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Saturday, June 10, 2006


On May 17, 1995 I watched The Late Show with David Letterman. It was a special show taped in London. Here's what I remember.

Letterman introduced his first guest Peter O'Toole, inciting a thunderous ovation the audience, but the camera shot of the stage showed only a slightly wavering curtain. No sign of O'Toole. Two seconds, five seconds, eight seconds elapsed, the anticipation rising, the applause only growing louder as if willing the great actor to appear.

Then, I'm sure to the surprise of more than just this viewer, a camel strode out from behind the curtain with none other than the beatific O'Toole perched atop the single hump. Beaming, he commanded the moment as only Peter O'Toole can. The camel, slightly skittish but game for the bit, turned fully around in a tight circle at center stage, O'Toole skillfully maneuvering the animal with a combination of gentle taps from the end of a long switch. The audience somehow managed to roar even more loudly. The noise was now a sustained, high-pitched static coming out of the television speaker.

At O'Toole's direction, the camel bent one of its front legs and performed a sort of curtsey on its way to assuming a full kneeling position of rest, one that allowed O'Toole to dismount. Before the audience had a chance to reduce its frenzied state, out from under his clothes O'Toole pulled a oversized can of beer and held it up for the audience to see. He popped the top, toasted the crowd and Letterman before gulping down a healthy swig. It seemed impossible but the decibel level continued to rise. The television speakers were buzzing and crackling.

He then turned to the enormous beast, which though kneeling still carried its head a good two feet above O'Toole's. The master thespian held the giant can of beer up to he camel's rubbery lips, offering a sup of the brew. Like prehensile appendages, the lips reached out and wrapped themselves around the can tugging it out of O'Toole's hand. Then, tipping its head back, it quickly guzzled down the entire can, its huge neck convulsing with each swallow. It then sent the empty can skipping across the stage floor. Licking its lips and bearing an expression that I can only describe as nonchalance, it gazed out a the audience. There was absolute bedlam in the theater. O'Toole bowed graciously to the audience and his obedient partner, took his seat next to Letterman and when the applause finally subsided enough for O'Toole to speak, he completed what I consider the greatest single entrance I've ever seen by offering the perfect Peter O'Toole wry, understated observation.

"I think that's called a stupid pet trick."



At 8/12/2006 3:35 PM, Anonymous said...

I love this man.


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