From Mark Evanier: News From Me
Over in the David Letterman newsgroup, Letterman authority Don "Donz" Giller has reported the death of character actor Calvert DeForest, who was a fixture of Dave's TV shows, first as Larry "Bud" Melman on the NBC show and later under his own name on CBS. According to Giller's posting, DeForest died Thursday night from a heart attack after contracting pneumonia.
DeForest was born in 1921 and did not intend to have a career in show business. His mother was an actress and discouraged it, but he told interviewers he needed no discouragement in that area. He did, however, appear in a student film that caught the attention of Mr. Letterman. To his surprise, DeForest (who was then working in a Social Services office) received an offer to be part of a sketch on Dave's show and that led to regular appearances as the character, Larry "Bud" Melman. Dave and the writers especially loved putting DeForest into sketches and situations where the hapless actor had no idea what he was doing. DeForest read everything off cue cards and could almost always be counted on to pause or stand in all the wrong places. Once after he showed a tiny bit of on-camera professionalism, Dave reportedly remarked, "If he ever gets good, he'll be of no use to us."
There may have been odder ducks on TV--somebody like Tiny Tim I suppose--but none as hopelessly and hilariously as amateurish as Calvert DeForest. He never did quite master the notion that if you were interviewing somebody, you had to put the microphone up to his face. He'd even do it to himself--start talking and then turn the microphone away before he was finished speaking. He was incapable of guile.
And this lead to an honesty rarely seen on the tube, at least in the early days of the Eighties. He'd generally go along with Letterman's insults--Letterman for all his talent is a smug high school jerk--but one time Letterman dispatched him to Mexico (?) by SUV or somesuch vehicle and Larry Bud clearly didn't like traveling. He had to call Letterman's show every night from the road. He was none too happy at the top of the week. By the end of it he was angry. He kept saying "I want to come home, David. I want to come home, David." He damn well meant it.
I always felt sorry for him. He was a member of my tribe, the outcasts. When Letterman got especially mean I even felt protective of him. But, again like Tiny Tim, I'm afraid I had no interest in him as a human being. I didn't WANT to know anything about him because I figured that would be pretty fierce stuff. Maybe he had a reasonably happy life but somehow I doubt it.
So long, Calvert.