|Charles Grodin Interviewing David Letterman
GRODIN: My sole guest tonight is David Letterman. I have been a guest on David Letterman's show for 15 years, and tonight is the first time he has agreed to appear as a guest on this show,
(Charles mugs for the camera)
even though he has appeared on other shows. I think he's appeared on Larry -- what's Larry's last name?
Off-stage voice: Larry King.
GRODIN: Larry King and Tom -- Tom's last name?
Off-stage voice: Snyder.
GRODIN: Snyder. But tonight he will be my sole guest, and it got me to thinking about all the times over the years that I've been a guest, and when I was the -- the first time I ever appeared as a guest anywhere was on a show -- it was in the mid sixties -- I had directed an off-Broadway musical called -- "Hooray, it's a Glorious Day And All That" was the title, and I appeared on an FM radio show. It was called "Broadway After Dark" and the host was Bobby Maurice, and I went up to Bobby's apartment. It was up in the West 90's, the area that I lived at the time, in his living room. He had a few microphones, and there were three or four of us around this microphone of "Broadway After Dark" with Bobby Maurice, and at the end of the show where it came out that I was promoting this off-Broadway musical, the other guests on the show gave me their pictures and resumes. So I said to Bobby
before I, you know, put my coat on and left, "Bobby, this FM radio show you have here, where is that -- how widely is that heard?" And he said, "What street do you live on?" I said, "I live on West 92nd." He said, "We get as north as West 57th," so I didn't quite get up to my street with Bobby Maurice.
And then later that same year my first television appearance on Joe Franklin, the legendary Joe Franklin television show, and he introduced me. Now, this is an off-Broadway musical that didn't run, and he introduced me as the hottest young director in New York, and for that brief moment I thought I was the hottest young director, you know, they say it to ya, and then I realized that's what Joe did, one of the reasons he was on the air for 40 years.
And then around 1973 I had just opened in my first leading role in that movie, "Heartbreak Kid," and I was going to appear -- the idea was that I should now start to appear on television to help promote the movie, and I was told to expect a call from somebody named Bob Dolce, who was a talent coordinator for Johnny Carson and The Tonight Show. And I was in my apartment in the Upper West Side, and Bob Dolce called, and we chatted for about 20 minutes and had a really good time, at the end of which he said to me, "You're a very interesting guy. I think you would make a very good guest on the Dick Cavett Show. Nice to have talked to you." I put the phone down, and I thought about it a minute, not even realizing that I was auditioning. I hadn't realized
that the whole phone call was an audition. I just didn't know. It was the first kind of pre-interview that I had ever been exposed
to, which we don't do on this show. David Letterman has not been -- not only not been pre-interviewed, but not even told
anything about what I will talk with David Letterman about tonight.
And I called Bob Dolce back, and I said, "Wait a minute. Basically you're saying I shouldn't be a guest on The Tonight Show.
What is it you require to be a guest on The Tonight Show?" he says, "Well, do you have any funny stories?" and I said, "Yeah, I got funny stories. I wasn't aware that when we were talking you wanted" -- and I told him some funny stories, and they flew me out immediately, and I was on The Tonight Show for the first time in 1973, in January of '73, at seven minutes to 1:00. At that time it ran from 11:30 to 1:00, and I followed a medley from Diana Ross and her greatest hits, and it brought the house down,
and I enter at seven minutes to 1:00 following this huge star, Diana Ross, at the time.
And then three weeks later Johnny Carson asked me back, and that time I was on at ten minutes to 1:00. I had been given ten minutes instead of seven. And then the next day I was in my hotel room, and I get a phone call that Johnny Carson wanted to put me under contract, which I was astonished. I didn't know such a thing existed, and the idea would be I would be on every three weeks with Johnny Carson, and I think he had done it once or twice before with Joan Rivers and David Steinberg in all those years.
It was incredibly flattering, and then I went on with Johnny, but very quickly I began to be self-conscious about just having these pre-interviews and telling stories that were arranged and all of that, and I started to do something else. I started to just kind of go
in a different direction, not talk about myself, not talk about promoting anything, but, for example, if I came on and the audience hadn't been that responsive prior to me coming on, I would say to Johnny, "You know, this is not really that great an atmosphere for comedy, and why don't we run a clip of a previous appearance where I, you know, was getting laughs." And Johnny said,
who I've seen and spoken to about this since, because I wrote about this in one of my books, and he took exception to this. He said he didn't ban me, Johnny claims he did not ban me, but I didn't appear with Johnny for like a year at a time, two years at a time, and I appeared with all the other guest hosts.
In fact, at one time they considered having me be a guest host, but they thought I was maybe too strange to be a guest host and that kind of -- that idea went away. And then at some point Johnny told me this. I don't know if it was on camera or off camera. He said, "I never knew what to do with you, and then I realized I could do anything with you," and that opened the door to what I've been doing on talk shows with Johnny Carson from that time on of anything, anything. I could do anything. He would ask me a question, and I would say, "I can't answer that question, because you're not really interested in the answer. All you're interested in is making the money and taking it back home to Malibu." And he said, "You're absolutely right. That's true. I have no interest in your answer." So I started to do that, and a lot of people thought that was kind of weird and strange, and I was difficult, and right around at this time on the scene emerges David Letterman, actually chosen by Johnny Carson to be the person following Johnny Carson on NBC.
