Friday, October 23, 2015

Good Morning, Dave: Fri, 10/24/80, The Final Episode

(This is the second of 2 parts detailing the end of The David Letterman Show.  Part 1, where the show traveled to Cresco, Iowa, is below.

With Dave's retirement earlier this year, other collectors put clips, but curiously not the full episode, online.  Not knowing if those clips will last or not, the following is a look at the last program.)

Inasmuch as a show can "build-up" to a final episode, I can't remember a time where the show itself celebrated its last episode, particularly one that was not a ratings success.  Was some of it being thankful for the chance to do the show?  Yes, but I can't help but think this was for the show's fan base.  In case anyone hadn't seen the show before and were tuning in for the first and last time, I can't say this episode is typical in any way.  Hell, it's not typical for TV in 1980.  But there also seems to be an air of optimism for the future, though we know that no one knew it at the time.  But enough philosophy: let's get to it.

The Rainbow Grill Dancing Girls open the show in the same costumes, doing the same routine, and the same song that would later be used for the first episode of Late Night.  Harve Mann is also announced as a feature guest.

"And now, a man who has been replaced by two game shows, David Letterman!"

Our sometimes cynical host can't help but be swept up in the ebullient nature of the act, and the audience.  The crowd is really going for it: a standing ovation, screaming and cheering.  It's the kind of response you'd love for your last episode, regardless of the reason.  

Oh, and the audience?  They brought more signs, and they are amazing.

(TV viewers can be cruel on occasion)

The audience is sitting in the aisles, as Dave thanks the dancing girls "The Silverman Sisters" a not-so-subtle jab at the executive who, while championing the show, gave some off-the-mark creative suggestions.     

Dave: Today is our last show on the air.  Monday, Las--
Audience: BOOOOOOO!
Dave: Have these people been frisked?

Before Dave gets to viewer mail, he lists those who sent well wishes, including KGW in Portland.  He also gets a chance to overuse a game show buzzer next to his desk.  Considering his replacement, he goes to this well often. 

One viewer letter writes with anger that the letter, written by a viewer in Taunton, MA, was read as being from Taunton, ME.  The author suggests Dave never visit Taunton, MA, which leads to a sincere apology and his invitation for the author to be a guest on the show next week. The crowd eats it up.  

(BUZZ)  "Pretty much all you need for a show."  (BUZZ)  "Just want to get you folks re-accustomed to this."

Going to break, instead of the usual photos with household hints and the like, it's the resumes of the staff.  The symphony orchestra also begins to play "I Can't Tell You Why" by The Eagles, perhaps an appropriate choice for today.

Wil Shriner is out as we return (his resume is shown as the show returns from commercial with his first name "Will") and both men show off their fashions for the 80's

Dave acknowledges they're already low on time, so they cut to the chase and show a video Wil put together of the Live-TV mistakes the show endured during its run.   We see phone calls that don't work, a phone call that did work to an old lady who tells Dave "I heard a rumor you were going off the air.", and a shepherd having, well, some trouble:

Dave interrupts the video to say that they have to run a commercial, but someone else on the staff yells out to show the fire clip (which was on an earlier post here on the blog) leading Dave to admit "This is funny: we make mistakes while showing mistakes"

Next out, Edwin Newman and Frank Owens are out giving Dave a chance to ask them about the early days of their careers as well.  

Frank talks of his early career at the Apollo Theater and says that the theater no longer has Amateur Night...but a handful of years later, it would be back, and Frank would be the musical leader of Showtime at the Apollo.

Next, the final installment of "Coffee Cup Theater" - a regular feature that showed up more on the 90 minute version of the show.  It's the "Suicide Squad" re-edited out of sequence for comedic effect.  It's funny, and it's also a time filler.  Looking back, I wonder if Dave would have chosen more time with his staff instead of this, but it's only a minute or two here.  

