Dorothy Mengering, David Letterman’s mother and one of his favorite television foils, has died at age 95, a longtime producer for Letterman’s “Late Show” tweeted Tuesday night.
Barbara Gaines, an executive producer on the CBS talk show whose affiliation with Letterman dates back to 1980, wrote that Mengering “definitely went the distance.”
A Letterman rep confirmed the death to the New York Daily News. Mengering died Tuesday, on the eve of Letterman’s 70th birthday.
Identified on the show only as “Dave’s mom Dorothy” and never by her full name, Mengering made occasional appearances as a celebrity interviewer and the consummate pie baker, always smiling and responding to her son’s ribbing with a patient “David …”
Just before Thanksgiving each year, she would appear via satellite from her kitchen (or a TV set approximating it) in Carmel, Indiana, with a selection of homemade pies. Letterman prided himself on his ability to go into a trance and discern the covered pies’ filling telepathically, all the way from New York.
She parlayed her kitchen wizardry into a 1996 cookbook, “Home Cookin’ With Dave’s Mom.”
Three times she went to the Winter Olympics as the show’s correspondent, and at the first — in Lillehammer, Norway, in 1994 — she interviewed Hillary Clinton and conveyed her lead-footed son’s request for a higher speed limit in Connecticut. She also covered the Games in Nagano, Japan, in 1998 and Salt Lake City, Utah, in 2002.
She also toured London for “Late Show” and gamely delivered Top 10 lists from time to time.
Though thrust into the spotlight, Mengering didn’t seem to mind her fame. “After Lillehammer, I couldn’t believe how it all took off,” she told the New York Times in 1996. “I think it’s about the idea of mom and of a family. People are eager for families to be like they used to be. Even though there are lots of working moms and single-parent families now, you can still be a family in spite of the size and form it takes.”
Daughter Gretchen Letterman, a longtime Tampa Bay Times journalist, told the paper Tuesday that the family loved seeing the country embrace the matriarch’s chemistry with her famous son.
“I was just so very proud of her in that role,” she said. “She wouldn’t take any stuff from him, which was what was so funny. Even though she let him fill her fridge with Colt 45 malt liquor and bags of White Castle, when he would say something really ridiculous, she would say: ‘Oh David, that’s not true.’ “