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David Letterman

David Letterman

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Also Known As: Earl Hofert, David Michael Letterman Died:
Born: April 12, 1947 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Indianapolis, Indiana, USA Profession: TV host, comedian, producer, comedy writer, news anchor, weatherman, announcer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

of the first shows to return to the airwaves following the terrorist attacks of September 11, he spoke compellingly and compassionately about New York City's loss and shared an emotional segment with guest Dan Rather, both men seemingly on the verge of tears. Thereafter, "The Late Show" opening announcement touted New York City as "The greatest city in the world" and replaced its former shot of Battery Park City with one of the Empire State Building. Whether the pair of humbling episodes had anything to do with a change in lifestyle, Letterman moved in with girlfriend Regina Lasko in 2001 and became a first time father in 2003, naming his son after his father. In 2007, Letterman further came out of his shell; this time to bury the hatchet with Winfrey, and was slated to tape an interview for her show in September, following an appearance Winfrey had made first on his show the previous year.Throughout 2009, the spotlight-shunning comedian found himself making headlines for various reasons. His March wedding to Regina Laskoe after 23 years together allowed the public a rare glimpse of Letterman the man in all his vulnerability as he humorously recounted for his audience the reasons he decided to...

of the first shows to return to the airwaves following the terrorist attacks of September 11, he spoke compellingly and compassionately about New York City's loss and shared an emotional segment with guest Dan Rather, both men seemingly on the verge of tears. Thereafter, "The Late Show" opening announcement touted New York City as "The greatest city in the world" and replaced its former shot of Battery Park City with one of the Empire State Building. Whether the pair of humbling episodes had anything to do with a change in lifestyle, Letterman moved in with girlfriend Regina Lasko in 2001 and became a first time father in 2003, naming his son after his father. In 2007, Letterman further came out of his shell; this time to bury the hatchet with Winfrey, and was slated to tape an interview for her show in September, following an appearance Winfrey had made first on his show the previous year.

Throughout 2009, the spotlight-shunning comedian found himself making headlines for various reasons. His March wedding to Regina Laskoe after 23 years together allowed the public a rare glimpse of Letterman the man in all his vulnerability as he humorously recounted for his audience the reasons he decided to finally take the plunge. The rest of the headlines, however, were not so sweet. After over a year of taking comical swipes at former vice presidential candidate and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, she first leveled accusations of sexism against the "Late Show" host for likening her public appearances to that of a "slutty flight attendant" during one of his famous Top Ten lists. She stirred up outcry by airing her grievance on "Today," and received more grist for the mill when several weeks later, Letterman's opening monologue included an off-color joke whose intended punch line involved womanizing New York Yankee pitcher Alex Rodriguez "knocking up" Palin's 18-year-old daughter, Bristol, a notorious single teen mother. But it had not been Bristol at Yankee Stadium that day; it had been Palin's 14-year-old daughter, Willow. Armed with statutory rape insinuations to level Letterman's way, Palin again decried the talk show host in the media. Eventually she accepted the host's second on-air apology.

Despite Letterman's repeated and sincere on-air mea culpas for what he admitted was a poorly constructed joke with no malicious intentions, conservative media and women's groups picked up the story and ran with it. Protestors lobbied for Letterman's dismissal outside the Ed Sullivan Theater, while defenders produced six months' worth of examples of Jay Leno, Craig Ferguson and "Saturday Night Live" jokes that showed Palin's daughters clearly having been the butt of sexual punch lines since her arrival in the public eye, and that she had not only ignored these earlier jabs, but continued to appear as a guest on those shows during the campaign. While the story dominated entertainment news headlines for a few weeks, CBS never considered pulling Letterman from his post over the incident.

But the Palin controversy paled in comparison to Letterman's own bombshell that he voluntarily dropped during the Oct. 1, 2009 episode. He admitted that he had been a recent victim of an extortion attempt in which $2 million had been requested to keep Letterman's sexual relationships with female "Late Show" staffers under wraps. Copies of a diary and other proof Letterman could not dismiss were found in a folder in the back seat of his car. Though he nervously joked his way through the issue at hand, he made it clear in his monologue that it was a serious enough charge that the New York district attorney's office set into motion a sting operation to nab the extortionist, who was revealed to be a fellow CBS network staffer, Robert Halderman, a producer for "48 Hours Mystery." As the scandal erupted over the weekend, it was revealed that Halderman had recently broken up with Stephanie Birkitt, who had been Letterman's personal assistant for years and reportedly one of the women with whom he had been involved with for years. Not surprisingly, the man who made countless Monica Lewinsky jokes was now forced to be the butt of similar jokes. Pundits wondered if this was the end of Letterman. The only late night comic who would not make jokes at his friend's expense was Conan O'Brien, who simply said "no comment." Four days after he admitted his transgressions, he memorably spent a segment of his show apologizing to his wife as well as his staff.

