On Thursday, October 9, long-time Late Show cue-card holder Tony Mendez grabbed writer Bill Scheft by the shirt collar at the beginning of the work day. He was immediately expelled from the premises and on Monday, October 13, informed by executive producer Rob Burnett that he had been terminated.
On Friday, October 17, Sheft returned to the Ed Sullivan Theater, telling co-workers he is suffering from PST, and today, thanks to the New York Post‘s Gary Buiso, everyone is talking about this. In an interview that is remarkably candid and perhaps a little foolish, given the fact that Mendez could face legal action from 57-year-old Scheft, the 69-year-old ex-employee talks about everything. How his relationship with Scheft was, for a long time, fractious. And how he had carved out a unique way of communicating with the boss:
On Wednesday, October 8, the three [Mendez, Scheft, Letterman] were rehearsing in Letterman’s backstage digs when Mendez said he reacted to one of Scheft’s interruptions, telling him, “I know what I’m doing. Get off my back.”
But suddenly Letterman growled, “Tony, your sour disposition isn’t helping,” Mendez recalled.
“‘You’re the one who has the sour disposition, motherf–ker,'” Mendez snapped back.
Mendez admitted he was “pissed off,” but said he and Letterman often traded off-color barbs. “That’s how we talk,” Mendez said. “We tell each other ‘F–k you’ and ‘Hey a–hole.’”
“He doesn’t do that with anybody — but he feels comfortable with me. That brings a bit of normalcy — because everyone else is like, ‘Yes, yes, Mr. Letterman. If you want something impossible, yes, we’ll do it, Mr. Letterman.'”
At the very end of the Post article, Mendez says he tries not to have regrets about things, trying instead to learn from his mistakes. In this case, even though according to the article he will be granted full salary and benefits through the Late Show‘s final Letterman season, this is a very unfortunate way for the relationship to end. One that now begs the sideline question: Will Mendez’s successor(s) be acknowledged and-or shown on air?