Friday, March 24, 2006

brush with greatness

To honor my alma mater, I dug through the closet and found four different George Mason sweatshirts to wear to work this week. Now I have to decide which one to wear to Bailey's Sports Grille for the viewing party tonight as I root for GMU in the NCAA tournament. You're all invited, by the way. The sweatshirts reminded me of a favorite story from early in my radio career. During a period of unemployment last year, I started writing my memoirs. Today seems like a good day to share an excerpt with you. It's my ultimate GMU sweatshirt story.
My father used to play tennis with Bill Wendell before he was the announcer for “Late Night with David Letterman.” When my wife and I went to New York for our honeymoon, I called Mr. Wendell and asked him for tickets to the show. He got us VIP seats in the front row. We had been warned that Letterman likes the studio cold and to dress warmly. I wore my favorite George Mason University sweatshirt. Dave came into the audience before the show to take questions. He noticed my GMU sweatshirt and asked me if he could have it. The sweatshirt had cost me $45, so I said no!

That summer, Don Geronimo was doing the afternoon show at WAVA. He had started an on-air campaign to get David Letterman to say hi to Washington D.C. on TV. After repeated calls to Letterman's staff, Don decided that he would try to crash the Late Night show and invited me to come along. It was about a week or two after my honeymoon trip to NBC. We took a shuttle from National Airport, landed at LaGuardia and took a cab to Rockefeller Center.

I called Bill Wendell from a phone in the lobby. He said he didn’t have tickets for that night’s show but invited us up for a tour of the studio anyway. He took us to the control room where I recognized Pete Fatovich, the associate director. I grew up in a house about a block from Mr. Fatovich’s house. His son, Peter Jr., was in my class from first through sixth grades. Pete whispered something to Bill about us and then Bill Wendell took us out into the hall and told us exactly where to stand. It turns out that he put us in the right spot to be at the front of the standby ticket line when the audience arrived.

Thanks to Bill Wendell and Pete Fatovich, Don and I got in to the show. We were seated near the back of the audience. David Letterman came out to do his nightly warm up as Don tried to get his attention. We were too far back. I had an idea that just might work. I held my GMU sweatshirt high above my head. Letterman spotted it and asked “haven’t you been here before?” I said yes and Dave asked “are you prepared to part with your sweatshirt this time?” I hesitated; once again thinking about the $45 it cost me. Don elbowed me in the ribs and emphatically said, “I’ll buy you a new one!” As Letterman walked up the stairs toward us to get the shirt, Don said “we’ll give you the shirt, but you have to say hi to Washington on the air.” Letterman agreed but went through almost the whole show without saying anything about DC. At the very end as Dave was thanking his guests, Geronimo shouted out, “Say hi to Washington!” Letterman said, “Oh yeah, hi to the folks in Washington! Good night everybody!”

Nine years later, I was working at KROQ when David Letterman brought the "Late Show" to Los Angeles for a week. I tried everything to get him on the air with Kevin & Bean despite the fact that Dave rarely does interviews. I called CBS in New York and LA. I wrote letters. I tried to figure out where he was staying. Eventually one of my inquiries paid off. I was talking to a friend in the TV business about my quest. She said that she had seen Letterman in the elevator of an expensive hotel on the beach. I called the hotel and asked for Letterman’s room. They put me through but after several rings the hotel voice mail system answered. I left a message for Dave explaining that I worked for the Kevin & Bean show and wanted him to call in. I even said that I had given Dave my GMU sweatshirt years earlier in New York. I never got a call from Dave but the next day a CBS courier showed up at KROQ with a delivery for me. It was a brand new “Late Show with David Letterman” sweatshirt. So I guess we’re even.
Copyright © 2006 Frank Murphy. All rights reserved.
AddThis Social Bookmark Button


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good work Frank! I love the behind the scenes of the Don & Mike Show from 'the day'. Keep 'em coming!

Anonymous Wayne said...

Hey Frank,Im glad your on 102.1 in the AM,Ive listened to you since you were with fat phil.Great website too.I just found it and will check back often,Later,Wayne

Anonymous James said...

Hi Frank!
This story is neat!!
Thanks for sharing!!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Frank, I was buzzing through some of your old posts and saw some pics from last August.. WOW, you have lost lots of weight. But no exercise, right?

Why not come out to the stadium this Sunday morning and watch the end of the marathon. You might get inspired to take on such a task (next year).

You look great Frank! Come watch and cheer me on at the finish (I lost 70 pounds)

Anonymous Pam Mc said...

That is a way kewl story. I am probably one of the most star struck people I know, you seem to know ALOT of them too. Keep up the good work and the terrific stories.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home