped us AGAIN in the lobby. By now, bodies were streaming down rows everywhere. Scott had a really fast-clipped speaking style, and a cocky attitude. "Any questions?" Well, duh. Yes, I had a million questions! He said very fast something like, "Because of the bad weather, you are to assemble again before the show in Roseland, a grafiiti covered building around the corner on 53rd street. Can't miss it. Do not be there before 4:25 pm." This sounded weird to me, so I asked him to repeat it. He said the exact same thing. Other little groups were being told info by other pages, but I couldn't hear them. It was hectic. Scott was like, "OK, bye now." And we were hustled out toward the street doors.
I asked the original door controller woman if I could just step aside, and stay inside the lobby for a minute to collect my thoughts. She was very nice and said, "Sure." I'm trying to figure out with George how we could possibly gather "no earlier than 4:25" for a 4:30 pm taping. What about the warm-up, and intros, and past clips they show before the real show begins? That's what all the other trip reports talked about.
I looked around for the friends we'd made in line to see how they understood it. Matt was long gone. Finally the CA couple came out. We were all puzzled, too. So I asked another sandy-haired LS guy standing off to the side, who was obviously in charge, "Shouldn't we meet sooner if the show tapes at 4:30?" "Right! You should be there at 3:25! " He said 4:25 was the time for the 5:30 tapings on Mon, Tues, Wed. He leaned over and corrected Scott immediately. Cocky Scott was wrong! What if we hadn't clarified it? We would've been an hour late! Oh, man!
Still holding my #1 ticket for dear life, I asked the door woman if she was Sally* (*name changed to protect the innocent). Renee had told me to look for a page of her similar description, because she'd been a former student of hers. Turns out the door woman was Debbie* but she knew Sally*, and would I like to meet her? You bet!
George says, "Go!" so I follow Debbie* into the now again empty theatre lobby and through the inner doors and down some steps. We quickly introduced ourselves and had a fun conversation. We agreed that Renee is great. Maybe Sally* could talk to someone & get us 'dotted' for seats up front. She'd look for us later.
It was very interesting that her job as a page rotates. Currently she was posted on those steps, beneath the stage and outside the production studio. She stands guard to be sure the coast is clear before Dave RUNS down the hallway prior to the show.
I had to go, but wished I could've stayed to talk with her until show time. Not allowed. Debbie* escorted me back out. They were so nice to give me that simple 5 minutes. I really appreciated it.
Part 5 – Roseland
George was patiently waiting for me in the lobby. I told him that we might somehow still get a coveted dot to sit up front! I was beginning to feel like an insider simply because I'd been farther through the doors, alone, talking to some very nice LS employees.
There was time to kill before the show. The crowd roamed around the streets of the neighborhood while waiting for the doors to open at Roseland. George & I walked to a nearby hotel for warmth, a phone & a big, clean bathroom. He also wanted to stop at Friday's for a quick beer. No problem. But, I'm a teadrinker after all, so I told him I'd rather go on back to Roseland and chat it up with other audience members. He'd meet me there later.
When I got to Roseland, someone said there were some cancellations for the Friday show taping (guests Tom Selleck & musician Richard Ashcroft), and I'd just missed a LS staffer who'd been walking around the neighborhood looking for people who wanted tickets. Evidently the only qualifier was to answer the burning trivia question, "Who is Biff?"
I took a quick walk around to try and find her, but couldn't. What I found was a short line back under the marquee where we'd all originally been standing by the fire hydrant. Matt was there with some other boisterous people. They were happy. They all had dots! Matt said he, too, had been given the incorrect time to come back & was just lucky he returned earlier. I went back to Roseland.
At about 3: 20 pm, the plain black doors of the graffiti-covered building swung open as scheduled to a vast, empty hall. Chairs are positioned with hand-printed signs that read 1-100, 101-200, 201-300 and 301 +. These signs were haphazardly attached to the chair backs with 3 little sticky blue dots, and it crossed my mind to rip one off & put it on my ticket, but it was too late. We were dot-less. Get over it.
