David Michael Letterman is an American television host, comedian, writer, producer and automobile racing team owner. He hosted late night television talk shows for 33 years, beginning with the February 1, 1982, debut of Late Night with David Letterman on NBC, and ending with the May 20, 2015, broadcast of Late Show with David Letterman on CBS. In total, Letterman hosted 6,080 episodes of Late Night and Late Show, surpassing his friend and mentor Johnny Carson as the longest serving late night talk show host in American television history. Take a look below for 40 more fascinating and interesting facts about David Letterman.
1. Letterman was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, and has a younger and older sister.
2. His father, Harry Joseph Letterman (April 15, 1915 – February 13, 1973), was a florist.
3. His mother, Dorothy Marie Letterman Mengering (July 18, 1921 – April 11, 2017), a church secretary for the Second Presbyterian Church of Indianapolis, was an occasional figure on Letterman’s show, usually at holidays and birthdays.
4. He lived on the north side of Indianapolis (Broad Ripple area), about 12 miles from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and he enjoyed collecting model cars, including racers.
5. In 2000, he told an interviewer for Esquire that, while growing up, he admired his father’s ability to tell jokes and be the life of the party.
6. Harry Joseph Letterman survived a heart attack at the age of 36, when David was a young boy. The fear of losing his father was constantly with Letterman as he grew up.
7. The elder Letterman died of a second heart attack at the age of 57.
8. Letterman attended his hometown’s Broad Ripple High School and worked as a stock boy at the local Atlas Supermarket.
9. According to the Ball State Daily News, he originally had wanted to attend Indiana University, but his grades were not good enough, so he instead attended Ball State University, in Muncie, Indiana.
10. He is a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity, and he graduated in 1969 from what was then the Department of Radio and Television.
11. A self-described average student, Letterman later endowed a scholarship for what he called “C students” at Ball State.
12. Though he registered for the draft and passed his physical after graduating from college, he was not drafted for service in Vietnam because of receiving a draft lottery number of 346 (out of 366).
13. Letterman began his broadcasting career as an announcer and newscaster at the college’s student-run radio station—WBST—a 10-watt campus station which now is part of Indiana Public Radio.
14. He was fired for treating classical music with irreverence. He then became involved with the founding of another campus station—WAGO-AM 570 (now WWHI, 91.3).
15. On August 17, 2011, it was reported that an Islamist militant had posted a death threat against Letterman on a website frequented by Al-Qaeda supporters, calling on American Muslims to kill Letterman for making a joke about the death of Ilyas Kashmiri, an Al-Qaeda leader who was killed in a drone strike in Pakistan in June 2011.
16. Letterman appeared in the pilot episode of the short-lived 1986 series “Coach Toast”, and he appears with a bag over his head as a guest on Bonnie Hunt’s 1990s sitcom, The Building.
17. He appeared in The Simpsons as himself in a couch gag when the Simpsons find themselves (and the couch) in “Late Night with David Letterman”.
18. He had a cameo in the feature film Cabin Boy, with Chris Elliott, who worked as a writer on Letterman’s show. In this and other appearances, Letterman is listed in the credits as “Earl Hofert”, the name of Letterman’s maternal grandfather.
19. In 2010, a documentary Dying to do Letterman was released directed by Joke Fincioen and Biagio Messina featuring Steve Mazan, a stand-up comic, who has cancer and wants to appear on the Letterman show. The film won best documentary and jury awards at the Cinequest Film Festival.
20. Letterman appeared as a guest on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight on May 29, 2012, when he was interviewed by Regis Philbin, the guest host and long-time friend.
21. In June 2013, he appeared in the second episode of season two of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.
22. On November 5, 2013, Letterman and Bruce McCall published a fiction satire book titled This Land Was Made for You and Me (But Mostly Me).
23. Letterman started his production company—Worldwide Pants Incorporated—which produced his show and several others. The company also produces feature films, documentaries, and founded its own record label, Clear Entertainment.
24. Worldwide Pants received significant attention in December 2007, after it was announced the company had independently negotiated its own contract with the Writers Guild of America, East, thus allowing Letterman, Craig Ferguson, and their writers to return to work, while the union continued its strike against production companies, networks, and studios with whom it had not yet reached an agreement.
25. Letterman, Bobby Rahal, and Mike Lanigan are co-owners of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, an auto racing team competing in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and NTT IndyCar series. The team won the 2004 Indianapolis 500 with driver Buddy Rice.
26. The Letterman Foundation for Courtesy and Grooming is a private foundation through which Letterman has donated millions of dollars to charities and other non-profits in Indiana and Montana, celebrity-affiliated organizations such as Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, Ball State University, the American Cancer Society, the Salvation Army, and Médecins Sans Frontières.
27. Letterman’s biggest influence and his mentor was Johnny Carson.
28. On July 2, 1968, Letterman married his college sweetheart, Michelle Cook, in Muncie, Indiana; their marriage ended in divorce by October 1977.
29. He also had a long-term live-in relationship with the former head writer and producer on Late Night, Merrill Markoe, from 1978 to 1988. Markoe was the mind behind several Late Night staples, such as “Stupid Pet/Human Tricks”.
30. Letterman and Regina Lasko started dating in February 1986, while he was still living with Markoe. Lasko gave birth to a son in 2003.
31. In 2005, police discovered a plot to kidnap his son and demand a ransom of US$5 million. Kelly Frank, a house painter who had worked for Letterman, was charged in the conspiracy.
32. Letterman and Lasko wed on March 19, 2009, during a quiet courthouse civil ceremony in Choteau, Montana, where he had purchased a ranch in 1999. Letterman announced the marriage during the taping of his show of March 23, shortly after congratulating Bruce Willis for his marriage the week before.
33. Letterman suffers from tinnitus – a symptom of hearing loss. On the Late Show in 1996, Letterman talked about his experience with tinnitus during an interview with William Shatner, who himself has severe tinnitus, caused by an on-set explosion.
34. Letterman no longer drinks alcohol. On more than one occasion, he said that he had once been a “horrible alcoholic” and had begun drinking around the age of 13 and continued until 1981 when he was 34.
35. Letterman is a Presbyterian, a religious tradition he was originally brought up in by his mother.
36. Letterman is a car enthusiast, and owns an extensive collection. In 2012, it was reported that the collection consisted of ten Ferraris, eight Porsches, four Austin-Healeys, two Honda motorcycles, a Chevy pickup and one car each from automakers Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, MG, Volvo, and Pontiac.
37. Letterman shares a close relationship with the rock and roll band Foo Fighters since their appearance on his first show upon his return from heart surgery. The band appeared many times on the Late Show, including a week-long stint in October 2014.
38. Beginning in May 1988, Letterman was stalked by Margaret Mary Ray, a woman suffering from schizophrenia. She stole his Porsche, camped out on his tennis court, and repeatedly broke into his house.
39. In 2005 another obsessed fan was able to obtain a restraining order prohibiting Letterman from contacting her. She claimed the New York based Letterman had sent coded messages to her via his television program, causing her bankruptcy and emotional distress.
40. On October 1, 2009, Letterman announced on his show that he had been the victim of a blackmail attempt by a person threatening to reveal his sexual relationships with several of his female employees – a fact Letterman immediately thereafter confirmed to be true.