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Hachette Book Group,
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New York, NY 10017
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First eBook Edition: October 2009
A Hearty Thank You
Thanks are owed first and foremost to Fabienne Marsh, our chief interrogator, for doing all the hard digging and prodding that made this book possible, and to Meg Handler, who diligently and creatively searched out other people's photographs as well as doing a fine job with her original photography. Walt Chrynwksi, our studio photographer, set a new standard in canned ham portraiture. Charles Kreloff is the one who pulled it all together and made it look great, practically overnight.
A lot of people very kindly put up with a lot of stupid questions and requests from us and we are grateful to them all. We would like to thank Dave in particular, for gently tolerating our uninvited appearances in various corners of his life, and Rosemary Keenan and Dana McClintock, for their patience, understanding, and we suspect, inadvertent assistance. The people in the photo department at CBS were also very kind in working above and beyond the call.
We are very grateful to all of those who consented to be interviewed for this book, and were kind enough to play along with the spirit of the book. Many people were extremely helpful in providing us with information and resources, and anyone with whom we spoke is credited in the book itself. The following people were particularly helpful in supplying visual materials, background information and odd facts, and shared generously of their time: Nick Meglin, MAD Magazine; the Westchester County Police; the Connecticut Police; Dave Schwartz, U.S.G.S., Earthquake Division; Bill Harkness, U.S.G.S., Rivermaster; Danny Epstein; Don Chiodo, U.S. Treasury, Gary Owens; Nelson Price, Indianapolis News; Julian, Marthe and Todd Krainin; Susan Shields, Variety; Deb Hudson, Ball State University; Sidney Maurer.
Everyone at Warner Books has been enthusiastic and supportive from the first mention of this idea, and Mel Parker and Mauro Di Preta in particular have helped to shepherd the project through. We are very appreciative of Alexis Quinlan's unique contribution and of Steve Arenholz's invaluable help at the keyboard and behind the bear's mask.
Special thanks go to Lisa and Jonah, for tolerating a slave to Dave in the house. And to Renee Schwartz for her helpful counsel, and Helene Godin for her informal consultation.
A Dave Timeline
April 12: It's a boy! David Michael Letterman is born in Indianapolis. Dave is a middle child; his sisters are Gretchen and Janice.
"I can't sing, dance, or act. What else would I be but a talk-show host?"
Dave makes his way through P.S. 55.
Dave attends Broad Ripple High School, Indianapolis and is, by all accounts, a mediocre student. Drama teacher Gene Poston clarifies: "He never did fail a subject…He did enough—the grades were not always indicative of what he got out of the classwork. It's true."
"I look like somebody that you would later find out was John Hinckley's best friend or something like that."
In a rare tour of duty on the side of authority, Dave serves as a hall monitor. "I take exception [with the] claim I was a fink. The hall monitor, at least at Broad Ripple—these were people—we took these positions just to get out of any organized classroom activity. We could go sit in a darkened hallway and doze or whatever. We didn't fink…. It was just a short vacation."
Jane Pauley attended the same noble institution, as did Marilyn Quayle, class of '67, who recalled, "I didn't like him when I went to school…. Most of the girls in high school didn't like him. He was not a very nice young man."
"I wasn't the class clown at Broad Ripple High School…. I was the guy who wrote material for the class clown. I dreamed up his stunts, and then when he got arrested, I had a good laugh and went home."
Dave slips into Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. A radio/TV major, he will join Sigma Chi and meet his first wife, Michelle Cook, a music major.
The Sigma Chi frat house, home to Dave's brothers.
Dave's career begins in earnest, as he works the noon to three P.M. slot on student radio station WBST, a 10-watt powerhouse. The station plays primarily classical music, and Dave can't manage to show the proper on-air decorum, even at this tender age. University officials are reported to be particularly upset when he introduces Clair de Lune by remarking, "You remember the De Lune sisters. There was Clair, there was Mabel." Dave is soon relieved of his $1.25-an-hour post by program director, John Eiden.
WBST now broadcasts a wider variety of programming, including news, different formats of music, and The Nineteenth State, a radio documentary about Indiana.
Dave at the controls in his first professional gig, complete with a beaver wrapped around his chin. Oh, wait, that's a beard.
Dave moves on, joining. uh, pirate radio station WAGO, broadcast from a broom closet in the men's dorm, with five watts of power.
Dave (center) flashes a winning smile for the college yearbook.
"I used to have a radio program on WBST and that was just the best. That was my first outlet, my first place to just go and talk, and I loved it."
