I'm saying goodbye to an old friend tonight. He doesn't know it, but that's okay. There will be millions of other people at the party, watching the last broadcast of Late Show with David Letterman.
My particular goodbye started in December. It had been a busy week. Then one day -- out of the blue and on our walk home after a hard run -- I thought, "No! Forget about everything except being in the Late Show audience." So I did. I imagined where we'd be sitting, but I didn't stop there. I imagined what I'd ask Dave during the audience warmup. And by the time we got home I was smiling so big my face hurt.
No matter we were -- what? -- less than a week from heading to New York City, 10 or 11 days away from one of three nights we'd be able to attend a taping. I hadn't heard from anyone after submitting the appropriate paperwork, and my chances appeared to be approaching zero but quick.
Within two or three days of my change of focus, though, I was on the phone with a guy named Kevin, answering his trivia question correctly. Less than a week later, there we were -- in the studio audience! I couldn't believe it. That set! Just like it looks when you watch on TV. I couldn't get over how cozy it felt. I kept scanning the room as I inhaled everything -- remembering how many, many, many times I'd imagined being there.
Alan Kalter did most of the warmup. Alec Baldwin on the video was hilarious. More Alan. Paul and the band. And then Dave! He only had "a minute" so I knew I couldn't be shy. When he started talking to some guy about his jacket I thought that might be it. But before he could finish his question about whether there were any questions my hand shot up. We were right in his line of sight -- I'll always wonder how much my enthusiasm with Kevin on the phone the week before was responsible for that -- and I'll always thank my lucky stars for our great seats.
I'd been imagining this moment for years. Or at least since I discovered -- by way of Twitter, I think -- Dave does a warmup. It's when he's at his best, in my opinion. He's the master of the moment. I could no longer deny just how badly I wanted to talk with him. This was my chance. It's what I came to do.
So when he called on me the first thing I did was look behind me to make sure he was, indeed, talking to me. He was. He asked my name. Maureen Anderson. He asked where I was from. Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. Is that the answer I had to repeat because he didn't hear it the first time? He asked where Detroit Lakes is. Forty miles east of Fargo. "Oh," he said -- I think. But then for sure something like, "So you're way up there." I could see my husband motioning with his thumb as if to say, "Yes, it's way up there." Then Dave asked what I do for a living and when I said I'm a radio talk show host people applauded. They applauded. I got applause in the Ed Sullivan Theater for the answer to a question David Letterman asked me! "Good for you," I think he said. And then, "What brings you to New York?" I told him our daughter goes to NYU. "What year is she?" he asked. "Sophomore." And he said, "So you're bringing her back home for the holidays." I nodded as he said, "That's very nice." And again I thought that might be it because it felt like we'd already used up a minute.
Then he said, "What's your question?" And I said, "In all the years you've been doing the show, if you could relive one installment for the sheer joy of it, what would it be?" I think that's how I worded it, anyway. I was so excited it was difficult to believe it was happening. He didn't really bite, though -- at least in terms of answering it seriously. He kind of looked down -- as if that isn't how they roll -- but he repeated the question at least twice, and eventually brought Paul in on it. After joking around a little bit they decided on the show with Selena Gomez. And that was it.
Later as I watched a clip or two of shows recorded after ours -- and clips from the warmups that were posted online -- I realized I hadn't thrown out something easy for him to riff on. But I had one chance to ask him a question, and I wanted to ask about something that mattered.
I just couldn't get over as we got settled in we were sitting exactly where I'd imagined sitting. Then I couldn't get over I got to ask exactly the question I'd imagined asking.
And I decided, right there on the spot, to never again doubt my ability to make a dream come true.
Silly? Maybe. But Dave's made a nice living -- and life -- by being silly.
He's also been the backdrop for most of the big moments in my own life. Even when I was at my lowest I knew -- because he could still make me laugh -- things would be okay.
Funny how the person responsible for so much laughter is making so many of us sad tonight.