A page was stationed at each chair. We were instructed to line-up in order by ticket number. Remember – we were 1 & 2! We watched everyone slowly & orderly filter in to their rows. The CA couple was behind us with numbers 3 & 4. Four 20-something guys from Philadelphia were behind them. It was the first show for all of us, and we were on pins & needles.
Some announcements were shouted-out about using the bathrooms downstairs at Roseland before going over to the show, and many got out of line and do that. It was a party atmosphere. The bathrooms were clean & bright but stiflingly hot. Nerves were building. I looked at myself in the mirror and grinned and envisioned raising/stretching my hand really high to say, "Hi Dave!"
Back upstairs there were more official announcements made. The sandy-haired guy and a cute, thin dark-haired woman dressed in black were standing up on the raised stage at the 53rd Street side of the cavernous room. They didn't use mics but spoke clearly & had a lot of energy. All of us in line could easily hear them. These were Dave insiders. You could sense they cared about him & wanted the show to be successful. They must've given these same instructions to every crowd, every day, but it was fresh & sincere.
It went something like this: They said we were important. Dave's performance would depend a lot on what we did as an audience. Soon we'd all walk across the street and be seated in the theatre. Dave was over there rehearsing right now. (Oh, wow!) Because this was a Thursday, and two shows were being taped, Dave had a lot of material he could use. Depending on our reactions, he could call audibles, and use stuff with us or save stuff for the Friday audience later that day.
Dave gets his energy from us. The best thing we can do for him is LAUGH AT ALL THE JOKES. Applause is great, too, but please no loud whooping! It sounds like a siren on air. No shouting out, "I love you, Dave!" And please don't applaud if you happen to hear your hometown mentioned. No standing ovations, because it's a time waster. Clap & cheer throughout the show, but best of all LAUGH OUT LOUD. There will be a warm-up guy, Eddie Brill, who will come out and introduce some clips. Dave will be backstage during this time, listening to our audience reactions – so make 'em good! Let him know you "get it!" OK, that's it. Have a great time!
They signaled our page to start walking us out. It was really happening! As we began walking, one page says to ours, "You're seating the balcony, right?" And I said, "No, no, no! We're tickets 1 & 2. Please don't do that!" I didn't know where we were going.
We led the parade of people traipsing across 53rd Street through the light rain, around the corner to Broadway, and back through the exterior front theatre doors. Velvet ropes were everywhere. We threaded through and were positioned right next to the closed inner doors until everyone was assembled, which took a little while. I peeked through the crack in the doors and could see a group already inside the inner lobby. Matt was there, so they were the lucky dot ticket holders. LS Jane was talking to them – probably giving them the same basic info we'd heard at Roseland. Finally, I heard her say, "Are you ready?' And they all cheered, "YES!" Their interior doors were opened, and I saw them almost dance into the theatre.
Part 6 – The pre-show warm-up
Meanwhile, I was giving that play-by-play to the people in our line. Geo kept telling me, "Get away from the doors. When they open you'll get smacked in the face!" I was giddy like a kid. We were patiently waiting our turn to enter, but anxious about our unknown seat assignments.
Then our doors opened! The page reappeared and marched us into the theatre through the center door and down the right aisle. Not the balcony at all! A quick scan and I realized that the first 2½ rows down front next to the stage were already filled all the way across. We were directed into the center section, and were right in the middle of row 3! Awright! This was great! Not on the aisle for KYCE, but really, really good.
All the theatre lights were on. We started settling into our seats. Did I mention that most all New Yorkers wear black or very dark colors? The night before, at dinner, I noticed when one attractive woman entered the restaurant and took off her dark raincoat; she had on a bright pink wool jacket underneath. All eyes in the room went immediately to her. That's when I decided to wear a similar bright pink sweater set I'd packed at the last minute, to the Late Show. I was wearing that now, feeling great, and had my dog pin on, too. I sensed the warm lights shining on me.
