The Late Show with David Letterman - Guest Warren Zevon

Show #1895

The time had come to pick up our tickets. We were advised to get them no later than 4:30. Outside the doors, we were greeted by Christina & Hanni.  They checked our IDs and gave us tickets with the notation of "CBS GUEST." There were people standing in line on the sidewalk that had already picked up their tickets, waiting to get in. We went into the Manhattan Chili Company again for a bathroom stop and drinks. After sitting down, another couple sat next to us and we talked about going to the show. They had "dots" on their tickets, which would allow them to get in earlier than the "regular" audience. The CBS pages "dot" audience members who are enthusiastic or have been previously designated. We explained they were to receive special treatment during the pre-show. Basically, they would enter early and have front area seats.

***[ While we were seated upstairs in the restaurant, We were located above the Ed Sullivan Theater entrance lobby. The Chili Company and outer lobby interlock, like a Lego piece, inside the brick exterior. ]

At 4:30, we went to the front doors and were directly shown to the inner lobby, just outside the theater. "CBS Guests" are lined up ahead of the dotted ones. I could tell by the looks of people, that there were some industry people and possible friends of Warren in the CBS guest line. After a little wait, a couple of energetic staffers stood on chairs to give us instructions for the show. It was explained that we were to be let in before the other audience members. Our reaction to Dave and the jokes would help set the tone for the night. The rest of the audience would pick up from our example. The reaction would flow back to them and create a better atmosphere for the broadcast. After about a 5 minute talk, they left and we were entertained by various security people and staffers going in and out of the theater and up & down the stairs.

***[Alan checked us in and I visited with Hanni, CBS page, who was armed with a clipboard. She was bright eyed, cheery and friendly. We immediately entered the theater and were escorted near the stairway to the balcony. I was pleased there was an audience prep. The two that presented the information about the show, the audience role and the taboo points, did so with skill. I have read otherwise, in other reports, but stood listening with minimal mind drift. The content shared was information that I did need to know about the show. Basically, the role the audience would play during the taping. We already knew where we would be seated. In the background, we could hear the band playing and Warren singing. A rehearsal was taking place just before the audience was allowed to be seated.]

We were led upstairs to the balcony. Our time had come to enter the Ed Sullivan Theater proper. It was like I had remembered it back in 1993. We were led down the stage right aisle and seated to our left with a couple of men that were already seated.   Our front row balcony seats were fantastic. That is an understatement. I was able to see all the stage with the exception of the front below me, where Sid would be standing. I was able to view him later in the show by moving forward a bit and looking around a stage light. There was taped music playing and the excitement rose as more people started filling the seats behind us. The stagehands were busy setting up the stage, buffing the floor and moving equipment.

***[For me, the balcony was the best location to see the show. There was nothing to distract me while watching the stage and the Late Show team. The entire audience including those in the balcony were not a factor.  We were seated in the balcony front row stage right. That also was a perfect location. I didn't have to keep moving my head side to side to see the stage content.

The balcony position did have one drawback--Sid was out of view. Alan and Renee had prepared me for the opening moments. Seeing many of the Late Show team, the night before, enabled me to focus on what was happening and not be star struck.  I focused on what they were doing and NOT on the monitors. That is what Alan and Renee said to do.  I could always watch the show later.

I was not cold. The set colors were warm and soft. I remember focusing on the stage and the view. The set looked alive. Okay--I may have been having a Farrah moment. The set was better in person than I had viewed on television. People were beginning to move about slowly on the stage. Kenny grabbed hisIm004378.jpg buffer and another man, I didn't know, was busy with another. The one I didn't know was doing the area where Dave stands for the opening. Pat Farmer appeared center stage and started speaking to the man. He glances down and I see him touch the tape on the floor with his foot. He then bends over and smoothes the tape flat with his hand and finger tips. I was struck by the fact such a detail was important to Pat. At that moment, I knew the show was going to be good. Pat had made sure the light hit the floor without a glare. (Later, I was able to mention the moment directly to Pat. He sort of tilted his head, thinking. He shared that the tape was up off the floor. When the lights would be brought across the dark floor for the opening, the camera would have picked up the edge and altered the view.

The floor starts to fill with people. Two standing at the front of the stage as the downstairs audience is being seated. I start to recognize more and more people. It was sort of like someone had opened a door and the time had started. The countdown began for the start of the show. A person stood, in the middle of the stage, with finger counts to keep track of the timed elements. I remember seeing Will Lee tossing something out to the audience seated below.]

Eddie Brill finally came out and introduced the tape of Dave with kids. After the tape ended, Eddie came back and gave his speech.

***[Eddie Brill appeared center stage. I needed to hear what he shared...including the cussing. (Eddie's speech put me on notice there may be strong language during the show taping. It did happen at one point. Strong language was used and not bleeped. David's reaction was part of the skit.) Eddie explains about the need to push the sound at times. At certain points, we needed to increase the intensity and the volume of our response when he signaled. I understood the reason for the push. It allowed the sound to have dimension. It made sense to me--so I did as he instructed. At times, Eddie would stand back, other times he would move to the center of the stage and signal. There was one ugly moment. Eddie motioned to get out of the studio at the prompting of Tony Mendez .]

Eddie continued as he introduced the band members and finally Paul who played a couple of short songs. Also introduced were Alan Kalter and Biff Henderson.

