Crowds and TV camera crews have camped out in front of the Ed Sullivan Theater in Manhattan as David Letterman prepares for the taping of tonight’s final edition of “The Late Show.”
The streets outside the theater at Broadway and 53rd Street were clogged with news vans and fans who came to snap pictures of the “Late Show With David Letterman” marquee. There were enterprising efforts to capitalize on the moment — one man brought an easel and offered to sell his oil painting of the famed blue-and-gold marquee. Another group was hawking black and white “Letterman’s Final Show” T-shirts across the street from the theater.
Details of the plan for tonight’s show have been kept tightly under wraps. By noon, “Late Show” crew members — wearing team jackets emblazoned with “Thank You and Goodnight” and the number 15 — were busy working out of two trailers parked on 53rd Street, a frequent setting of outdoor hijinks for the show and also the home of the Hello Deli, another favorite “Late Show” location. Crew members were setting up for an outdoor element that will host extra dressing room trailers for the guests.
Tickets for tonight’s taping were extremely hard to get. Reggie and Howard Fisher, a married couple from Philadelphia, weren’t able to get tickets in advance, but they still took the train up to New York City in hopes of catching a glimpse of Letterman on his last day. They’d been in the audience at the Ed Sullivan Theater when Letterman began his CBS run on Aug. 30, 1993. Reggie showed off her button souvenir from that day and tried to persuade a crew member to get Letterman to autograph a copy of Time magazine with him on the cover.
“He told me it was too crazy in there,” Reggie Fisher said. “It was nice of him to try.”
The Fishers have been regular Letterman viewers since the host’s earliest days on NBC in the 1980s. Reggie said she also watches Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show” and other latenight shows, but no one compares to Letterman. “We’ve seen him many times,” she said. Howard noted that just as the two of them are now retired, “it’s probably time” for Letterman to make the shift.
Monique Hawkins of Brooklyn brought what she called a “big ass card” for Letterman and was encouraging fans to sign. She’s been watching since the 1980s. “I used to work two jobs and run home to watch his show,” she said. “I’d call my friend and say ‘did you see what he did with that monkey?” Hawkins didn’t have a ticket but just wanted to be here. “I just want to get in there to give it to him. I just want to give him a hug.”
Come Thursday morning, there will be a different kind of activity at the Ed Sullivan Theater as Stephen Colbert prepares for his Sept. 8 debut as “Late Show” host. The plan is to build out an expansive new set and, of course, a new marquee, according to a crew member who was not authorized to speak publicly about the plans.
“Starting tomorrow, it’s going to be like ants crawling all over this building,” the crew member said. “They’re going to be tearing most of this thing apart.”