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Mitch Perry Report for 5.20.15 — The end of an era

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Good morning everyone.

I’m getting off to a slightly later start than usual this morning, as I stayed up near midnight last night to see the Golden State Warriors defeat the Houston Rockets in a very exciting opening game of the Western Conference NBA Finals.

As was the case while watching another Warrior playoff game last Friday night, I also caught a little of “The Late Show” with David Letterman, which I think you may have heard ends its run on CBS later tonight.

In the run-up to the end of his broadcasting career after a mostly uninterrupted 33-year run, I’ve definitely had more thoughts about life in the ’80s than I generally prefer to, nostalgia being rather depressing, all in all. It is fun, though, to reminiscence about what Letterman meant to those of us who were comedy enthusiasts when NBC began airing his program at 12:30 a.m. back in early 1982.

It was literally a different media universe back then, with cable television just starting to break out in the late 1970s. Letterman’s first show, of course, was a 10 a.m. show in the summer of 1980 on NBC that felt pretty darned subversive for being on morning network TV. I mean, VCRs weren’t even out yet! (I remember them being a big deal in 1982.)

When I remember the Letterman years, I prefer to recall the NBC years from 1982-1993. Maybe it’s because I was up late a lot in those days and nights (and not always sober), and not only saw a lot of Dave, but also Bob Costas doing his “Later” show that aired at 1:30 a.m.

Letterman was the Midwestern, wholesome, gap-toothed comedian who was a big wiseass. Like Saturday Night Live, irony was what he brought to comedy on television. The stuff he did back then was really irreverent, sort of mocking the conventions of what a TV show should be.  Maybe because there were so few options on our television compared to now, but I can’t believe in retrospect how much people cared about whether he would replace Johnny Carson back in 1992.  That led to all that sturm and drang of Letterman vs. Jay Leto, memorably detailed in Bill Carter’s great book, The Late Shift, which was then made into a much anticipated HBO film the next year.

Letterman moving over to CBS was a big deal – just as it was a big deal that he was now on at 11:30 p.m. Remember how people talked about his double-breasted suits?

But I haven’t watched Dave or any of these late-night guys that much in recent years, mainly because I don’t stay up that late. But it’s a far different TV universe, now, with so many more options.

But the guy definitely had an impact on the popular culture. Interestingly, you don’t have to read between the lines too much in his exit interviews in the press to realize that he’s extremely ambivalent about moving on at 68. There’s a part of him who doesn’t want to leave, clearly, realizing that his life will be so different.

Sixty-eight ain’t that old these days. Hell, the best newsman on television, Charlie Rose, is 73. Walter Cronkite talked for years about how he was frankly bitter he had to retire at 65 back in 1981, when he still had so much to give.

In other news..

Somedays it feels like all I do is track down the latest Marco Rubio news. The Florida senator is always looking to do what he can to restrain the enthusiasm of the Obama administration and others about getting too cozy with the Cuban government. Yesterday he and Louisiana U.S. Sen. David Vitter announced legislation that would require the Communist government to address legal claims before re-establishing full diplomatic relations with the United States. Meanwhile, a new Pew Poll confirms what anecdotally I know to be the case — older Republican voters like younger candidates, especially Rubio.

David Jolly  slammed Democrats on C-SPAN yesterday regarding their criticism on funding Amtrak in the wake of the tragedy in Philadelphia last week.

And immigration activist groups were hoping yesterday would have been the day to take advantage of one of President Obama’s executive orders on immigration last fall. But a judge has blocked that, so the SEIU told them to contact their local city and county governments and press them on the issue.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at

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