From:  Brad Hill

This is a time in which talk-show comedians must test the breadth of their
relationships with us. The satisfaction they deliver to a nation in need,
and the success with which their shows continue to entertain during a
terrible disruption of normalcy, depend on how they have built that
relationship over years of gaining entrance to our homes. Though comedy is
the staple of late-night talk programming, deploying jokes from a studio is
not enough to hold the intimacy of a nation when distressed. Sharing of the
heart is a requirement for anyone who intends to win the loyalty and
devotion of American audiences.

Variety TV is inherently a personal medium, thanks both to the small size of
the screen and the television's intimate placement in homes, living rooms,
bedrooms. Through this medium a host aspires to be a nightly visitor in a
reciprocal arrangement by which each party, entertainer and viewer, pulls
the other into his space. When successful--when the host repays our trust by
revealing an inner self over several years, when he brings a kaleidoscope of
personal dimensions to the desk, when he shows his own intelligence and
responsiveness to life as rooted deeper in his character than droll felicity
with small talk--then he gains traction in our hearts and minds, not just in
our laugh reflex and eagerness to doze off in an escapist haze.

David Letterman is the greatest entertainer in the world. And now I must say
that he is the best, most successfully intimate talk-show host of all time.
I have always reserved my mental pinnacle for Johnny Carson, and Johnny's
longevity by itself is hair-raising, just as Lou Gehrig's consecutive game
streak is jaw-dropping even when separated from the quality of his play. But
Johnny, great and durable companion though he was, did not have Dave's
dimensionality. We are gifted every night with far more than a honed
broadcaster whose experience radiates from his every movement. Dave is a
complete man in our lives and homes, ironically private by nature, who
disrobes himself emotionally when his feelings pound too vibrantly to be
contained by veneer and professional gloss. We've seen him be serious,
pissed, confrontational, silly, brilliantly funny, humbled, journalistic,
cranky, arrogant, cruel, bored, gracious, delighted as a child, frustrated.

We have watched him reshape the landscape of American comedy. We have
come to know him as the most genuine of performers, and those of us who feel
kinship with him see his authenticity in tiny ways--the attention with which
he listens to a guest or shakes the hand of a bit player in a top-ten list.

Tonight, when he was clearly reluctant to go on the air and seemed
frightened to perform a nearly impossible show, David Letterman was the
synthesis of the disparate personality parts we know and love about him, not
playing the moment for comedy but neither curbing his irrepressible wit, and
he came through as a richly emotional presence for millions of people who
depend on his sincere companionship.


I knew last week I would try to get in the theater. Besides the thrill of
attending any show, I want to support Dave--to be in the room and personally
applaud him--during the stressful junctures of his career. I knew this one
would be different than the comeback show (and really, this was a comeback
show of sorts as well), when several of us stood and shouted our joy at his
return. I knew that show would be easy for Dave, and this one would be
terribly difficult, and the audience wouldn't be standing and shouting with glee.

It would be difficult to get a ticket, too. I speed-dialed through the
morning and finally got a stand-by reservation, but the number (64) was too
high for confidence. Fortunately, though, great forces were working behind
the scenes on my behalf, and I ended up in the VIP line as a CBS guest,
without bothering with the stand-by crowd. I realized I would fulfill my
desire to sit in the front of the balcony--the one area of the theater in
which I've never been placed.

Before I gained my entrance I walked down 53rd Street to see who was around.
I chatted a bit with Biff, who expressed the strangeness of being at work,
and offered my thought that the entire production staff was giving America a
much-needed public service. Corky also seemed slightly stunned, and we
agreed that whatever happened in the theater would be special, and that Dave
was uniquely capable of handling the moment. (Corky recognized me, which I
fear must be the result of the infamous desk photo.)

As I lined up I noticed a small crew and camera across Broadway from the
marquee. I wondered if a remote bit was planned, but doubted it. Turns out
they were set up to deliver a live, brief opening zoom toward the theater in
place of the traditional montage.

