A Far-Ranging Post on Letterman’s Sex Scandal

Ten years ago this week, I moved into my apartment. Wow. In the first few months, I was at home a lot. My mother had just died. When I socialized, I’d have people over. The rest of the time I spent in a blur of drunkenness, dope, and getting by in my dayjob at a bookstore.

My nights were usually spent falling asleep to David Letterman’s wise-cracking punnery and stupid human tricks. There are something comforting about Dave. A friendly face every night. I sure as hell didn’t have Mom’s there anymore.

When, in January, 2000, I heard Letterman had been rushed off for and emergency quintuple-bypass, I was horrified. I’d just lost my mother. NOT DAVE TOO.

When, in 2001, the Towers were taken out by terrorists and Americans died in the thousands, it wasn’t the President or the Pope I spent my time waiting to hear from as the heart of America lay barely beating on the dusty New York sidewalks — it was Dave, Mr. New York City.When Dave finally took to the air after 9/11, no theme song played, no fanfare was made, no cheering or applauding was heard. It was this guy with a lump in his throat and a quiet uncertainty about what to say. He didn’t know how to return to work — just like none of us knew how to go back to our lives.

But he was trying. And so, we did too. In that moment, many of us felt closer to Dave than we’d ever felt before. Sure, he’d landed all the largest contracts in television history and was famous for chomping on big, fat Cuban cigars, but he still seemed like he was more like Us than he was like Them. After Dave came back to the air, within a couple days, so did Leno, SNL, and the Daily Show and everyone else. But they all waited for Dave.

Naturally, there are Dave-hating people in the world, but some kids torture cats. Whatcha gonna do? Can’t win them all, right?

And now Dave’s on the other side of the fence. Instead of everything flying off of Dave, he’s got himself in a sticky wicket.

First, he takes on Palin. Or, rather, he does his JOB and makes jokes about the stupid twat — since, if you’re going to make jokes about a stupid twat, she’s pretty much FIRST IN LINE for those honours — and she gets her panties in a twist and tries to take him on. Well, he’s still on the air and she’s quit politics, so I’m not really sure how that worked out for her. Dave, however, lost a few Republican viewers, which I’m sure had him crying in his decaf.

But then the bombshell’s dropped this past week. Doozy!

Dave screwed Vicki! Err, Stephanie Birkitt.* DOH! Okay, first, when I heard it was HER that was the woman he’d slept with on staff, I thought, “OH, I KNEW IT.” The chemistry was always there — she was always a bit uneasy and shy yet really comfortable with her, and he was always totally amused and giddy when she was around. Not a big shocker to know there’d been a long-lasting relationship there. And, uh, what a duplicitous mastermind — shagging a woman he kept having on the air in skits on the show!

That’s not the big issue, is it? He’s one of the most powerful men in television and he’s slept with underlings. OH, BIG SURPRISE.

That NEVER happens. Yawn. Wake me up when there’s a real news story, okay?

But then he ADMITTED IT. On TELEVISION. LIVE. Before an ACTUAL AUDIENCE. And he was CHARMING about it. Then he APOLOGIZED.

And, like, ohmigod, people still like him and he still has a television show. What the fuck? Now that’s news.

You know why?

Because honesty counts. What’s more? Accountability is rare, and, when finally seen in public places, a thing of beauty to be beheld.

Here’s the thing, folks. When you fuck up, admit it. Because everyone’s fucked up, and when you admit it, offer no excuses but genuinely try to learn from it, it’s almost universally accepted as People Being People.

I know my propensity to admit my asshattedness amongst friends and family ultimately endears me more to them. There’s nothing like defusing someone’s angst by admitting to everything and stopping their accusations cold. “Yes, I did that. I was an ass. I apologize. Every word is true. It never should have happened. It never will again. What do we do now?” But being funny somewhere in there, that helps.

Dave has mastered that ability and seems earnest about it.

It’s funny, there’s two celebrity “sex scandals” in one week and there are columnists out there including them in the same story, trying to gauge why public reaction is so muted against David Letterman, one of the most trusted men in America, while the rage simmers against Roman Polanski.

I have thoughts on Polanski, and I guess I need to finish the draft I began in which I assert that he’s an evil fucker who deserves far more than the price he’s so far paid for his crimes, but here is not the place to air them. There is no FUCKING WAY that what David Letterman has done — had consensual sex with women who find him funny and charming — belongs anywhere NEAR to a column that’s about what Polanski did — which was ply a 13-year-old girl full of booze, Quaaludes, and other substances, then rape her anally, orally, and vaginally.

RAPE against a child? Not a “sex scandal”, columnists. It’s a crime. Next to murder? It’s the WORST CRIME THERE IS. Because, unlike murder, they get to live with the consequences. Worst? When it’s a child? It defines how they will perceive the world for the rest of their life: Like violation is always a possibility, every day.

Why is the angst against Letterman so muted?

Because what he did was just sex.

We also don’t know if he really has an open relationship with his wife, but given the lack of response from her, and his lack of addressing his relationship in the “scandal” context, we can pretty much assume he does, indeed, have an understanding with his spouse.

In which case, it’s not much of anyone’s business.

Personally, I’m sick of the whole “no sexual harrassment in the workplace” thing meaning I can’t get shagged by way of my job. HELLO, it’s one of the only ways we get to meet people in the modern era. If you can’t fuck workmates, then why can you shag fellow students or other club members?

Is it SMART? Hell, no! But what’s SMART got to do with anything when it comes to the matters of the heart, anyhow? If we were SMART when it came to dealing with love, Shakespeare never would’ve had a career, man, and world peace would’ve been a lot easier.

Letterman had sex. At work. With people lower than him on the payscale. Shocker. Problem is, when you’re one of the most powerful TV men who’s ever lived, the words “beneath you” pretty much includes everyone.

But he came clean. He minced no words. He said he did what he did, denied nothing, and accepted all the blame. He didn’t turn himself into a victim, he didn’t get snivelly, he just laid it out there, and that’s that.

THAT is how you deal with accepting responsibility, people. Most politicians come off like assholes despite the fact that most of us realistically KNOW a lot of political marriages are political and extramarital encounters par for the course. Why? Demeanour and believability. Dave’s got it, they don’t. Too bad. Politicians spend too much time trying to seem perfect and not enough time being real, but that’s another story.

Thank god they don’t teach those skills in political-school, because at least Dave uses his powers for good — to make us laugh.

For that alone, I say he gets a stay of execution. My giggles’n’snorts are far too important to me in these less-than-sunny times.

Polanski, however, well, stay tuned for my thoughts on that.

*As for Birkitt, I woulda shagged Dave a decade ago, too.