All was forgotten in January 2010 when a fresh round of talk show wars broke out, this time between Jay Leno and Conan O¿Brien over a scheduling move that pushed "The Tonight Show with Conan O¿Brien" back a half our to accommodate "The Jay Leno Show." The network¿s move soon led to O¿Brien¿s departure amidst outrage from fans and fellow talk show hosts, most of whom favored O¿Brien. But no one was more gleeful than Letterman, who took great pleasure in watching both Leno and NBC being raked over the coals in what was deemed a major public relations disaster. Night after night, Letterman skewered Leno and his former network while defending O¿Brien. In a strange twist, Letterman appeared in a Super Bowl ad at the time of the debacle, sitting on a couch with Leno separated by Oprah Winfrey in the middle. The attempt by both was to repair their respective images; Leno wanted win people back to his side while Letterman sought to soften some of the cruel barbs he had hurled. Reportedly, Letterman wanted O¿Brien to also be in the spot, but his wish never materialized. Meanwhile, in 2011, he was the subject of some sobering news when it was revealed that a Muslim militant made an Internet threat to cut Letterman¿s tongue out for a joke he made about the death of an Al-Qaeda leader in a drone strike. In typical Letterman fashion, he spent most of his show joking about the threat and even managed to put the blame on Leno. In September 2012, he received a prestigious honor when he was named a Kennedy Center honoree, the nation¿s highest honor bestowed upon influential cultural figures. Letterman was set to be inducted in December alongside Dustin Hoffman, bluesman Buddy Guy, Led Zeppelin and ballerina Natalia Makarova. Letterman's timeslot rival Leno finally ceded "The Tonight Show" to Jimmy Fallon in early 2014. On April 3, 2014, Letterman officially announced that he would be retiring in 2015. As the official retirement date of May 20, 2015 inched closer, favorite guests and famous fans began making public goodbyes during their final appearances on the show. Within the last month of shows, as the farewell reached a crescendo, the ironic and taciturn Letterman began showing uncharacteristic nostalgia and wistfulness on the air and in interviews. Letterman's final show featured an all-star group of fans including Barbara Walters, Tina Fey, and Peyton Manning reading the show's final Top Ten List ("Top 10 things I've always wanted to say to Dave"), followed by a compilation of favorite clips from the entirety of Letterman's career and a bon voyage performance by one of Letterman's favorite bands, Foo Fighters. The episode was one of the highest-rated shows of Letterman's career.

took over hosting duties. In typical Letterman Humor fashion, he welcomed the staff responsible for his health onto the show afterwards and attempted to get a section of Indiana freeway renamed the David Letterman Bypass. Some maintain that this was a turning point for the comedian, who began to mellow with age, drop some of the sarcastic armor, and be a little more gracious and forthcoming. Paul Shaffer bluntly stated in an interview that his boss just stopped caring about doing a good show, but it could be argued that it was a welcome evolution for the comic and a respite from the world of sarcastic, ironic television that he had helped to create.

Never had the Teflon host offered a glimpse into his personal feelings as he did on Sept. 17, 2001. As one