I was curious about how the audience would be prepped. CBS guests are
shuffled in just before the dotted folks, and receive the same talk that
many of us have heard over and over. Tonight, Jennifer was nowhere to be
seen, and a youthful man stood on the chair to deliver a much toned-down
welcome. He warned against whooping, but abstained from any "laugh at all
costs" attitude. I knew right then and there that we were being prepped for
a different kind of show. His talk was brief, and up we went.

Balcony, front row, center section--the sight lines are sweet. It's quieter
up there, without the roar of the whole orchestra section behind you as when
you're dotted. It's a far better location from which to view the stage and
monitors. We were warned to sit back in our chairs during the show, lest our
forward-leaning heads block the spotlight. The railing is a wrought-iron
affair that provides excellent footrest opportunities. The still relatively
new blue floor appears lighter in hue, and quite beautiful, from above. I
noticed that Maria's podium was pushed back against the wall and she was
nowhere to be seen. Later it was clear that Maria (sporting a shorter hair
style and looking fine) was working the show, and emerged from backstage
during breaks. I suppose it was a simple show to produce, without taped
bits, player entrances, and comedy segments to coordinate.

In the balcony perch, Eddie Brill is not as much in your face as he is when
you're dotted. Still, he soon forced his presence on our attention, and
delivered a jumbled, nearly incomprehensible warm-up that bore no relation
to the show that followed--instructing us, for example, how to cheer when
Alan announced the opening marquee. Perhaps Eddie was misinformed.
Certainly, he declined to descend from his rapid-fire, highly automated
comic persona to get real with us. His was the single jarring and
inappropriate contribution to the taping experience.

The band came out one by one, introduced in the usual fashion. I felt
certain Dave wouldn't make his trademark diagonal dash for the pre-taping
audience interaction, and he didn't. Eddie announced him (after the band
played "Brown Sugar"--no "Dance To the Music") and Dave emerged gravely
without his jacket. No banging of microphone against his foot or a camera.
In fact, the monologue camera was not in place to bang or lean against.

Dave addressed us seriously, apologetically, gratefully, humbly. He said,
"We really don't know what we're doing." Dave asked us to bear with him, and
thanked the audience for its willingness to help him get through this. He solicited
questions. I've never been eager during this portion (and what's the point if you're
there with Lehecka), but tonight I shot my hand up. I had no question, but wanted
to stand and declare my thanks. As always, though, Dave's eyes were scouring
the orchestra and he didn't glance up to see me.

A woman asked, "Do you need to blow my whistle?" Dave answered,
"I'm sorry, but I've been out of town, and I just don't know what that means."
<laughter> "Under normal circumstances, I'd be glad to blow your whistle."
<laughter> "Are there any questions I might remotely be able to answer?"
Up with my hand again, but no luck. Dave thanked us again, with a minute left
until taping. (The show taped from 5:00 - 6:00 today for some reason.)
He retreated straight to the desk, donned his jacket, and sat waiting.
We all sat waiting, the band silent.
Taping started with the cold opening you saw tonight.


I've never heard the Ed so still as during Dave's opening address. The audience
was gripped. I was as focused on Dave's bearing and words as I was on the
attack as it unfolded last week. His palpable reluctance during the pre-show,
and his trembling voice during his remarks, brought a scalding reality
to his words for those in attendance.

"Terribly, terribly sad..."
"If we are going to continue doing shows..."
"I have to go through this..."
"If you live to be 1,000 years old ... will it make any goddamn sense?"

It was obvious immediately that Dave was allowing an unprecedented level of
rawness and emotion to stream through him, far more than the quickly-stifled
moment that welled up in him during the comeback show. The perfectly silent
audience was wholly immersed in the moment, and I'm certain I couldn't have
been the only person weeping tears as Dave spoke. Laurie crumbled (and also,
bless her uninhibited heart, danced during the breaks) and Felicia dabbed
beneath her shades.

During the first commercial break Dave was overcome, removed his glasses,
and brought tissues to his face. Maria, Barbara, and Laurie ringed him as he cried.
Paul and the band played through this break and all of them, starting after
the segments faded to black.

The panel with Dan Rather was an immortal, touching piece of interviewing. I
feel certain the segments will be discussed and shared tomorrow throughout
the media. The unprecedented response here in AFL (to Rather's emotional
nakedness and the entire show) illuminates how needed were Dave's questions
and how welcomed Dan's combination of information and feeling. When it was
over, Rather received an ovation from the audience, and gave Corky a bear
hug on the way out.

