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
near the stairway to the balcony. I was pleased there was an audience prep. The two that
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
***[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 people...to 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 stage...as 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 pain...no 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
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
***[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
applause...you 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.]