Alan Kalter, who was the announcer and performed hilarious comedy bits for David Letterman during his two-decade run on CBS’ late show, has passed away. He was 78.
Kalter died on Monday at Stamford Hospital in Connecticut, his wife Peggy . told The Hollywood Reporter.
Red-haired Kalter took over from retired Bill Wendell as the late show announcer in September 1995—about two years after Letterman moved from NBC to CBS—and stayed through the host’s last program on May 20, 2015. On his first day on the job, Letterman threw him into a swimming pool.
With musical accompaniment from Paul Shaffer and the CBS Orchestra, Kalter announced the guests and boldly introduced the host at the beginning of each show, then delivered the comedic one-liner over the Worldwide Pants title card in the closing credits.
In between, Kalter often played funny skits, including hosting “Alan Kalter’s Celebrity Interview” after Letterman finished with the guest and speaking from his announcer’s stage while the studio lights dimmed, trying to come across as lonely, divorced women. “Big Red” – much to the dismay of a “shocked” Letterman.
“I’ve had such an amazing 20 years, every day has been a blessing,” Kalter said in an interview as the Letterman show drew to a close.
“Every one of us goes through a terrible time, for 3 hours or for 4 hours. But whatever my day looks like, from 4:30 to 5:30 [when the Late Show taped], I laugh, I laugh, every day.”
Alan Robert Kalter was born in Brooklyn on March 21, 1943 and grew up in the New York communities of Little Neck and Cedarhurst.
In 1964 he graduated from Hobart College in Geneva, New York, after which he studied law at NYU. He taught English and public speaking in high school on Long Island for about three years before starting his broadcasting career with radio station WHN.
Kalter was also the announcer of game shows like To tell the truth, The $25,000 Pyramid – where he first met Letterman, who was a guest – and the money maze, some of which were shot at The Ed Sullivan Theater on Broadway, home of the late show; did voiceovers for hundreds of commercials (he was the voice of the Michelin man); and regularly aired promos for USA Network.
“When I came home and said I had the job as an announcer on the… late show“I told my wife I wasn’t sure I really wanted it because it would really shake the boat on the commercials I was doing across the country,” he recalled in 2019. “I wouldn’t be able to to go away for three or four days in a row whenever I wanted, to do that work. And my kids, who were in high school at the time, more or less immediately said in unison, ‘Dad, this is the first cool thing you ever did in your life. Take this!'”
Instead of flowers or food baskets, Kalter wanted donations made in memory of Temple Beth El in Stamford.