Letterman not a 'stand-up' comedian
Rita Papazian
Norwalk-Citizen News
Posted: 10/16/2009

The David Letterman sex scandal makes me uncomfortable for many reasons and I'm looking forward to an opportunity to hear the other side of the story as the lawyer for Norwalk resident Robert Joel Halderman says there is.

For those who may not know what I'm talking about here's a synopsis. The TV Late Show host is the target of an alleged extortion by Halderman. In the alleged plot against Letterman, his accuser, a TV producer, said that Letterman was doing "creepy" stuff. The creepy stuff involved sex with women who work for Letterman on his TV show.

As it is often said in the media business, Letterman got ahead of the alleged extortion story. He revealed the alleged extortion plot during his show couched in his usual Midwestern comic delivery. This took the shock out of the real life drama--a drama that even Halderman in his threat of exposure wrote would make a great screenplay.

No doubt, someone, somewhere, is at a computer spewing out the titillating details of a 34-year-old female assistant who has a sexual relationship with her boss, a 62-year-old father of a 5-year-old child, who married the child's mother less than a year ago. Not only that, there are claims that the TV show host had a habit of having sex with his female underlings. Letterman claims the sex with his assistants happened before he married his longtime girl friend of more than 20 years. However, recent news reports a Letterman's sighting near Halderman's home last August. The assistant had been living with Halderman up until recently.
As Gerald Shargel, the lawyer for Halderman noted, Letterman is a "master of manipulation." Since his show is taped earlier in the evening, news of Letterman's revelations on his show was made public before the show aired.. Therefore, viewers knew what Letterman was going to say when he slowly in his typical manner of telling a story presented the minute by minute narrative of how he left his home in Manhattan and found a package on the seat of his driver's car with allegedly copies of the young woman's diary, photos and other materials revealing the side of Letterman contrary to the image he has presented for many years. The alleged extortionist, according to Letterman, demanded $2 million, which was paid in a check at subsequent meetings between Letterman and Halderman.

This story makes me very uncomfortable for many reasons. First, as media reports have noted, Letterman, not federal prosecutors, became the person who not only revealed the alleged extortion plot but also decided when and how to do so. He took control over the story when the prosecutors in high-profile cases love to be the ones who bathe in the spotlight revealing such alleged plots to the public.

Second, by allowing Letterman to run the show -- and quite a show it was -- he couched the seedy story in such a manner that the presentation garnered the affect that the TV show host intended. The story proved no big deal to his audience and probably to the TV viewers for it was just Dave, the college frat boy being Dave. Aw shucks. After all, as Dave claims, all this sex was before he got married. Forget he had a child and forget he supposedly was having a longtime relationship with the boy's mother who became his wife.

Third, let us not forget, that the alleged extortion plot deals with Dave having sex with women who worked for him. Now here, the waters get muddy for it is reported that Dave is employed by his own production company, not CBS and therefore, his actions may fall under the guidelines of his own company. We haven't been privy to sexual harassment policies of either CBS or Worldwide Pants, Letterman's company, so we don't know if he is in violation of any sexual harassment policies. However, one can only imagine what the work environment is like when female employees are having sex with the boss, especially a TV host who often selects the young women for comedy skits on air and therefore increases their pay. Reportedly, the female in the tug-of-war between the two men in this sordid story was paid $200,000 a year. She is now on a paid leave of absence.

Four, what does the alleged extortionist really mean by the word "creepy"? It appeared that Letterman enjoyed repeating that word for he did so a number of times during his mea culpa. And why wouldn't he. Don't children just love to say that word C R E E P Y? It reminds one of bugs -- those creepy crawlers, those itsy, bitsy spiders that crawl up and down the waterspout.

The word creepy is a real giveaway in all this. I believe Halderman was being gentle in his choice of words.

In this case, what is Letterman's story actually spewing out to the public?

Letterman's aw shucks Midwestern, woe is me, is worn thin. We've seen it too many times and for the public to think because his admission of having sex with young women in his office was before he got married (his claim) makes everything all right, well it's not. It is especially not right, that he should couch the alleged extortion plot in a comic delivery, that supposedly even his wife thought was wrong. Supposedly, it was his wife who had the idea to go directly to the public, but not the way he chose to do so.

Comic relief does not excuse comedians of social responsibility to their audiences. David Letterman has forgotten what it means to be a "stand-up" comedian in the true sense of the word or better yet, a stand-up individual.

Rita Papazian is a freelance writer who has written about Norwalk extensively.

Copyright 2009 Rita Papazian All rights reserved.