So by the time I first started to appear on David Letterman 15 years ago, this is what I was doing. It developed with the relationship with Johnny Carson. So let's run a clip, Bridgett, of the type of stuff that I immediately started to do. This is a little montage of what I started to do, just create conflict problems is what I did, because I didn't want to promote or talk about myself. I thought, I mean, who cares really, but this is what I did, if you will, with David Letterman over the years. This is a conflict montage, if you would, Bridgett.
LETTERMAN: She's like your wife in the film, isn't she?
GRODIN: She is my wife.
LETTERMAN: Yeah, that's good, yeah.
GRODIN: So anyway, that's all true. It's nice out here. It's cool. It's warm back stage, but it's cool out here.
LETTERMAN: Did you leave your medication in the dressing room, Charles?
GRODIN: Do you have any medication?
(That clip ends and another clips begins)
LETTERMAN: You know, you said something very insulting to me, and I let it go right by. That's the kind of guy I am. That's how gracious I am. You said, "I haven't seen your show in four or five months." Well, let me tell you something, pal.
(Grodin and Dave start yelling at each other)
GRODIN: Hey, that was -- wait a minute.
LETTERMAN: Wait a minute.
GRODIN: Wait a minute.
LETTERMAN: No, you wait a minute
GRODIN: No, you wait a minute.
LETTERMAN: No, you wait a minute.
GRODIN: No, you wait a minute.
LETTERMAN: I'm talkin' to you.
(That clip ends and another clip begins)
GRODIN: What started to happen was we began to watch the show, realizing you were grinning, you were grinning and smiling a lot for no understandable reason, and we started -- instead of enjoying it, we started to get edgy, as though we were in the presence of maybe -- you know, I mean this in the nicest possible way --
LETTERMAN: Yeah, right.
GRODIN: Early dementia. I'm sure it's not. But it's really nice to be here.
GRODIN: Here is a clip from my -- you know, a lot of people said David Letterman, he's mean, this and that. I never found him that way with me, but here is a clip of my last appearance with David Letterman, if you would, please, Bridgett.
LETTERMAN: Charles, hey, what the hell are you doing? Charles, get over here, buddy. Come on. This is not cable. We can't waste time.
GRODIN: Is this working? Wait a minute.
LETTERMAN: What's the matter?
GRODIN: You know, a lot of people don't want to come on this show, because they feel that he's not nice or afraid to come on and stuff like that, and I'm not, because I've been coming for many years.
LETTERMAN: You've been a good friend of ours. Thank you very much, Charles.
GRODIN: Yeah, but that's not what you just said when I came on. He said, "Go blank yourself."
LETTERMAN: That's not true.
GRODIN: Yes, he did. That's what he said. He just said, "Go screw yourself." Did you not?
LETTERMAN: No, I didn't say that.
GRODIN: Did you not?
LETTERMAN: No. You're making that up.
GRODIN: I'm asking, did you say it?
LETTERMAN: No, I did not say that. I'm not that kind of man. I'm not profane. I would not have said that, no. I have nothing but the highest respect and regard for you.
GRODIN: Did you not just say, "Go screw yourself," when I walked out here just now?
GRODIN: You did not say that?
LETTERMAN: I did not.
GRODIN: I totally misheard that. I'm sorry.
GRODIN: I didn't tell him I was gonna do that either. I just let the cameraman know I'd go anywhere, but he didn't know I was gonna do it. Of course, he didn't say it. Now, here is the last clip I want to show. When it first came up, the idea that I might have a talk show, this is what took place, if you would, Bridgett.
LETTERMAN: You can do everything. You write plays. You write --
GRODIN: I can also host a talk show.
LETTERMAN: Oh, it takes a mighty big man to do that, Charles.
GRODIN: Yes. Well, we'll see.
(That clip ends and another clips begins)
GRODIN: Ever since it's been announced that I'm gonna do my own talk show, I'm coming out later and later on this show, and this is the first time he ever said,
(Grodin says this really loud)
"And tonight, Stupid Pet Tricks," and
(Grodin softly mumbles)
You know, this didn't happen until they announced I'm doing my own show, and you are the only talk show host that I didn't get a gift from when that was announced. So don't tell me this is a coincidence.
LETTERMAN: Well, I just gave you ten damn dollars. What do you want?
GRODIN: David Letterman has a billboard up on Broadway that says he is no. 3. When he was no. 1, he chose not to have a billboard, and the only reason he is not no. 1 right now is the network that he is on, CBS, doesn't give him enough lead-in power
or else he would be no. 1. If he was on NBC, in my opinion, he would be no. 1, and I am a fan of Jay Leno as well. So tonight
we are going to be talking with David Letterman, a man who has walked among us for 15 years, and we really don't know who David Letterman -- well, he hasn't literally walked among us, because he doesn't leave the house, but we will try to learn tonight who is this enigmatic David Letterman, and we will be joined by David Letterman when we come right back. Be right back.
GRODIN: David, can I have a sound check in multiples of four, please.
LETTERMAN: 1, 2, 3, 4.
GRODIN: No, no, no. Excuse me, David. Multiples of Four. 4, 8, 12, 16.
LETTERMAN: I'm sorry. I went to a state college. 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, 24, 28, 32, 36, 40.
GRODIN: Excellent. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
LETTERMAN: What's that all about?
GRODIN: I want to get a couple of essentials out of the way first.
LETTERMAN: Are you talking to me?
GRODIN: Yes. What is your insurance?
LETTERMAN: My insurance?
LETTERMAN: I think it's Allstate or Farmers.
