Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Good Old Dave

Tonight is the last David Letterman Late Show on CBS Television after 30-some years. David has been inundated with tributes ever since he announced his retirement and especially in the past week. So I thought I'd add my own.

As has been well documented through the years, Letterman hails from Indiana. Back in the period from 1969 to 1972, I worked at a radio station in Indianapolis. One of my colleagues was Tom Cochrun, who some of you know from his blog Light Breezes written and photographed from his retirement home in California. Tom, as it happens, was a fraternity brother of David Letterman at Ball State University. I met Dave at a party at Tom's home one night and found him to be as funny in person as he was on his gigs doing weather and hosting a weekend movie on a local t.v. station.

Somehow, Dave began doing occasional comic commentaries on the radio station Tom and I worked for.  He would write and phone them in from his home, someone at the station would record them and they'd go on the air. I'm not sure how long that lasted but I can still remember one of his classics.

As fans of Letterman know he has a quirky sense of humor.

In the center of downtown Indianapolis is a traffic circle, named Monument Circle for the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on it.

It is nearly 285 feet tall and is dedicated to Hoosiers (as Indianans are familiarly known) who have served in America's wars, dating back to the Revolutionary War. It is an iconic structure at the heart of an extremely patriotic city.

One bright sunny day, listeners to WIBC were startled to hear a special report from one David Letterman, announcing that the city - - apparently in a move to balance the budget - - had SOLD the monument. It would soon be dismantled, removed and shipped to the island of Guam where it would be painted green and reassembled to represent the official vegetable of Guam - - the asparagus!

The public outcry was tremendous. Telephone lines were jammed and media all over the city were flooded with calls from alarmed Hoosiers. How could the city leaders even think of doing this? I would imagine that Mayor Richard Lugar, later Senator Lugar, was wondering what the hell was going on as his office staff tried to deal with the alarm, the outrage, the indignity from the local citizenry.

Eventually, the truth was revealed and after a day or two things settled down. But I think young David Letterman was enjoying his prank as much or more than the rest of us who were in on the gag.

Well, Dave went off to Hollywood and eventually settled in New York City to provide bizarre entertainment to Late Night viewers for many years.

As all of his guests have said "so long, Dave, we're going to miss you."

(By the way, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. I wonder if Dave's stunt had anything to do with that.)