I looked around to see where Matt, Joanne & others were located. They were in rows 1 & 2, in the little section to the right in front of Dave's desk, by the side doors that Calvert et. al. use to exit, by Maria's podium, and Alan Kalter's seat. That was choice. They'd have a fantastic view of the whole show. Good for them! We all saw each other & waved like maniacs congratulating ourselves on being there. Thumbs up! Stupid, but so exciting!
I leaned over and gave George a kiss on the cheek and thanked him for the best birthday present, ever. Then I sat back, and as Helen Read talked about, just looked at the spectacular NY skyline set design. It was in vivid, sparkling detail that doesn't come across on TV. It was lighted similarly to artwork in a museum, which made it all really pop, and the little building lights glistened.
A wave of emotion washed over me sitting in my seat. I couldn't believe I was actually there. Tears of gratitude started welling-up. I felt so lucky and grateful to be alive and living such a charmed life.
Or maybe it was hormones? :)
I reminded George that this was also where the Beatles performed with Ed Sullivan. He was impressed. Then we kinda sang the fast spinning-plate song (na-na-na-na-na-na-na, na-na-na-na-na-na-na, na-na-na-na-na-na-na-naaaaaah, na-naaaaah).
As the rest of the people were seated, I took-in some more. The stage set was smaller than I'd imagined. The empty bandstand & Dave's desk were not far apart at all.
There was a big, good-looking black guy standing at the edge of center stage very close to the front row, facing outward & seriously watching as everyone filed in. He had to be Security. He finally scanned down to our row, and when I caught his eye, I gave an enthusiastic shoulder height wave. He broke into the biggest smile with the whitest teeth, and mimicked the wave back at me. I felt safe and fantastic!
The cameras and equipment were dark and bulky, and littered the stage in front of us. I knew we'd have an obscured view, but that was OK. Cameraman Dave was there center stage and a woman was on a camera to the right of the desk. (I don't know anything about her.) There was another guy with a shoulder-mounted camera, too, around the band area but he seemed to have the ability to move anywhere.
Kenny was loitering near the desk. Various people were walking around. Then I saw Mike McIntee and another guy at the rear of the stage almost run across from where the guests enter, to backstage behind the desk. I guess his "shack" must be back there. It took all I had not to shout out, "Hello!" to all these familiar personalities I've grown to know over the years.
Maria Pope was at her spot. They must have been the Stengle brothers standing behind her along the wall. Laurie Diamond was there in a LS jacket and a long slim skirt. She looked really great with short - like 1" all over - blonde (or grey?) hair. Inky was roaming around, and shook Cameraman Dave's hand. Corky was signaling up into the air, I'm sure to the control room. Everyone looked slimmer, and smaller than I expected. It might be true that the camera adds 10 pounds.
Eddie Brill came out and was energetic while pacing back & forth to work the whole audience. He was repeating the things told to us at Roseland. He also explained what would happen next: they'd show old clips during the commercials – and they were funny, because each night, even without sound, everyone always laughed at them! He said we were lucky tonight because they'd be scanning the whole audience and the balcony with a very cool camera, so wave and clap because you'll be on TV, but don't stand up or you'll block the people behind you. Soon the band would come out, and Dave would talk to us a little bit before the show started.
We were a good audience. Everyone was up for this! We were cheering like mad and laughing at anything remotely funny said by Eddie, because we knew Dave was backstage listening!
I don't recall the exact order of this, but everyone cleared the stage except Eddie. The spotlight was on him and he introduced each person individually and shook their hand: Sid, Will, the horn section, then Felicia, and then maybe Alan and Biff. We were all standing up, laughing and applauding! My hands were cold, and I felt the ring on my right hand twist around. I still kept clapping even tho' it was bumpy. Paul came out and stood to bask in the spotlight before walking over to take his place behind the keyboard. The ovations were through the roof. Was there music at this point? I guess so but I don't know – it was just loud and we were whipped up in a frenzy!
