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David Letterman (1947)

David Michael Letterman

Type :  

  Summary  

David Michael Letterman is an American television host and comedian. He hosts the late night television talk show, Late Show with David Letterman, broadcast on CBS. Letterman has been a fixture on late night television since the 1982 debut of Late Night with David Letterman on NBC. Only Letterman's friend and mentor Johnny Carson had a longer late-night hosting career in the United States.

Letterman is also a television and film producer. His company Worldwide Pants produces his show as well as its network follow-up The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Worldwide Pants has also produced several prime-time comedies, the most successful of which was Everybody Loves Raymond, currently in syndication.

In 1996, David Letterman was ranked #45 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time.

  Biography  

 early life and career
Letterman was born in Indianapolis, Indiana. His father, Harry Joseph Letterman (April 1915 – February 1973), was a florist of British descent; his mother Dorothy Letterman (née Hofert, now Dorothy Mengering), a Presbyterian church secretary of German descent, is an occasional figure on the show, usually at holidays and birthdays.

Letterman lived on the north side of Indianapolis , not far from Speedway, IN, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and he enjoyed collecting model cars, including racers. In 2000, he told an interviewer for Esquire that, while growing up, he admired his father's ability to tell jokes and be the life of the party. Harry Joseph Letterman survived a heart attack at age 36, when David was a young boy. The fear of losing his father was constantly with Letterman as he grew up. The elder Letterman died of a second heart attack at age 57.

Letterman attended his hometown's Broad Ripple High School at the same time as Marilyn Tucker Quayle and worked as a stock boy at the local Atlas supermarket. According to the Ball State Daily News, he originally had wanted to attend Indiana University, but his grades weren't good enough, so he decided to attend Ball State University, in Muncie, Indiana. He is a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity, and he graduated from what was then the Department of Radio and Television, in 1969. A self-described average student, Letterman endowed a scholarship for what he called "C students" at Ball State.

Though he registered for the draft and passed his physical after graduating from college, he was not drafted for service in Vietnam due to receiving a draft lottery number of 352 .

Letterman began his broadcasting career as an announcer and newscaster at the college's student-run radio station—WBST—a 10-watt campus station which now is part of Indiana Public Radio. He was fired for treating classical music with irreverence.

Letterman then became involved with the founding of another campus station—WAGO-AM 570 .

Letterman credits Paul Dixon—host of the Paul Dixon Show, a Cincinnati-based talk show also shown in Indianapolis while Letterman was growing up—for inspiring his choice of career:

"I was just out of college , and I really didn't know what I wanted to do. And then all of a sudden I saw him doing it . And I thought: That's really what I want to do!"

 Weatherman
Letterman began his career as a radio talk show host on WNTS , and on Indianapolis television station WLWI as a local anchor and weatherman. He received some attention for his unpredictable on-air behavior, which included congratulating a tropical storm for being upgraded to a hurricane and predicting hail stones "the size of canned hams." He would also occasionally report the weather and the day's very high and low temps for fictitious cities ("Eight inches of snow in Bingree and surrounding areas.") while on another occasion saying that a state border had been erased. ("From space you can see the border between Indiana and Ohio has been erased. I'm not in favor of this.") He also starred in a local kiddie show, made wisecracks as host of a late night TV show called "Freeze-Dried Movies" (he once acted out a scene from "Godzilla" using plastic dinosaurs), and hosted a talk show that aired early on Saturday mornings called "Clover Power," in which he interviewed 4-H members about their projects.

In 1971, Letterman appeared as a pit road reporter for ABC Sports' tape-delayed coverage of the Indianapolis 500. David is initially introduced as Chris Economaki in his job as a corner reporter. He interviews Mario Andretti who has just crashed out of the race and asks him a question about traffic on the course.

 Move to Los Angeles
In 1975, encouraged by his then-wife Michelle and several of his Sigma Chi fraternity brothers, Letterman moved to Los Angeles, California, with hope of becoming a comedy writer. He started off by writing material for comedian Jimmie Walker. He also began performing stand-up comedy at The Comedy Store, a proving ground for unknown comics.

Letterman appeared in the summer of 1977 on the short-lived Starland Vocal Band Show. He has since joked about how fortunate he was that nobody would ever see his performance on the program .

