Alan Kalter, the announcer of the “Late Show With David Letterman” for twenty years and a participant in a ridiculous series of comic book pieces during that race, died Monday in a hospital in Stamford, Connecticut, where he lived. He was 78 years old.
The death was announced by Rabbi Joshua Hammerman of Temple Beth El in Stamford, the synagogue which Mr Kalter attended. No cause was given.
Mr. Kalter would welcome viewers with an opening quip (“From New York, hotbed of Mad Taxi Disease …”) and a recitation from the guest list. He would introduce the absurd “secret word” of the day and tell Mr. Letterman what was to be put in the “Will It Float?” test, a recurring comic strip. He would lather himself up on this or that and run off down the street shirtless.
But, equally incongruously, he once sang a heartfelt version of “Send In the Clowns” for no particular reason, then fled from the stage, overcome with emotion as the audience stood up and applauded. Another time, he turned what at first seemed like fatherly advice on attending prom into a painful confessional about going to prom with his own mother, “her middle-aged body tight as a sausage. in a sequined dress, her makeup and her perfume a cruel parody of the femininity your hormones crave.
His transformation from announcer to versatile comic began early. On day one, he said, Mr. Letterman, who had an Olympic diver as a guest, blew Mr. Kalter into a pool while wearing his best suit.
“I’m floating on my back, looking at the cameraman and I’m like, ‘This is what it’s like to advertise on Letterman,'” he recalls. in an interview on CBS New York in 2015, when Mr. Letterman ended the show.
“If you’re going to have a talk show,” Letterman said Tuesday in a telephone interview, “you’ve got to have a strong announcer, and he’s performed that way beyond what’s required.”
Mr. Kalter replaced Bill Wendell in September 1995, following Mr. Wendell’s retirement. Mr Letterman said Mr Kalter’s audition tape left no doubt when he and his then producer Robert Morton heard it.
“It was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, here we go,’” Mr. Letterman said.
Mr. Kalter’s voice was already familiar to viewers by this time; he had advertised on game shows such as “To Tell the Truth” and “The $ 25,000 Pyramid” and provided voiceovers for numerous commercials. However, Mr. Letterman’s “Late Show” brought him a whole different kind of stardom. Her red hair and tousled beauty made her instantly recognizable, and Mr. Letterman gave her plenty of opportunities to show off her aptitude for both straightforward and over-the-top comedy.
Barbara Gaines, longtime “Late Show” producer, said Mr. Kalter had adapted perfectly to the show’s craziness.
“Alan would gladly do almost anything we asked of him,” she said via email, “this is how we love our people”.
Mr. Kalter said he always had the option of refusing to do a particularly crazy stunt or asking for it to be changed, but Mr. Letterman remembered him as a perpetual game.
“I don’t remember the guy ever saying no to anything,” he said, “and I guess that tells us something about his judgment.”
And, he added, “it wasn’t reluctantly – it was” I’m on top of it. “
But Mr. Letterman also noted that for him Mr. Kalter and his musical director, Paul Shaffer, were stabilizing influences.
“Him and Paul, to me, they were dating every night,” he said. “You would look over and see Alan and see Paul and know that everything will be fine like last night.” “
Guests also found Mr. Kalter to be a calming force.
“Appearing with Dave has sparked its own nerves,” Brian Williams, a frequent guest on “The Late Show,” said Monday night in his MSNBC news program. “But seeing the smiling face of a nice man like Alan Kalter backstage was always the necessary tonic at that point.”
The show may have made Mr Kalter a celebrity, but he has kept a low profile off the set and at his home in Stamford, where he had lived since the 1970s.
“I played cards in a poker group for a year and a half,” he told the Stamford Advocate in 2003, “before someone said, ‘Someone told me you were in the audiovisual industry. ‘”
As for his work as “Letterman,” Mr. Kalter was grateful for the opportunity and the long term.
“I loved what they let me be,” he told The Survey on Pulteney Street, the Hobart and William Smith college magazine where he was once a student, “a 10 year old, paid to do things my mother would never let me get away with.”
Alan Robert Kalter was born on March 21, 1943 in Brooklyn. He started broadcasting on WGVA radio in Geneva, NY, while he was in Hobart. The radio work had a benefit in kind.
“During my off hours,” he said, “I was creating the music tapes for all of our ’45s fellowship parties that were coming up to the radio station. “
After graduating in 1964, he studied law at New York University, then taught high school English for three years, while recording instructional tapes and working weekends on the radio in the suburbs. from New York. The allure of radio finally proved irresistible.
“I quit teaching for an afternoon radio show at WTFM,” he told the college magazine, “and got hired to be a reporter for WHN Radio in New York City, which quickly became a four-year gig interviewing celebrities who came to town for a movie and Broadway openings, as well as covering nightclub openings three or four nights a week.
When WHN switched to country format in 1973, it turned to commercials and then got into game shows.
He is survived by his wife, Peggy; one brother, Gary; two daughters, Lauren Hass and Diana Binger; and five grandchildren.
Mr. Kalter’s commitment to the “Late Show,” Mr. Letterman said, was a good counterpoint to Mr. Letterman’s more laid back style.
“I never liked putting on funny hats,” he said. “Alan would dress like a Martian and make it work.”
“He filled in so many blanks on this show,” Mr. Letterman joked, “he probably deserved more money.”