We follow this with "Stupid Writer Tricks" - giving each of the remaining staff a chance to perform their own material that Dave rejected.  Gerard Mulligan tells a joke and then balloons fall from the ceiling.  This seems to be yet another screw-up, and all Dave can do is shrug.  The late Paul Raley is next, to do a rather spot-on impression of Dave, and then deliver a joke that was correctly vetoed.  Ron Richards is next, followed by Rich Hall.  Rich states that the Statue of Liberty says "Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses."  "I noticed you don't see too many huddled masses anymore, so we have one here today."

Frank and the band play "Another One Bites the Dust" (another appropriate tune) and we see the resume of Dave's future director, Hal Gurnee:

Dave then introduces the rest of the show's staff to the audience.  Producer Barry Sand shows all the phones he's connected to for a live show: the East Coast, West Coast, and his jeweler.  Announcer Bill Wendell is next, who also followed Dave all the way through CBS.  Bill mentions his first network gig, and a man Dave reminds him of: Ernie Kovacs.  Kathleen Ankers did artwork for the show, and also followed Dave to Late Night.  (She played Peggy, the Foul-Mouthed Chambermaid on the show)  

Bob Pook, who created many of the bumper photos (and did so on Late Night) is also introduced, and it's noteworthy considering he's wearing a David Letterman Show T-Shirt.

More brief introductions to the staff, and then it's time to wrap it up.  With the future unknown, it doesn't hurt for Dave to post his resume and headshot as well.

Dave takes another moment to thank the audience, particularly the mail they received, "the only one consistent piece of support on the show."  He thanks Merrill, Hal, and Barry again...and now, the ending.  Please let Harve serenade you (with reference in the viewer mail as well):

No good-bye, no final words.  It's all there: the TV business.  We go out with balloons, confetti, an up-tempo version of the theme, and a happy audience.  

Years later, it would be easy to gloss over the situation with the off-quoted remark that this was the right show and talent in the wrong time period.  That's true, but you don't do something like this without the thought that 1. it should be on the  TV air and 2. it would be a breath of fresh air for viewers.  A year and a half later, it arrived again with nearly all the same bits at a later hour.  The housewives who like it wouldn't see it much, but the teens and college students home for the summer kept those hours.  The rest was history.

If Dave doesn't get a second chance with Late Night, it's hard to envision what would happen not so much to his career, but to so many others the shows influenced.  Moreover, if he doesn't get that show, how many of these Betas survive?  Back then, considering the prices of cassettes, you had to record for purpose if you were going to save something.  It shows that people thought a little-watched TV show in 1980 was worth hanging on to years later, but it was a correct prediction.

Being a toddler at the time, I was left to ask my mother (a Dave fan as well) if she remembered that crazy summer 35 years ago.  Home taking care of 2 kids, did she ever find the time to watch?  Or even remember?  Her response was something that was likely happening (in moderation, but still) across the country:

"I just remember saying 'there's this funny new show on in the morning.  I like him; this David Letterman guy is funny."

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Good Morning, Dave: Wed, 10/22/80, Cresco, Iowa

(The following is part 1 of 2, including the finale, on the final days of The David Letterman Show)

The opening alone is different.  The gentle sounds of Willie Nelson's "On the Road Again" plays while Dave says to his car-full of friends (we fanatics identify as Merrill Markoe, Rich Hall, and Wil Shriner) "Boy, what a good-looking day."

"Did you see that sign, David?" asks Rich, as Dave continues to take it all in.  We're back in the midwest, small-town living, just as Dave grew up with, and you can tell even in the comedy (and though it's for a TV show, a brief visit) he loves it.

Wil points out Black Angus cows which Dave replies "Wow, look at those dogs.  2-ton dogs."  Rich reads the letter that won the contest, which includes this point: "Small towns do exist, and we do enjoy ours.  We would like to share it with you and your audience."

