A Few Thoughts From Dave While Preparing to Go

18 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

An outfitter says good-bye to the Letterman show.

Bill Murray has walked onto David Letterman’s show dressed as Liberace, a jockey and a football player, flown onto the set in a Peter Pan outfit, worked out while singing “Let’s Get Physical” and dove into a water-filled dumpster strewn with garbage. The final Friday Late Show of David Letterman’s career began with the unusual sight of not one but two men doing “the run” across the back of the stage.When David Letterman tapes the final episode of his venerable late-night talk show on May 20, it’s not just viewers who will miss him; a San Francisco sportswear company is losing one of its best customers. He’ll be gone, and yet he’ll still be everywhere in our culture, not least of all in the hearts of the good people of Generation X, whose comic sensibilities he so perfectly defined. Golden Bear Sportswear has been making Letterman’s “Late Show” staff jackets for more than 15 years. “He designs them himself,” said the company’s president, Schirley Zisman, of the varsity letterman-style jackets. “He gives them away as gifts every single year.” Golden Bear produces classic American sportswear, and they’ve been doing it for nearly a century right here in the United States.

Honestly,” Letterman told Jane Pauley in an interview that aired on CBS Sunday Morning. “I think it would just be too difficult for me…emotionally…because I just don’t want to come back and see others living our lives.” Letterman added that he has an idea of what his life will be like after the show airs, but he indicated he doesn’t know what his professional life will be like, and hinted he’s not done with TV. “I can tell you the kind of feelings and emotions that I hope will come of this. Murray’s 44th and final appearance Tuesday will mark the end of late-night television’s most unique and enduring host-guest relationship, with years of oddball humor by two comics whose sensibilities seemed perfectly aligned. Here, three of the genre’s biggest figures — Ray Romano, Billy Crystal and Don Rickles — reflect on how Dave changed their lives, his contributions to the comedy canon and why he should be remembered in the same vein as late-night legend Johnny Carson. Of course, the show shoots its Friday episodes on Thursdays, so the two hadn’t really been shackled together for 24 hours — but the effect was hilarious just the same.

Murray, the former “Saturday Night Live” player turned movie star, guested on Letterman’s first “Late Night” on Feb. 1, 1982, and on the Aug. 30, 1993, debut of CBS “Late Show.” Others have appeared with Letterman more times — Marv Albert, Regis Philbin, Tom Brokaw and a few more — but none as indelibly as Murray. We seem to say that a lot about our older icons these days, especially in light of their farewells; but Letterman, currently enjoying star-studded thanks and adulation in the final episodes of his “Late Show,” is truly up there with Oprah and Springsteen and Spielberg. So, too, were Paul Shaffer’s fumbling attempts to separate the two with the help of a large bolt cutter, which had Clooney musing about the possibility of playing Captain Hook for his next film role. Before the first of Letterman’s 6,028 nights as host, Murray came to a meeting and mentioned spoofing Olivia Newton-John’s hit song, said Paul Shaffer, Letterman’s bandleader. I’d been a stand-up for six years and done everything a working somewhat successful comedian could do by then — Johnny Carson, an HBO special, Evening at the Improv, VH1 showcase.

Arguably, he has been even more socially dynamic than his mentor Johnny Carson, having set a particular tone — of sarcasm, self-reference, and heavy winking — for decades of entertainment. Over the years, many famous celebrities have donned their iconic bomber jackets—from Paul Newman and Justin Bieber to Kate Upton and the Grateful Dead.

As for Letterman’s longtime band leader Paul Shaffer, who appeared in person on CBS This Morning wearing his signature sunglasses, he insisted he won’t be sitting around the house. And he has certainly left a bigger, more distinctive mark than any of his fellow hosts, including Jay Leno and the current ratings topper, Jimmy Fallon. We’re free, everybody!” and Clooney to make an awkward and hurried exit; perhaps a farewell hug would have seemed superfluous after a couple of hours spent together in bondage. “Oprah is on the show tonight,” Dave informed the audience, who responded with loud cheers. “Not that Oprah,” he joked, though indeed it was that all-powerful celebrity mogul, there to counsel him on his impending retirement.