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

2.
 Private Parts (1997) Himself
3.
 Cabin Boy (1994) Old Salt In Fishing Village
4.
 Fast Friends (1979) Matt Morgan
5.
 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time (2004) Honoree (Archival Footage)
7.
8.
 Regis Philbin: Made For TV (1998) Interviewee
9.
 CBS: The First 50 Years (1998) Guest Host
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Began broadcasting career as an announcer and newscaster at Ball State University's student-run radio station, WBST
1969:
Landed a full-time job with Indianapolis television station WLWI (later called WTHR) as a local anchor and weatherman
1974:
Hosted the radio talk show WXLW (AM) in Indianapolis
1975:
Moved to Los Angeles; made stand-up comedy debut at The Comedy Store
1977:
Worked as an announcer and regular on the short-lived CBS variety series "Starland Vocal Band Show"; also wrote for the series
1978:
Appeared as a regular on the short-lived CBS variety series "Mary," starring Mary Tyler Moore; also wrote for the series
1978:
First appeared on "The Tonight Show" (NBC); was a regular guest host
1980:
Hosted the morning show, "The David Letterman Show" (NBC); was canceled after four months
1982:
Debuted "Late Night with David Letterman" (NBC) which aired immediately following "The Tonight Show" (NBC); received consecutive Emmy nominations from 1984-1993 for Writing and/or Producing
1993:
Offered $14 million annually to host a late night show for CBS that would compete with "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" (NBC)
1993:
Moved to CBS to produce and star in the "Late Show with David Letterman"; received consecutive Emmy nominations from 1994-2009 for Performance, Writing and/or Producing
1993:
Formed production company, Worldwide Pants Incorporated
1994:
Made a cameo appearance in the feature "Cabin Boy" (billed as Earl Hofert)
1995:
Hosted the 67th Academy Awards ceremony
1996:
Produced the Emmy Award-winning sitcom "Everybody Loves Raymond" (CBS), starring Ray Romano
2000:
Produced the NBC dramedy series "Ed"
2002:
After much speculation and wooing by ABC, re-signed with CBS to continue hosting "Late Night with David Letterman" (March)
2005:
Produced first feature film "Strangers with Candy," a prequel to the Comedy Central series created by and starring Amy Sedaris
2006:
Signed a contract with CBS to stay on the air until at least 2010; expected to make a reported $38 million a year
2015:
Hosted final episode of "The Late Show with David Letterman" on May 20, 2015.
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Education

Broad Ripple High School: Indianapolis , Indiana -
Ball State University: Muncie , Indiana - 1969

Notes

"Detached, ironic, a tad contemptuous of the medium that employs him and the public it entertains, he is that most ambivalent of society's creatures: a gadfly who stings to please. At his worst he comes off as a superannuated sophomore with an attitude and a budget. At his best he deftly trims the fat off some of the famous blubberheads we have empedestaled as culture heroes. He is the greatest boon to insomniacs since the all-night diner and, for those already asleep, the sharpest spur to the purchase of a VCR since blue movies." (Some thoughts on Letterman from an unidentified, published article)

Letterman received a Honey Board award at the First Annual Honey Month Hall of Fame along with Johnny Carson and Willard Scott; inductess received life-sized busts of themselves cast in beeswax (1989).

"Well, first of all, I wouldn't be hanging around foreigners. You know that I'm xenophobic. (chuckles) I'm the guy running the TV show. Not really a host. Anybody that has seen me work knows that. And, by the way, there have been very few quests in my home. Especially foreign guests. I don't know. You're the guy on the show with the best wardrobe, so people in the audiance at least know where to look. Everything falls into place after that. There is very little skill involved with it. You just have to smile when things aren't that funny. And when things are sort of funny, then you have to laugh like crazy. I'll be doing a lot of that here today with you. That's about it. Everything else is done in the control room."---Letterman's responce when asked how he would explain his show to foreigners quoted in Esquire, December 1994.

On why Letterman hasn't given any interviews since 1996: "He feels he has an hour each night to talk, and he can do all the talking about himself that he wants to do there."---Rob Burnett (Letterman's Producer) to EW, June 24, 2002.

A recent gag on "Late Show" featured Letterman asking Indianapolis officials to rename Interstate 465 the "David Letterman Expressway." The Lawrence, Indiana officials couldn't do that, but the council did rename, as David Drive, a portion of 59th Street near the former Fort Harrison. The now "David Drive" crosses an existing street called "Letterman Road," and was named years ago for a hospital in San Francisco, which runs through an area that once was part of the fort.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Michele Cook. College sweethearts; married c. 1969; divorced in 1977.
companion:
Merrill Markoe. Writer. Worked on "The David Letterman Show" and "Late Night with David Letterman".
companion:
Regina Lasko. Production manager. Worked for "Saturday Night Live".

Family close complete family listing

father:
Harry Joseph Letterman. Florist. Died in 1974.
mother:
Dorothy Letterman. Church secretary, TV personality. Born in 1921.
sister:
Janice Letterman. Older.
sister:
Gretchen Letterman. Editorial writer. Works for the St. Petersburg, Florida <i>Times</i>; younger.
son:
Harry Joseph Letterman. Born November 3, 2003; named after Letterman's father; mother Regina.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

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