Will David Letterman's career survive sex revelations?
You want to know whether David Letterman is likely to survive recent revelations that he has had sex with women working on his show -- possibly cheating on longtime girlfriend-turned-wife Regina Lasko?
Take a long look at his confessional during Thursday night's show.
Telling the audience he wanted to tell them a story, he proceeded to offer the funniest tale of being extorted over workplace affairs I have ever heard. Saying a man threatened to write a screenplay and a book with "creepy stuff" in it, Letterman later revealed "the creepy stuff was that I have had sex with women who work for me on the show . . . Would it be embarrassing? . . . Especially for the women."
The audience laughed; many of them may not realize that, even though Letterman got married this year, he has lived with his current girlfriend for more than 20 years and these affairs could have occurred during that time.
Indeed, one public relations professional has written on his blog that Letterman's statement was the best example of crisis management and getting in front of a bad story that he'd seen in recent history.
Letterman has always used his show to talk about the most newsworthy events in his life -- revealing thoughts about the birth of his son, his marriage and his open-heart surgery that most other celebs would save for a Barbara Walters special or appearance on Oprah. And he has an odd history of attracting the attention of eccentric, sometimes dangerous people offstage.
He knew this situation quickly go public; according to the comic, the man accused of extorting him was a former producer for CBS's 48 Hours newsmagazine, who left with a fake $2 million check after three meetings with him. Police arrested him after Letterman testified before a grand jury Thursday afternoon.
So it made sense that the comic would try to control at least the start of the story by telling his side in a charming and funny way on the only bit of ground where he truly seems comfortable -- behind a desk, in front of a camera.
Big questions remain: Will the women he slept with stay silent? (Given how much money the tabloids will pay for their stories, that seems unlikely.) Will his marriage survive? Could he face lawsuits or legal action for having sexual relationships with subordinates at work? Will CBS feel pressure to do something publicly in reaction? (I'm not betting on that last one, unless more revelations come about the affairs.)
There are times when Letterman can seem a little overly attentive to his attractive female guests, and his personal life has always been shrouded in secrecy. This scandal threatens to make painful personal incidents public in a major way for a celebrity who has tried hard to keep his private life private.
Letterman's survival depends on two things: whether there are worse revelations to come, and if he can negotiate them as smoothly as he handled this moment.
Here's CBS' story on his woes.