GRODIN: Is it a group plan?
LETTERMAN: Yeah, it's group. It should be. Total package. It's the umbrella package, term, whole life.
GRODIN: All right, all right. And how long since your last television interview, please.
LETTERMAN: It's been a while. It's been a while. I think the last one might have been – good Lord. I don't know. Oh, it might have been Tom.
GRODIN: How long ago?
LETTERMAN: About a year ago.
GRODIN: So it's been a year since you've been interviewed on television?
LETTERMAN: Since my last one, yeah.
GRODIN: And are you taking any medications?
GRODIN: No medication whatsoever?
LETTERMAN: No, although here talking to you I feel drowsy.
GRODIN: I'd like to just say a word to the audience, please. Your birthday?
GRODIN: And your height?
GRODIN: Your weight?
LETTERMAN: One seven zero.
GRODIN: Mother's maiden name?
GRODIN: I'm sorry.
LETTERMAN: Hofert, H-o-f-e-r-t.
GRODIN: What's the derivation of that?
LETTERMAN: I believe that's -- let's see. What would that be? That would probably be -- I think German.
GRODIN: Any Swiss in there?
LETTERMAN: Might be. Letterman is a Dutch name. My father's ancestors are Dutch.
GRODIN: Excuse me, David, David, please just answer the questions.
LETTERMAN: Okay, I'm sorry.
GRODIN: In case of an emergency, who do we contact?
LETTERMAN: Well, I think the people at CBS, because I'm certain they would be the last to know.
GRODIN: Right. And when did you last eat and what did you eat?
LETTERMAN: You know, this morning I had one of those Power Bar things.
GRODIN: That's all you've eaten today?
LETTERMAN: And some grapefruit juice.
LETTERMAN: Kind of coincidentally, yes, but not by any grand design. I've been to the dentist today too as well.
GRODIN: For what type of thing?
LETTERMAN: I'm having a filling replaced.
GRODIN: Does your coverage take care of that?
LETTERMAN: That's a cash deal. That's a strictly cash thing.
GRODIN: I see. How many fillings would you, just generally speaking, how many fillings do you think you have?
LETTERMAN: I'd say I probably have a half dozen on the bottom and maybe four on the top.
GRODIN: How many on the top?
LETTERMAN: I'd say four, total maybe of ten, a dozen at the most.
GRODIN: Is that average for a man your age?
LETTERMAN: I don't know. I think it's probably higher. It's certainly higher than I would like, but as you probably know, when you get yourself on one of these schedules, you don't have a lot of time to do the kind of personal maintenance a person might want to.
GRODIN: Have you bathed today?
LETTERMAN: Do I have what?
GRODIN: You have bathed today?
LETTERMAN: Yes, I have.
GRODIN: Is that a shower or a bath?
LETTERMAN: That would be a shower. I find it invigorating as well as relaxing.
GRODIN: And would you describe your feelings as we get ready to begin this interview?
LETTERMAN: I'm saying a silent prayer that -- you know, I was under the impression we were nearly half finished.
GRODIN: All right. We will begin.
LETTERMAN: Oh, that wasn't -- we haven't begun?
GRODIN: No. We have been on, but I haven't gotten -- I just wanted to get some essentials established for the audience.
GRODIN: People don't really know who you are, and I wanted to get that clear.
LETTERMAN: OK, all right. Then I'm ready to go then.
GRODIN: All right. Where were you born, please?
LETTERMAN: Indianapolis, Indiana, St. Vincent's hospital.
GRODIN: What time of day, please?
LETTERMAN: I think it was early morning.
GRODIN: And what is the extraction of Letterman? You said -- is your father --
LETTERMAN: I believe that's Dutch.
LETTERMAN: I think Letterman is a Dutch name.
GRODIN: You think?
LETTERMAN: I believe so. When I was in Holland looking through the phone book, you know, out-call service, that kind of thing, I came across the name Letterman in the white pages there.
GRODIN: Why were you in Holland?
LETTERMAN: I was there years and years ago to see the -- I went to a Formula One race in Belgium at Frankerschompf Spa.
GRODIN: You did?
GRODIN: Now, what would you be doing if you weren't doing this?
LETTERMAN: If I weren't talking to you right now?
GRODIN: Yes. What would you be doing normally?
LETTERMAN: I'd be asleep under the house.
GRODIN: Under the house?
LETTERMAN: Under the house.
GRODIN: Is there an area under there you can crawl in?
LETTERMAN: Yeah, the crawl space.
GRODIN: The crawl space in there?
GRODIN: And you're comfortable there?
LETTERMAN: Well, it's the only place I find on my property that stops the radio waves invading my brain.
GRODIN: I see, and there's quite a bit of that, isn't there?
LETTERMAN: Oh, you don't need to tell me. I mean, you're no stranger to this.
GRODIN: No, no. And your father's occupation?
LETTERMAN: My father's occupation, he owned a flower shop.
GRODIN: He did?
GRODIN: And your mother was a homemaker?
LETTERMAN: Yeah, homemaker and also helped out.
GRODIN: At the store?
LETTERMAN: Uh-huh, and was, for a while, was a Keno runner.
GRODIN: What is that, a Keno runner?
LETTERMAN: You know, when you play the Keno, and she comes and picks up your slips, offers you a cocktail.
GRODIN: I see. All right.
LETTERMAN: Explains the game, odds, that sort of thing.
GRODIN: And you have siblings?