"Now, when we get in this house, you gotta be very careful not to bust anything." Dave tells the crew.  A very high crane shot (one that would make Johnny LaRue proud) shows 2 cars (Dave's Crew, and Frank Owens and the rest of the David Letterman Symphony Orchestra) stop along a dirt road to a house.

Everyone rushes inside, and Dave stops to tell the viewers that we're in the lovely countryside of Eastern Iowa, just a couple of miles from Cresco.  These are the winners of the contest to host the show in their own home: The Goldsworthy family: Howard, Jane, and daughters Greta and Gina.  Beyond meeting the family and showing the sights of Cresco, Cloris Leachman and her daughter Dinah Englund are the guests, along with the rest of the gang.

After meeting the family, Howard Goldsworthy points out items which are not normally in their yard: all these people, a new electricity pole, and a production truck, which we can see bearing the original ESPN logo!

The camera very quickly pans along the yard to show the scenery while Dave asks them what life is like in Cresco.  Jane points out there are a lot of things to do, "sometimes more than the city."  Dave can't help but ask "Like what?" and she mentions card parties, snowmobiling in the winter, and the wonderful people.  Howard describes the 80 acres they have, which Dave follows up if there is anything special they'd like to do that day.  Howard replies "I'd like to eat that turkey cooking in there!"

As Dave enters the house we see some folks sitting in an adjacent room looking at a monitor - yes, it brought out everyone to the Goldsworthy home.  Dave moves to the living room, the band begins the theme, and away we go.

Just the mere set-up sends the show into a commercial break, and we see Frank playing the family's upright piano.  Going to break, we also have the running question to Cresco residents: Have you ever tried Winky's Cow Paste?  He asks one farmer who replies, as one would "I don't know if I ever have or not."

Jane's parents are in the front row as well, and the audience, if a bit bewildered by the whole thing, applauds as needed.

Cloris comes out from the kitchen to talk of life as a child in Iowa, and as both speak of the beautiful landscape, Dave remarks that they might just do the show here every day, which again sends the living room audience into great applause.  The sight of a TV show apparently interests the local wildlife as you might be able to see in the background:

Life was hard growing up in the country during the depression, so any way out of that, mentally or otherwise, helped Cloris cope.  Piano lessons and the like were just part of it, all leading to her entering Northwestern and her acting career.

Another Cresco local, this time a teen, is asked about Winky's Cow Paste.

He hasn't tried it before, so Dave asks if he'd like to try a can.  "I s'pose."

Dinah comes out with some prompting from Cloris, who Cloris claims is here so that she won't be alone.  Dinah, at the time was in her early teens, says she'd like to be a dancer.  Asked if they'll stay for the rest of the show, Cloris hopes so: she wants some of the dinner cooking in the kitchen.

Later in the show, Dave reminds the family they'll also receive a RCA video recorder and a television, leading us to a tour of the town.

Sheriff Gary Cleveland not only works in the jail, he lives there, too.  He considers living there "very comfortable" and he's not nervous while a prisoner is there as well.   As sheriffs go, Gary's responses are to the point.  Noticing a BBQ near the front, Dave asks if he ever has prisoners join him in a cook-out.  "No, sir."

Next, while looking through a park in town, Dave shows the various statues, including one, which...

Well, it defies description, especially since there IS no description.  He asks the locals if they know, but most of them don't, leading to more confusion.

A teen: "I think it's a bomb."
A farmer: "This is a water mine sitting on top of a coal cart."
A man:  "I don't know what that is."
A kid: "A statue."

Next to it, is the centennial time capsule.  Asking residents what's inside draws the same kind of response.  One local, however, does know there's a photo of her inside, from that centennial celebration, as she won the pancake race.

"Well, they give you a hard, dry pancake, and an iron frying pan, and in fact we ran down this park, and flipped it 3 times.  I was able to flip it 3 times and run the fastest.  As a prize, I received an electric can opener."

