Stupid human trick or media savvy? David Letterman has sex with employee and tells the world.
October 9, 2009
Dave and Stephanie sitting in a tree…
Sophomore year in college I watched David Letterman almost every night. He was not my father’s talk show host. Unlike Johnny Carson, he seemed to get my generation. He was cynical yet somehow down to earth, a wonderful combination of the small town in Indiana where he was from and the biggest town of all, Manhattan. Unlike Johnny Carson, David inhaled.
By my senior year I’d forgotten all about David Letterman. Talk shows like his came on during hours better used for studying, drinking and chasing women –not necessarily in that order. Other than sports and MTV, I ignored TV altogether.
Some years later, after I got married, we would watch Letterman on and off, usually changing channels soon after the monologue. I rarely waited for his guests. Fact is I’m uncomfortable watching people interviewed. Guests are preening, pimping something or, worst of all, struggling. While most audiences seem to enjoy the spectacle of celebrities squirming on TV I dread it. I do not like watching people fail, even those I do not like.
Ironic now that Letterman is in the hot seat. His affair with an employee has become the talk of our nation, and it’s not just the scandal but the way in which Mr. Letterman is dealing with it. He not only confessed his “very bad” behavior he did so in front of a studio audience with millions watching at home.
In what has to be the zenith of squirm-inducing moments, Letterman spoke candidly about cheating on his wife. At first the audience laughed… and then they didn’t. It was brutal. I only saw a portion of the clip, after the fact, and even then I couldn’t stand it. Letterman called his behavior “creepy” and he wasn’t kidding.
So much one could comment on. But a few things stand out. Instead of confessing his sins to a priest, shrink or sponsor like the rest of us would Letterman chose to unburden himself in front of millions of people. How could he do that?
Maybe the better question was how could he not? For most of his adult life “Dave” has lived on TV. When he had a heart attack, he put it in the monologue. Why should this be any different?
Because it’s goddam embarrassing that’s why.
Yes, but as was pointed out to me by a colleague, Letterman got so far out in front of the story he was able to totally control it. Not only did he own up to his trouble he owned the way it got disseminated –no small feat in the age of Gawker, TMZ and Twitter. (Kind of amusing a talk show –the war-horse of mass media- trumping the Internet!)
So was Dave’s brutal honesty heartfelt or media savvy? I say both. But I also wonder what his wife thinks. Dave said she was “terribly humiliated” and I believe him. Half the world might be watching her husband confess but I bet she isn’t.
Guess what, people: his ratings are soaring. More of you are watching David Letterman this week than have done so in years. Not me, however. I think it’s icky as hell.
Full disclosure: I observed a clip on You Tube featuring his paramour participating in a skit. The girl does not look happy yet Dave keeps the bit going and going. In it, he asks her to dance. Then he asks about her boyfriend. He’s gleeful. I couldn’t finish watching it. How many of you are going to look for it now?