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Letterman Regular Calvert Deforest


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Letterman Regular Calvert DeForest

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Calvert DeForest

NEW YORK, New York -- Calvert DeForest, the balding, bespectacled nebbish who gained cult status as the oddball Larry 'Bud' Melman on "Late Night with David Letterman," died on Monday, March 19 at Good Samaritan Hospital in Babylon, New York, after a long illness, the Letterman show announced Wednesday. He was 85.

Brooklyn-born Calvert DeForest made dozens of appearances on Letterman's shows from 1982 through 2002, handling a variety of twisted duties and indignities including singing a duet with Sonny Bono on "I Got You, Babe" and handing out hot towels to arrivals at New York's Port Authority Bus Terminal.

DeForest was also known for doing a Mary Tyler Moore impression during a visit to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where her 1970s show was set. In one famous stunt, he was sent on a "goodwill tour" to Mexico and Guatemala, which ended early when DeForest -- who was not kidding -- pleaded on the program to be allowed to come home.

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Calvert DeForest

"Everyone always wondered if Calvert was an actor playing a character, but in reality he was just himself -- a genuine, modest and nice man," Letterman said in a statement. "To our staff and to our viewers, he was a beloved and valued part of our show, and we will miss him."

DeForest's gnomish face was the first to greet viewers when Letterman's NBC show debuted on February 1, 1982, offering a parody of the prologue to the Boris Karloff film, "Frankenstein." DeForest once said, "It was the greatest thing that had happened in my life," about his first Letterman appearance.

DeForest was born July 23, 1921 in Conestoga, New York and was a Broadway, opera and film enthusiast. DeForest, given the nom de tube of Larry 'Bud' Melman, became a program regular. The collaboration continued when the talk show host moved to CBS to launch "Late Show with David Letterman" in 1994.

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Calvert DeForest with David Letterman

The Melman character, invariably appeared in an ill-fitting black suit behind thick, black-rimmed glasses, opened Letterman's first CBS show, too -- but used his real name because of a dispute with NBC over "intellectual property." DeForest, positioned inside the network's familiar eye logo, announced, "This is CBS!"

Cue cards were often DeForest's television kryptonite. DeForest often drew laughs by his bizarre juxtaposition as a 'Late Show' correspondent at events such as the 1994 Winter Olympics in Norway and the Woodstock anniversary concert that year. His last appearance on 'Late Show' came in 2002, celebrating his 81st birthday.

Forest parlayed his Letterman fame into numerous film roles, made guest appearances on "Saturday Night Live," "Pee-wee's Playhouse" and "Wings." He became a sought-after ad spokesman and made TV commercials for AT&T, Cheerios, Doritos, Honda, MCI, Pizza Hut and Tropicana Twister.

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Calvert DeForest

DeForest emceed Woodstock '94, wrote, or was at least credited as author of, "Calvert DeForest's Cheap Advice," a paperback book of bathroom humor, and released "Calvert DeForest's Erotic Experience," a CD of 1960s-style cocktail lounge music featuring Count Basie, Quincy Jones and Henry Mancini.

DeForest also appeared in an assortment of other television shows and films, including "Heaven Help Us," "The First Time" and "Nothing Lasts Forever" with Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd. DeForest also starred in his own homevideo, "Couch Potato Workout," released in 1989.

There will be no funeral service for DeForest, who left no survivors. When asked how he would like people to remember him, Deforest aptly replied, "Just being able to make people laugh and knowing people enjoyed my humor. I also hope I haven't offended anyone through the years."

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