LETTERMAN: Yes, I do.
GRODIN: And would you describe their names?
LETTERMAN: I will describe their names, Charles. I'll describe the one name is a little like the name Janice.
GRODIN: A little like the name Janice?
LETTERMAN: Yeah, and I'll describe the other one's name as a little like the name Gretchen.
GRODIN: I see, and you have two sisters, I would take it.
LETTERMAN: I'm sorry. I thought we were talking about siblings. Forgive me. Come on. Let's get going here.
GRODIN: I will in a moment. This is a whole show though. So I want to do some establishing stuff.
GRODIN: Do you miss anyone?
LETTERMAN: Do I miss anyone?
LETTERMAN: Yeah, sure, I miss a lot of people.
GRODIN: Do you miss your sisters?
LETTERMAN: Well, I just spent some time with my sister and her family a couple of weeks ago, so I can't really say I miss them, but we had a nice time, you know.
(Dave touches his nose)
GRODIN: What did you just do there with your nose?
LETTERMAN: I think I nervously kind of just pulled at it like that.
GRODIN: Are you nervous?
LETTERMAN: I am uncomfortable.
GRODIN: Why, because you think this isn't going well?
LETTERMAN: No. Well, it's not going at all, so --
GRODIN: Now, many times when I have spoken with you, and you can see I am speaking to you in a different manner than I normally do.
LETTERMAN: You're being stern.
GRODIN: No, I don't think I'm being -- we don't use that name on this show, by the way.
LETTERMAN: Oh, I'm sorry.
GRODIN: But you seem to have a great attraction to the subject of grooming.
GRODIN: You referred to my son as well-groomed.
GRODIN: You always use "well-groomed."
LETTERMAN: Well, I make no apologies for first rate personal hygiene.
GRODIN: Why? Is that something that's important to you?
LETTERMAN: Yeah, yeah.
GRODIN: Do you consider yourself well-groomed?
LETTERMAN: Well, I do what I can. I mean, look what I was given to work with. Consider that.
GRODIN: What constitutes well-groomed? What do you have to do to be well-groomed?
LETTERMAN: Nice freshly scrubbed shiny face.
LETTERMAN: Clean hair.
GRODIN: And what does the word "eponymous" mean?
LETTERMAN: Eponymous, I think I know this from having heard you explain it, I believe it is self-titled, like the Charles Grodin show.
GRODIN: Because I've been reading the research on you, because, to tell you the truth, I didn't know a damn thing about you. It said you had two eponymous shows, and that's why I thought you might know, but you only know that from hearing me describe it.
LETTERMAN: That's right, that's right.
GRODIN: And as a weatherman you said there was hail the size of canned hams. Was there criticism because of that?
LETTERMAN: If we continue this line of questioning, and moreover this tone of this line of questioning, I'm going to have to seek counsel.
GRODIN: No one said you couldn't seek counsel. I thought you had counsel.
Now, were you criticized as kind of an irreverent weatherman? Back in your beginnings now.
LETTERMAN: Probably so. I think that it was -- what passed for irreverence in those days by comparison these days is so mild as to probably have gone nearly unnoticed.
GRODIN: You know, when I look at you -- and now I'm going to be serious for a minute -- I realize you're a guy who's been on television for, I don't know, 15 years with your show, before that you appeared in other things, and yet it is true about you that nobody really has any idea what you are, who you are or what you're like. No one ever sees you. You don't go anywhere.
GRODIN: You have said you don't really want to go anywhere.
GRODIN: Where would you go?
LETTERMAN: Well, you know, as you describe me, or your impression of me to me, it puts me in the mind of another popular figure, Zorro. Nobody really knew much about Zorro. Nobody knew that he was – people suspected that he in fact was Don Diego, but no one knew it for a fact.
LETTERMAN: No one could prove it except for a small group of confederates who knew it and guarded that secret.
GRODIN: Do you think that's a key to the long run of Zorro and yourself?
GRODIN: No. I mean, do you deliberately – you don't go anywhere; you're not photographed anywhere; you're not seen anywhere. Is this part of the mystique of -- you're probably dying to get out, but you're thinking if you get out and people get to know you, it's all over?
LETTERMAN: (Dumb guy voice) Mr. Grodin, can I go home now?
GRODIN: Yeah, right, okay, that's good. How much time before we go to the break? We went to the break, right?
LETTERMAN: (Dave scratches his cheek.)
GRODIN: Just one more quick -- what did you just do there?
LETTERMAN: Again, nervously went to my face like that. Just kind of a Marlon Brando, that kind of thing.
GRODIN: Who's there with you right now? Who's off camera?
LETTERMAN: It looks like day laborers that you sent over with the equipment.
GRODIN: Do you have anybody from your staff there?
LETTERMAN: My assistant is here, and we have an engineer. Pete is here.
GRODIN: Is Rob Burnett there?
LETTERMAN: No, sir, he's not.
GRODIN: You don't have to call me "sir." We are going to go to a break, and we'll be right back with David Letterman. Hang with it. It's gonna get worse.
Man-in-the-Street: I love David Letterman. I think he really totally revolutionized comedy on television. I love his Stupid Pet Tricks.
Woman-in-the-Street: I love you, David Letterman. My boyfriend is 3,000 miles away and you keep me company at night.
Another woman-in-the-street: He's really, really cute, and I just think he's the best late night talk show host there is.
GRODIN: And I used that last one, even though it upset me a great deal when I saw it, I want you to know.
