By Mike Welsh

late show

Drifting aimlessly around the Big Apple a few years ago, I turned onto West 53rd street where I spotted a large crowd of very excited people. Directly across from them and in front of me, stood a temporary barricade that blocked a bunch of men with cameras around their necks.

The snappers’ focus flitted between a plain steel security door in the side of a long plain brick building to their left, and an empty parking space bordered by large orange witch hats to their right.

A hullabaloo suddenly erupted as a shiny black European car pulled in and a mature blonde woman alighted.

The blonde woman resembled Barbara Walters. The adoring bunch across the way and the Paparazzi shouted the name of the iconic TV anchor person.

Barbara posed professionally for the mildly enthusiastic photographers (“Tom Hanks was here yesterday,” a punter told me) and blew kisses to the almost hysterical fans across the way before she and her three person posse vanished through the steel door.

I moseyed further up W 53rd Street past a small but famous deli, without the penny dropping.

As I reached the famous junction of Broadway and W53rd St, I was funnelled into a queue of people. It was one of two separate lines snaking their way around the corner to our left, apparently for tickets to The Late Show with David Letterman. Ours was the “Standby” line.

So here I was in a “standby” queue for a show that I most likely wouldn’t get in to see, which had Tom Hanks as a guest the day before.

The excited and animated queue ahead of us in front of the Ed Sullivan Theatre contained those who already had tickets to see Mr Letterman.

Apparently you needed to book months in advance for the chance to make the line that was now being instructed by the “outside” warm-up guy on how to behave when the big show got underway. “Even if you think Dave isn’t funny today, laugh anyway and laugh loudly too, because the folks at home need to be considered,” he lectured. This warm-up guy warms up punters for the “inside” warm up guy who whips the audience into a whole new frenzy.

Only four people at the head of our mob were offered tickets to see the taping of the Thursday show starring Barbara Walters, to be broadcast later that night.

As the disappointed “standby” mob dejectedly skulked away, I loitered a little longer around “The Great White Way”.

And then it happened.

Right there in front of the famous Ed Sullivan Theatre on Broadway, New York , New York, a clipboard wielding, Late Show With Dave Letterman baseball jacket wearing woman bowled right up to me and said…“Would you like two tickets for Friday’s Late Show to be taped later today?”


“Make sure you are back here in three hours!” warned the nice clipboard lady.

Showtime loomed and we were herded through the foyer of the famous theatre where the “King” and the “Fab 4″ had performed.

Entrance, monologue, snappy repartee with bandleader and “taped” three minute 10 second commercial break (during which Dave rudely turned his back on his freeloading audience) done, Will Arnett strode, sockless, onto the famous set and sat down to chew the fat with Dave, about wearing slip-on shoes without sock.

Showbizzy and shallow, but I finally had an audience with the great man Dave Letterman.

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