Schoharie to get a little help from an old friend: David Letterman

"Late Show" host will make plea for devastated community tonight.
David Letterman
David Letterman

The village of Schoharie will return to late-night television on Monday, when the “Late Show with David Letterman” host will make a plea for the devastated community.

In the first half-hour of Monday’s episode, Letterman will advocate for the Schoharie Recovery Fund. The fund is desperately needed in Schoharie, where a large number of homes were severely damaged during Hurricane Irene.

The small village first popped up on Letterman’s radar in 2002, after it was featured on a episode that included Mayor John Borst reading the “Top 10 List.” In front of 10 busloads of Schoharie residents, who had come to the show, Borst read the top 10 reasons being mayor of Schoharie is the best job in the world.

Borst thinks it is wonderful that the show is going to help out and said he wasn’t surprised that they’re be coming to the aid of the village. He said their chances were probably aided by the fact they weren’t asking for money, but only media exposure or to utilize Letterman’s connections.

“We’re good friends [with the staff],” he said. “I had contacts down there and I emailed one about our situation.”

It turned out the staff member he contacted was well aware of Irene’s impact, as he was currently housing displaced flood victims in his home.

“I think it’s a great thing,” Borst said.

People interested in contributing to the village recovery efforts can make a check out to the Schoharie Recovery Fund. They can be mailed to PO Box 111, Schoharie, N.Y., 12157.

How to help

There are many ways to help the people, schools and organizations hurt by the floods. Here are some links and ideas:

From our archives, one of the stories we wrote about the Letterman show back in 2002:

Letterman brings Schoharie to TV audience

Daily Gazette, The (Schenectady, NY) – Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Author: Gazette Reporter, MICHAEL LISI

NEW YORK – Schoharie Mayor John Borst read off a “Top 10” list explaining why his job is the best job in the world.

Village residents Claire McMahon and Elaine Snowdon did some Irish step-dancing.

And glazier Hans Janke proudly pulled down his pants to show off the large, colored tattoo of Paul Bunyon and Babe the blue ox on his thigh.

Yes, it was “Late Night,” Schoharie -style.

Late night talk host David Letterman filled his audience with Schoharians for his “Late Show With David Letterman ” program on Monday night, providing bus transportation from Schoharie to Manhattan for 475 people who live and/or work in the village.

Letterman , whose show airs locally at 11:35 p.m. weekdays on WRGB, Channel 6, extended the invitation in an advertisement placed by the show an October issue of the weekly Cobleskill Times Journal newspaper. Villagers had to call a toll-free number in October to reserve seats on the charter buses.

“Are we excited? You bet we are!,” said Ellen Johnson, wearing her brother-in-law’s “Late Night” sweatshirt and flanked by her shivering sister Diane Croot and friend Lisa Warbach as they waited for the buses to leave the former Great American parking lot in Schoharie early Monday morning.

Jeffrey Tew, an interpreter at Schoharie ‘s Old Stone Fort Museum, showed up dressed as a British soldier during the Revolutionary War, complete with bayonet and tricorn. He said he dressed up hoping to draw attention and spread the word about the historic fort on the nationally televised show.

“I brought my musket but they told me to leave it in the car,” he said.

Kevin James, star of the hit CBS sitcom “The King Of Queens,” and rock band Matchbox Twenty were guests on the program. The show was taped between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. on Monday and aired at 11:35 p.m. Monday night.

Letterman devoted more than half of his show to ribbing Schoharie , good-naturedly portraying Schoharians as simple, backwoods folks who like to hunt, drink and tattoo themselves.

In his five-minute monologue, Letterman talked about nothing but Schoharie , winning big laughs as he joked about the town’s rural character.

“It’s part of our audience exchange program,” Letterman said of bringing Schoharians to the show. “Now, 462 people from New York City are in Schoharie and they’re watching Ed Scribner rewire his toaster.”

And he joked about its size.

“It’s so small, it has to time-share a hooker with Cobleskill,” Letterman said of the village. “It’s so small, Winona Ryder could fit the whole town in her purse.”

Letterman wasn’t able to fit the entire population of Schoharie in the Ed Sullivan Theater – the village’s population is 1,033, according to Village Clerk Dawn Durfee. But “Late Show” spokeswoman Kim Izzo said seats were added – about 40 of them – to accommodate the Schoharians who were bused down in 10 Brown bus coaches from the Main Street pickup point around 11:30 a.m.

Schoharians weren’t too concerned about being the butt of an elaborate Letterman joke. They certainly expected to be made fun of, though, and graciously laughed it off.

And they beat Letterman to the punch, naming the street that leads to the sewage treatment plant ” Letterman Lane.”

“He made fun of us but we appreciated the humor,” said village resident Joyce Stah, carrying a box lunch and a bag of “Late Show” goodies given to each audience member as she boarded a bus for home after the taping.

“They could have done much worse,” added resident Ginny Kintz.

Letterman featured three segments involving the village, including the popular “Video Quiz” bit – Shaffer and his band played “Volare,” changing the lyrics to ” Schoharie .”

All the bumpers – clips coming in and out of commercials – were footage of Schoharie , including places like the Glass Bar, the village pub.

The Manhattan backdrop behind Letterman was replaced with Main Street, Schoharie , which prompted some funny banter between Letterman and band leader Paul Shaffer.

Show regular Biff Henderson spent about a week in Schoharie in October, interviewing residents and business people for a segment called “Biff Henderson’s America.” There was Henderson patting down Police Chief Harold Orlup against Orlup’s squad car, then Orlup returning the favor.

Henderson learned how to do a turkey call at the local hardware store and talked to patrons hanging out at the Glass Bar.

“I’ll never forget the things I saw in Schoharie ,” said Henderson. “But I’m sure going to try.”

A few minutes later, Letterman brought the mayor out to read the Top 10 list. The mayor chuckled as he ticked off the reasons why his job was the best job in the world.

“Number six: If three people like you, you’re looking at a 90-percent approval rating,” Borst said. “Number five: I’ll probably get a nice note from Warner Brothers after the $600 my town spent this weekend on “Harry Potter.'”

As for why Letterman chose to feature Schoharie , Tom Keaney, spokesman for Letterman ‘s production company Worldwide Pants Incorporated, had a simple explanation: “We love Schoharie .”

Durfee said “Late Show” officials contacted her a few months ago, asking “hundreds” of questions about the village before spotlighting the area on the show. The village of Fonda and two other areas were also under consideration, but Schoharie won out because of the village’s – and Durfee’s -enthusiasm toward the project, she said.

This isn’t the first time Letterman has done this type of thing. Over the years, he’s invited residents from 11 cities, including metropolitan areas like Boston and Chicago.

But it’s the first time he’s focused on an area as small as Schoharie , Izzo and Keaney explained.

“It’s an extension of [the ongoing show segment] “Biff Henderson’s America,'” said Izzo. “Biff’s been going to small towns and now we’re bringing a small town here.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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