On the beat: 05/15

Late nights without Letterman

By Jim Bucher
May 20, 2015 is the day.

The day – or rather night – my late evening viewing will be forever changed.

Around 12:35 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, David Letterman will sign off on a remarkable 33 years of late night broadcasting.

To be honest, I’m a bit misty eyed.

I was a young man of 22 when Dave premiered on NBC with Late Night, moving to CBS and The Late Show after Johnny Carson retired and Jay Leno was handed the Tonight Show baton.

I remember his first show, thinking it was a little quirky, off kilter, and certainly not like any TV talk show at the time.

Letterman was not chained to a desk – he left the confines of the studio, taking his shtick on the streets of New York City.

(One of my all-time favorites was a recorded bit with Zsa Zsa Gabor driving around Los Angeles hitting all the fast food drive-thrus. Check it out on YouTube.)

Dave became a huge hit with college kids and the younger viewers advertisers covet.

It was fresh, funny and new, which later was copied by many, but they were never like the original.

Almost a year ago, Dave made the announcement I knew was coming, but I refused to grip the reality that all good things must come to an end. He told the studio audience that he’s turning 67 and wants to spend more time with his family.

The audience thought he was joking because he said, “Finally Paul and I can get married.”

Letterman’s mentor and confidant was of course Johnny Carson, but an early influence was back home in Indiana where The Paul Dixon Show was broadcast out of Cincinnati. Anyone remember “Paul Baby?”

Speaking of, before moving to California, Dave was a weatherman at what is now WTHR in Indianapolis where Dave cut his comic chops with cracks like congratulating a tropical storm for being upgraded to a hurricane.

But what made Letterman last as long as he did – even though critics say he’s become predictable – is his irreverent style, sarcasm and quick wit.

I’ll hear from some of you on this, but in my opinion, no one is better.

Dave has matured through the years and yes, has grown up to become one of the best TV talk show interviewers in the history of the medium.

Plus, the Letterman trademarks like stupid pet and stupid human tricks and Dave’s Top Ten Lists.

Memorable moments to me include Dave’s first show back after 9/11. His demeanor was very un-Letterman-like. He was compassionate, caring, shocked and saddened at what had transpired. Dave expressed what we all felt.

Sometimes I felt like I was a fly on the wall in his therapist’s office when retelling the “affairs” stories with Late Show female staffers, apologizing to his wife, crew and we the viewers.

Or Dave’s emotional return after open-heart surgery with the team of doctors and nurses on stage at the Ed Sullivan Theater where he told them and millions of us, “These people saved my life.”

Off-camera Dave is a lifelong racing fan. Growing up in Indianapolis, how could you not be?

By the way, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing won the 2004 Indianapolis 500 with driver Buddy Rice.

His production company World Wide Pants produced, among other things, the CBS hit Everybody Loves Raymond.

And Dave gives back, too. The Letterman Foundation for Courtesy and Grooming, yep that’s what it’s called, is a private foundation through which Letterman has donated millions of dollars to charities and other non-profits in Indiana and Montana, where he owns a ranch.

Dave says he’s retiring to spend more time with wife Regina and son Harry and his last broadcast will be episode 6,028 of Late Show and Late Night.

At the time of publication, confirmed guests include Oprah Winfrey, Howard Stern and George Clooney. He reportedly also hopes Brian Williams will make an appearance.

So what on earth will I do now as 11:35 p.m. rolls around on weeknights?

I like Jimmy Fallon, and Jimmy Kimmel is growing on me.

I’m not sure what the real Stephan Colbert will look like since he’s not playing the character from his old show The Colbert Report.

There’s always Conan at 11 p.m., or sleep, or I could do the obvious, right thing and make my editor Sarah here at the paper happy by spending more time writing my column, and turning it in in a timely manner.

Of course, I need to do the right thing … Kimmel it is.



A regionally known and loved local television icon for over 25 years, “Buch’s” followers describe him as trust-worthy, fun, the guy next door, a friend and role model. You can promote your business with Buch and grab your customer’s attention! Reach DCP freelance writer Jim Bucher at JimBucher@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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For over 25 years, Jim Bucher has been a regionally known and loved local television icon. “Buch’s” followers describe him as trustworthy, fun, the guy next door, a friend and role model. You can promote your business with Buch and grab your customer’s attention! Reach DCP freelance writer Jim Bucher at JimBucher@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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