Alan Kalter, the quirky, red-headed longtime voice of the “Late Show with David Letterman,” has died at age 78.
Kalter “passed away peacefully” on Monday at Stamford Hospital in Connecticut, surrounded by his family, Rabbi Joshua Hammerman of Temple Beth El in Stamford, Connecticut, told USA TODAY. Kalter’s wife, Peggy Masterson, also confirmed the news Monday to The Hollywood Reporter. No cause of death was immediately provided.
Letterman, 74, paid tribute to the announcer in a statement to USA TODAY, recalling when he first listened to Kalter’s audition tape after his first announcer, Bill Wendell, retired from the show in the ’90s.
More celebrity deaths:‘SNL’ veteran and comedian Norm Macdonald dies of cancer at 61
“Alan’s was the first and only voice we listened to. We knew he would be our choice,” Letterman said. “Whatever else, we always had the best announcer in television. Wonderful voice and eagerness to play a goofy character of himself. Did I mention he could sing? Yes he could. He enthusiastically did it all. A very sad day, but many great memories.”
Kalter was born in Brooklyn, New York, on March 21, 1943. Nicknamed “Big Red” for his hair, he provided the opening introductions (and occasionally appeared in sketches) on the “Late Show with David Letterman” on CBS from September 1995 for 20 years until the series finale in 2015.
As Letterman would walk and run onto the stage, Kalter would introduce him with a sarcastic flair as “the king of unsocial media,” “nocturnal rainforest mammal” and other monikers.
He has since appeared in a 2015 Letterman documentary, “David Letterman: A Life on Television,” and reprised his announcing role for Letterman in 2017 when the former late night host was honored with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center.
Prior to the “Late Show,” Kalter was a popular voiceover artist and spokesman in commercials for brands including Gillette, Michelin, CBS Cares, New York Mega Million and the USA Network. His other major announcing credits include “The $10,000 Pyramid,” “The $25,000 Pyramid,” “The Money Maze,” “To Tell The Truth” – where he also replaced Wendell – and the 2003 Grammy Awards.
Kalter taught high school English on Long Island in the late 1960s before moving into radio broadcasting.
He lived in Stamford, Connecticut, where he was active in Temple Beth El.
“Beyond his fame and his golden voice, Alan was a past president of TBE and a true mensch, who was deeply committed to Jewish values and the Jewish people and was especially devoted to this, his home community,” Hammerman said in a statement.
A private funeral will be held at the Stamford synagogue on Wednesday and will be livestreamed.
Contributing: The Associated Press