Tags: 1982, Chris Elliot, george Meyer, Gerry Mulligan, Letterman, Merrill Markoe, Paul Shaffer, RollingStone, Tom Gammill
So there is a piece in the new RollingStone about year one of the Letterman show. (If you use the link, check under the area labeled ‘features’ And if the link says something about how you need to be a subscriber, just google Rollingstone,Current issue. And it will appear. Then look for features.). As a lot of you may know, this is not a piece of my past that I revisit much. I have a lot of reasons, among them the fact that whatever the opposite of nostalgic is, I am that. But when the writer of the piece, David Browne, contacted me, I decided I’d play along. Because…you know… why not? And in the course of playing along, the art director asked me if I had any photos. As it turned out, I did. I made jpegs out of a bunch of them but for whatever reason, they never made it in to the magazine. Which brings us to this blog post. Since I went to the trouble of making the damn jpegs , I thought maybe fans of the early Letterman show might enjoy seeing them. Lets get ME over with first. Here I am when the show first launched. The important writer shirt was a sarcastic souvenir from my days of being a struggling writer at large, newly moved to Hollywood. Which, at that point, was just a few weeks before this. I thought it was a very funny thing to have on a shirt that labeled me an important writer. In fact, it was the funniest thing I could think of. That, in a nutshell, was me then.
I’m going in chronological order…This is a picture of the set during a rehearsal of The David Letterman Show, which was Dave’s live MORNING show. It preceded the night show. It was on the air live 90 minutes a day at 10 in the morning on NBC for 19 weeks before it got cancelled.It was a lot like the night show but, if you can imagine it, even weirder. It had “a family”…many of them funny cerebral comedian character writer/performers.(The brilliant hilarious Valri Bromfield, Edie McClurg, Wil Shriner and Rich Hall, to name 4). The guy sitting with Dave is comedian Bob Sarlotte, who was supposed to be a kind of a side kick. He moved his family all the way to NYC, only to have the whole show up-end in just a few months. This was not the way things were supposed to go. However, when the show was cancelled two good things happened. We won an Emmy. And we got this cool telegram from Martin Scorcese.
Now on to “Late Night with David Letterman” on NBC. This was the next version of the show. Here is what the host and one of his guests looked like during year one of that first late night show. By the way, in case it is not obvious to you…that guest is Mr. Leno.
And this is what my assistant Chris Elliot , who was about 13 at the time, looked like. I had to get his mother’s permission to take this picture. No No. I am kidding. But he was about 19. The photo beneathe this one is what he looked like playing a LifeGuard in a ‘fun in the summer’ special.
Now for some writers. This is a scrapbook page I didn’t want to dissemble. Starting top left, the young Steve O’Donnel,(who went on to headwrite the show for many years) then Jim Downey talking to “not sure”…who MIGHT be Sandy Frank. (but still not sure.) They are in Tom Gammill’s office, as you can see by the signature Gammill painting on the wall. Tom has a cartoon strip called The Doozies. (Google it, sit back, pour yourself a beverage and make an evening of them.) Below on the right is my dear pal George Meyer,(more recently of The Simpsons). In this photo he is pretty much right out of college. He is on the site of a science fair that we covered for the show. Unless he was one of the exhibitors. And below on the left is the always funny and fantastic Hal Gurnee, who was our director. Here is the young Tom Gammill on the cover of an in-house news letter he and his partner Max Pross were writing and distributing to the staff.
Next is my old friend Gerry Mulligan, who stayed at the show until a couple of years ago when he retired! But this photo is taken of him when the show first started.And ladies and gentlemen, the hilarious Andy Breckman, who later in life became the creator of MONK.
Here is Paul Shaffer holding a photograph of Hal Gurnee’s dog Burt. For reasons of his own, Mr. Gurnee was obsessively photographing everyone who came on to the show holding this picture. Somewhere there are HUNDREDS of these. Not sure why I have this one.
And here I am in a segment for the first anniversary show called Stupid Writer’s Tricks. I am doing a scene from a theoretical sit-com I wrote for myself called My Little Merrill. In the scene, my husband has told me that the boss is coming for dinner. But oops. Darn. In my hurry to get everything perfect I dropped a 100 lb. weight on the dining room table and broke it in half.
A word from our sponsor. We hope you enjoyed this pointless trip down memory lane. We (and by we I mean ..uh…you know…) are so hopeful that we (I) would like to take this opportunity to (coughing fit. Excuse me.I’m sorry. I can’t stop coughing. Oh. Where was I again? Ah yes.) Ahem. I have a new book coming out November first. It’s a book of funny personal essays. Its called Cool Calm and Contentious and if there is any chance you can be talked in to pre-ordering one, you can do it HERE (amazon) or HERE (Barnes and Noble.) Thank you. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming. Not that there is any.