Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Compared with my last appearance on Letterman (which frequent readers will recall was aborted at the last instant), tonight's show was a piece of cake. In fact, it was almost too relaxed...I found myself ambling through my day, almost not getting to haircuts in time, loping around kind of sleepy and disoriented. I was concerned from an early hour: I really, really wasn't acting like a sharp, clever, funny talk show guest. I suspect it was half the sultry, unbearable heat and half the repetition--I was filled with an unshakable inner conviction that I would be bumped again, probably at the last moment, and no matter what I did I couldn't get juiced up and excited.

Jean-Michele and I rode in the limo to the Ed Sullivan Theater, and it still seemed unreal. We got out at the door in total contrast to the last time we arrived--no paparazzi, very few onlookers. Apparently Julia Stiles' stock is not as ultra-hot in the press as Freddie Prinze, Jr's is, which is probably just a relief to Ms. Stiles.

I went up to my dressing room and sat, feeling completely blank. My editor, my manager and my publicist (i.e. My Posse) came in and it was nice, catching up with everyone who runs the disparate pieces of my life...the funny thing is there are actually now so many OTHER folks who have titles that work with my life as a kind of commodity that we could never fit them all in the dressing room, which was pretty damn tiny. Nice, air conditioned, and they keep you supplied with lots of goodies, but very small.

By the way, I didn't mention it last time, but did you know you get PAID to be on Letterman? No, really! It's so interesting--they have to pay people, for reasons that are arcane and relate to work-for-hire rules with AFTRA. So you get $200 if you are on Letterman. Everybody does--Julia Stiles, Harrison Ford, everybody. I mean, for me it's pretty cool pay for a little work, but it must seem so funny with people who make millions. Then again, if I've learned anything being near celebrities it's that they are normal people under extraordinary attention, and who doesn't like $200? For some people it just pays for lunch...for me it's a wireless router. Either way, nothing to sneeze at.

(Also, you get paid whether you are bumped or not, so I have in fact already received a check from my last "appearance"...and it is pretty neat to get a check in the mail from Worldwide Pants. I was tempted to frame it or put it on the fridge, but then I wanted to buy that wireless router...and the router won.)

When I got on the stage, standing next to the set, (which is absolutely beautiful up close--I was mezmerized by the details on their faux Brooklyn Bridge) and I heard Dave actually introducing me, it became suddenly clear that I would not be bumped, and I experienced an immediate and painful flushing of adrenaline into my system, which must be akin to what junkies feel when they mainline horse. I actually felt sick and vertiginous for about one second, and then suddenly the world asserted itself, I grounded down into the floor and by the time the technician whispered go I was absolutely at the top of my game.

This was the first time I'd met Mr. Letterman--he doesn't meet people before the show, saving it for the interview. I think that's a good policy--it certainly gave us stuff to talk about. I was struck while we spoke at how fundamentally good he is at his job--he is nuanced and clear, and listens intently while broadcasting very clearly how long he needs you to speak for, whether to extend or retract a story, and what the next riff will build on from his side. He's been here for years and is a legend, so it seems simple fact, but I never thought much about his skills until I was suddenly playing with him...he is startlingly active.

I feel like I gave good interview--sharp anecdotes, clean transitions, nice engagement. It's an art form, interviewing, and I've been given an eighteen-month crash course in it. If anything, this was like my final exam, and while I will trust the judgment of the public and those who know me for my 'grade', I'm at least confident that I got a passing score, which is nice to be certain of.

After the interview I got to speak to Dave briefly, which was really nice. There's not much to say, but I was left with an overwhelming impression of transparency--that is to say, if Letterman says something on the air, odds are very strong that he feels and means it in real life. One of the producers and I talked about this and agreed emphatically with this assessment, but it's still just my blatherings--take it for what it is worth.

Other guests on my show (AKA Celebrity Encounter Time):

Julia Stiles: Seems like a nice woman. I ran into her as she was coming off, before I went on. I told her I'd heard good things about her TWELFTH NIGHT in Central Park, and she thanked me. I wanted to get free tickets, but was not able to connive them quickly enough. She is quite attractive, and looks substantially the same in person as she does on television/movies.

Wyclef Jean: Everyone in this band was absolutely wonderful to us--they talked to us, told me they loved my interview and were generally really open and attitude-free. They seem like a very good bunch of folks, and they radiate a lot of goodwill. This would be a nice group to be stuck in an elevator with...aside from their numbers, of course. And I don't know if they have mechanical aptitude. But excepting those things, they are a great gang.

One of their posse took all the food from the dressing room down with them, which I think rocks--it displays great frugality, a keen sense of when to step out of line (i.e. when there are really good cookies) and some chutzpah. I would have done the same, but I had an anniversary date to attend.

And now, my duties discharged, I will return to that anniversary date, already in progress.