Dave walked out and the place erupted!
He had a hand-held mic in his right hand with a long cord. He slowly walked forward and stood alone at center stage near the front, next to an unmanned camera. He smoothly lowered it and put his left foot up high on its base and kinda leaned on it with his left forearm. It was almost with humility & shyness that he stood there, very relaxed and informal and intimate with his head and eyes lowered, gathering his thoughts.
He motioned us all to sit down. And then you could've heard a pin drop. All eyes were trained on him & everything else disappeared into the background. There he was right in front of me, in the light, in his bright white shirt, no suitcoat, and tie – looking GREAT! He was tall and lean and fit and healthy. Gotta just love him. It was like nobody else existed in the room except Dave & me. (I'm sure that's what each person was feeling!)
Part 7 – Dave speaks
"How is everybody?" (Roar!) "Did you have a nice holiday?" (Roar and clapping!)
I thought to myself, "Holiday?" It was the end of January. Was he talking about Christmas & New Years' Eve? He told a couple jokes about Times Square & being groped. Yes, that's what he meant, New Year's Eve. Uh, oh. I'd heard these jokes before. It sounded a little too packaged. He mentioned on the show the night before that he had the flu bug. Maybe he's not feeling well. Oh, please God, I hope he has a good show tonight.
Maybe he told another joke. I just recall thinking that he was doing a short little canned set of stand-up jokes. I was hoping that he'd be more personal during this pre-show. When was he going to ask the audience for a question? I was ready.
Part 8 – My question
Months before, I thought about a question to ask, and came up with this one: "Did you ever buzz the TeePee restaurant?" It was an obscure Indianapolis reference to a very popular drive-in restaurant shaped like a huge teepee with a big circular drive around it. Kids would stay in their cars and cruise around in circles (buzz it) all night looking for a date. It was torn down long ago. All the teenagers in Dave's & my generation went there. It didn't matter which school you attended. Dave went to Broad Ripple HS and I went to Lawrence Central HS, both on the north side of town.
I suppose I thought he'd have a story to tell about it. At least, he'd know we had the same common background & shared experience.
Part 9 – The exchange
"Does anybody have..." my hand shot up in the air, "...a question?" At least a hundred more hands were waving. Dave looked out into the audience, stopped at me and said, "You. In the pink sweater."
Ohmygod, ohmygod ohmygod. I jumped to my feet and looked up at him, making solid eye contact. He was smiling at me. He had those wonderful, crinkley, smile lines around his eyes. I melted, but felt myself beaming back at him. From the corner of my eye I saw all the other hands go down around me, and I knew those people were disappointed. They sat back in their seats.
He said, "What's that you're wearing? A pin? A dog? A dog of some kind?" He noticed my birthday pin!
I blurted out, "It's a party dog." I was looking right at him. It was unbelievable. He looked so damn good.
He said again, "A dog?"
It was a perfect opening for me to elaborate, to give him anything to work with. Instead I heard myself say again, "It's my party dog."
What was wrong with me? I was stammering. He was just supposed to ask me what my question was! I hadn't completely thought this through. I didn't even tell him it was my birthday!
"What's your name?" He asked.
At this point it sank-in that he was really looking at me. Every night I watch him so closely and that I can analyze every nuance. Tonight, he was looking at me. I can't tell you what happened then exactly, but I must have been star-stuck. I also realized that there were hundreds of other people in the theatre also looking at me, wishing they were in my shoes, thinking how much better they'd be if they were talking to Dave.
"Well, then, if you're from Indiana, I'll - have - to - speak - very - slowly!" The old Indiana joke. Worked every time. Everybody in the audience genuinely laughed.