LETTERMAN: Well, it upset me a little bit too, because it's not true, and I appreciate you throwing that in there.
GRODIN: Well, we threw it in there because you won't get any of that from me, and then we're going to go to another break, and when we come back, it's almost over. Give him some Novocain. We'll be right back.
REGIS PHILBIN (on tape): David, Chuck, so happy to see you two guys together sitting there so comfortably. You know, I get so concerned when I see Chuck on with David on his show. I get nervous. I don't know. I think something's gonna happen any minute, but now to see you two relaxed, you know what? Why don't you make a date and visit each other at each other's home. Break bread together. Drink wine. Have fun. Hang out together and just relax. I love the thought of it, and if you have a chance, invite me along too, OK? Have a great show, guys. You're the best. I love ya both. But remember, she's always watching both of you.
(Regis points to a picture of Kathie Lee)
GRODIN: What really strikes me is how little chemistry we have under these circumstances.
GRODIN: You know, that it's such a -- if I come on and, you know, I'm angry at you when I'm on your show, it seems to work so well, but if I'm like trying to be civil and straight-forward with you, I mean, I can just imagine us doing what Regis said and sitting there saying, "How did this happen?" We're sitting there, and there's a glass of wine that we're sharing, and it's deadly. Why do you think that is?
LETTERMAN: Well, I don't think that it would be. I think that it would be great fun. I think the estrangement we are both feeling now has to do with geographic circumstances.
GRODIN: Oh, you mean that this is the first time I'm with you that we're not together?
LETTERMAN: Yeah, that's right.
GRODIN: Well, the people, the management here couldn't believe that I wasn't going to go over to your office and do this, and I said, "If I go over to Dave's office, there's a lot of people." You'll say, "Why not go to this guy's suite?" I said, "I'm not gonna -- Dick did that, and look what happened. I'm not gonna travel with a crew." So that's why I wouldn't come over there, you know.
LETTERMAN: That's all right. It's your show. I understand perfectly.
GRODIN: But I feel it too. There is a terrible estrangement. I miss the 700 people laughing.
LETTERMAN: I'll tell you what the problem is for me.
GRODIN: Yeah, yeah.
LETTERMAN: Not that it's a problem in any grand sense of the word.
GRODIN: Well, it is a problem. There's a problem.
LETTERMAN: I'll tell you what the problem is for me. I'm still not sure that we have begun the interview. There to me is no empirical data to support this one way or the other.
GRODIN: Well, I mean, what are you looking for? When you knew you were going to do this, what were you looking for from me? When you sit there, would you like to be -- you know, you said that you don't want to talk about what's personal to you. You find that dreary and dull.
GRODIN: And I'm counting on you not doing that.
LETTERMAN: OK, here's what I was looking for.
LETTERMAN: Here's -- having been in broadcasting for a long time --
GRODIN: Yes, sir.
LETTERMAN: -- this is what I was looking for to indicate that the interview was about to begin.
LETTERMAN: I was hoping I would hear from you or a technician here in the room something like, "OK, here we go."
GRODIN: And you didn't get that?
LETTERMAN: No, I didn't get that.
GRODIN: It really undercut the whole thing.
LETTERMAN: That's right.
GRODIN: So, I mean, there is a place, and as you know, you and for that matter Regis and I do live in the same proximity. Many people, talk show hosts, Phil Donahue, Don Imus -- I forget. There's a number of people that live right in that little area.
LETTERMAN: Jack Paar.
GRODIN: Jack Paar lives right where we all live.
GRODIN: And you know, at a restaurant that I go to --
LETTERMAN: Dinah Shore, I think, used to have a place up there. Merv has got a place up there.
GRODIN: Well, I'm with Merv every Friday afternoon.
LETTERMAN: Mike Douglas, I think, has got a place up there.
GRODIN: I'm seeing Mike tonight.
LETTERMAN: Uh-huh, right.
GRODIN: Now, there is a small room. There are several small rooms in a restaurant, private rooms in a restaurant that I go to that's very close to my house, and therefore your house, that if you wanted to go there with Regis -- I wouldn't go there alone with you, because this might happen in person, and I couldn't handle that. I'm too tense for that.
GRODIN: I don't mind television, but if Regis were there, you, Regis and me, nobody else, except, of course, a reporter, because why do that if it wasn't going to be a story -- if I have Regis arrange that, would you do it?
LETTERMAN: Yeah. I would do it as kind of like an experiment.
GRODIN: That's what it would be, an experiment. This is kind of an experiment.
LETTERMAN: Well, I'll tell ya what the deal is. I'm so fond of you -- I used to do this with Jack Paar. Hal Gurnee, my beloved director for many, many years, was also Jack Paar's director, and he would arrange almost exactly what you are describing.
GRODIN: But you went to Jack's house.
LETTERMAN: We went to Jack's house. We went to restaurants. You know, we had a series of these engagements where we would dine and chat and so forth.
LETTERMAN: And I just found it too difficult to not be disappointing to these people that I finally had to kind of pull out of the little social --
GRODIN: What was the expectation that you thought you weren't living up to?
LETTERMAN: It's the same that existed all my life. Whatever it is, it seems to me to be unattainable.
GRODIN: In other words, they expected something from you; you were going to be hilarious and all of that stuff?
LETTERMAN: Charming and witty and debonair.
GRODIN: Who needs it?
