In the summer of 1993, I was twelve years old. It was the last summer I played baseball. It was the summer before I started at a new school, an all-boys school, one that molded my worldview as much as anything. I was a member of a whopping three swim teams. It was the first and last summer I played on an organized roller hockey team on an actual sport court in a city park. After all, it was 1993. And late in that summer, I became the world’s biggest David Letterman fan.
As my last summer before becoming a teenager came to a close, on August 30th, 1993, CBS debuted The Late Show with David Letterman. Prior to that, rare was the occasion when my folks allowed me to stay up past the end of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. I did know that Dave dropped televisions, watermelons, and bowling balls from tall buildings, and he’d have controversial guests with whom he’d occasionally argue, and I knew about Stupid Pet Tricks and velcro suits, and because of all this, my mother did not like him, which obviously made me even more fond of him.
As of today, we have one more week with Dave, and I have been tapping into my early fondness for his show in a big way.
Facing Dave’s impending retirement, I’ve become more wistful. In retreading memories, it’s become clear to me that discovering Dave Letterman signaled my transition from a boy to a young man. For a little over three years, the three years I was old enough to be allowed to stay up until 11:30 and yet too young to drive, I was an avid fan, taping many of the episodes, rewinding and poring over the structure of his jokes, his cadence, developing a keen eye for his trademark folksy, Midwestern turn-of-phrase. I never liked the double-breasted suits, the grey socks, the tasseled Cole-Haans, but I liked his “Hee, hee!” I liked his good-natured self-denigration. And I especially liked that he rooted for the Midwest, land that I love.
When watching, I had a routine: push-ups during the monologue, sit-ups for the first commercial break and through the end of the Top Ten, and then, I’d do some pretty intense stretching while he interviewed his first guest. For a time, I remember being able to lay flat on my back, point my feet, and touch the carpet with my toes. Talk about Stupid Human Tricks, but at least my swim coaches were impressed.
Patrick gets Dave’s socks, January 16, 2009.
In thinking of how I — Max Wastler, lowly style blogger — might best pay tribute to this man whose efforts have meant so much to my understanding of the world, I had a thought: let’s all wear grey dress socks and tasseled loafers on Dave’s last day. We could call it #SocksForDave. I’m going to go ahead and pull the trigger on a pair of the Grey Russell Ribbed Dress Socks from Ledbury. Fingers-crossed, they will arrive just in time.
I filled out the online submission in attempt to attend the taping of one of his final shows, but because I was lucky enough to make my way into the front row of the taping of an episode last fall, I assume I’m on a “no fly” list. If you’re reading this, and you’re in New York, and able to take part of your day to wait in line for waitlist tickets, do so, and clap a little harder, cackle a little louder on my behalf.
Speaking of attending a taping, it is precisely as its described at the beginning of this lovingly told profile from The New York Times, from which the black-and-white photography featured here was borrowed. He does wind this dented microphone around the stage like The Who’s Roger Daltry or like its Indiana Jones’ whip. His warm-ups often show up when he first sits down at the desk. The in-joke he’s able to craft and the cutaway to the darkened audience member with whom he shared the repartée still make me smile. Deep in the piece, when he’s approached today, he refers to feeling a sense of “artificial reverence.” Were I to agree with him would defeat my efforts here. I have utmost respect for Dave, and it’s my hope in reading the forthcoming posts, you’ll understand precisely why.
I’ll end by saying, it’s also worth picking up the most recent issue of Rolling Stone with Dave on the cover. Josh Eells’ lengthy article is incredible in its scope: detailing scandals, his introversion, the early insecurities, and a beautiful portrait of Dave’s life in Montana.
Stay tuned to All Plaidout this week for more stories about Dave Letterman as only I can tell them.