The How and Why of Writing
Writing the Letters: How I Obtained PerspectiveLike most of us, I had watched Dave's show off and on since the early 60s. However, like most of us, I viewed it uncritically. I accepted unquestioningly all the little foibles and inconsistencies of his nightly plate of television fare - such as why, next to Dave, the show's best dresser is Bill Wendell (Mr. Golf Sweater). Or why, when Dave makes a call to someone in The Rudest City in the Free World, no one ever swears at him.
When I began to write to Dave, however, I found the need to view the program with a fresh eye. As I was advised against the medical infeasibility of such a procedure, I had to develop techniques to simulate such a new view. The following were a few of the tricks I utilized to gain the proper distance from the Letterman:
- Colored Pieces of cellophane - It is amazing how different a show looks through an amber sheet of plastic. For one thing, Dave's ties began to match his suits. Also of note: Schaffer didn't look as bald.
- Television screen magnifier - An ingenious device: depending on how much of the screen you covered, some people actually looked larger than Dave. A warning, however: when using this on the tight close-ups of Dave, you can see up his nose. I had just eaten when I found this out.
- Two weeks' worth of Globe and Star stories - The supposedly "more responsible" media such as Entertainment Tonight often failed to cover the less flattering sides of Dave's personal life. Like that fling he had with the pygmy. Or the time he bought Michael Jackson's bones.
- Telling bits of garbage - For a modest sum, a private agency will rummage discreetly through a celebrity's refuse. Did you know that Dave has his own stationery? Yes, he does.
- Altered mindstates - On not less than two occasions, I subjected myself to a full dozen heavily-glazed donuts prior to my viewing of the show, and kept detailed notes of my thoughts during the experience. The handwriting's complete illegibility does not detract from the significance of my revelations.
- Squinting - Once used only for navigating in bright light or as a substitute for eyeglasses, this simple visual technique is now being employed extensively by professional viewers as a means of ascertaining when a performer is lying. An additional, but unscientific, technique involves shaking your head from side to side. I've used both techniques in combination to watch Leave It to Beaver, and have had remarkable success in judging when Eddie Haskell was being insincere with June Cleaver.
- Alternating the vantage point - We all have our favorite spot on the couch. But as I found, sitting in different places can make a world of viewing difference. For instance, if you sit halfway down the hall, you can perceive the relative insignificance of the show in the larger macrocosm of the living room. And if you sit directly behind the set, you find that you can't see Dave at all. It's like an eerie, disembodied voice is luring you to let down your guard and just when you begin to laugh, something awful will happen.
- Monitoring Dave's mood swings - Jack Benny once said that the level of childish giddiness or misanthropic frustration a performer displays (depending on how the show is succeeding) can tell you a lot about his/her stability in military combat. I found that Dave would vacillate between absurd glee and sullen contempt at least 5 times a minute. If the draft returns, I have decided not to stand next to Dave when they assign foxholes.
- Submerging the TV set in water, or sunflower oil - Though logically fruitful as a viewing device, this trick did nothing whatsoever to aid in my understanding of Dave. I wouldn't even try this again. And while you're at it, don't bother removing the knobs on your set.
Subjects I decided to AvoidHaving gained a firm grip on the essence of Dave, my next task was to weed out ideas which might cause Dave discomfort, create embarrassment for him, or generally tick him off. The following letter subjects (some already written as letters) were jettisoned:
- Johnny Carson
- Ball State's football team
- Dave's damnable gout
- Indiana, the Hoosier state
- Johnny's not anointing Dave
- Dave's meteorological past
- the way Dave looks at Larry Bud
- the ________Show, with Jay Leno
- Sitting in ice water accidentally
- Crispin Glover
Why I Decided to Write to Dave, Instead of Others
- Dave was a famous person; others were not.
- I respected Dave for his unflinching use of the word "beverage"
- "Dave" had fewer characters in it than "Sigfried and Roy" (when you're writing hundreds of letters, it matters)
- I had never seen Dave endorse medical products for your crotch.
- Ben Franklin was dead, and so might be less likely to respond.
- Dave's sister was a woman named Beth.
- Love, American Style was not an individual, and so could not receive mail.
- I was told Dave lived in Baltimore during the off-season, and I'd always loved the Carolinas.
- I knew Dave could read.
- His arrest record indicated nothing of concern.
- Dave was the only other person I'd ever found who disliked Jehovah's Witnesses (what is their appeal?)
- I kept forgetting the "Garden Weasel®" guy's name.
- I'd heard Dave once accepted a letter from the pontiff, and granted him an audience.
- Dave knows women.
- I felt sorry for him and his haircut.
- Everyone wrote to Brenner.
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© 1995 John Cady and the Lounge Life Press