American Icons: David Letterman


What makes an icon? Setting trends, instead of following them; earning the respect of your peers; and achieving a longevity of excellence in your chosen field.

Comedian David Letterman – the latest of our featured icons – can check off all three on that list. And tonight he bids farewell to a 33-year stint as a late night talk show host, entertaining the masses before they went to bed.

Watching Letterman, you got the sense he was comfortable being uncomfortable. He was unpolished, quite unlike his hero Johnny Carson. He was daring, taking the late night format and putting his own stamp on it.

Letterman was known for his top 10 lists, throwing objects off the roof of the Ed Sullivan Theater and turning pets (and humans) into celebrities thanks to their stupid tricks.

He was never afraid to shine a spotlight on others, including his own crew of misfits (Biff Henderson, Alan Kalter and Paul Shaffer, to name a few), allowing them to partake in his theater of the absurd. Even his own mother got into the act: 

But his rise to fame and ultimate success was never guaranteed. His beginnings were humble. His career began in Indianapolis, where he worked as a booth announcer, weatherman and DJ at a local news station. When he made the move to go to a nearby talk radio station, he recalled in this NPR interview with Alec Baldwin that the general manager of the TV station chastised Letterman before leaving, telling him that, “You will never be heard of again.”

Of course, looking back in hindsight, nothing could be further from the truth. Statements like those – when people doubt your talents – are often landmark moments for icons. They become the fuel one uses when they decide to dedicate their life to their craft.

And that is what Letterman has dedicated his life to, making him a true icon. If this was ever in question, it was put to rest last Friday night when comedian Norm MacDonald said goodbye to Letterman. The entire set is amazing, but the really touching part comes around the 6-minute mark. In an emotional moment, Norm talks about the influence Letterman had on his own career:

That’s what icons do. They not only achieve great success, they inspire others to reach great heights. Letterman has spent the past 33 years doing that for entertainers and comedians worldwide.

And for the rest of us, Letterman has made us laugh and provided a comforting escape from the rigors of daily life. So to honor Letterman, we are highlighting our Hobie line of sunglasses. They are stylish, but fun, and like the retiring talk show host will undoubtedly put a smile on your face.

Letterman has done that since 1982, and for that we are thankful.

Words of an Icon: “There’s only one requirement of any of us, and that is to be courageous. Because courage, as you might know, defines all other human behavior. And, I believe – because I’ve done a little of this myself – pretending to be courageous is just as good as the real thing.” – David Letterman