But there were a few bright spots. The van ride home was a lot of fun. And, oh yes, I ACTUALLY MET DAVID LETTERMAN!
It was all a series of fortuitous events, which started at the restaurant we were eating at, Angelo and Maxie’s. After dinner, I asked Joe if he was going to any bars, and he said he wasn’t certain, because he had so much to prepare for the next day (he ultimately ended up going out until three in the morning.)
I decided to walk home with a group heading back to the Helmsley. It was a beautiful night, and perfect walking weather, and as we approached our drop off, two of the guys, Kevin and Mark, decided that they wanted to go to Rockefeller Center to see the Christmas tree.
I was torn, I must admit, because Corb’s dream has always been to see Rockefeller Center this time of year, and had threatened my life if I went, but I ultimately decided to go. So we hopped in a taxi and took off, and went to the Center, and it was beautiful and all that, and I called Corbie and Josie on my cell and spoke to the kids, too, and half-listened as the guys talked about walking through Times Square to the Ed Sullivan theater.
See, my bud Kevin’s always been a huge David Letterman fan, and I am, too, although I don’t watch him half as much as I used to. My memories of Letterman date back to his morning show, but they’re primarily centered around his 12:30 show on NBC. When I was a teenager, I would watch that show faithfully each night, and keep my parents up laughing hysterically at what was going. I was particularly fond of the monkey cam.
So we made our way to the theater. It was about 10:30, and darkened, so we did the tourist thing and pressed our noses to the glass, and oohed and ahhed, and then Kevin indicated that he wanted to see Hello Deli, which is located on a side street to the left of the building. The deli was closed, too, but we press our noses up against that, too, and took a look at all the items that were Letterman-related.
Once we were done, we started to head back to Times Square, and along the way, we noticed that one of the stage doors were open. Kevin poked in and saw two stagehands moving things around.
“I know that one,” he said, pointing to a heavyset guy in a gray sweatshirt. “He’s on Letterman all the time. He always features him in their skits. He does the craziest things.”
We continued to make our way to Times Square, but as we hit the street, Kevin suddenly stopped. “I’m going to ask for his autograph,” he said, suddenly.
“Do you have a pen?” I asked.
“Doesn’t matter,” he replied, and turned around.
So we made our way back to the stage door. The stagehand had moved farther into the building, but Kevin took a step in and grabbed his attention, with Mark and me waiting outside, looking nonchalant. I didn’t hear what conversation took place, but suddenly the stagehand laughed and shook his head, moving away.
I thought that was the end of it, but suddenly, a large stretch limousine pulled down the street, and at the same time, three people headed out of the building—a middle man, a very pretty woman with dirty blond hair, and…David Letterman.
Given the fact that they must have completed taping at six that night, it was evident that Letterman had worked a pretty long day. He had on his trademark glasses, a mustard yellow raincoat, a pair of blue shorts, revealing his skinny legs, and a pair of shoes without socks.
He stopped when he saw us. Kevin stood there, with stars in his eyes. “Hello, Mr. Letterman, I’m a big fan of yours,” he stammered out, and Mark and I served as his Greek chorus.
“Well, thank you,” he said. “And where are you all from?”
“Rhode Island,” we replied in unison.
“That’s a nice state, Rhode Island,” he replied, his hands in his jacket. “And what are you doing in New York?”
“We work for MetLife,” said Kevin. “We’re here for a conference.”
“We just got out from a dinner and had to visit the shrine,” said Mark, which elicited a laugh from Letterman.
“Mr. Letterman, I just wanted you to know that I’ve been a fan of yours since you started in the business in the fifties,” said Kevin, echoing an old Letterman gag.
That drew a bigger laugh from him, however. “Well, I have to go, guys, but it was nice talking to you,” he said, shook our hands, and then he hopped in the limo.
We all turned to watch the limo drive off, slightly stunned, taking in the enormity of the experience.
“You still want the autograph from the stage guy, Kevin?” I asked, frozen in place.
“It doesn’t really matter any more,” he replied, also frozen.
We stood there for a few more minutes, not wishing to disturb the moment, and then started to make our way back. That night, in the hotel room, I turned on the Letterman show, just to see what they had filmed that day. Dave was going on about that Jeopardy guy who lost, but the reception at the Helmsley was lousy, and I finally had to shut it off because it was giving me a headache. I did, however, call up practically everyone I knew.