On May 20th I knew I was going to be a part of something special.
This story is a mixture of both my experience of being apart of that incredible last show, and sharing the experience with my brother Jeff.
When Dave announced his retirement in 2014 I knew I wanted to see the show at least once more before he left, I had seen him 3 times previously, each time with much anticipation and one time with a face to face encounter with the man himself…. That came in the Spring of 2014, I had gone with 3 of my friends (all late show virgins), Dave, as customary, took questions from the audience. Dave asked me where I was from and when I replied he said 2 words “GO, Orange” When I asked him to replace his 1920’s phone and even told him that I brought him one but security would not let me bring it in… both he and Paul ripped into me…. He then asked me where I bought the Late Show shirt I was wearing and asked me why I didn’t buy one my size…We Laughed and then he said he was going to take care of me…. He sent Alan Kalter up with a handful of cash to “cover me”… That shirt, which I wore on May 20, was to be know as the shirt Letterman bought me.
When they announced the date of the last show, I put a plan in motion to get tickets. I called every Wednesday for months, but it was not till the Thursday before the Wednesday that I got the call…”Hi is this Matthew….We have good news for you…we’ve put you on Jamie’s platinum list”
I couldn’t believe it; I was going to be a part of history…. I immediately called my brother Jeff, and as excited as he was, he had serious doubts…. after all, as he called it, it was “the biggest event in New York” that year. in fact, it wasn’t until we walked through the iconic white doors of the Ed Sullivan theatre, that my brother fully believed that it was going to happen.
Jeff brought credibility to the whole adventure. Without him, it was just matt on one of his crazy adventures…. I remember telling my grandfather that I was going and he said “oh Matthew why are you wasting your money”…I said “gramps…. its free…and Jeff is driving” Once I told him that, he was convinced it was the real deal and that I wasn’t wasting my day.
Jeff and I left Syracuse at 7am and drove to New jersey, then took the train in to the city…. We immediately went to the theatre…. We waited in line for about an hour and was moved around several times. I can only imagine Jeff’s sceptism during this whole time. During that time, we met a bunch of interesting people, Fans from across the US, reporters from Inside edition, CNN, Italian World news, and even employees from Cafe press, trying to get us to wear their custom made “Dave don’t go” t-shirts… I still find different news clips with Jeff and I in the background.
After a long wait, Jeff and I reached the front of the Line, told them we were on Jamie’s Platinum list and gave them our confirmation number… We showed our IDs and the woman said…”you’re all set”… We walked in and Jeff, who is not an overly emotional person grabbed my shoulders and said “Oh my god matty, this is actually happening”…. As customary with the late show, there is a lot of info to take in, kind of like an orientation, they gave us wrist bands and wrote on the back of our tickets and told to come back at 345….
At that point we had our first of two unlikely, yet fascinating interaction of the day. I asked one of the interns if I could use the restroom and they pointed us where to go. Jeff and I walked down to the basement of the Ed Sullivan theatre, open the door to the bathroom and standing there at the sink was none other than Biff Henderson, Dave’s Stage manager for 30+ years. Jeff said “Lets get a picture” so we walked out side, but I started to get nervous because they told us about 12 times that no photography is allowed… So we walked back in the bathroom and I said to Biff…. Excuse me Mr. Henderson, I know this is really weird to ask this in a bathroom…. He interrupted me and ” No no its fine…You look like someone who would ask for a picture in the bathroom” We all had a good laugh about it. He was a really down to earth guy, just like you saw on the show…We chatted for a few minutes and then left
Jeff and I left and went for some NYC pizza and were back in line by 345, at about 355 we were moved into the theatre Lobby, where we were given instructions and some lite humor, that was also where we had our second crazy interaction of the day…. We were standing at the turnaround spot of the queue line when I saw a man with a big shoulder bag skipping the line. At the time I thought it was kind of odd. I mean security was so tight, metal detectors, bomb sniffing dogs, and not to mention the added security with it being a big event. The guy raced to the turnaround point where I was, then attempted to go under the queue line rope, but it caught his bag and dragged him back a little, he turned around to free himself, when he turned back around, he bumped right into me. He didn’t say anything, continued to the very front of the line, knocked on the door to the theatre was let in. Jeff looked at me with confusion and we laughed it off. Then the guy in front of us says to his friend…”Wow did you see him walk pass us” Jeff and I immediately were confused, so we asked…”who was that, he just bumped into me”…. Bill Murray… That’s right, Bill Murray had the audacity to bump into me.
It was getting close to show time and they opened the doors to let us in. Jeff and I walked through and they ripped our tickets…When they did however, they ripped the number off the back, Jeff was 91, I was 92…So when we got to the next set of interns, they were confused…. So one of them says…oh, just go to the end of this aisle….