LETTERMAN: Yeah. I knew that I couldn't live up to that, because, as you know from spending time with Jack Paar, he's very eloquent, very animated, very colorful when talking about, well, himself, of course. There is no other topic when you're talking with Jack. But he's endlessly entertaining, and, of course, you know all I had -- every now and then I'd say, "Jack, is there any more ketchup?" So I just felt like a dolt.
GRODIN: Jack could talk about world leaders.
GRODIN: And he does. You just probably didn't hear about that.
LETTERMAN: He would talk about world leaders, you know, when they were on his show.
GRODIN: Well, that's right, that's right.
LETTERMAN: And then there was the time they would come to see me and then I said --
GRODIN: But to compare you to Jack socially, you're saying, "Is there any ketchup?" Let's be honest. Let's not knock Jack. You just defined yourself as kind of a schlub.
LETTERMAN: Well, that's what I'm saying. That's the whole point of this. I'm saying I couldn't possibly live up to any expectation, any reasonable expectation.
GRODIN: Well, let me tell you something. I was once at a restaurant, and it was on 72nd and 3rd. I don't know if you remember this. You were with a group of people at one time table, I was with a group of people at another table, and just your presence in that room ruined my evening, because I overheard you say, "Is there any more ketchup?" I thought, "Oh, man. Get me out of
here. This guy is such a depressing thing."
LETTERMAN: Well, there you go, Charles. Then there is no mystery. That's exactly why I don't go out.
GRODIN: I didn't say you and I should go out. I said you and Regis and me, because if you hang out with Regis you're going to get the inside dope on Kathie Lee and what's going on, all that behind-the-scenes stuff that is not heard about on the air, and I know in spite of you shaking your head, you'd love to know what the deal is there.
LETTERMAN: No, no, I have no interest and Regis is like a vet animal that's got the wrong injection. You know what I mean? It's just like, oh, my God, oh, jeez. Well, put him in and let him cool off and don't call the owners. I mean, he's like that. You know that.
GRODIN: Now, when you were in school, in college, you said you went out a lot, but you were drunk all the time then.
LETTERMAN: That's right. Now, the alcohol was the key to overcoming this --
GRODIN: This feeling?
LETTERMAN: -- this shortcoming that I have.
GRODIN: And you’re feeling like, "I'll never live up to what people expect of me when I come in."
LETTERMAN: That's right. That's right. I think many people suffer from this.
GRODIN: Did you stop drinking at some point?
LETTERMAN: Yes, I did.
GRODIN: You totally don't drink?
LETTERMAN: Because I felt it was -- well, for one thing it was controlling my life, and therefore ruining my life.
GRODIN: Well, I don't mean go out and get drunk. You're not capable of having a couple of drinks in an evening?
GRODIN: You're not. You think you would do more if you did that?
GRODIN: You consider yourself therefore an alcoholic?
GRODIN: Do you consider yourself -- are you a recovering alcoholic?
LETTERMAN: So far, Yes.
GRODIN: How long since you've had a drink?
LETTERMAN: I guess getting near 15 years.
GRODIN: Is that right?
GRODIN: So that's why you don't do it?
LETTERMAN: That's it.
GRODIN: And do you inject yourself with anything?
LETTERMAN: No, I don't.
GRODIN: You don't do anything?
GRODIN: And yet when you come out on television, you're like so lit up and on fire. Is that just gum?
LETTERMAN: Yeah, it's gum.
GRODIN: Is that it?
LETTERMAN: It's that Dentyne. Have you ever had that Dentyne? Oh, man, does it give you a boost.
GRODIN: But that sustains you through an hour of television?
LETTERMAN: Yeah, it's pretty good stuff.
GRODIN: Because, I mean, you're flying, and I look at you sometimes, and I say, "My God." And it's either -- but you eat some chocolate, don't you?
LETTERMAN: Occasionally I'll have like fruit or chocolate or some coffee, yeah.
GRODIN: So I would say if you were to meet Regis and me, "Just get yourself some fruit and chocolate and coffee."
LETTERMAN: No, it wouldn't go.
GRODIN: And then just sit there.
LETTERMAN: It wouldn't go.
GRODIN: And listen to what Regis has to say.
LETTERMAN: The only possible way you could have that conversation with Regis -- and you know this -- and by the way, I
love Regis, and I think and have said so and am on record as saying for what you and I do and what he is doing, for what we are all trying to do, I think Regis without question is easily the best, hands-down pound for pound the most entertaining personality
on television. You must feel that way.
GRODIN: I agree. I think he's fabulous.
LETTERMAN: Yeah, but to be in a social situation with him, I would only do it if there were some sort of state-licensed official in the room with us and it was divided into like two- or three-minute rounds, so that every two or three minutes someone would come in and settle him down, you know, we would go to neutral corners and maybe refresh a little bit and then come back in. But one straight shot, no, it would be suicidal.
GRODIN: Well, I want to come back to this, because I'm not going to give up on this, because I didn't realize that you wouldn't -- because I understand, I mean, I frankly wouldn't want to see you without at least something, you know, if it's gonna be nothing, I have reservations too, but let's go to a break, come back, and let's revisit this and see what we can do. We'll be right back with David Letterman.
TONY RANDALL (on tape): What makes David Letterman the success he is is that the guy has absolutely everything, aside from the basic requirement, which is an outsized sense of humor, and the fastest mouth in the world, he's good-looking. It's very important. He has a beautiful body, and he has a wonderful smile, and that gap tooth in the middle turns it from just a handsome smile into a slightly goofy smile. He can get away with anything, as Johnny Carson could, because he has that corn-fed Indiana naiveté little boy thing.
