May 202015

David Letterman is retiring this evening.  Letterman and I share an alma mater, Ball State University.  Letterman graduated in broadcast communications nine years before I graduated in journalism.

He returned to campus frequently.  As a graduate assistant on Ball State Alumnus, I attended a press conference for Letterman  in October 1979.  (My memory told me I had been to two Letterman press conferences, but my clips told me I had been to one Letterman press conference, and two Red Skelton press conferences.  Red Skelton is another story.)

After digging through forty years worth of clips, I found the story.  Won’t punish readers by printing the entire story (written by me at age 21) but will share some high, err low, lights.

Letterman recalls days at Ball State

After graduating, Letterman ’70 worked at WERK in Muncie and various Indianapolis stations, at one point hosting a radio all-talk show. His local claim to fame was as the colorful weatherman on Indy’s Channel 13.

Discussing stints as guest host of Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show…..

Letterman explained the simplicity of choosing a guest host for the Tonight Show, the late night talk show on NBC, on which he frequently appears.

“It’s a theme contest,” he joked, drawing great guffaws from the crowd, “The author of the theme with the most grammatical problems is the winner.”

Asked to describe a typical day while guest-hosting the Tonight Show, Letterman commented, “I get up around three, taking some pills, drink plenty of whiskey.”

“No, seriously, I get up early and meet with the producers. At 5:30 I go number. It’s a real kick and the most pressure I’ve ever felt.”

He continued, “The biggest thrill of my life was the first time I was a guest with Carson.”

I also wrote the story adjacent the Letterman story in the magazine, with the equally stellar headline, “Homecoming ’79 huge success.”

Here’s the lead,

Although David Letterman ’70 jokingly announced on the Tonight Show that Homecoming was cancelled at Ball State, 5069 students defined that jab by ‘sitting on it’ in the Soccer Field.  Hundreds of rowdy students broke the world record of lap sitting, which according to the Guinness Book of World Records had been held by Michigan  Tech.

Think I missed that one.  Enjoy your retirement, Mr. Letterman, and thanks for all the $$$$$$$ you’ve given Ball State.





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