Alan Kalter, who served as the announcer and performed hilarious comic bits for David Letterman during his two-decade run on CBS’ Late Show, has died. He was 78.
Kalter died Monday at Stamford Hospital in Connecticut, his wife, Peggy, told The Hollywood Reporter.
The red-haired Kalter took over for the retired Bill Wendell as the Late Show announcer in September 1995 — about two years after Letterman moved from NBC to CBS — and remained through the host’s final program on May 20, 2015. On his first day on the job, Letterman tossed him into a pool.
With musical accompaniment from Paul Shaffer and the CBS Orchestra, Kalter announced the guests and cheekily introduced the host at the top of each show, then voiced the comic one-liner over the Worldwide Pants title card on the end credits.
In between, Kalter often acted in funny sketches that included hosting “Alan Kalter’s Celebrity Interview” after Letterman was finished with the guest and speaking from his announcer’s podium as the studio lights dimmed, trying to come on to lonely, divorced women as “Big Red” — much to the dismay of a “shocked” Letterman.
“I’ve had such a great 20 years, it’s been a blessing every single day,” Kalter said in an interview as the Letterman show was winding down.
“Every one of us goes through a terrible time once in a while, before 3 o’clock or before 4 o’clock. But no matter what my day is like, from 4:30 to 5:30 [when the Late Show taped], I laugh, I smile, every day.”
Alan Robert Kalter was born in Brooklyn on March 21, 1943, and raised in the New York communities of Little Neck and Cedarhurst.
In 1964, he graduated from Hobart College in Geneva, New York, then attended law school at NYU. He taught English and public speaking in high school on Long Island for about three years before beginning his broadcasting career at the radio station WHN.
Kalter also was the announcer on such game shows as To Tell the Truth, The $25,000 Pyramid — where he met Letterman, who was a guest, for the first time — and The Money Maze, some of which were taped 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 voiced regular promos for USA Network.
“When I came home and said I was offered the job as the announcer on the Late Show, I told my wife I wasn’t sure if I really wanted it because it would really rock the boat on those commercials I was doing around the country,” he recalled in 2019. “I wouldn’t be able to go away for three or four days at a time whenever I wanted to, to do that work. And my kids, who were in high school at the time, sort of immediately in chorus said, ‘Dad this is the first cool thing you’ve ever done in your life. Take it!’”
In lieu of flowers or food baskets, Kalter wanted donations in his memory be made to Temple Beth El in Stamford.