Dave next visits the Total Look Beauty Salon in Cresco, still around 35 years later.  The Total Look in Cresco today, as shown by owner Pam Burnikel, is a long, curly perm.  The model likes it: easier for the winter.

Finishing the tour, we visit Ellen Church Field, named after the first female flight attendant.  Wil comes out and talks about flying in there from Kansas City, where he made a video for NBC's pregame coverage of the World Series.  "I think you missed a lot of the activity because when I flew in, boy, 747's backed up."

We end the show with Cresco Stupid Pet Tricks.  We have a dog that's willing to be spun in the air. a poodle that can jump over a pole between his owner's legs:

...a 4 month-old goat walking through a hoop, and finally, a hog "doing a strip act" for its owners Matthew and Maria Ryan.  The pig escapes immediately, and then takes a wizz on the Goldsworthy's lawn.  Long ago, Matthew put the clip on YouTube, and thankfully, it's still around.  Screen captures will not do this any good:

Dave thanks the family once again for their help, and we close the show by walking around the streets of Cresco.  Ed Clark, the secretary of the chamber of commerce for Cresco, down south Elm street.  Regular folks and dignitaries for the city are there, all excited to meet Dave.  Dave asks what's next for Cresco, and the president of the chamber of commerce states "We're hoping we can save the David Letterman show."  Dave glumly replies "Let's focus on something more realistic.  How about casino gambling?"

We finish with a look inside the car of Keith and Sherry (Sheri?) - newlyweds fresh from the church.  Dave asks where their off to, and they say they're going to Tower Club to drink some beer.

What a finish.


In my quest for finding Dave morning shows, this for many years was the most elusive, with few details provided other than the town.  I finally was able to find a polite collector who had a copy - the quality wavered quite a bit, but no complaints here.

The participants:

In 1990, Wil was a guest on Late Night, and showed Dave a photo which was quickly snatched away.  "You might as well show it" Dave said as the audience egged him on.  Here's Wil's pic:

Earlier this year, on the occasion of Dave's retirement, the Des Moines Register caught up with Jane Goldsworthy.  It's not only a great look back in time, but fun to read their memories and thoughts 35 years later.  As Jane said, "It's nice as average Joes to have a little claim to fame."

(Tomorrow, the finale.  Thanks for reading.)

Friday, October 16, 2015

Good Morning, Dave: Fri, 10/17/80

We're down to just 1 full week left, and those angels on earth who had Betas laying around KNEW more had to be done to commemorate The David Letterman Show in its fading run.  But, as announcer Bill Wendell announces, we're taped today: Dave and the crew are on their way to Iowa to do the show from someone's home.  We'll see that episode next week.  In the meantime...

The shot dissolves to Dave as you see a giant sign reading "Don't Let David Letterman become Extinct.  KEEP HIM"  Maybe they thought he'd be embarrassed.

"Boy, do you look familiar!" says Dave, using what is clearly Thursday's audience who were bound and gagged.  Catherine Deneuve is the feature guest, which elicits "WOOOO!" from the audience, mostly the men.

After Catherine comes out she tells Dave "not so fast" since she regularly speaks French.  This changes the course of the interview immediately, and Dave starts with basic questions: the comparison between American and French women, her looks, and that she was married.  

Dave: One day, would you give up your world fame and become a married person again?
Catherine: Why not?  Is that an offer?

This sends the audience into "ooooo!" and applause - Dave can only react with...

In town to promote what would become an Oscar-nominated film, The Last Metro, her interview is cut short in the second segment as Frank begins to play the piano - when we return, she's off the set.

Next is an odd segment: Dave flying a TWA flight simulator.  Now, bearing in mind 1980 video and technology, it's tough to really tell what's happening beyond the two of them talking:

Dave: "I believe I'm ready for my complimentary cocktail."

While Dave and the pilot go through some of the standard checks, Dave laments "this takes the fun out of a trip."  In this simulation, two engines are up in flames, and they fly back to New York.  I don't mind saying they could have just flashed FILLING TIME on the screen and we'd feel the same.

