New York Vacation #3

A part of the studio audience for the David Letterman show

By Al Carlos Hernandez
Published on LatinoLA: May 26, 2004

New York Vacation #3

There we were walking down Broadway near Times Square about 9:30 at night minding our own business, OK, minding everyone else?s business. I?m a people watcher. A young woman comes up to us and asks, ?Would you like tickets to the David Letterman show?? Assuming that the proposition was shady I said, sure how much?

I explained that we applied for tickets online six months in advance only to be told that tickets for the show were sold out for an entire year. She said they are trying something new and if I could answer a trivia question we would get to go to the show the very next day. ?Who is the small business owner who has a reccurring role on the show, and before she could ask the second part I answered Rupert Gee, and Hello Deli was his business. "Where my tickets at??

Some call it synchronicity. others serendipity. I credit our good fortune partly to my Oakland Choppers beanie I wore that night, which set us apart from the frenetic sidewalk current of Bermuda shorted lemming tourists, and urban ears vigilantly tuned for the surreptitious hook up.

The instructions where to check in at the Ed Sullivan studio between 3 and 4 pm the next day, as the show taped at 5:30 to confirm our places.

Still cynical yet expectant, time froze when they searched for our names on the guest list. How many times have people said that they will put you on the guest list only to have you show up way over dressed just to get humiliated?

Alba helped find our name and sure enough we were given numbers 27, 28, and we were in.

The very small theatre is somewhat off the main drag in a quasi commercial section; the alley next to the building with a CBS souvenir shop on the corner, is where the Hello Deli is located and is only open for lunch. The deli looks like any small bodega in any other city in the nation. TV magnifies the significance of the property a million times over, no doubt the medium being the message.

In line at 4:30, folks excitedly took their chronological places as two staffers dressed in Late show Varsity jackets asked if any had a unique talent, or a collection of some sort they could showcase on the show. Those who could do something whack, would fill out a form and if they liked it could come back Friday and do the show. Since my only talent being the ability to insult people, I kept quiet.

Soon the line of mostly Gringo tourists and college preppies snaked and chattered into the small lobby and there we were about 100 people in a holding pattern for 35 minutes. A youthful producer gal stood on a chair and gave a pep talk; laugh loudly, clap, and express your joy. Dave as a standup comedian feeds off the audience?s energy. No whistling or wooing, because of the sensitive mikes that pick up the audiences? ambient sounds.

The door opened and we lined down and in everything in the set looked so familiar as if I was looking down past my feet, as we watch the show in bed.

We were marched into the front left row next to the band. Count the rows the next time you see the show to notice how small the place really is. Once seated a warm up comic got folks in the mood, then Dave himself came out and talked to us for 90 seconds, after which he turned and made a scary face to his producer indicating that we the crowd may not up to expectation.

The band marched out genuinely happy. Dave behind the scene shows tremendous love for his people while they defer with admiration and fear. No one patronizes him, because it is all about him. He is the catalyst.

The funk based music kicks in we applaud, Dave walks out putting on his jacket, and he always tries to include something from the audience chat. He mentions something about losing a lease, mentioned in the warm up and the audience came to life. That night it was Juliann Moore, Robert Klein, and Todd Rudgren. (We got free CD?s as we left. You can have mine).

The magic of Dave is in his ability to work the camera with comedic nuance. He is masterfully subtle and only the camera perceives it. During commercials or taped comedy segments he is watching the screen laughing totally into the moment. Staff members huddle around him he confers, encourages, smiles and kids with them.

I couldn?t believe that we were watching the same stage where The Beatles, Elvis, Sinatra, everybody who is anybody in show business, in the last 50 years performed.

The stage was like New York City, media magnified and larger than life. If you can make it there you can make it anywhere.

About Al Carlos Hernandez:
Al Carlos is a columnist and screenwriter.

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