"What do you do, Pat?"
Why couldn't I talk to him in complete sentences? All I could get out were 2 or 3 words. What was wrong with me? My mind raced. I've been very successful & had a lot of high-powered consumer sales jobs: Lever Brothers laundry detergent & personal care products, Stouffer's frozen foods, Olympic Stain paints, Tekna high tech flashlights.
"Soap," I said.
That's what I answered. Soap. I heard George at my side immediately howl with laughter! Everybody else laughed, too!
Dave chuckled and said, "Well, so far, you've been totally evasive!"
More peals of laughter from the crowd. Then they settled down.
"What's your question?" He quietly asked. Finally!
"When you were a kid in Indianapolis, did you buzz the TeePee restaurant?" There. I got it out.
"Yes. (Pause) Yes I did."
And that was it! He turned on a dime and ran backstage. The house lights went down. The music swelled-up and I collapsed into my seat. Vaguely I realized Alan was announcing the intro. The cameras closed-in and the now-jacketed Dave came running back out in the spotlight.
Part 10 – The show
Dave had been so close. He had looked at me, and talked to me! But now the show had started. There was a big camera in the way, and Tony was standing next to it holding up cue cards partially blocking the view. A lot of people were on the stage between Dave and us.
The monologue jokes were good. We were a responsive group, all right with him, laughing and clapping. There was a quick mention of a small monitor on the floor not working, so Dave couldn't see himself. It was quickly remedied.
I was in a daze. Had it all really happened? I totally screwed-up. Why couldn't I talk? I could've said so many other smart things. Don't think about it. Don't think about it. Watch the show. George reached around and gave me a big smile & a squeeze. "You were great!" he said.
The little TV monitors were hanging up above our heads, and we had to crane our necks back to see them. I switched back & forth, watching them and watching the stage. Even though I couldn't see Dave cleanly, I could see his face, and that was good. I'd brought along some small sports binoculars, so I got them out. I focused on Dave, then on Paul and the band, and the set, etc. I'd programmed the VCR at home to record the show, so I decided to watch what was happening with the crew and staff while we were there.
A Clinton Classic joke was told, so I knew the monologue was over. The band played as Dave walked over to the desk. There was lots of repositioning of camera equipment, and a BIG black box monitor was rolled in, situated near the corner of the desk and the first guest chair, left of the main camera. It was all very close and chummy. Targeted lights were trained on Dave and another on Paul so they were both lighted the entire time. The rest of the set was darkened, and the twinkle lights of the big bridge backdrop looked even better.
Once Dave sat in the chair, he seemed totally relaxed and comfortable. Any hint of a cold or flu was long gone. This was all too cool. This was the Dave we loved.
He charged ahead with some newly learned information that he was a carbo addict. He had a little banter with Paul, and sitting in the audience, you could tell this was something they had gone over in rehearsal. Paul did a kind of spinning move with his hand to his head after discussing pasta as a food that could kill you! A bit affected, but funny! Dave can really tell a story, tho', and he had us all reeled-in on the items that were OK to eat – describing herbal teabags in a cup and a teakettle on the stove – only the condensation on any surface was allowed.
All the LS people were laughing with Dave. This seemed very sincere to me. They enjoyed being around the guy, at least during the hour this show taped. I determined that Tony's laugh was easier to pick up when watching on TV, than in the theatre.
Some highlights from the desk: I noticed a guy off-camera but close to Dave underneath the spiral staircase, probably another writer. During the talk about "Temptation Island" TV show, he & Dave both laughed at the mention of it being "populated with prostitutes!"
The best burst and then sustained laughter in the show was also about "Temptation Island." Dave set it up perfectly. They showed a "tape of a guy who your girlfriend has dated." The surprise tape insert was Bill Clinton, wagging his finger; "I did not have sexual relations with that woman." Excellent!