Now 68, Letterman’s a Midwestern boomer who, in the 1980s, followed his own absurdist path and forged a new post-“Saturday Night Live” way to make great variety TV. With their infamous 16-year feud having long been buried, there was no trace of the prickliness or discomfort that the two stars had once felt in each others’ presence; their conversation was warm and spirited, and went to some rather unexpected places. Among his tools: weirdly compelling remote sequences, random real people, a grumpy aspect, and mundane inanities including sticking himself onto a wall wearing a Velcro suit and placing himself into a vat of dip wearing a suit of potato chips.

At Oprah’s prompting, Dave revealed that the only souvenir he’s taking with him from the show is a crappy rubber sink stopper with a knotted chain. “Wow,” said Oprah — because, really, what else could one say to that? From his late-night perch at NBC beginning in 1982, on a stage that he sometimes abandoned for the streets of New York, Letterman became a driving force in the then-new age of ironic detachment, the era of air quotes and casual mockery.

After asking his guest about her work in Africa, Dave threw her a curve. “What do you think about smokin’ weed?” he asked. “Are you smokin’?” Oprah said she quit 30 years ago, and the two shared the incidents that caused them to give up the puffin’ stuff — the time Dave took down two pints of ice cream without even closing the freezer door, and the time Oprah fell asleep in bed while eating Oreo cookies. “It makes you feel dumb, smoking the weed, you know?” added Dave, helpfully. Secret Service and to give as gifts to other world leaders. “We’re not aware of a lot of competitors who do exactly what we do,” said Matt Ehlen, Golden Bear’s general manager. “There really aren’t a lot.

He was the Hawkeye Pierce of the world of entertainment, the sardonic guy sitting back and laughing at the predictability and ridiculousness of human behavior. After discussing the “Selfie Hell” that Oprah often experiences in public, Dave took one of the two of them — or rather, he tried, before Oprah took control of the situation and snapped the shot with his camera. He constructed a talk show that matched his temperament; it was more like a deconstruction of talk shows, as he subverted the conventions of the genre by mocking them — pet tricks, top 10 lists, his own monologues and punchlines, celebrity interviews, and fame itself.

Maybe a lovely three-episode arc on CSI: Miami.” Letterman gave him permission, Shaffer said, “If you have anything, I don’t care if it’s in the monologue, I don’t care if I’m interviewing Julia Roberts, jump in at any time. Though MacDonald started his routine with some wry quips — “I don’t wanna brag, or anything, but me and Oprah are making the same money tonight” — he jettisoned his usual cynical perspective to pay a heartfelt tribute to Dave, even repeating a garbage truck joke he’d heard from the host when he was 13 years old. “Mr. Then he pretended to remember leaving something behind, took a box-cutter to rip up the carpet and a drill to tear up the floor and “discover” a time capsule. Recently, Letterman asked guest Julia Roberts why he was compelled to frighten young actresses during his heyday. “Because I think stupid people annoy you,” she said. The deadpan absurdity of the exercise made it priceless. “He comes across as silly and disheveled, but there’s a very smart, very sophisticated guy under there who understands comedy at the highest level,” Burnett said. “Bill, like Dave, never latches onto the most obvious take.

Her answer was right, and it simultaneously explained the essence of his long-term effect on entertainment, which, before him, was wont to automatically celebrate the superficiality and stupidity of the fabulous world of showbiz. And I say in truth, I love you.” Dave came over to thank him, and almost seemed to be comforting the teary-eyed MacDonald as the credits rolled. “Very funny, Norm, and thank you for everything,” he said. “That was very sweet, Norm!” It was, indeed. 2015 may not bring everything that Back to the Future II promised it would: flying cars, self-lacing shoes, we don’t see ’em happening over the next 12 months. (Then again, don’t bet against Nike.) But this year will definitely pack plenty of punch when it comes to cultural happenings. Mad Max will roar back out of the apocalypse while Mad Men rides off into the sunset, rock’s Antichrist Superstar and hip-hop’s Yeezus will rise again.