I don’t think I can properly describe how perfect these seats were. They were the first and second seat from the isle in the seventh row DIRECTLY in front of the spot where Dave does his monologue. Jeff put his hands on top of head and simply said “OH MY GOD”
It was at that point that it really sunk in for both of us. The preshow routine began as usual, the video narrated by Alex Baldwin making fun of audience members telling us what to do and not do. Then Alan Kalter did a warm up routine and then introduced the Band….Who by the way, played brown sugar, One of my very favorite stones songs…. Then Paul strolled out….and about a minute later Dave ran on stage, no coat, to an incredible ovation. He spoke and took questions from the crowd…. I had a question ready just incase he called on me….”Will Harry attend ball state”. The one question that really stands out now is “are you going to grow a beard” in which he said “You dam betcha”. The second question he took was from a group of people just to the left of us, what was interesting was there were 2 kids there, we couldn’t see their faces, but found it very interesting as they don’t let kids attend tapings usually.
Dave then said something Ill never forget” Thank you so much for being here, this is probably the most important show I’ll ever do”…. Jeff and I both had chills down our spine. “Oh, and we’re gonna do something different tonight, its called a cold open, and its when you don’t make noise and we have a little surprise…. Paul can you explain it…” Well its a cold open, you don’t make noise”….”Thanks Paul”
One minute later the show started, with Former president Ford, then HW Bush, Clinton, and W Bush and Obama. 8 seconds later the band played the late show theme for the very last time. Dave did his run from one side to the other and then walked out to a monstrous ovation…. Rewatching the show it was about 3-4 minutes, but at the time I remember my hands physical hurting. It was incredible…. “Well, its starting to look like I’m not going to get the tonight show”
The Monologue, like the previous 5-6 months was just awesome, really on his game…His A+ material.
He threw it to the band, they played James browns Ill go crazy and went to the first commercial. They were setting up for the special top ten, and Jeff noticed Alec Baldwin walk on stage.
The top ten, as explained by Dave, was 10 friends of the show…. Ok so here we go with the surprises…. Here came
Then Barbra Walters,
Then Jerry Seinfeld,
Then Steve Martin (I had grabbed Jeff, we had always been huge fans)
Julie Louis Dreyfus – The crowd went nuts for her comment
and Bill Murray….Ya know, they guy who bumped into me an hour ago
During the commercial Chris rock and Jim Carrey Hung around for a few minutes and danced with the band… When they returned from break a pretty interesting thing happened. Dave made a comment about how he and Peyton manning look alike. the audience laughed and he introduced the next video package, in doing so he said t he year wrong “1996 not 1976”, they stopped filming and reshot the whole segment. When they started it again, he made a totally different comment about Peyton Manning, but clearly just as funny
Before the very last segment, Dave threw it to the band one last time, and it was at this point that one of the most memorable things of the day happened. The Band began to play a song I had never heard of before; a song I now know as “Central Park N’ West” by Ian Hunter. I have seen the Rolling Stones a dozen times, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Elton John and The Action! But at that moment, in that setting, that was the greatest live song I’ve ever heard…. ever. Solo after solo, as tight as could be…. What seemed like 15 minutes, as the Foo Fighters set up the stage. It was phenomenal…and furthermore, it was one of the final performances of a band that had played together for over 30 years! I was pleasantly surprised that it moved Jeff as much as it moved me!
It was now time for the final segment…30 years on Television came down to this…. What you may not know was how packed the audience was, besides the few hundred audience members in the crowd, every person who worked on the show from Costume and makeup people to interns and secretaries were all standing in the audience…. Here we were a couple of guys from Syracuse, a part of this huge moment these peoples lives. We both had chills.
Dave thanked just about everyone he could, and told an awesome story about his admiration of the Foo Fighters…He pointed out his wife Regina and son Harry in the audience (the people we had noticed before, just 10 feet from us) and then said goodbye as they played Everlong…There was a montage of over 500 photos…. Every single person was on there feet, and I had a tear in my eye.
The show ended and Dave and his family were onstage…. He took the microphone one last time and said to the few hundred people in the theater, “Once again, thank you so much, and goodnight”
It was over and we were overwhelmed…As we left the theatre people were taking pictures and were politely asked not too, we walked out to the lobby and they opened the doors to Broadway…. It was like we were at red carpet event, there were dozens of cameras and 100s of people, all wanting to know what happened, who the guests were and what Dave said. we must of had 3 different reporters stick microphones in our faces… All I said was that it was incredible…. Maybe it was a selfish thing, but I kind of wanted that moment just for us…at least for a few hours.
I Don’t know if it was more about seeing my boy hood idol’s last hurrah, or how much I bonded with my brother throughout the whole day…But I’ll never forget that experience. One of the most awesome days of my life