Last October a failed extortion attempt revealed that David Letterman had sex with younger women—like, at least two of them. My first reaction was: to whom could this possibly be news? Well, all right, maybe it was news to his wife, but that’s between them. And frankly, I never liked her much anyway—only because I wish I were her.
(It’s just jealousy, not real hatred, so it’s OK. I’m sure she’s lovely.)
Anyway, what wealthy male celebrity ripe with power and charm hasn’t slept with much younger women? Isn’t that the point of doing dinner theater in Milwaukee? So that one day when you get your eponymous TV show, you can sleep with the vivacious, bosomy intern who brings you a venti, nonfat, upside down, caramel macchiato on the set every morning? My second reaction was, damn, why did it never occur to me to apply for a CBS page position? Then I too could be embroiled in a national sex scandal and later use my infamousness to jump-start my own line of headbands.
I have a confession to make, but first, a request: silent, internal judging only from here on out, please. In other words, pretend like you’re talking to a friend.
For the last 12 years, exactly half of my entire existence, I have had a crush on David Letterman. (Hey! Didn’t I just say no obvious signs of judging? Thank you.) It started shortly after he abandoned his contact lenses in favor of those cheeky, round, burnt-orange colored glasses. I believe this was in the fall of 1997. One day it was like, oh, yeah, sure, there’s David Letterman, ha, haha, ha, he’s funny. But then the next day, the glasses appeared and as his lithe frame imitated Johnny Carson’s golf swing for the one hundredth time, I was struck smitten: why, hello, David, have we met? I’m twelve, but people tell me I’m an old soul, like eighteen.
And then I started to pay more attention. Because it wasn’t just the glasses or the gap between his teeth (which Google assures me is considered super lucky in many, many cultures in Africa and Asia and on some other far away continents that start with the letter “A”) or the way his eyes disappear when he smiles. And it wasn’t just his sardonic humor that somehow — like one of the good wines I just happen to pick out because it has a pretty label — always goes down smooth and dry with just enough bite to make it interesting. It was also his routine self-denigration; he frets and wrings his hands, and I suspect he’s a worrier, an anxious perfectionist concerned as much about his opening monologue as he is about the world outside his office on Broadway and beyond. He makes you want to root for him and all of his neurosis, and, yet, he is never maudlin.
True, he can be difficult; his antics are often designed specifically to annoy, but even shouting into a bullhorn in the middle of New York City traffic, he is smiling and there’s a twinkle in his eye that seems to say, how can you not love me? And yet, he isn’t innocuous. Thank god. He was the first entertainer to return to live programming after Sept. 11, a mere six days later on Sept. 17, 2001, and he vocalized the confusion and the disbelief and the sorrow we were feeling. He asked the same questions we were asking ourselves, and he made us feel less alone. But he also gave us answers and offered direction, and we gratefully took our cue from him.
Even in the wake of the scandal last fall, he was unflappable. He refused to be blackmailed, he was honest and forthcoming about the accusations (unlike so many other celebrities), he gave a heartfelt and public apology to his wife and his family, and he moved on—all without ever missing a beat or an opportunity to make us laugh.
What really gets me, however, is that he’s an enigma. He’s incredibly private, choosing to live in the suburbs and rarely, if ever, making public appearances outside of work. And yet he brought the entire medical team responsible for saving his life in 2000 when he needed emergency coronary artery bypass surgery onto his show, getting visibly choked up introducing them.
The dude has heart — made all the more appealing in that he doesn’t wear it on his sleeve. You have to really pay attention to catch it; you got to work for it. And I am. I’m really working for it here, Dave.
–By Victoria Loustalot