If you didn’t catch this last night, or still haven’t heard about it, this is likely the most compelling ten minutes of television you will see this year. Last night, David Letterman confessed that he’d been blackmailed by an employee, who was asking $2 million, or else he would write a screenplay revealing Dave’s dirty secrets.
Those secrets? That Letterman has been having sexual relations with female members of his staff. “I have had sex with women who work for me on this show.”
I have no idea how in God’s name Dave managed to turn this moment into a heady mixture of comedy and pathos, but it’s amazing.
As to the actual affairs? How do I feel about what is, essentially, my lifelong idol having sexual relations with staffers? Man, I don’t even know. I went through this a decade ago, when my other childhood idol, Bill Clinton, had the Lewinsky affair. I eventually got over that. But this? Jesus. It’s upsetting. Disappointing. I mean: We don’t know the details. I do know that he’s been with his wife for 15 some-odd years, though they just got married last year. He also has a child. When did these affairs happen? Did his wife know? Was there any sort of abuse of power? Sexual harassment? I suspect no to the latter — he’s not that kind of guy (or at least, I don’t think he is — although, until last night, I didn’t think he was the kind of guy to sleep around, either.) But I also suspect that these affairs have been ongoing for years — they involve multiple female staffers, and it was an existing employee who was attempting to blackmail him for $2 million.
And as a guy who is both repulsed by adultery and fascinated by the motivations that drive a person to do something so fucking selfish, self-destructive, and hurtful — well, I’m confused. It’s probably not that huge a deal for some of you — it’s not like he did anything illegal. But for me — I suspect it’s tantamount to finding out Jon Stewart was doing the same thing, for many of you.
This will all be fodder for the other late-night comedians in the coming weeks, I suspect, and I suspect that most of you find it equally amusing and distasteful. But I’m at a loss — he’s not just another late-night host to me. He’s fucking Dave Letterman, man. I watch him every single morning — it’s the first thing I do when I sit down to work. I’ve already prewritten a lengthy obituary for him, should something terrible happen. Hell, In high school, Jeremy C. Fox (a former writer here) and I used to put together our own late-night shows — we had all these ideas that, if they were good enough, we’d seen them to Dave and he’d have us on his show. Hell, mine and Jeremy’s entire friendship was based on our mutual love and admiration for Dave — God knows, we had nothing else in common.
So, I’m rambling. I’m rambling because I’m a little shaken by this. Because the one guy who is not supposed to do this is David Fucking Letterman. And I’m … I’m at a loss.