GRODIN: David, I was struck, the other night I was watching your show, and you've always talked about your Top Ten Lists and the Home Office and all this, the Home Office that and the Home Office this, and you got a phone call from the Home Office, and, you know, to tell you the truth I always thought --
LETTERMAN: Al Herman.
GRODIN: Al Herman was his name.
GRODIN: And I always just assumed The Home Office was a total joke, but I got from that that there actually is a Home Office;
it does provide the show with some material. Is that the case?
LETTERMAN: Yes, absolutely. We get a packet of material, bonded courier, comes in every morning, and with what you get in that package you ought to be able to do a fairly entertaining television program each and every night.
GRODIN: What, are there writers at the home? What is that?
LETTERMAN: I think it's a lot of computer stuff. I think that they are able to with computer modeling -- and believe me, I'm not familiar with the hardware or the software of it -- I just heard the term computer modeling -- they are able to construct a cyber version of a talk show, and then we get the residue of that. The fellow that called the other night, I believe he's new. I have not talked to him before, but I'm happy for any input, and he seemed like a very nice man. So we have a thing where once a year we, you know, fly everybody in and we have a little, you know, reception, kind of a meet-and-greet. So I'm sure I'll meet Mr. Herman then.
GRODIN: Yes. At that point I actually for the first time I didn't even realize -- I thought it was a joke.
LETTERMAN: No, it's a pretty big thing, and we employ out there in Wahoo I think about 1100 people, and so it helps the economy. I think it's a source of pride for them. It's a nice place. It's like one of those industrial plant kind of extended mall sort
of things, low two-story building, plenty of parking, mercury vapor lights. It's nice.
GRODIN: Now, you know, you have said that a lot of the people that come on your show -- and it would be more true of your show than my show or even Regis' show, because with the big audience and the present audience and the viewing audience -- that they don't realize that it is a performance, and they actually literally want to come on and say what they've been doing and what's coming up. Does not anyone warn them that no one really cares about what you've been doing and what's coming up?
LETTERMAN: Yes. I think they are warned. Yeah, they are told straight away. I think they sign some kind of verification that
they understand that I don't care. They know that we have absolutely no interest in them whatsoever.
GRODIN: And yet some people still come out and insist on saying what they've been doing and what's coming out.
LETTERMAN: It's hard to fathom, isn't it? But, yes, that's happened.
GRODIN: It is to me. It is to me. And I got that message after about two appearances on Johnny Carson back in the early ‘70s that that would be, you know, the death knoll, because Johnny just straight out said --
LETTERMAN: Death knoll? Did you say "death knoll"?
GRODIN: Is it knell?
LETTERMAN: I think it's knell, but again I'm not sure.
GRODIN: I'm sorry.
LETTERMAN: Death knoll puts me in the mind of the grassy knoll.
GRODIN: Yeah, it does. Well, we're suffering enough here. We don't have to go to that.
LETTERMAN: But let me just mention one thing that people often ask me, as I am sure they do you, well, who are your favorite guests, and I always go to you, because the dynamic that you bring to the show for me is perfect. You come into the theater and immediately put me on the defensive, and I think the audience also is placed on the defensive, and then we just sort of go from there, and I like that, I mean, it gives the impression that you are prepared, and Lord knows, you're a busy man, you're certainly not prepared.
LETTERMAN: But it creates the impression that you are.
LETTERMAN: Just with this little adjustment of your attitude, and I love it, and I wish you could be with us, you know, certainly more often than you are.
GRODIN: Now, why is that, Dave? You were very generous, and you sent me a fax after the last appearance, which I appreciated. In fact, it's framed. It's not laminated, but it is framed. Why is it that I'm -- you say you wish I could be on more often. In fact, what the fax said is you wish I could be on every night.
LETTERMAN: Let me cite another example by way of illustrating this point. Donald Trump, Mr. Hoo-Ha Donald Trump -- and
the truth of it is, I don't know Donald Trump, and sort of what I do know of him, I think like everybody else, you kind of resent, because he's wealthy, he's powerful, and he thinks he's good-looking. So, you know, you have three reasons to resent the guy,
and he hasn't been on the show in a long time, and he was booked to be on the program I think after the Miss Junior Cub Scout Pageant or something, and so I was not particularly looking forward to it, just for the reasons I described to you, and, you know, it always depends on what mood you're in. So anyway, here comes Donald Trump, and he's got something wacky going on with his hair, you know, they've done some wind tunnel thing looking to lower that coefficient of drag on his hair. And so he comes in and he sits down, and he's great, he was just great, and I thought, you know, this is funny. He's great, because here's a guy, you can't knock him over. You can't dent him. You can't wrinkle his suit. Undeniably he's doing things. He's got things that he does.
He doesn't care about me, you know, he can live a long happy life without ever being on my show again, and he has no problem telling me that. So there was that -- I don't even know exactly what that was, but it turned out for me, again, to be a great deal
of fun, much in the same way that your visits are for me.
GRODIN: In other words, you find most fun the guests that kind of resent being there or don't need you.
LETTERMAN: I mean, maybe that's part of it, but I do like the idea that here's a guy you can ask him about a million things, because here's a guy who does a million things, you know, and I can ask you about a million things, because you've had a long successful career and life in show business, and you're a lively intelligence, and you're an active human, you know, and that
makes it all much more fun, a great deal easier.
