When we let people into our homes every day through the television set, we start to think of them as family. It’s why my mother and I dish about the scandals plaguing Days of Our Lives on our weekend phone calls; after spending countless hours of my childhood with the soap opera’s Brady and Horton families, I’m still attached to them—even though I haven’t watched the show regularly in 15 years.
I feel the same way about Late Show host David Letterman, the Indy native and TV legend whose retirement we celebrate this month with the help of notable Hoosiers like Reggie Miller and Jane Pauley. My father works for an NBC station, so we were network loyalists at home: Today with Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel, Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, and the local affiliate’s newscasts in between. But when the 11 o’clock news wound down, Dad didn’t stick with Leno; he flipped over to Dave, leaned back in his oversized recliner, and laughed until he fell asleep, his snores punctuating the jazzy rock of Paul Shaffer and the CBS Orchestra.
Over the years, Dave’s routines became our routines. The sardonic interviews with celebs. Chewing the fat with Rupert at the Hello Deli. Top Ten lists. The “Guess Mom’s Pies” segment—when a WISH-TV crew would visit Dorothy’s house here so Dave could do just that—became as comforting a Thanksgiving custom as my grandma declaring her cornbread dressing “not that good this year.” And who would dare start the holidays until Darlene Love stood on Dave’s stage to belt out “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”? We the viewers wanted to uphold and witness these traditions, just like we observed our own—even when they began to feel more obligatory than inspired.
At the same time Dave became so beloved publicly, he fiercely maintained his privacy. He rarely gives interviews. Back in 1997, though, he did let his fellow Broad Ripple High grad Deborah Paul (our editor emerita/columnist) grill him for IM. He said then that there was “no, no, no, no” way he would still be doing the show at age 60. Now he’s finally leaving, at 68. But who can blame him for sticking around longer? It’s hard to say goodbye to family.
Amanda Heckert is the editor-in-chief of Indianapolis Monthly.