Thursday, May 21, 2015
My First Appearance (Almost) on the David Letterman Show
In July and August of 1991 I was relentlessly scouring as much of the island of Manhattan as I possibly could.
It was an epic two weeks - I met legendary talk show pioneer Joe Franklin outside of Nathan's hot dogs in Times Square, I met (and bought a drink for) the actor Michael Anderson, aka the midget from "Twin Peaks", and I was almost featured in an episode of David Letterman's talk show on NBC.
You should know that I knew of so many landmarks and unique Manhattan locations, mostly from decades of movie and television viewing. Obsessive viewing one might say - which allowed me to locate the streets and buildings from "Taxi Driver", the steps in Riverside Park where Charles Bronson turned into a killer in "Deathwish", the bench used in by Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in "Manhattan" ... you get the idea.
So one day I set my attention to the area around 30 Rockefeller Plaza - too many iconic images and locations to list. I puzzled over ways to get into Letterman's show, but none seemed to work. I circled around attempting to locate the building which Letterman had recently been using as he called up a woman named Meg he could see in a high rise window across from his studio. He'd call her up, she would do something wacky for him during the show.
Turns out I was right on time for something special because as I was looking up, I see a window in the building being raised and a woman poked out her head. My heart stopped when I realized I had hit the mother lode.
She withdrew her head and a large bag appeared, overflowing with multi-colored Nerf balls. I looked down and across the street and there was Biff Henderson, David's longtime stage manager, wearing his ubiquitous headset, darting back and forth with a laundry basket. Nerf balls began to rain down as Biff scampered about trying to catch them.
I was thunderstruck of course. They were taping a segment for that night's show. I then noticed a small camera crew to my left, and my mind seized on an idea - I'm going to just cross the street and walk past Biff. I'm going to be on the show.
As if in a dream, I eased forward - one step, two, and I'm on the street, eyes glued to Biff's antics ... and then I noticed the policeman, the barricades at either end of the street, and then the policeman noticed me and he gave me a look, a look that said "Don't even think about it, buddy."
I froze in place and did not move.
The scene continued to play out. I became aware of a lot of folks around, laughing and clapping. In seconds, Biff and crew were gone, the window was shut and the policeman smiled at me. I wandered off, pondering on what Letterman himself might call "a brush with greatness".
Anyway, I continued my sightseeing and adventures for the day and late that evening I was back in Brooklyn where I was staying with my brother-in-law Fred. I was tired - a good kind of tired - and I realized the time, realized the Letterman show was about to air.
Did I make it into the show? Possibly??
I tuned in and watched and there's Letterman, setting up the bit with Meg and Biff and the Nerf balls ... At several points, there was this shot from high above the street as Biff ran about and I can see ... I can see ... that if I had just taken one more step, just one move a couple of inches forward, I would have been in the shot and been on the show.
But I was not.