The entertainment industry has the most remarkable selective memory, doesn’t it? For example, Kim Kardashian rose to fame after her sex tape with Ray J (whom many people barely recall was even in it) was leaked in 2007. She has never lived this down, with media outlets continuously making fun of it today. People like Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, Sean Penn, Mike Tyson and Roman Polanski, on the other hand, have all enjoyed fruitful and highly-respected despite being accused (and occasionally convicted) of acts that were unethical, illegal and sometimes both. Funny how that happens, eh? Anyway, speaking of forgetting stuff, let’s talk about how awesome everybody is saying David Letterman is now that he’s retiring from The Late Show, which he’s been the host of for 31 years.
Tweets have poured in from fans and celeb friends alike, all praising Letterman for being such a swell guy all these years.
Cheers to @Letterman. A king, a king-maker, and probably the man most to blame for inflicting me on America. See you soon.
— Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) April 3, 2014
David @Letterman announced he’s retiring in 2015. It’s been 31 incredible years. Television won’t be the same without you, Dave.
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) April 3, 2014
Obvi will miss Letterman and his gorgeous tooth scenario/general brilliance
— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) April 3, 2014
Wow, @Letterman retiring. He’s been a significant force in my “later” career. Thanks, Dave!
— Steve Martin (@SteveMartinToGo) April 3, 2014
David @Letterman is the best there is and ever was.
— Jimmy Kimmel (@jimmykimmel) April 3, 2014
Lena also threw in a bit of a hopeful message (one we certainly agree with):
I love Letterman but I am really excited about what this could mean for the diversification of late night. Trying not to be a pessimist…
— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) April 3, 2014
All these lovely tributes from Seth Meyers to Keith Olbermann to even President Obama are very, very kind to Mr. Letterman. In his farewell declaration, the Late Night host thanked a lot of nice folks he’ll miss:
“I just want to reiterate my thanks for the support from the network, all of the people who have worked here, all of the people in the theater, all of the people on the staff, everybody at home, thank you very much. What this means now is that Paul [Shaffer] and I can be married.”
So sweet, right? But it is funny how he has thanked all the people who have worked there, considering he had sex with quite a few of them, which is kind of not okay when you’re the founder and owner of the production company they work for (Worldwide Pants).
It’s been alleged multiple times that they had an affair with his assistant during her time as his employee. Now, I could be way off-base here (and who knows, maybe it never happened), but isn’t it widely considered unethical to have sex with somebody who is employed beneath you (no pun intended)? For example, it is more than a little frowned upon for a boss to have sex with their intern because there is an inherent power dynamic between boss and employee; when you’re afraid you might lose your livelihood, you may feel compelled to do anything possible to avoid such a situation.
In 2009, Letterman admitted he had held multiple affairs with females who worked for his company after CBS producer Joe Halderman attempted to extort him for $2 million, threatening to reveal that Letterman had participated in sexual relationships with female employees. Naturally, this was deemed questionable–after all, doesn’t it seem odd to have your boss running around apparently having sex with subordinate employees? At the time, women in the entertainment industry wondered about the situation’s impact on the work environment. NBC’s Ann Curry, for example, said:
“It’s very interesting. Men and women think very differently about this story. The men I’ve talked to think, ‘How could a person within your own company kind of betray you like this?’ But the reaction I’m hearing from women is completely on the other end. They’re saying, ‘How could you have affairs, multiple affairs, with members of your own staff and how does that create a fair and equal working environment?'”
Indeed, how dare somebody betray you by discussing an uncomfortable situation in their work environment that involves their married boss? Oh wait, they dare do it because it’s uncomfortable and unfair. By his own admission in an on-air confession that’s been deemed “brilliant” (honestly, when has anybody described a confession as brilliant? But I digress), he concurred that he had done “terrible, terrible things.”
Apart from the affair situation, Nell Scovell–the second female writer to ever be hired on the Late Night show–penned a scathing feature in Vanity Fair regarding her experience as an employee there. First of all, the show seems to not believe female writers are funny, because they don’t really care to hire ’em:
In 27 years, Late Nightand Late Show have hired only seven female writers. These seven women have spent a total of 17 years on staff combined. By extrapolation, male writers have racked up a collective 378 years writing jokes for Dave (based on an average writing room of 14 men, the size of the current Late Show staff).
That seems a little uneven, hm? Anyway, Scovell also answered some “pertinent questions”:
Did Dave hit on me? No. Did he pay me enough extra attention that it was noted by another writer? Yes. Was I aware of rumors that Dave was having sexual relationships with female staffers? Yes. Was I aware that other high-level male employees were having sexual relationships with female staffers? Yes. Did these female staffers have access to information and wield power disproportionate to their job titles? Yes. Did that create a hostile work environment? Yes. Did I believe these female staffers were benefiting professionally from their personal relationships? Yes. Did that make me feel demeaned? Completely.
There’s no doubt in my mind that David Letterman is a great host. The Late Show with David Letterman has had an abundance of talented writers (albeit almost entirely male, let’s not forget) who have kept the show going strong for decades, and Letterman himself is certainly an entertaining human being. But, as the conversation always goes: why can’t we mention the bad stuff? Sure, tributes are swell and all, but when one ignores that he did some rather unethical acts with members of his staff, one does a disservice to the industry. It’s like saying, “Sure, you can sleep with people who are below you on the office totem pole, who may be afraid of losing their jobs should they not do whatever you want–in the end, what matters is that you’re funny!” And in the end, that’s not actually what matters; what matters is that you were a decent human being.