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the otto files

where the classics never go out of style

I was planning on putting up a post today in honor of Dave’s 70th birthday and then lo and behold, I read on the internet this morning that Dave’s mom, Dorothy, has passed away at the age of 95.

My first thought after sadness for her passing and sympathy for Dave and his family is the incredible intimacy of the television medium. I have never met David Letterman in my life and I certainly never met his mom. And yet, when I read of Dorothy’s passing, it really felt as though a friend of mine’s mother had passed. A kind, soft-spoken lady that we all loved. But our “relationship” with her was purely through the TV!!

People have long complained about the vast wasteland that is “television.” However, when television is good, it’s really good and when it’s bad, it’s really bad. Letterman’s legacy on television is secure. David Letterman was, in his own way, the voice of my generation on late night television. At his best, he was wry, funny, sarcastic, anti-establishment, and goofy. At his worst, he was bored, indifferent, and cranky. I loved all of it because whether you liked him or not, Letterman was the most sincere. What you saw was what you got. He may not have always seemed happy to be there in the waning years of his late night run but he was always authentic. That’s why when tragedy struck and you needed a serious take from a treasured TV personality, Letterman was the guy to go to because he would be honest with you. He was, particularly in times of trouble, incapable or unwilling to be phony.

In the years since he left his late night perch, Dave seems to have turned into Grizzly Adams and that’s okay too. Once again, he reflects the unwillingness of my generation to maintain social mores that no longer apply to us. I shave about once a week now for exactly the same reason Dave has stated for giving it up. It’s a pain in the ass!

A friend recently sent me a link to an article about David Letterman’s unofficial archivist. I say Bravo to Mr. Giller and thanks for preserving lots of happy and funny memories. That article can be found here.

As for you Dave, we send you our sympathies about your mom’s passing and our sincere wishes that you have as grand and as long a run as she had!!

It all began for Letterman, as it did for so many comedians, on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. By the way, you will hear Carson’s laugh more than once in this clip which no doubt explains the invitation to Letterman to come sit down with his host on his very first appearance! That did not happen often for young comedians making their debut with Mr. Carson.

Speaking of “my generation,” I can remember watching David Letterman’s original morning show in the summer of 1980 and then calling up a buddy of mine to review the show with him. Neither of us made a move that summer until we’d watched Dave every morning.

Needless to say, David Letterman WAS saved from extinction and showed up in the much more appropriate late night slot about 18 months later on NBC.

Here is Letterman’s first “Late Night” from February 1, 1982. Bill Murray was also Letterman’s first guest on his “Late Show” when he moved to CBS in 1993.

I remember so well watching and taping this first CBS show. The first thing that I felt bad about was Dave’s new three-piece suits. Gone were the days of a sport coat and sneakers. 11:30 was really the big-time in 1993!

And then, as if in the blink of an eye, it was over.

Love you and miss you Dave. Happy Birthday and come back anytime. 🙂









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