Thursday, April 29, 2004

Rupert Jee blog.

Most of the trees are greening and the dogwood and plum are in full flower. Saw the first irises and lilacs of the season today, too. It's warm, but it won't exactly stay that way. Still, we're in that warmish time before mosquitoes. A prelapsarian state, since mosquitoes were surely another punishment visited on Adam and Eve, though Genesis omits mentioning it.

Last Thursday was a warm day in New York City, almost too warm for the suit I was wearing. But I can't complain. Early in the afternoon, I had about an hour and a half to spare, so I checked my handy PopOut map, and picked a course that would take me uptown from the Marriott in Times Square along Broadway past Columbus Circle and to Lincoln Center. It was one of those places I've seen often enough in photos or on TV, so I thought it was time to see it with my own eyes.

Not far into my walk, I came across the Ed Sullivan Theater on Broadway, which of course is where Dave Letterman's show is taped. The marquee is very clear on that point. I haven't watched him in a long while now (I'd rather be blogging), though I have gone through spells of tuning in for a few days at a time, on and off for a few months. He did some great material especially during the disputed election of 2000. My favorite bit of his from that time showed a succession of short news clips of Bush, Gore, Chaney and Lieberman (I forget which order) -- each man making a statement or at a press conference -- and each time a new clip started, the number of U.S. flags in the background grew: two, four, six, more. Someone on Letterman's staff had a sharp eye. Equally funny were the times he had a couple of burly stagehands read verbatim from transcripts of Oprah Winfrey's show, a good way to mock it for a vacuous prattle that it was.

A good many years ago, when I was visiting my brother Jay, Letterman happened to come on and he said -- my brother said, and I'm paraphrasing here -- that Letterman's paid a lot of money to be silly on television. But on the other hand, he was very, very good at being silly. That's about right, even now. He's one of the two current national jesters. Letterman is the darker, smarter, more cynical of the two; Warner to Leno's Disney.

Around the corner from the Ed Sullivan Theater I took note of the Stage Deli, which sometimes figures in Letterman's antics. I had to have a look at that, so I left Broadway and walked past it. As I went by, for just a moment I saw the proprietor, Rupert Jee, standing behind the counter looking precisely as he does on television. He's the proprietor, of course, so there's nothing really unusual about him working behind his own counter. But it's always a little odd to see the actual person on which a familiar video image is based. But I didn't stare, or buy anything (I'd already eaten). Still, I'm sure that his TV exposure is probably the best thing that ever happened to Rupert Jee's business.


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