Sacker, Stocker, Supermarket Guy
High school wasn't all fun and pranks for Dave. He worked for a number of years for Sidney Maurer, owner of the Atlas Supermarket, who gave Dave his first job. Dave has said in the past, "It was the market of choice. It wasn't just a job, it was a step in social maturation. To this day the Atlas experience remains one of the most positive influences in my life. It was the first time I was entrusted with real responsibility." So we caught up with Sid Maurer to find out more about this formative experience.
Sidney Maurer (center) and the current staff of Atlas Supermarket pose outside of the store, by a billboard honoring their former employee.
How did Dave do at his job?
David had the ability to absorb what we were teaching and go further with it. In other words when we would teach him the bagging, we would teach him how to talk with people, we would teach him about responsibility and as he absorbed, then we would see the development and bring him up another notch. He went from sacking to stocking and went from stocking to learning how to run a register and then, being dependable and driving, he took on responsibility and just kept going on up.
A front view of Atlas—nice people, nice prices!
"I'm very resourceful. I'd be good in prison. I'd be good in a shipwreck. I'd make a great hostage. Oh, I have talents aplenty. Unfortunately, precious few of them have any redeeming social value."
Was Dave particularly skilled at anything?
We're limited in what skills we can actually see. The sacking he was very good at, which means eyeball coordination to take what goes into a bag and pack it in there and get it in the right spot. It's very difficult to be a really good sacker.
Dave has told stories about pilfering groceries when he worked for you. Are you aware of this?
He always talks about the deal about stashing beer in the dumpster. I seriously doubt if that ever happened in the store. I don't want to dispute him, okay? I just turn my head the other way and forget about it.
A small selection of some of the fine and plentiful grocery items available at the Atlas Market, "the market of choice," according to Dave.
What were the staples of the Letterman household back then?
I hate to tell you this, but I am one supermarket grocery operator who never looks at the cart. In other words, you'll never ever have me run an ad where you have to buy five or ten dollars worth of stuff in order to get a price. We don't use coupons—you don't have to have a coupon to walk in and get a sale item.
Would you hire Dave again now? If he needed a job, would you take him back?
If things ever got bad, which is ridiculous to think, if he wanted to come work for me anytime, yes, I would hire him… . But it's [really] just a stepping-stone to go into their next job.
But if he really needed a break, you'd take him back.
David is a good soul. Let's put it this way and I have never told this to anybody, I'm not sure I should. My wife and I bought a house [back when Dave was working at the store] and Dave volunteered to help. We loaded up the car and stuff and he brought it to the house and we helped unload it and so forth. But he would do that if his next-door neighbor was going to be putting a window air conditioner or something and he noticed it—he'd go over and ask if he could help.
"I'm the kind of guy that on a hot day, if a neighbor comes over and needs help installing a through-the-window air conditioner … I'll be there."
If you were to write a letter of recommendation for David, what would it say?
That David is a down to earth, hard working, caring person, completely trustworthy, and anyone who gets him to work for them can relax because whatever he'll do, he'll do it as best he possibly can and try to improve on what he does.
In your professional opinion, if Dave hadn't gone on to broadcasting, do you think he had the makings of a career grocer?
It's like in any kind of a puzzle, if the pieces fit the right way, yes, he would do good. But the grocery business is different than most any other business—it's a heavily people business, similar to what Dave is doing now, but it's also something where you have to have the luck and go.… Dave would have had the right stuff if he had elected to stay in it. But he didn't.
What was the deal with Dave's hair back when he worked for you?
It didn't break any rules where it was down to his shoulders, do you know what I mean? At the time that he was in here, David's hair was the usual standard haircut type thing, not wavy, not a finger running through your hair type thing. I don't think he quite had a style.
"I guess I don't have the sensitivity or the intellectual capacity to be using humor as a conduit for some loftier message. I'm right there in dead-center silliness, goofiness, you know, kind of pointless comedy; and for me, that's a pretty tall load."
Could a Guy in a Bear Suit Get into Dave's Office?
Guy in a Bear Suit arrives at the entrance to Dave's office building.
He's going in.
Doorman Kendall objects to taking pictures of a Guy in a Bear Suit.
Guy in a Bear Suit tries reasoning with Kendall. Kendall agrees to call up to Dave's office, but insists that Guy in a Bear Suit wait out by the curb, so as not to interfere with other business.
- On Sale
- Oct 31, 2009
- Page Count
- 95 pages
- Grand Central Publishing