Now we're back in studio for fun stuff: mail-order catalog orders.  Intriguing items such as an egg cuber

Dave: "That's it?!  Oh, come on."

"Magic Rocks" ("rocks" that are multiple colors that slowly leak in water), and the album "Sebastian Speaks" (a dog barking for 30 minutes - "Your watchdog on a disc!").  Dave reminds viewers to look for the album "Sebastian Takes a Dump" - and "Dump" gets edited out.  Considering the out of control laughter that comment brings, it's good NBC kept America safe.

Next is guest Earl Mindell, the author of "The Vitamin Bible" - and it's a topic that was heavy on the show.  Despite the comedy leanings, they knew they still had to include guests that were thought to be focused to the Daytime ("Housewives" - NBC's thinking) viewer.  The vitamin aspect was something that was reported to annoy Dave.  ("Have we had B-12 on yet?" he said in one meeting)

Earl shows Dave a small package of vitamins he takes each day while travelling, leading Dave, looking at the clear bag of pills to ask "Is this OK to buy on the street?"  After they talk about vitamins and using them to battle Depression, Dave seems to get serious and focused, asking on the specific differences in lifestyle with and without different vitamins.  

After the break, however, it seems as if Dave is just rattling of questions from the card.  Earl dutifully answers them, of course, but I can't say I blame him - Dave energy-wise, after doing 2 episodes in the morning, seems wiped out.

After saying goodbye, and again to fill time, we get an extended version of the credits.

Dave's own groupies are here: This girl wearing an "I Love David Letterman" T-shirt, and another wearing one that's black.  We can only guess if they had time to chat with their favorite TV star, but we hope so - there's only 1 week to go. Who knows of the future?  

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Good Morning, Dave: Judgement Day

It was joked about, discussed, and wondered by fans for months.  Richard Dawson would make fun of it in his brief monologue before Family Feud.  Tom asked Dave during his visit.  And now, the hammer comes down.  Let Mike Drew of the Milwaukee Journal tell the tale.

A spokesman from NBC is quoted that the network is "seeking a time period more suitable to Letterman's talents."  In time, they did.  For the meantime, Dave's show will run through October 24th (ensuring they can do the show from someone's home) before it's replaced with the game shows Blockbusters and Las Vegas Gambit.

Other items of note to Journal readers: don't miss the story on Agent Orange on WITI-TV's news.  Also, apparently October 18th is "Sweetest Day," so visit your florist.

Now that the news is official, you're going to get an even looser tone in the show, as well as an emotional audience.  Look for another episode later this week.

Friday, October 09, 2015

Good Morning, Dave: Fri, 10/10/80, Floyd Stiles Day

As Dave referenced 2 weeks ago, it's Floyd Stiles Day.  Dave begins the show by reminding the audience: as a result of today's activities, the stock market, banks are closed, but most federal buildings are open.

A summary of the events on how this came to be: The Humansville Ledger on August 7th, in a column written by Lola Boswell, states that Floyd Stiles traveled to see Rusty Draper in Jackson Hole, WY.   This made Small Town News, and Dave called Floyd to ask him about it.  This lead to the Ledger writing another story about Floyd on September 4th, which made the front page:

"Stiles said Letterman told him the network would fly him and his wife to New York for a wonderful weekend."  This didn't occur, unfortunately, but since Floyd is a nice guy, Collins, MO is a great town, and as a salute to Small Town news, here he is.

Since it's Floyd Stiles Day, it's only appropriate that a mural of Floyd is today's background:

Dave and Floyd cover all the aspects that he wants to see in town, and then show Floyd to his very own section of the audience, complete with La-Z-Boy chair for Floyd.

(The sad thing is, at about this point I can see a lot of the housewives of America going "What in the world???")