***[Felicia arrived a touch late...Eddie Brill sang a line or two. Then someone came down and spoke to the man seated to my right. He was busy taking notes. Prior, he had pointed to the mike in front of me and Alan saying, "Everything you say can be heard." Alan had already showed me the mike. The person that came down the stairs told him, "Please, no talking. The mike was picking up the sound."  Of course, Alan asked me what was said. I had to whispered... "they told him not to talk." At some point the man got up and left the seat open. He returned a while later. He was probably someone really important.]

Finally, without a coat, Dave comes running out with a bound upon his desk platform and then to the middle camera.

***[Dave Letterman came out on that stage owning it. My mind went from a stage full of prep David. It took me a few moments to get used to the fact Dave was there. Another few moments to realize there were other people in the world.  The gathering of all those people on the stage was for the moment Dave took the camera. I was in the Ed getting ready to see the show live.]

Dave talks to the audience and asks for a couple of questions. He exits and the band starts playing the opening theme song. Alan announced the guests and other opening lines. Dave comes out, delivers his monologue and moves over to the desk.

***[I don't remember any of the jokes. I remember thinking..."it is supposed to be cold in here and it isn't."  I remember thinking how very still everyone was on the stage. Every tiny movement stood out so very much. I was watching Dave in person.]

The show was the standard format with the exception that the only guest was Warren Zevon. After the first segment, Warren came out and sat at the desk with Dave for a discussion. There were some moments that seemed a bit awkward, but with the subject matter of Warren's terminal cancer, it was to be expected. "Enjoy every sandwich" is the most memorable line & advice that Warren gave us.

During a commercial break, Warren got up and slowly made his way to the piano that was quickly set up by the stagehands. The CBS Orchestra horn section stood behind the grand piano. Tony scanned the balcony and we waved to him as he looked our way. He waved back with a big grin on his face. He turned to Dave Dorsett, the cameraman, and points back up to us. With a big gesture, Tony motions us to leave the theater. Between laughter, I shake my finger at him in a "no way" motion. Dave also gives us the heave-ho sign. We still won't leave.

***[After Tony "found" us in the balcony, my focus remained on him for a while. When Tony was not showing the cards to Dave, Tony positioned his body to be in the least 'blocking' position as possible to the audience. He became a shadow to Dave Dorsett.  Tony had long pants on. Laurie Diamond would turn and look up at the monitor watching the show. The Stangel Brothers appeared on did Wahoo Mike. Faces I knew from the Late Show and the Tony Mendez Internet show just flowed in front of me. When Warren was performing, Dave would glance every so often to his monitor. Dave would almost vanished in the change of lighting. As Warren sang, people gathered on stage left to watch. Their movements were slow and careful.]

Warren sang "Mutineer." Next commercial break, Tony is talking to Eddie and points up to us again. Same old "get out" motion by both and I respond again with the no way signal. As we found out later from another trip report, there were people around us that were wondering what the heck was going on between Tony and us. Nobody asked at the time. The next set-up was with a string section and Warren standing playing guitar. He sang "Genius" and conducted the strings in the end.

***[The strings were set up in advance...then quickly lifted and moved out to the front of the stage. I was taken by how quickly everyone did their job and the lack of sound while they were doing it. Yes, there was music playing...but there were no needless motions or stray sounds happening. The lights went on and a light shined right in our face. During the song the lights moved and paused on our seating location. I will never see that spot light type look without thinking of Warren singing. Those lights shining up through the blueness...I thought at that moment, I would miss Warren. The discussion with David helped set the tone. Warren Zevon lived hard. He was going to end this life in a creative burst that let me know he valued his life. Always when the camera was off, Warren was drinking water that was just a reach away in his support person's hand. Warren didn't seem to be feeling wincing motions on his face. He did seem to be moving in a slower world.  The only word I know to use is 'medicated.' David slowed also. His movements and speed were deliberate and showed care.  David exited the stage proper at one point behind his desk. There were times I knew it was a very special thing Alan and I were being allowed to see in person. In the middle of all the "knowing" stood Tony telling us to get out of the theater. Tony became big--larger than life. Tony helped me alter my focus away from the thought Warren was saying goodbye. I didn't want to be sad... I wanted to remember.]

The final segment he sang "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner" a favorite of Dave's. Dave came to Warren at the end and each thanked one another for the night. The audience was totally focused throughout the evening on every word and move that Warren made. Everybody knew what a night it had been.

***[As Warren turned around completely the last time Dave came to him, I realized that is the motion David uses when he is closing a segment or stunt. A quick circle movement. Warren's was slow and a touch awkward. Warren Zevon was standing there next to David and if you could have separated the could have heard a pin drop. It was not a time for words. David and Warren just stood there for what seemed like a long time but I know now it was only a moment. It seemed so very much longer live. Watching Dave leave Warren center stage was hard. A public moment that made me want to just give them some privacy.  I looked around the stage and everyone was focused. Silent. I don't remember Dave saying goodnight. I don't remember how the show ended. I remember Alan standing up next to me. That is how I knew it was over. Going up the balcony stairs to exit...a man stepped in behind me. I felt him touch my back a couple of times. Alan thankfully took my hand and walked in front of me. Going down the stairs to the lobby, Alan walked directly in front of me. The man behind me...I never turned to look at him--had pushed me hard a couple of times. Alan in front of me took the worry of falling away.]






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