Alan Kalter, Longtime Voice of Letterman’s ‘Late Show,’ Dies at 78


Alan Kalter, the announcer for the “Late Show With David Letterman” for some 20 years and a participant in a ridiculous array of comedian bits during that run, died on Monday at a hospital in Stamford, Conn., where he lived. He was 78.

The death was introduced by Rabbi Joshua Hammerman of Temple Beth El in Stamford, the synagogue Mr. Kalter attended. No trigger was given.

Mr. Kalter would welcome viewers with a gap quip (“From New York, home of mad cab disease … ”) and a recitation of the visitor checklist. He would introduce the nonsensical “secret word” of the day and inform Mr. Letterman what was to be put to the “Will It Float?” check, a recurring comedian bit. He would work himself right into a lather over this or that and run off down the road shirtless.

But, simply as incongruously, he as soon as sang a heartfelt model of “Send In the Clowns” for no explicit purpose, bolting offstage afterward overcome with emotion because the viewers stood and applauded. Another time, he turned what at first appeared like some fatherly recommendation about attending the promenade right into a painful confessional about going to the promenade together with his own mother, “her middle-age body squeezed like a sausage into a sequined gown, her makeup and perfume a cruel mockery of the womanhood your hormones crave.”

His transformation from announcer to all-purpose comedian began early. On his first day, he said, Mr. Letterman, who had an Olympic diver as a visitor, had Mr. Kalter bounce right into a pool whereas carrying his best swimsuit.

“I’m floating on my back, looking up at the cameraman, going, ‘This is what it’s like to announce on Letterman,’” he recalled in an interview on CBS New York in 2015, when Mr. Letterman ended the show.

“If you’re going to have a talk show,” Mr. Letterman said on Tuesday in a phone interview, “you’ve got to have a strong announcer, and he filled that way beyond what is required.”

Mr. Kalter changed Bill Wendell in September 1995, after Mr. Wendell retired. Mr. Letterman said that Mr. Kalter’s audition tape had left little question when he and his producer on the time, Robert Morton, heard it.

“It was like, ‘Oh, my God, here we go,’” Mr. Letterman said.

Mr. Kalter’s voice was already acquainted to television viewers by then; he had introduced on recreation shows like “To Tell the Truth” and “The $25,000 Pyramid” and supplied voice-overs for quite a few commercials. Mr. Letterman’s “Late Show,” although, brought him a completely totally different form of fame. His purple hair and rumpled attractiveness made him immediately recognizable, and Mr. Letterman gave him ample alternatives to show his aptitude for each deadpan and over-the-top comedy.

Barbara Gaines, the longtime “Late Show” producer, said Mr. Kalter had match right into the show’s zaniness.

“Alan would good-naturedly do almost anything we asked of him,” she said by electronic mail, “which is how we like our people.”

Mr. Kalter said that he had at all times been given the choice of declining to do a very nutty stunt or asking that or not it’s modified, but Mr. Letterman remembered him as being perpetually recreation.

“I don’t recall 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 begrudgingly — it was, ‘I’m all in.’”

But Mr. Letterman also famous that, for him, Mr. Kalter and his music director, Paul Shaffer, were steadying influences.

“He and Paul, to me, they were fixtures every night,” he said. “You’d look over and see Alan and see Paul and know that it’s going to be OK just like last night.”

Guests, too, found Mr. Kalter to be a relaxing drive.

“Appearing with Dave triggered its own unique set of nerves,” Brian Williams, a frequent “Late Show” visitor, said on Monday night on his MSNBC information program. “But seeing the smiling face of a nice man like Alan Kalter backstage was always the tonic needed in that moment.”

The show might have made Mr. Kalter a celebrity, but he stored a low profile when off the set and at home in Stamford, where he had lived for the reason that Seventies.

“I played cards in a poker group for a year and a half,” he told The Stamford Advocate in 2003, “before somebody said, ‘Somebody told me you were in broadcasting.’”

As for his “Letterman” job, Mr. Kalter was grateful for the chance and the long run.

“I loved what they let me be,” he told The Pulteney Street Survey, the journal of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, where he was as soon as a scholar, “a 10-year-old, paid for doing stuff my mom would never have let me get away with.”

Alan Robert Kalter was born on March 21, 1943, in Brooklyn. He began asserting on WGVA radio in Geneva, N.Y., whereas at Hobart. The radio job had a fringe profit.

“In my off hours,” he said, “I would create the music tapes for all our fraternity parties from the 45’s that came in to the radio station.”

After graduating in 1964 he studied legislation at New York University, then taught high college English for 3 years, on the same time recording instructional tapes and dealing weekends in radio within the New York suburbs. The pull of radio ultimately proved irresistible.

“I left teaching for an afternoon radio show at WTFM,” he told the school journal, “and was hired to be a newsman at WHN Radio in New York, which quickly became a four-year gig interviewing celebs who came into town for movie and Broadway openings, as well as covering nightclub openings three or four nights a week.”

When WHN went to a rustic format in 1973, he turned to creating commercials, after which bought into recreation shows.

He is survived by his wife, Peggy; a brother, Gary; two daughters, Lauren Hass and Diana Binger; and 5 grandchildren.

Mr. Kalter’s do-almost-anything dedication to “Late Show,” Mr. Letterman said, was a pleasant counterpoint to Mr. Letterman’s more laid-back type.

“I never liked to put on funny hats,” he said. “Alan would dress like a Martian and make it work.”

“He filled in so many blanks on that show,” Mr. Letterman added, joking, “he probably deserved more money.”

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