Edwin Newman comes out early to discuss the baseball jargon by reporters during the playoffs: "Dumped," "Nosed-out" and so on.  Players don't get a hit, they get "good wood on the ball."  Edwin and Dave go over action shots and Edwin gives it a colorful background.  As we go to break we see Floyd and his wife now receiving soft drinks and potato chips to enjoy during the show.

Following Edwin is a surprise musical guest: the very artist Floyd went to see in Jackson Hole, Rusty Draper.  Rusty performs his hit "Night Life."

Dave follows this with the news that the home viewer contest winner will be announced on Monday.  The winner also receives an RCA TV with "accu-filter" You'll see clips of that episode here on the blog, too.

Next is guest Ray Linnen, a man who claims to have escaped death 22 times.  The first that he remembers was narrowly avoiding a car wreck as a child.  He continues on about dodging storms, fires in oil fields, all of which is starting to make Dave uncomfortable.  

Ray claims to have never thought about it until a reporter overheard him talking about it to someone on a plane, and now that it's getting press, he is still going through life the same way. Amazingly, as Ray finishes the interview, he gets up to leave and yet again cheats death: a "500 lb" bag of who knows what falls where he was sitting seconds ago.

The Stlies' present Dave with a homemade t-shirt, and a paperweight.  The "Floyd Stiles Symphony Orchestra" begins to play "Fame" and we finish the episode with Dave introducing Floyd to the people of New York along 6th Avenue.

On the whole, about 90% of NYC residents were willing to meet Floyd and, lest we forget, talk on camera.  Even to those from a small town, never doubt the friends you'll encounter in New York.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Good Morning, Dave: Mon, 10/6/80

We're getting in to rough-quality Beta love here, but our feature guest is Bill Murray, so I shall do my best to share the gold.  I can't confirm this just yet, but I believe this to be Bill's first appearance on a Dave-hosted talk show.

Those cancellation rumors, they're continuing to fly:

If your audience takes the time to make a banner they'd hang at a stadium for a TV taping, I'd like to think the future is safe.  It makes Dave smile and laugh...

Monday is "bad phone call" day, where Dave will make a phone call an audience member wouldn't want to make for one reason or another.  He decides on a recent college graduate whose Father, Charles Lafurno, does not know that he's on the hook to a bank for a loan for college: $7,000.  

Dave makes the call and asks for the father.  "Uh, Dave?"  Guess this isn't a surprise.

Dave: "You knew nothing about this loan for $7,000?"
Dad: "Oh my god."

Other item just added: the loan is due TOMORROW.  Everyone but the Father laughs.

We return from commercial to Bill.

Bill: "I'm in a real ugly mood.  I've been drinking all night long.  I haven't slept, and I had a gyro at 3:30 in the morning."

Bill's ire is actually at Phil Donahue, and his popularity, lamenting that Dave has to take part-time jobs due to his own show's performance.  "I've got some information that I think and hope will damage this man's career.  I'm not sure of this, but there's a very real possibility, that Phil Donahue is seeing my Grandmother."

After the commercial, Bill concedes to take questions from the audience.  One, on a good interest rate for a home loan, is agreed on at 22%!  None of these questions are regarding the entertainment field, which makes this all the more gold.  The final question is tough, coming from Alex Jullian of Toronto.

"I'd like to know how you feel about strip mining, and what are the viable alternatives."

Bill: "It's kind of a John Anderson question."  Could we get more 1980?  As a gentle reminder, all those asking questions receive a can of Winky's Cow Paste, "The Finest Name in Cow Paste":

Dave's next guest is the author of "Sound Sleep," Dr....uh...

Dr. Regestein is still at Harvard all these years later, and is still practicing as well.  As he's covering those who suffer insomnia, he says that there's no solid number of those who drink themselves to sleep.  "Legions of people who take their nightly brandy to seek unconsciousness."  This leads to some happy responses from the audience.

The show wraps up completely on schedule, which allows Dave to thank everyone involved, and get more shots of the crowd: