These unused tickets are from a taping of the Late Show with Letterman 25 years ago today, Monday, February 19, 1996. Tonight’s guests X-File’s Star Gillian Anderson, Opera Singer Cecilia Bartoli and famous for being famous (?) Kathy Lee Gifford. I was supposed to be in the audience with my then-girlfriend, now-wife Barbara.
I am not sure she even knows parts or the whole story. I assume she reads the blog, so she might now. I found these tickets while cleaning out some old things a few weeks back. In 2021 cancel culture Letterman is not having a good week, but he was the man back then – at least to me. I was a fan since I was a teen and Late Night Days. This was the new show on CBS days. It took up to 6 months to get tickets to the show. You had to write to them – pen, paper, and stamp – for tickets. They were free, but you were given the date, and it was not changeable.
Barbara and I had been twice in previous years. We watched his show nearly every night together. At one of the shows we attended in 1995 – the one with Kevin Spacey (another thing aged badly) and Crash Test Dummies – Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm, it occurred to me, I want to get engaged at the show. It seemed like an easy thing to do. I will just write to them and explain how it would work. How can they say no? Even back then, I kind of just did things. It would be great for his show, right? I am doing Letterman a favor really. At the very least, we could do it before the show.
I was not asking to be a guest. I mean, if he wanted to bring me on stage, I would be happy to do so, again whatever is good for the show. Having been there a couple of times, I knew how it worked. Dave comes out, talks to the crowd, casual, joking, etc. It would be a perfect time to ask her to marry me. Dave comes out, picks on me in the crowd, back and forth, banter, we play off each other, all planned – “What brings you here, young man?” “Well, Dave, thanks for asking… ” boom down on a knee and engaged! Roll credits, Dave comes to the wedding, maybe officiates? We could work around his time off. I wrote all this in the letter, very detailed, bullet points, etc. hardly any work on their part.
Now, as I said takes about 4-6 months to get the tickets. I had just started the process to try to buy a business, and I was finishing school. If I request at the end of January, that will put us in April-June. This could work out, it all could be worked around, plan a trip to NYC in the spring, and we had done it before, so it made sense would not seem suspicious. Wrote letter and mailed it. Ten days later, TEN…. I get a letter back with two tickets for February 19 – mere days away. I am not ready, and this was not the plan, the spring trip was mentioned in the letter on page two. And there is NO mention on my plan. Not even a “got it Tim”, just a form letter some intern probably typed out.
All these thoughts – the tickets are numbered, will they know it is me? How? Would we have to rehearse, but she is with me. I could send her to the M&M store. Will I get the script to learn? Why would we go in February? She is going to say it’s cold to wait in line in NYC. I got school, three jobs, she had work, it’s a Monday. I don’t have a ring yet! That was a big part, no ring. Needless to say, we did not go. I could not even tell her. It would have given away I was going to ask her to marry me. So that was it, not getting engaged at Lettermen. Hid the tickets and did not talk about it for 25 years. I watched the show that night. She sat beside me, the whole time wondering if they were looking for the couple with tickets 229 and 230. I doubt it, but we will never know. Though they just tossed me the tickets as fast as they tossed my letter and well-thought-out plan, I am sure.
We got engaged that summer. That’s a whole other story that will be celebrating the 25th anniversary in a few months too.