Alan Kalter, the “voice” of CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman” for most of its run, has died, Variety has confirmed. He was 78.
According to Rabbi Joshua Hammerman of Temple Beth El in Stamford, Conn., Kalter died at Stamford Hospital, with wife Peggy and his daughters Lauren Hass and Diana Binger at his side.
Kalter took over as Letterman’s announcer on Sept. 5, 1995, replacing Bill Wendell, who had retired. Kalter remained with “Late Show” until Letterman ended his tenure in May 2015.
Although the gig centered on announcing the guests at the top of each show and other various introduction elements, Kalter soon became a pivotal part of “Late Show,” often in scripted segments in which he satirically flew off the handle and stormed off stage; played himself as deviant and creepy; and often being the butt of jokes.
“When our announcer of 15 years Bill Wendell retired, producer Robert Morton came to my office with an audio tape containing auditions for several announcers,” Letterman said in a statement. “Alan’s was the first and only voice we listened to. We knew he would be our choice.
“Whatever else, we always had the best announcer in television,” he added. “Wonderful voice and eagerness to play a goofy character of himself. Did I mention he could sing? Yes he could. He enthusiastically did it all. A very sad day, but many great memories.”
Nicknamed “Big Red” and “TV’s Uncle Jerry,” Kalter might be seen in an Elvis jumpsuit or ripping his shirt off to sing a song. Other bits included “Alan Kalter’s Celebrity Interview.” Kalter’s full commitment to the bit usually elicited a big grin and chuckle from Letterman.
No matter what, Kalter was always game. “To us ‘Late Show’ writers Alan was so much more than just the ‘From New York…’ guy,” said former “Late Show” writer Carter Bays, who went on to co-create “How I Met Your Mother.” “He was our muse. We loved writing for him. Such a cheerful presence on the show. And around the office. Rest easy Big Red.”
Added Bays’ writing partner, fellow “HIMYM” co-creator Craig Thomas: “Oh man, @CarterBays and I loved writing for Alan — some of my fondest memories of Late Show are the absolutely batshit-bonkers bits we wrote for Alan, who was always game to let us make him look insane…rest in peace, Alan, and thanks for the laughs.”
Said former writer Bill Scheft, who first shared news of Kalter’s passing on Twitter: “RIP Alan Kalter. A lovely man, and as my old boss might say, a ‘perfect stooge….’”
Added former head writer Eric Stangel: “This is incredibly sad. Alan was always fun to write for and was always up for anything. Rest in peace…”
Beyond “Late Show,” Kalter had done hundreds of voiceovers for national radio and television commercials. He was also the announcer for New York-based television shows including “To Tell the Truth,” “The $25,000 Pyramid,” “The Money Maze,” and “The $100,000 Question.” He was the voice of USA Network, and appeared on NBC’s “Ed,” which was produced by Letterman’s Worldwide Pants.
A native New Yorker, Kalter was born in Brooklyn and raised in Little Neck and Cedarhurst, N.Y.
Besides his wife and daughters, Kalter also leaves behind a brother, Gary, two sons-in-law, grandchildren Samantha, Ethan and Jordan Hass, Isabelle and Owen Binger; and many nieces and nephews.
The family requests, in lieu of flowers or food baskets, that memorial donations be made to Temple Beth El/Rabbi’s Mitzvah Fund, SilverSource in Stamford or the charity of your choice.
“Beyond his fame and his golden voice, Alan was a past president of TBE and a true mensch, who was deeply committed to Jewish values and the Jewish people and was especially devoted to this, his home community,” Rabbi Hammerman wrote in a note to his congregation. “Over the past year, he attended our daily Zoom minyan so religiously that he even joined in from the golf course at Rockrimmon.”
According to Hammerman, a private funeral will be held at Temple Beth El on Wednesday at noon. The public is invited to watch on livestream, at this link.
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