It seemed that Dave responded to Regis with relief and utter delight.
These segments were obviously and totally unprepared and unscripted.
Regis surprised me with the most daring, and funniest, line of the night--
"Now there's somebody who could end this in a hurry"--referring to Kathie Lee.
A brilliant tutorial in crisis humor. Dave relished teasing Regis, as if he
hadn't seen him for years, positively cackling in response to his own jabs.
The segments were perfect, bringing the show upward in mood toward the end,
without any sense of manufacture or forced hilarity. And Dave finally, after
years of hopeless imploring from Regis, agreed to have dinner.


A crowd gathered on 53rd Street to witness Regis exit the theater. Suddenly,
all eyes roved upward, where the Reege was standing on a second-story fire
escape between the Hello Deli and the production door. A large American flag
had been draped across the railing, and Regis posed there for a minute,
waving to us all. Then he yelled, "Dave Lettermen is alive and well!" before
climbing back up to the entrance. A minute later he emerged in the normal
manner and climbed into his limo, ushered by Maria, and drove off.

I found Chez and greeted him briefly; the man was eager to get out of the city.


When the Tonight Show announced its delayed return, I wondered if Leno was
attempting some kind of PR stunt, though I couldn't imagine the public relations
value of starting Tuesday instead of Monday. I'm glad he was off the air.
Dave had the spotlight all to himself as the first late-night host to claim mindshare
and soul space in the post-attack world. Tonight we saw his legend amplified,
substantiated, affirmed, and probably introduced to new people. Though it is a
wrench to think of the showbiz industry reward system, it does occur to me that
this show could represent the Late Show's 2002 Emmy.  This was an exceptional,
stirring, historic piece of programming. It will be discussed and excerpted.
And I'll ever remember witnessing the unaffected sharing of heart brought to millions
by the one great television entertainer we can trust with our tenderness, our pain,
our sadness, our need for healing.

(With thanks to Renee Stravitz and the Late Show ticket management office.)



Different post:

Anyone notice that much of the music the band played during the breaks was
accompanied with singing?
First they sang the Rascals' "People Got to Be Free," then "Put a Little Love
in Your Heart" (inbetween Dan's 2 segments). They introduced  Dan with a
subdued, jazzier version of "A Day in the Life" ("I read the news today"),
then, after Dan, Al Green's "Let's Stay Together." For Regis, the band played
"Good Morning, Good Morning," the music for the extended break I didn't catch,
and, finally, John Lennon's "Imagine."


Subject: Here's a transcript of Dave's remarks on Sept. 17.

From: David Yoder

I found Dave's remarks about the attack on New York City to be tremendously
touching and inspiring. I tried to think about what I could say to compliment
him on his heartfelt eight-minute opening to the Sept. 17 show.

One could sense tremendous apprehension in Dave's voice as he spoke, knowing
that he feared his words were inadequate to address the gravity of the
situation. Pure Dave. As always, he completely underestimated himself.

I finally concluded that the best way to compliment Dave for his remarks
(and to pay tribute to the heroic citizens of New York) would be to post them verbatim.
I wrote them in html and will archive them on the fan page later today, but I'm
pasting them in here for the moment, as I see there has already been one request.

To all the fine people in the Big Apple, my best wishes and respect from the Little Apple.



David Letterman's remarks on September 17, 2001...

cold opening and applause

Thank you very much.

Welcome to the Late Show. This is our first show on the air since New York and
Washington were attacked, and I need to ask your patience and indulgence here
because I want to say a few things, and believe me, sadly, I'm not going to be
saying anything new, and in the past week others have said what I will be saying
here tonight far more eloquently than I'm equipped to do.

But, if we are going to continue to do shows, I just need to hear myself talk
for a couple of minutes, and so that's what I'm going to do here.

It's terribly sad here in New York City. We've lost five thousand fellow New
Yorkers, and you can feel it. You can feel it. You can see it. It's terribly sad.
Terribly, terribly sad. And watching all of this, I wasn't sure that I should be
doing a television show, because for twenty years we've been in the city,
making fun of everything, making fun of the city, making fun of my hair,
making fun of Paul... well...

