Hal Gurnee on finding the Ed Sullivan Theater for "Late Show with David Letterman"

the producers executive producers wanted to do it at CBS first of all they want

to it was it was Bob and Peter LaSalle II people the silently lives on the west

coast and Bob always wanted to go to West Coast and they they talked me up

the idea of going to first of all the CBS new buildings in in Hollywood and

Dave asked me and Bob to go out and take a look at them and see what we thought

and Bob came bags are there great names it's gonna be perfect for you and I and

I and he asked me what I thought I said it'll be like doing a show at a Space

Agency it was this great big shiny buildings I said Dave the good news is

like 40 acres of cars yeah and so he says all right so i i dissuaded him from

that and then we started looking in New York because I you know I didn't want to

move to the west coast and neither did most of the people on the show and

neither did Dave I said people aren't funny on the west coast yeah and they

are funny in New York and and so we started looking for a theater and we

looked at the old Hudson theater where the with its first Tonight Show was

distorted yes we went to different theaters and none of them had the

seating of a word it didn't just didn't appeal and then we decided to go to the

broadcast center CBS broadcast Center and the one big studio there was a

couple soap operas and they wouldn't give up and they've recommended a one of

the one of the studios there and they and without my knowing it

Dave signed on he just said okay let's do in here and then the set director

myself went over and looked at it started measuring and I said it's no

bigger than the studio right now we went back to Dave and I said

the Ed Sullivan Theater was great for it Sullivan and all those people why don't

we give it a try so he went over and Dave almost walked out what they even

say no rat infested slimy place how'd he expect us to do a show here I said if

all the slime is removed it's a great great venue it was slimy and red and

it was it was first of all the control room was put in the back of the only so

he took up make one quarter of the seats and then off that was a couple ramps up

to staging extending the the stage out for commercials and the seating would be

maybe one-third or one-fourth the mountain that were originally intended

and the thing about the Ed Sullivan Theater is it wasn't what at Sullivan it

was it was the Oscar Hammerstein theater back in the 20s and it was built with

the largest proscenium in New York and it was made for musicals unfortunately

the the depression came along and no one was producing big musicals and it became

a nightclub for a while and then CBS took it over and and did two things like

Garry Moore and and and I remember going there for the Ed Sullivan Show with

Garry Moore it was pretty damn good but now it had fallen to this disrespect

repair and and I still wanted I thought jeez this would be a good deal for CBS

and the president of CBS at the time he was with us and he showed us he showed

us the studios and at the broadcast Center and then he came with us to look

at the Ed Sullivan Theater again and while

daven and and the two producers were just shaking her hands he said I want to

talk to you so we walked out and I said he said what do you think about this

place where do you think he could turn this and I said just a minute let's

let's walk and we walked out sort of the theater onto Broadway and I said here's

the answer you're on Broadway he got activity here it's you clean up this

place and it's a great theater what more do you want and it's for sale I'm CBS

just I think leased it there was a office building attached to it that one

what the theater were all as you know it would to me well it could be better but

I still had a lot of resistance and then one day Dave said to me he said hey Ari

we bit clean it up he said do you think it'll look like 11:30 and we were on at

12:30 to look like 11:30 and I said no it'll look like 8 o'clock and that's

what happened I was realizing we were number one for the first three years we

were there and everybody agreed that it was a great great venue for a talk job