I missed the Letterman farewell, just as I missed the last day at work for someone who worked at the restaurant but had different shifts and was also something of a pill. But it reminded me of the early days of the show, when I was a staunch devotee. It played with the form, and back then we were all about remaking the old models from the inside. (Blowing them up and inventing something new hadn’t worked out so well.) At the time I was living in a godless concrete block 18 floors above a bar that dumped out the bottles in the dumpster at 1:30 AM, and taught me how many flights such sound would travel: at least 18. It was a studio in Cedar Square West. I learned that Borax, poured along the baseboard, discouraged cockroaches. For a while I listened on headphones with the lights off in case the stalker made it into the building. Ever since he’d shown the gun around the restaurant I’d been hiding out.
ARE YOU SERIOUS you say, and yes, I am. But it wasn’t headphones like you’re thinking: just one ear, one of those 1960s transistor radio earplugs that left the other ear free for hearing things like cocked pistols or knocks on the door. He was a big crazy guy in an Army coat, supposedly a Vietnam Vet, a door gunner. Who knew if that was so. Calculating expression, cagy, and when drunk, loud and mean. I had him 86d and he vowed vengeance; showed up later and showed his gun around and said he was going to blast a new icehole in someone, to use Moroni lingo. I called the cops and they started a file; he was later arrested for fighting, was committed as a headcase. I attended the hearing where he was released; as the judge let him go he spun around in his chair slowly, pretending to rub his face, and when he faced me he had his middle finger grinding into the bridge of his nose.
Then he found other venues to vex; then he was jailed; then he was dead.
I moved out of the studio to the house owned by a man who would, 30 years later, be splashed in the newspaper as a former Nazi hiding in North Minneapolis; my roommates included a young fellow who went into the private detective profession before he gave it up and became an Orthodox priest, if I recall correctly, but none of that is here nor there. I still watched Letterman, but also Overnight, a low-budget, smart, sarcastic news show NBC put out to fill up the late-night hours. I can see the room where I lived, the big Lyonel Feininger framed painting on the wall (a gift from an unrequited crush, and let me tell you, that threw me. You don’t give a framed Feininger to someone for whom you don’t have some feelings), the TI/99 computer on the desk, the guitar in the corner, the milk-crate bookshelves, the cheap little TV whose channel selector I turned with a pliers. Why? Because in those days, chilluns, the stations were far apart - there was 2, 4, 5 and then 11, and you stripped the knob going from 5 to 11 too quickly.
I remember a story on Overnight about something called GRID, which summed up the worst thing in the world: it was cancer you got from sex. That’s what they called it. I wasn’t personally worried on account of the G-R part, but figured this might break out and be a problem. It came on the heels of the Great Herpes Panic, which had consumed the media in the early 80s. EVERYONE WOULD GET HERPES. It’s chancre city, man, and you couldn’t look at a girl without thinking of a WW2 VD poster where the prostitute has a skeleton head.
This passed, but only because GRID turned into something else, but that was a few years away. After a year I left the house and got a proper apartment, the best place ever, and soon after a new girlfriend, and it’s there my memories of making time for the Letterman show end. All the people previously mentioned are still alive, except for Sarge, who ate the gun he showed around. David Letterman is fabulously wealthy. I suspect, but can’t prove, that I am happier than he is. I’d see clips from time to time, and he seemed cramped and brackish.
It was a dense and potent time. The good thing? I knew it when I was living it. For good and for ill, nothing like that since.
For some reason -
Well, no, there’s a good reason. I got a call from the local public radio station, asking if I’d like to do a show about my favorite classical pieces. (A friend who did the show recommended me; not like they plucked me out the air.) I called up iTunes, and saw one of the first albums was AIRPORT. The soundtrack. It has its moments. It made me want to see the movie, so I called it up and started to enjoy it for reasons that are probably rare. (Because I’m SPECIAL!)
That's Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. Before its renovations it was full of glazed brick - black on the outside, reddish hues on the inside. You can still see the black here and there, but most of the old airport has been revised.
I saw it on TV as a kid, and loved the movie. For good reason - it's a solid popular movie, and Dean Martin was born to play a 1969 passenger jet pilot. Of course I was thrilled to take a flight from here when I grew up. I had no idea it would smell like cigarettes and hamburgers.
Construction update: 4Marq. I'm liking this one, a lot. ITS NOT GLASS.
That's how it looks. Why do I mention that? Because that's not how it looks in the photo. Everything leans and looms in the picture, and I've no idea if that's how it really looks, and I think it looks like it does above, or the lens does something.
Says the photography expert. "The lens does something." Durr.
Here's another, right around the corner:
Exciting, no? No. It'll be low-rise office building for Xcel. Used to be a sad tired parking ramp and some vacated retail; the empty lot next door - the site of the former Powers Department store - is residential now, as is 4 Marq on the backside of this block. Nice piece of work all around.
Our final addition from H & G: late 60s radio design.
FMafc? It's Automatic Frequency Control. Keeps the signal from drifting.
The blue is the decade going away, and the green is the decade coming on.
As usual for Friday, the Music Cues. Of course we begin with the Couple Next Door, with its cheerful soundtrack of the mid-century domestic scene.
Lots of new cues in the 600 episode series. I'm surprised - and I wonder where they were keeping them, and didn't use them before.
CND Cue #546 This sounds like nothing else they ever used.
CND Cue #547 Music to throw an apple at a fat businessman walking down the street!
Moving along with the innumerable Gunsmoke cues. Like the show itself - all different, and all the same . . . or so I used to say. The cues went with a full orchestra, heavy on the echo, and now we got Copeland-style Western stuff.
Gunsmoke #84 Were I a high school orchestra teacher, I'd use the whole piece. If it could be found.
Gunsmoke #85 Sometimes it just didn't sound right at all.
Back to the Couple Next Door. As I wrote last week:
Peg never said explictly where the show was located, and she lived outside of New York, so I always assumed it was a nice town far enough from New York to feel apart. Then again, there were always Minnesota roots for the show; it began in Minnesota, had the original name "Ethel and Albert" - as in Albert Lea - and the couple lived on Edgecombe Road, which is a street in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Eventually she started dropping actual Minnesota placenames into the script. Last week it was Mankato, which was "forty miles away." Here's another:
Where is the show?
So Mazeppa was 200 miles away, and Mankato is 40 miles away. The red marker is Mazeppa.
The round shaded area is a 40 mile radius from Mankato. We need one more city . . . and we'll get it next week.
To round out the radio offerings, this week's advertisement. It's from 1962. Millions love them!
The 1962 Kent campaign, part 2
More from the excruciatingly ordinary Readers Digest record collection.
It's all the hits of today, played by clean-cut people who don't do drugs. This time:
Harry James? HARRY JAMES? Well, he was still alive; didn't kick off until 1983. So it's his orchestra, and maybe that's him at the start. I had no idea.
That ends the cornucopia of stuff; sorry if it was all scattered and regular feature-upon-regular-feature, but it's better than just an empty day, right? DON'T ANSWER that. Just go enjoy the 60s update. It's been spiffed and renamed and restocked.