Amid the confines of a cramped apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side exists what may very well be the most comprehensive archive of any late night television show. Don Giller, a music typesetter by day and a David Letterman superfan by night, has taken on the unofficial role as archivist of the Late Night With David Letterman. Giller’s collection, which takes up the bulk of his apartment, spans an endless mazes of shelves filled with VHS tapes stacked from the floor all the way to the ceiling. Giller began recording the Late Night, which debuted in August of 1993, from the beginning. At first he recorded only the audio of every show, but eventually he bought a VCR and began to tape the show on a nightly basis. Early on Don began to keep scrupulous notes, which eventually led to his creation of a database that includes his personal accounts of segments, jokes, and Letterman’s infamous top ten lists.
In the 1990’s, Giller joined message boards dedicated to David Letterman, and because of his collection and expertise, he became a celebrity among Letterman fans—or what he refers to as “like-minded psychotics”—and earned the nickname “The Donz.” Giller’s obsession with collecting dates back to his childhood in Baltimore when in 1963 he recorded the assassination of John F. Kenney with his reel-to-reel recorder. This eventually lead to him documenting his college marching band and later on Academy Award broadcasts, Saturday Night Live, and presidential inaugurations. When asked why he records everything Don’s says “That’s what I do,” and, “I always liked making lists and trying to get a handle on something that interests me.” Over the years Don’s collection of episodes, along with his extensive collection of notes and recollections, has proven to be an valuable resource for Letterman aficionados, journalists, and at times even the staff of the show.
Don is currently in the process of digitizing his collection of all 6,028 episodes of Late Night, a task he hopes to have completed by 2018. When asked whether or not he’s ever met Letterman, Don says that they have met several occasions, but that their encounters did not add up to much. He hopes to someday have the opportunity to meet Letterman again and have a longer conversation, because as Don says “I’d like him to know what I did…[t]he question is: Will he give a crap? I need to be prepared that he won’t and accept that.”
Ryan Marino, LIS-653-02, Spring 2017