Almost all of the work was done in San Francisco until the 1980s, when they started manufacturing A-2 bomber jackets for a local clothing store called Banana Republic. “The product was so well received that we couldn’t keep up with the demand.” Banana Republic asked Zisman to move production to a larger facility overseas. “We went to Korea, and we started manufacturing our A-2 bomber jacket there. Meta-awareness became the bread and butter of hip TV, from the news spoofery of “The Daily Show” to the self-referential jokes of “Arrested Development,” “30 Rock,” “Just Shoot Me,” “The Larry Sanders Show,” “Scrubs” — the list is endless. You’re embarrassing us!'” Letterman was being a fanboy, basically; of both a musician he loved and a genre — Americana, by proxy, but really the craft of songwriting — he’d come to champion. And it’s clear that Letterman helped shape reality TV with his Stupid Human Tricks segments and his fondness for chitchat with real people, particularly local store owners.

This wasn’t the first time Letterman had asked Isbell to play outside of his Late Show stage — though Isbell made his debut as an instrumentalist in Justin Townes Earle’s band, it was his performance of “Codeine,” off 2011’s Here We Rest, that really perked the host’s ears. Will Ferrell can approach him in the physical comedy, but Murray worked on all levels. “You know how they say you can learn a lot from your defeats?'” he said once when things weren’t going as well as he’d hoped. “Then this appearance will be very educational for me.” “Thre’s only a small handful of people that can have a conversation with Dave on a certain level, who are really his equal,” he said. “To see Dave and Bill Murray, two comedy icons who share a mutual respect and genuinely like each other … hang back and have a conversation is in some ways better than anything we can prepare.”

The private company won’t disclose sales but notes that its products are sold throughout the world with a “Made in U.S.A.” label, which helps sell them. These past few weeks, we’ve seen the scope of his popularity as A-lister after A-lister, from George Clooney to Bill Clinton, has sat next to him and paid homage. Golden Bear has exciting new celebrity collaborations coming up—ones they can’t even mention yet—but for now they’re enjoying the bittersweet end to their working with David Letterman. It doesn’t have to be a big hit — if Dave dig its, he pushes it.” Houser worked on the new arrangement with Shaffer and Letterman was thrilled. “Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m talking about,” he said after the performance, shaking the singer’s hand.

Dave was never nearly as old as my father, but our friendship has kind of always been like father and son in that I knew he loved me, even though he never told me. (Laughs.) But there were a lot little things he did. Letterman has been at half-mast for years now, a slow decline in energy and motivation that started not too long after he moved to CBS and the large Ed Sullivan Theater. He also did a special Top Ten list after our first season: “The top ten things overheard at the Raymond wrap party.” Then, when I was planning my wife’s 40th birthday party, I surprised her with a bunch of videos and one was from Letterman. This was his show and his stage, and the Late Show became a haven for quality acts who didn’t ever need to count a Number One hit as a booking prerequisite. His latter-day battles with Leno, and his investment in the years of competition between them, showed him in an unflattering light — and they dated him, too, since the younger hosts such as Jimmy Kimmel and Fallon avoid such ego-driven clashing.

He seemed more focused on the contest than on creative renewal, and he became increasingly willing to sit while his guests blathered out prefabricated material. Letterman’s a comedian, for sure, but at the center of every good joke, and every good late-night interview, is a story. “He loves songs, he loves story songs and he loves songwriters,” says Isbell.

But it’s also nice to have an adult in the room, a person who has been through plenty publicly and is still standing, a host with enough earned gravitas — after 9/11, after his own quintuple bypass surgery, in the face of the coming death of his friend Warren Zevon, upon getting caught in a sex scandal — to sit at his desk and talk to America vulnerably, and even movingly. As silly as he can be jumping against the wall in Velcro or working at a McDonald’s, I still wanted to hear him talk about the important things in the world, you know? But he found kindred spirits in Isbell and Cook, the latter of whom he first heard on SiriusXM’s Outlaw Country station, during his regular drives into the city from his Connecticut home.

I grew up with that song and I was thinking of the lyrics, “The day the music died.” Now I’m thinking, “Well, May 20 — that’s gonna be the day that the comedy dies, too.” I knew Dave a little bit before I did my first appearance with him on NBC. The buzzed-about Stapleton was the last artist to debut on Letterman before his closing weeks. “Letterman has made a statement of bravery in their bookings and trusting their instincts,” Sacks says. Since the show’s debut in 1993, Letterman has indeed made a point of choosing artists that didn’t always play to a radio-friendly, Top of the Pops mentality: Steve Earle, Harris, Zevon, Willie Nelson and Tom Waits were all early favorites, with Ryan Adams and Dawes joining the ranks. He was also an early champion of Miracle Legion, Golden Smog and Syd Straw.” Letterman also has chosen, along with his trusted team, musical guests who had absolutely zero promotional tie.

