A sponteous trip to the city
When I was younger, I was a huge David Letterman fan. I remember watching his morning show before I left for my summer job. I loved his sense of humor and the crazy things they did on the show. So, I was disappointed when the show was canceled.
A couple years later, he returned to the air with Late Night with David Letterman. It was on so late. During my summer job, I worked nights. I would rush home as soon as I got off to watch the show. When it was time to go back to school, I knew I couldn’t stay up that late so I asked my Dad to buy a VCR, so I could tape it and watch it after school. When it first aired the local NBC affiliate in Buffalo didn’t carry it. At the time we used an antenna to watch tv. The only channel we could get was quite a distance away in Erie PA. The picture quality was poor and some nights you could barely watch it. I went to my Dad again and asked if we could get cable tv. My Dad agreed and from that day on I rarely missed the show.
Watching Letterman was my favorite thing to do. I would go to school and talk to my friends about the previous day’s show. I remember writing in my journal that I wanted him to come and do his show in my basement one day. I would have loved to have grown up to be a famous comedian and been on his show. When I moved on to university, I still watched Dave every night. I would tape it but a lot of the time I would just stay up late watching it. After graduating university and starting a fulltime job I was back to taping the show at night and watching the next day. A few years passed and Johnny Carson announced his retirement from the Tonight Show. I always expected Dave would take his place. Instead, NBC chose Jay Leno and as a result Dave moved to CBS and into an earlier 11:30 time slot. Soon after that my first daughter was born. She was a bit of a night owl, so there were many nights I would sit up with her and watch Dave until she was ready for bed.
Watching Dave was just a part of my life but eventually news came that he was stepping down and retiring. I just happened to be in New York for a party a couple months after that news came out. I managed to get tickets to the show. I learned if I went to the Ed Sullivan Theater early in the morning, I could request tickets for the show. It was incredible to be in the audience for the taping, as it was such a big part of my life. Eleven months later it was down to the last month of shows. It really started to hit me that soon it would be over. I was feeling a sense of loss. When there were only 2 weeks of shows left my wife was going to be in New York on business. I asked her if me and my daughter could come and stay in her hotel and try to get tickets for the show. She declined, saying it would disturb her too much. I figured at that point I would never get to a taping again. However, on the final Friday Late Show I watched Norm MacDonald give a touching tribute to Dave at the end and he started to cry. When I saw that I realized that this was a big deal to more people than just me. My feelings were validated.
Even though it was a long shot to get tickets to one of the final shows, with only 3 left I had to go to New York to try. When I told my wife I was going to drive to New York she was very angry and yelled at me about it. She didn’t want me to spend the money to go. Despite her anger, I realized it was important to me so I was going to go anyway. I emailed my boss and told him I was taking Monday to Wednesday off the following week. I was also running a softball team so I dropped off the equipment to one of my player’s houses so they could play without me. Then I made a reservation at a hotel in New Jersey just outside the city because it saved me hundreds of dollars per night. On that Sunday morning I headed out for an adventure with my daughter. Yes, the one that used to sit on my lap when she was a baby while I watched Letterman.
During my drive to New York, I formulated a plan that would give me the best chances of getting tickets to one of the tapings. I knew I would never hear the end of it from my wife if I didn’t get tickets. At the same time, she was right in that it was a lot of money to spend if I was just going for tickets and didn’t get them. I needed to make sure that I made the trip worthwhile for my daughter. From my prior experience getting tickets for a taping, I knew I had to show up at the Ed Sullivan theatre Monday morning to request tickets if they even had any left to give out for the last tapings. I decided I would wear my Letterman T-shirt and hoodie so they would know I was a true fan of the show. When it came time for our interview at the theater Monday morning, I was a bit nervous. They asked where we lived, and I told them Niagara Falls. They asked why we were in town, and I said I was hoping to get tickets to “one” of Dave’s last shows. I knew asking for tickets to the final show was not the right answer as it was the hottest ticket in the country at the time. The person who asked if I drove seemed impressed that I drove 8 hours to New York in hopes to get tickets and asked if that was the whole reason. I told her yes, then I was going to try explaining how important the show was to me and I got choked up and couldn’t get many words out other than “well there’s only 3 you know” and that’s where I got choked up. I am not sure, but embarrassingly I think I almost started to cry at that point. I really thought I had blown it. She looked at me and marked down something on our application. Then she asked what else we were going to do. I said we’ll do things close to the theatre in case we get a last-minute call. Then she quickly ended the interview and sent us on our way.
I took my daughter to the famous FAO Schwartz toy store and after that the American Museum of Natural History as we waited for a call that never came. The next day we got to town early and got standing tickets to Larry David’s Broadway play. After that, we went to Central Park and ended up at the zoo. I was really hoping we would get the tickets to the show that day because Bill Murray was going to be a guest. I loved his appearances. He always went all out. After the zoo we sat down for lunch, and it was pretty clear we weren’t getting the tickets for that day. I didn’t think we had any shot at tickets for the final show, but at least we had fun. At the end of our lunch the phone rang. It was the Letterman Show. They did have tickets for us for the final show. I was so excited and since we were close to the theatre, I suggested we wait outside in hopes that Bill Murray would come out and do something crazy. My daughter said he’s already done that before, so he probably won’t. I said we don’t have anything else to do since we had hoped to be at the taping, so we might as well stick around just in case. Then, sure enough we saw a camera man come out by the side door during the taping. Someone came and removed the barricade and told us someone was going to come out and if asked to go with them to do so. Eventually Bill Murray burst through the door. He was covered in cake icing and wearing goggles. As he passed me he put his hand on my shoulder and told me to come and help him. I chased after Bill as he ran down the street and out into the middle of Broadway. He had us sing a song as the Letterman cameras taped us along with numerous media outlets. There were cameras everywhere.
That day I realized my dream of appearing on the Letterman show and the next day I was in the audience to watch Dave’s final show. It was surreal. I think I was interviewed by the New York Times, as I waited in line to go in for the taping. As the show ended, they showed a montage of clips from Dave’s first show to the last while the Foo Fighter’s played their song “Everlong”. I had to stop watching it as it was like my whole life was flashing before my eyes. I decided to watch it on tape at home and focus on the band. I didn’t want my daughter to see me crying over a tv show. In the end, it was a very memorable father-daughter trip.
I learned some very valuable life lessons on that trip. If something is important to you, you need to do it. You can’t let other people stop you if it’s something that’s important to you. It helps to make some kind of plan ahead of time. Also sometimes you need to be in the right place at the right time for great things to happen but if you are prepared you’ll know when and where you should be. It was great to live out my dream of being on Letterman but maybe I should have been more specific with that dream and worked on a full appearance rather than just a couple-seconds cameo outside the theater. I also learned you can go to a Broadway plan covered in buttercream cake frosting and they will let you in. Finally, I can honestly say I performed on Broadway with Bill Murray.
I’m glad that you were able to get to have a great trip with your daughter. I mean you can’t get as close as you were to letterman than outside of the theater he performed in. Atleast you perfomed with Bill Murray. I agree with you on never let anyone stop you from doing something that is important to you. I feel that no one should stop you from reaching your goals.