We broke for a commercial and I realized once again it was a Thursday night without going into the audience to play the fastest growing quiz sensation, Know Your Current Events. Guess that bit is dead. It re-emphasized how fortunate I was to interact with Dave before the show, however clumsily!
During this and every commercial, everyone huddled at the desk. Laurie Diamond stood immediately at Dave's left. Barbara Gaines came over from out of nowhere. I noticed that while cameraman Dave was talking with someone else, Tony lightly placed a big wad of chewing gum on the back right shoulder of his jacket, and silently walked away. He turned back around, and it tumbled to the floor, so he picked it up and did it a second time! He was a jokester.
Next on the big show was a NYC police chief bit, and uniformed Bill Delace entered through the side door. His best line was "Adios, Los Whimpos!"
We had a Top Ten List. All eyes had been on Dave, but during the list they all turned away to watch the monitors while he read, including the band. Will was sitting on a stool. Felicia looked good but had some funky, big white wrap around her upswept 'do.' Their monitor was up and out, so they faced toward us. Paul had his own monitor & he used one mic when he talked to Dave, and another one to cue the band on their earpieces. Inky and the stage managers, etc. looked up to the right during the reading and laughed along with us.
TTL topic was "Signs Hillary Is Not Taking Her Job Seriously." My favorite was #3. Goodbye Snappy Pantsuits, Hello Limp Bizkit T-shirt. The band loved it!
Another commercial break. Oh, no. This was all going too fast! Pat Farmer (very tall) walked out with a new blue mug for the guest, and set it on the corner of the desk. If it was time for a guest, it meant the show was already half over.
Neve Campbell came out. She looked very fresh-faced and was "perky" due to the cold temp in the theatre. Some guys in the crowd thought this was hilarious and snickered. Her stories were about Berlin and then an Indian sweat lodge. We were all geared-up to laugh, and it was kind of interesting, but not really funny. It seemed to drag on. She was cute, however, and laughed at herself telling the stories, so then we laughed, too. Dave's joke: "Of course, in a sweat lodge, it's not the heat that'll get you. It's the humidity." Relief - laughter! (Later when I watched this on video, her first segment went pretty quickly, and looked fine.)
Another commercial. I watched to see how Dave would interact with the guest, having heard all the stories about him turning his back. Not true. He rolled his chair over and spoke in her ear, rolled back and they both nodded. It was friendly, but not a lot of chemistry. A tall young guy (A writer? He's been in some of the skits, but I don't know his name) immediately came to sit in the second guest chair next to Neve. When Dave did turn to talk with staff members, this guy kept Neve occupied with conversation.
Second segment with Neve went better than the first. She talked about Scotland where only twin lambs are born, and then made a laughing comment to Dave that he just didn't care. That surprised him, and brought him back 100% into the conversation. He also really perked-up when they talked about Porsches going 140 mph & spinning out. After a brief mention of her movie, Panic, it was good bye Neve. She waved to us all as she exited.
Another commercial. It couldn't be ending so soon! Eddie Brill came back to alert us that the camera would be making the audience sweep. I saw it coming, put my arm around George and we waved like mad. As it passed us, Geo looked up at the monitor while I kept following the moving lens and took my arm back off his shoulders. He said he saw us plainly, so maybe we'd be on screen when this puppy aired later that night.
Comedian George Miller came out for the last segment. They were old pals and it was obvious. There was no strained talk between them. They both were happy just making the other laugh. We were definitely a great audience, because George made some comment that he was "doing pretty well here tonight."
Final commercial. Lots of desk activity. It was almost over. Eddie came out again and gave us all the cutthroat sign to say no applause when we came back from break. OK. Quiet. Dave thanked his guests and said good night! The band played the familiar theme song, and cameras pulled back.
Dave took his coat off, and walked to the rear center stage. He was given the hand mic again. He waited for the music to die, then simply thanked us again for coming. Good night! He was gone.
