For some time now I have noticed certain parallels between David Letterman's life and my own.
He was born in the Midwest and I was born in the Midwest.
He does four TV shows a week and I do four newspaper columns a week.
He makes $14 million a year and I . . . OK, so our lives are not identical.
But I have always enjoyed his show and when Channel 54 offered me a four-minute satellite interview with him yesterday, I jumped at the chance.
Channel 54 will be running Letterman's new CBS show when it debuts at 11:35 p.m. on Aug. 30. That's because its general manager and resident genius, Joe Koff, snatched it up when Channel 11, the CBS affiliate, decided it had to run Arsenio Hall instead.
So I drove over to Channel 54 and sat down in front of a monitor on which I could see Letterman, who was in New York. He was smoking a big cigar and being pretty funny.
"I will do the new show without pants on until they stop me!" he shouted.
Asked what the advantages of coming to CBS were, Letterman replied: "I get to use Dan Rather's eyeliner."
Here is a transcript of my interview with Letterman:
Me: Hi, Mr. Letterman, how are you?
Dave: Is this Roger?
Dave: Nice to meet you Roger. You know, I was just in Baltimore a few weeks ago.
Me: Really? For what?
Dave: For the All Star Game. Does that ring a bell, Roger?
Me: I didn't see you there.
Dave: (laughter) I didn't see you there, either. But I'm stunned at what a lovely community Baltimore seems to be. There's the ballpark . . . but the thing that really knocked me out, do you have any idea of what it was, Roger?
Me: The harbor?
Dave: The harbor is beautiful. It's the Inner Harbor, by the way.
Me: That's right. So what knocked you out about Baltimore?
Dave: crab cakes. I couldn't get enough of them. Un-bee-leev-able.
Me: I'll have to put that on my list.
Dave: You've never had a crab cake?
Me: No, I have. I was joking.
Dave: Jeez. Don't make me come out there, Roger.
Me: Doing these interviews seems awfully nice of you. I don't want to say uncharacteristically nice of you, but . . .
Dave: (prolonged laughter)
Me: . . . but it seems very nice of you. Are you really pushing the new show?
Dave: Yeah. Absolutely. I want to do anything I possibly can to help ourselves, to help CBS, to help Channel 54. It's fun. It's an easy way to travel around the country. But get yourself some of those crab cakes.
Dave: There are two kinds of sauce. There's like a white sauce. Which between you and me was OK. It was not great; it was OK. And then they had this red sauce and man, I'm telling you, that was like a day at the beach.
And also, let me add, these were ballpark crab cakes. How good could they have been? And yet they were unbelievable!
Me: You used to do four shows a week and then use a re-run for the fifth show. But now you're going to have to do five shows a week until you save up enough to do re-runs. Are you going to renegotiate your contract?
Dave: (laughter) That five-day work week is going to be a backbreaker.
Me: One TV critic has said of you that you are "the first living pop artifact of post-modern culture." Do you have any idea what that means?
Dave: I have no idea.
Me: Me either.
Dave: That kind of thing . . . I don't know. You know, Roger, the thing that is really important in life? The kind of thing we ought to be centering our attention on and focusing on today? The thing that is really of any use or interest or tangible influence on a person's daily existence?
Dave: Crab cakes!
Me: (laughter) Good luck on your new show.
Dave: Listen, Roger, if you ever come to New York City . . .
Me: Yes? Yes?
Dave: If you ever come to New York City, you know, just keep it to yourself.
Which is why I like Dave. He's such a kidder.