Letterman had a stint as a cast member on Mary Tyler Moore's variety show, Mary; a guest appearance on Mork & Mindy ; and appearances on game shows such as The $20,000 Pyramid, The Gong Show, Password Plus and Liar's Club. He also hosted a 1977 pilot for a game show entitled The Riddlers that was never picked up. He was also screen tested for the lead role in Airplane!, a role that eventually went to Robert Hays.

His dry, sarcastic humor caught the attention of scouts for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and Letterman was soon a regular guest on the show. Letterman became a favorite of Carson's and was a regular guest host for the show beginning in 1978. Letterman credits Carson as the person who influenced his career the most.

 personal life
 Marriages and long-term relationships
In 1969, Letterman married Michelle Cook; the marriage ended by divorce in 1977. He also had a long-term relationship with former head writer and producer on Late Night, Merrill Markoe. In fact, Markoe was the mind behind several Late Night staples, such as "Stupid Pet/Human Tricks".


Letterman has a son, Harry Joseph Letterman , with Regina Lasko. Harry is named after Letterman's father. In 2005, police discovered a plot to kidnap Harry Letterman and ransom him for $5 million. Kelly Frank, a house painter who had worked for Letterman, was charged in the conspiracy.

Letterman and Lasko, who had been together since 1986, wed on March 19, 2009, during a quiet courthouse civil ceremony in Choteau, Montana, where he purchased a ranch in 1999. Letterman announced the marriage during the taping of his March 23 show, shortly after congratulating Bruce Willis for getting married the previous week. Letterman told the audience he nearly missed the ceremony because his truck became stuck in mud two miles from their house. The family resides in North Salem, New York, on a estate.

 Stalking incidents
Beginning in May 1988, Letterman was stalked by Margaret Mary Ray, a woman suffering from schizophrenia. She once stole his Porsche, repeatedly broke into his house, and camped out on his tennis court. Her exploits drew national attention, and Letterman occasionally joked about her behavior in his show, although never mentioning her name. After she committed suicide in 1998, Letterman told the New York Times that he had had great compassion for her, and publicly expressed sympathy.

 Extortion attempt and revelation of affairs
On his October 1, 2009 show, Letterman announced that he had been the victim of an extortion attempt by someone threatening to reveal that he had had sex with several of his female employees, confirming the relationships. He stated that three weeks earlier someone had left a package in his car with material he said he would write into a screenplay and a book if Letterman did not pay him $2 million. Letterman said that he contacted the Manhattan District Attorney's office, ultimately cooperating with them to conduct a sting operation involving giving the man a phony check. Subsequently, Robert J. "Joe" Halderman, a producer of the CBS true crime journalism series 48 Hours, was arrested after trying to deposit the check. He was indicted by a Manhattan grand jury and pleaded not guilty to a charge of attempted grand larceny on October 2, 2009. Eventually, on March 9, 2010, he pleaded guilty to this same felony and served a 6-month jail sentence, followed by probation and community service.

A central figure in the case and one of the women Letterman had had a sexual relationship with was his longtime personal assistant Stephanie Birkitt who often appeared with him in his show. She had also worked for 48 Hours. Until a month prior to the revelations she had shared a residence with Halderman, who allegedly had copied her personal diary and used it, along with private emails, in the blackmail package.

On October 3, 2009, a former CBS employee, Holly Hester, announced that she and Letterman had engaged in a year-long "secret" affair in the early 1990s while she was his intern and a student at New York University.

In the days following the initial announcement of the affairs and the arrest, several prominent women, including Kathie Lee Gifford, co-host of NBC's Today Show, and NBC news anchor Ann Curry questioned whether Letterman's affairs with subordinates created an unfair working environment. A spokesman for Worldwide Pants said that the company's sexual harassment policy did not prohibit sexual relationships between managers and employees. According to business news reporter Eve Tahmincioglu, "CBS suppliers are supposed to follow the company's business conduct policies" and the CBS 2008 Business Conduct Statement states that "If a consenting romantic or sexual relationship between a supervisor and a direct or indirect subordinate should develop, CBS requires the supervisor to disclose this information to his or her Company's Human Resources Department..."

On October 5, 2009, Letterman devoted a segment of his show to a public apology to his wife and staff. Three days later, Worldwide Pants announced that Birkitt had been placed on a "paid leave of absence" from the Late Show. On October 15, CBS News announced that the company's Chief Investigative Correspondent, Armen Keteyian, had been assigned to conduct an "in-depth investigation" into Halderman's blackmail of Letterman.

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "David Letterman", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.