Letterman, points out Americana Music Association executive director Jed Hilly, was likely the first person to even reference the actual term “Americana” on-air. On The Colbert Report, he did make an effort to weave music — from Cheap Trick to Wilco — into a program that, as a satire, didn’t always lend itself to live performance. Drake will celebrate his self-proclaimed “second home,” Houston, Texas with his second Houston Appreciation Weekend, set to take place over Memorial Day weekend, Vibe reports.

There was an affair for me in New York last year [Spike’s One Night Only: An All-Star Tribute to Don Rickles] and it was a big thrill that, even though Dave is a bit of a loner, he showed up to speak about me in front of all those people. The weekend will reportedly feature several charity-driven events, though the centerpiece will be a celebrity softball game on Friday, May 22nd at the University of Houston’s Cougar Field. Drake will take the field alongside a number of athletes and entertainers, including local talent like former Astros stars Chris Sampson and Brandon Backe, the Houston Texans’ Duane Brown and Darryl Morris Jr. and Houston rapper Kirko Bangz.

As Drake’s debut mixtape, So Far Gone, was gaining traction in 2009, Bun B told Rolling Stone, “It’s just one of those moments in time, where the right person comes with the right music to the people. He’s obviously very talented, I don’t think anyone can dispute that.” After months of escalating protests and grassroots organizing in response to the police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, police reformers have issued many demands. The moderates in this debate typically qualify their rhetoric with “We all know we need police, but…” It’s a familiar refrain to those of us who’ve spent years in the streets and the barrios organizing around police violence, only to be confronted by officers who snarl, “But who’ll help you if you get robbed?” We can put a man on the moon, but we’re still lacking creativity down here on Earth. Like every structure we’ve known all our lives, it seems that the policing paradigm is inescapable and everlasting, and the only thing keeping us from the precipice of a dystopic Wild West scenario.

Rather than be scared of our impending Road Warrior future, check out just a few of the practicable, real-world alternatives to the modern system known as policing: Unarmed but trained people, often formerly violent offenders themselves, patrolling their neighborhoods to curb violence right where it starts. Stop believing that police are heroes because they are the only ones willing to get in the way of knives or guns – so are the members of groups like Cure Violence, who were the subject of the 2012 documentary The Interrupters. There are also feminist models that specifically organize patrols of local women, who reduce everything from cat-calling and partner violence to gang murders in places like Brooklyn. While police forces have benefited from military-grade weapons and equipment, some of the most violent neighborhoods have found success through peace rather than war. Violent offenses count for a fraction of the 11 to 14 million arrests every year, and yet there is no real conversation about what constitutes a crime and what permits society to put a person in chains and a cage.

Decriminalization doesn’t work on its own: The cannabis trade that used to employ poor Blacks, Latinos, indigenous and poor whites in its distribution is now starting to be monopolized by already-rich landowners. To quote investigative journalist Christian Parenti’s remarks on criminal justice reform in his book Lockdown America, what we really need most of all is “less.” Also known as reparative or transformative justice, these models represent an alternative to courts and jails. From hippie communes to the IRA and anti-Apartheid South African guerrillas to even some U.S. cities like Philadelphia’s experiment with community courts, spaces are created where accountability is understood as a community issue and the entire community, along with the so-called perpetrator and the victim of a given offense, try to restore and even transform everyone in the process. Communities that have tools to engage with each other about problems and disputes don’t have to consider what to do after anti-social behaviors are exhibited in the first place.

Obviously these could become police themselves and then be subject to the same abuses, but as a temporary solution they have been making a real impact. We have created a tremendous amount of mental illness, and in the real debt and austerity dystopia we’re living in, we have refused to treat each other for our physical and mental wounds. Mental health has often been a trapdoor for other forms of institutionalized social control as bad as any prison, but shifting toward preventative, supportive and independent living care can help keep those most impacted from ending up in handcuffs or dead on the street.

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