Dave Letterman has always considered himself a broadcaster first and a comedian second. That could be why he took the news of my departure from the morning show much harder than I could've imagined. But on January 18, 2011, when I made my announcement about moving on, I apparently didn't hammer away hard enough on the "moving on" part of it.
Suddenly word spread like wildfire that I was retiring — the one word I never said. People everywhere have kept telling me they're so sorry that I'm retiring. They hope I enjoy my retirement; they tell me I deserve a nice retirement. Nobody remembers "moving on." I should have known this would happen when Dave called me twice that day so that he could talk me out of this "retirement" I'd never announced to begin with.
Me: [overwrought, as usual] Dave, this is one of the busiest days of my life! I've got reporters here. Barbara Walters is at my door, Katie Couric is down in the lobby crying! What do you want?!
Dave: Regis, when I spoke to you this morning I was crestfallen at the news that you were leaving television, but I think I misunderstood something. Is there something that needs to be cleared up about the announcement?
Me: Well, I had a drink before I made the announcement.
Dave: Well, like any other Tuesday.
Me: What'd I say? I'm leaving the show. I'm not retiring from show business!
Dave: Right, but once Johnny Carson left his show, we never saw the man again. You're telling me now that we will, in fact, be seeing you again?
Me: No, I didn't say that, Dave.
Dave: Will you at least come on my show?
Me: Once in a while. But not too often, Dave. Really! It's twenty-eight years, Dave. Every day. The same studio. The same desk. The same audience! Those same thirty-five people who came every morning to see me!
Dave: [visibly shaken] Ohhh, Regis, don't say that. I don't want this to happen … This is too important …
Me: Dave, it's too late. I made the announcement. But I'm gonna have a lot of time on my hands. Can I come and hang out at your office?
Dave: Maybe … I don't — no, not really.
How I Got This Way, © 2011 by Philbin Enterprises, Inc., published by HarperCollins Publishers. Used by permission of the publisher.