In one fell swoop, longtime ‘Late Show’ actor and cue-card guy Tony Mendez lost his temper, a good friend, and his job. After a nearly twenty-year relationship — 69-year-old Mendez has characterized Dave as his “good friend” and “like a cousin,” — the card-holder and actor was fired after assaulting a fellow writer.
October 8th, Mendez, Letterman, and staff writer Bill Scheft were rehearsing at the Ed Sullivan theater; Mendez apparently wasn’t happy with Scheft’s “passive-aggressive” behavior.
“[Scheft] encroaches on my work. He tells me what to do, and I have to say, ‘I know what I’m doing.’ And a lot of time when I am making changes [to the cards], he’ll stand there looking over my shoulder, and he’ll say something like, ‘Put that on top,’ because he got an idea. Bill was always undermining me — making himself out as Dave’s No. 1. Trying to pretend that I wasn’t even in the room . . . little passive-aggressive things. As Dave is giving me a change, Bill will start yelling the same change — but his own version — because he’ll think it’s funnier. And I have to say, ‘One at a time, I can’t hear anybody!’ ”
According to Mendez, Letterman said “Tony, your sour disposition isn’t helping,” to which Mendez replied (in his cousinly way?), “You’re the one who has the sour disposition, motherfucker.” But that didn’t seem to ruffle Dave’s feathers much; it was the following day’s events that got Mendez fired.
After stewing all night over what Mendez viewed as Bill Scheft’s attempts to drive a wedge between Tony and Dave, the next morning, Mendez greeted his fellow writer by slamming him against a wall.
“I just grabbed him by the shirt. He was very surprised. He didn’t say a word. He was cowering, his eyes were real big, he probably peed a little bit on his pants.
I’m the first one to say I should have never put my hands on him, but I never hit him. I just grabbed him and got my face in his face.”
Immediately following the assault, Mendez was escorted from the theater. Monday morning, Late Show executive producer Rob Burnett informed Mendez he’d been terminated. Mendez claims that Letterman had nothing to do with his being fired, saying the host is often kept “isolated” or “in the dark,” and that CBS probably has a zero tolerance policy. Um, yeah…with good reason, dude. Not only do you seem proud of throwing a guy against a wall, but it sounds like you took a little too much joy in terrorizing him. Not exactly the way to solve your co-worker disputes. Seems like this might be a good time to retire…get back to the ballet.
Mendez says he doesn’t believe in regret; “You do some things, and then you learn from them.”