There were Letterman people and there were Leno people. I’m a Letterman guy. Jay is a standup comedy hall of famer, but I’ve always been more comfortable with Dave’s sensibilities.
Our brief moment of bonding came in 1993, as I was getting ready to move from the Hartford CBS station to NBC Connecticut, and Dave had left NBC for the chance to compete with Leno, after losing the Tonight Show job to Jay.
He was doing satellite interviews with the affiliates, and we were told in no uncertain terms: no more than 5 minutes with Letterman.
When I was asked for a mic check, instead of the usual counting to 10, I said, “Hi Dave, Gerry Brooks in Hartford. I saw you outside the Duomo in Florence (Italy) a few weeks ago.”
“Oh yeah? What was I wearing?”
“Navy blue shorts, navy blue polo, navy blue Kangol cap.”
“I was! Did you try to talk to me?”
“No, you were on vacation, I was on vacation, and I figured your life wouldn’t be enriched by meeting me at that moment.”
“Give the guy in Hartford all the time he wants.”
(Unknown voice from New York): “Dave we have to stick to schedule.”
“I said give the guy in Hartford all the time he wants!”
What Dave wanted was to talk about was travel. We discussed Italy, then moved on to the pleasures of St. Barth’s, and then I heard the unknown voice again.
“Hartford, you’re killing us!”
Ahhhh. They couldn’t yell at Dave, so they figured they could yell at me. Not a good idea.
“Leave the guy in Hartford alone. We’re talking!”
Eventually, I got in a couple of questions about his show.
And now it’s over. Dave had a great run at CBS. I’ve still never met him face-to-face. But our satellite time together was a “moment.”
And now, if I saw him outside the Duomo in Florence?
I’d still leave him alone.