Part 11 – After the show
The house lights came up and the magic ended. Everybody rose slowly and began shuffling out the left side doors to 53rd Street. I didn't want to go, but the masses all moved together. Almost at the door, I realized we'd left an umbrella and scarf on the floor by our seats. Geo went back after them. I watched the band set down their instruments and walk offstage. The party was over.
Back out on the street, most of the crowd had thinned out. We went into the K&L Rock America shop. I bought a navy blue T-shirt with PANTS in big yellow letters. They had a ton of Dave-related merchandise. We bumped into Joanne & kids and start reliving the parts of the show we liked most. They were all amazed of course that Dave had talked to me before the show! I was on Cloud 9.
We saw another older, smartly dressed guy in the shop with a younger girl. (Date or daughter, who knew?) We'd seen him in line earlier with us, and he was buying something. I asked him how he liked the show, and he said it was just OK. Just OK? It was fantastic! Were we in the same theatre? I couldn't imagine how anyone could feel that way.
It was early, only 5:45 pm. It was still drizzling rain and getting colder. Our dinner reservations weren't until 7 pm, and I didn't want to leave the show area. I also knew that George had no intention of hanging around outside the stage doors, waiting for someone to come out so I could pounce on them and take pictures. He'd been so patient, and wonderful, about this entire trip, I didn't push it.
I suggested that we walk up a block to check-out the little bar/cabaret theatre where we'd be going the next night to see "Our Sinatra" show. Fine. We walked into the bar area toward the back to see where the show would be. As we passed the people sitting around the bar, I realized that they were all from the Late Show! Once we were in the back room, and after we'd talked to the manager about seating times and particulars for Sinatra, I told George about the bar group!
Really not wanting to intrude, but also not being able to pass up the opportunity, as we walked out I stopped and asked, "Are you Bill Delace?" He was impeccably dressed in a suit and tie. He was very nice and admitted, "Yes, I am." I told him he made a great NY police chief! He laughed, and thanked me, and we left.
Part 12 – At the hotel
Our hotel room was midway between the Ed and our restaurant that night. We stopped in and I called our family in Indianapolis to report the big news. Watch for us – Geo with glasses and blonde Pat in the pink sweater, center section, middle of row 3!
Again the phone rang and it was Renee. She and her rats wanted to know how it went. It was SO - MUCH – FUN to relive it with another afl person who really understood the thrill of the experience! (That's also why I'm writing this lengthy trip report.)
Our Italian meal was delicious at Il Nido, and I had a full-caffeine cappuccino after dinner. Did I really need it to stay awake to watch the show at 11:30 pm that night? No, but I didn't want to take a chance.
Part 13 – Watching the show on TV
The same night we got to see "our" show on the air. No waiting! And, yes, there we were, forever immortalized on tape with Mr. Funny! It was a glorious birthday experience. One I'll always cherish.
Part 14 – Home in Minneapolis
It's so cold here in January that the snow crunches under your feet. Inside my cozy, warm house, the videotape is wearing thin from viewing & reviewing the show. Regular speed. Slow motion. Fast forward to the especially funny parts. Watch Dave enjoying himself so damn much. There he is. There we are. It's hard to grasp that the trip is over, but my emotions wrapped around it will last a long, long time.
Now it's back to the real world. Job. Cooking. Laundry. Paying bills.
I'll go back to the old routine: watch Dave at night or perhaps a tape the next morning, drop in daily to the Late Show web site for a quick read of The Wahoo Gazette, watch the Tony Mendez show and answer the Biff trivia question. When I can, I'll catch up on all the postings in the alt.fan.letterman newsgroup ... tons of creative fun there with everyone contributing to CB's Mailbag and the Mock Top Ten Lists, with always good info from Donz.
Part 15 – Lessons learned
Here are some reminders in case you, too, ever get to the big show!
SEE YOU NEXT TIME. THANKS, EVERYBODY. GOOD NIGHT!