So, to come to this circumstance that is so desperately sad, I don't trust my
judgment in matters like this, but I'll tell you the reason that I am doing a
show and the reason I am back to work is because of Mayor Giuliani.

Very early on, after the attack, and how strange does it sound to invoke that
phrase, "after the attack?", Mayor Giuliani encouraged us -- and here lately
implored us -- to go back to our lives, go on living, continue trying to make
New York City the place that it should be. And because of him, I'm here tonight.

And I just want to say one other thing about Mayor Giuliani: As this began, and
if you were like me, and in many respects, God, I hope you're not. But in this
one small measure, if you're like me, and you're watching and you're confused
and depressed and irritated and angry and full of grief, and you don't know how
to behave and you're not sure what to do and you don't really... because we've
never been through this before... all you had to do at any moment was watch the
Mayor. Watch how this guy behaved. Watch how this guy conducted himself.
Watch what this guy did. Listen to what this guy said.
Rudolph Giuliani is the personification of courage.


And it's very simple... there is only one requirement for any of us, and that is
to be courageous, because courage, as you might know, defines all other human
behavior. And I believe, because I've done a little of this myself, pretending
to be courageous is just as good as the real thing. He's an amazing man, and
far, far better than we could have hoped for. To run the city in the midst of
this obscene chaos and attack, and also demonstrate human dignity... my God...
who can do that? That's a pretty short list.

The twenty years we've been here in New York City, we've worked closely with
police officers and the fire fighters and...


...and fortunately, most of us don't really have to think too much about what
these men and women do on a daily basis, and the phrase New York's finest and
New York's bravest, you know, did it mean anything to us personally, firsthand?
Well, maybe, hopefully, but probably not. But boy, it means something now,
doesn't it? They put themselves in harm's way to protect people like us, and the
men and women, the fire fighters and the police department who are lost are
going to be missed by this city for a very, very long time. And I, and my hope
for myself and everybody else, not only in New York but everywhere, is that we
never, ever take these people for granted... absolutely never take them for granted.


I just want to go through this, and again, forgive me if this is more for me than it is
for people watching, I'm sorry, but uh, I just, I have to go through this, I'm...

The reason we were attacked, the reason these people are dead, these people are
missing and dead, and they weren't doing anything wrong, they were living their
lives, they were going to work, they were traveling, they were doing what they
normally do. As I understand it (and my understanding of this is vague at best),
another smaller group of people stole some airplanes and crashed them into
buildings. And we're told that they were zealots, fueled by religious fervor...
religious fervor. And if you live to be a thousand years old, will that make any
sense to you? Will that make any Goddamned sense? Whew.

I'll tell you about a thing that happened last night. There's a town in Montana
by the name of Choteau. It's about a hundred miles south of the Canadian border.
And I know a little something about this town. It's 1,600 people. 1,600 people.
And it's an ag-business community, which means farming and ranching. And
Montana's been in the middle of a drought for... I don't know... three years?
And if you've got no rain, you can't grow anything. And if you can't grow anything,
you can't farm, and if you can't grow anything, you can't ranch, because the cattle
don't have anything to eat, and that's the way life is in a small town. 1,600 people.

Last night at the high school auditorium in Choteau, Montana, they had a rally,
home of the Bulldogs, by the way... they had a rally for New York City. And
not just a rally for New York City, but a rally to raise money... to raise money
for New York City. And if that doesn't tell you everything you need to know
about the... the spirit of the United States, then I can't help you. I'm sorry.


And I have one more thing to say, and then, thank God, Regis is here, so we
have something to make fun of.

If you didn't believe it before, and it's easy to understand how you might have been
skeptical on this point, if you didn't believe it before, you can absolutely believe it now...
New York City is the greatest city in the world.

lengthy applause

We're going to try and feel our way through this, and we'll just see how it goes...
take it a day at a time. We're lucky enough tonight to have two fantastic representatives
of this town, Dan Rather and Regis Philbin, and we'll be right back.

to commercial

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