Your TV criticism is reliably great, but I especially enjoyed the Letterman tribute ["Ever a Fresh Voice," May 17]. I don't watch much late-night TV, but you reminded me how much I loved Letterman when he was first on. He was the anti-Carson who, through Larry "Bud" Melman, passed out cartons of cigarettes to prize winners in Times Square. It was shocking and hilarious.
My wife, a onetime Letterman assistant, was at a farewell reunion party for former employees. So many writers who started out on the show in their 20s are now responsible for huge swaths of past and present TV comedy. The Letterman sensibility has really shaped the culture.
I'm just a guy on Cahuenga, but I believe the Letterman piece was just brilliant. Great writing is like good music: You don't want it to end. Really sensational.
About your observation, "We trust the man who doubts himself more than the one who pretends that everything is fine": Truer words ... never spoken.
William C. Lally II
During Letterman's tenure, guests were the subject of his sardonic wit. Letterman told it like it should be told yet possessed a laughable sarcasm that gave audiences intelligent entertainment.
Just wanted to express my gratitude for such a perfectly written piece on someone I have laughed at and admired since I was a teenager.
In particular the line that resonated with me: "We trust the man who doubts himself more than the one who pretends that everything is fine."
That, along with Letterman's unique, absurd humor, is what drew me and so many others to him.
Thank you for capturing that.
Mays Landing, N.J.
When I was a 33-year-old first-time mom in Whittier in 1980, David Letterman was a brief, joyful presence in my morning maternity-leave routine.
Daytime TV had never been part of my daily life (and in retirement, it still isn't). But somehow I happened on "The David Letterman Show" in early September, after my darling Annie was born in August, and I enjoyed him for the few short weeks until that morning show was canceled.
I know Annie was nurtured by my reactions — sometimes guffaws, often chuckles, mostly just a lovely feeling of spending time with a goofy, sweet, smart friend.
Thank you, Dave, for the early years.
Small theaters will be hit hard
Regarding "A Stage for New Pay Plan," May 17: Actor's Equity's insistence that its members be paid minimum wage in L.A.'s small theaters does not mean those actors will "make a living in theater," as Donald Mackay implies. Instead, theaters probably will close.
Mackay, co-artistic director of the Aspen Fringe Festival, draws a comparison between his duties there and those of L.A. small-theater producers. But the Aspen fringe runs June 12 to 16. L.A.'s small theaters function year-round. Aspen's population is about 6,700. L.A.'s is 3.9 million, and producers must compete to find ways to reach as much of that population as possible and, at the same time, appeal to the city's extraordinary diversity. There is no comparison.
Mackay says he puts nearly 7% ($1,820) of his $26,000 aside for actor salaries. By real comparison, L.A.'s Road Theatre is paying the cast of "The Other Place" $2,260 in stipends from a $23,000 budget, or about 10%. Ten is bigger than seven.
Remembrances of B.B. King
A long generation ago, I was lucky enough to get a ticket to see B.B. King at Loyola Marymount, as he was a guest lecturer in the jazz class taught by The Times' great jazz critic Leonard Feather.
Feather presented an episode of a jazz history show that he had made years before, which featured Nat King Cole in his jazz trio days — quite a revelation — and then King came out and talked about his career, and the blues, and then he started playing with a trio Feather had standing by. He was explaining some music as he went, i.e., "If you're having trouble getting some room to play, just drop in on this 7th chord here," and some great riff would follow. Then he got Feather up on the piano and told us all how the song that was always the second in his set was written by the prof, which led to a fine rendition of "How Blue Can You Get?"
I got to see two gentle giants for the price of one ticket, and I got schooled in the blues by masters. What a deal.
'Whistler' was poorly presented
I was disappointed with "Whistler's Mother" at the Norton Simon Museum ["She's Rested and Ready for Return Visit to L.A.," March 15]. It was too dimly lighted. The Manet portrait "Emile Zola" was impressive and properly lighted.
I've seen too many slides and other reproductions of that picture to know that they need to crank up the lighting. I'll probably never get to see it again. It was moving to be able to get up close, though. Whistler painted far more delicately than I realized.