GRODIN: Yes. So anyway, so why don't I come on more than once every three months?
LETTERMAN: I think you probably are busy.
GRODIN: I'm not busy. I'm free.
LETTERMAN: Come on over.
GRODIN: Wait. We're talking about -- I'm asking you, do you want to have dinner with Regis and me? Try it once.
LETTERMAN: Ummm, ummmm, yeah, yeah, OK, that sounds like a lot of fun.
GRODIN: It really does to me too. I didn't know you didn't drink. I really didn't know
that, I mean, because I --
LETTERMAN: See, it's easier to be kind of Mr. Gadfly, right, Mr. Sort Of Like Party, Party When You're Drunk.
GRODIN: What does that mean "gadfly party party"? I'm talking about a private room upstairs in a restaurant with some injections that you've never experienced before. It won't violate your non-drinking pledge.
LETTERMAN: I went to -- a long time ago I went to dinner with Don Rickles, and that was one of the highlights of my life, and pretty much the circumstance you're describing right here. So maybe this is something we can do. I don't think, you know,
before the end of the millennium, because, you know, there's going to be festivities, there's going to be parades, there's going to
be public appearances, there's going to be the big countdown calendar. So I think we'll have to wait until the next century, but,
you know, let's look at it right in there.
GRODIN: Do you talk to Johnny Carson at all?
LETTERMAN: I haven't spoken to Johnny in a year or so, a couple years, I think. I think I talked to him on his birthday, I believe when he turned 70. Is that possible? I'm not sure when that was.
GRODIN: Yeah, yeah, yeah, about two years ago.
GRODIN: And did he answer you?
LETTERMAN: We had a little chat. Every now and then we exchange notes. We exchange -- I send him something, you know,
on his birthday each year.
GRODIN: I got -- I don't know whether you've ever gotten this, but I got a residual from him for the Carson Classics tapes that they sell.
GRODIN: I got three actually, two of them for two dollars and something, and one was for three dollars and something, and I
sent him a note and said, "I always like to think I was a tiny part of the success of The Tonight Show. I just hadn't realized how tiny," and he sent me back a note that said that that was a bookkeeping error and that was overpayment. But does he come east,
do you know?
LETTERMAN: I think he was -- I think he comes east on his way to Europe when he goes to Wimbledon, I believe, but I think not much more than that.
GRODIN: When I was with him, he asked if I would be interested in going on a safari with him. Would you be interested in anything like that?
LETTERMAN: No, no, no, I would not.
GRODIN: You would not?
GRODIN: Well, what is it -- you know, the question -- beg the question what you said before, you like the guests that attack you. Are you attracted to women that disdain you?
LETTERMAN: I'm sorry. Am I what?
GRODIN: Women that disdain you, that don't think much of you, that don't need you, that don't need to be there, is that the kind of woman that kind of like catches your eye?
LETTERMAN: Yeah, that's interesting. I sort of enjoy that. I mean, like anybody else, every stupid guy in America, every stupid jerky, dopey guy still in the back of his mind thinks under the right circumstances he might have a shot with Julia Roberts, you know, it ain't gonna happen, but it's just guys, you know, it's just dopey guys, you know, hell -- I just -- well, you know, she might -- you never know, she might like, you know, see me on the riding mower or something. You just never know.
GRODIN: Well now, you've had her on your show and you seen to be working at that right there on television.
LETTERMAN: Well, she's pretty nice, and believe me, I don't understand it, but she's been really, really nice to me and to the show.
GRODIN: Has a date ever come out of those appearances with Julia or any other lovely woman?
LETTERMAN: Well, you know for me, and this is the way I'll tell my grandkids the story, you know, for me those appearances are dates with Julia Roberts. That's as good as it's gonna get for me.
GRODIN: That's the best shot at a date.
LETTERMAN: And believe me, I'll die a happy man with that, because I get to -- she comes out, I get to hold her, I get to put my arms around her.
GRODIN: And a kiss too, I think on the lips, right?
LETTERMAN: Right on the lips, yeah. Oh, man.
GRODIN: A hug and a kiss, and after that it's trouble anyway, wouldn't you say?
LETTERMAN: No, well, no, I wouldn't say that. Perhaps your experience suggests trouble but --
GRODIN: Well, you don't pursue it. We've got 30 seconds. Why don't you pursue it past that?
LETTERMAN: She doesn't want me pursuing that. You know, I mean, look at this. Think of it. You're Julia Roberts. It's like, oh, maybe this guy. I don't think so.
GRODIN: Yeah, you're right, you're right. I don't know why I said that. We have come to the end of this.
LETTERMAN: Oh thank you, merciful God.
GRODIN: We thank you very much, and we're going to take out big ads and run this until the millennium.
LETTERMAN: You know, it would have been better if you had just let me know we had begun.
GRODIN: Right. Well, we are going to begin in about 10 seconds.
LETTERMAN: Oh, Charles.
GRODIN: But anyway, thank you, and God bless you and your sweatshirt. Thank you, and I'll be right back with a final word.
GRODIN: I want to thank David Letterman for appearing tonight, a very interesting guy, a guy that's brought, you know, so much happiness and laughter to so many people for so many years, you kind of wish all the happiness and laughter for him, and I will pursue this idea of getting him with Regis and me and get some laughs for him. So thanks for watching. Good night, everybody. Good night, Mom. I love you.
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|September 10th 1997|
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