Dorothy Mengering, better known as “Dave’s Mom,” launched an unexpected, late-in-life comic career based on the humdrum conversations she had with her son David Letterman on “The Late Show.”
The unlikely celebrity, an Indianapolis church secretary and cookbook author who died Tuesday at age 95, gently endured her son’s fast-talking quips and absurd antics for the sake of comedy. The recurring guest star was a perfect foil for the sometimes prickly Letterman, often delivering vague responses with a long-suffering attitude.
She was one of the few who referred to him as “David” and memorably gave her son local updates while wearing an apron in her kitchen, corresponded for three different Winter Olympics and assisted with his famous Top 10 lists.
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Mengering made her first cameo on the show in 1986 for a parent-themed episode of his “Late Night” show on NBC. Letterman took the audience backstage to introduce them to to his mom, who was wearing a visitor’s badge as she sat on the couch in his office. There he opened a window, gave her a bullhorn and had her announce to the city of New York that she was being held prisoner. She sweetly complied.
Here’s a look at some of her other greatest hits:
1. Top 10
On her 84th birthday, Mengering appeared via satellite from her home in Indianapolis to recite “Things that I learned in my 84 years.” Among them: “In a pinch, vanilla extract will give you a good buzz” and “Kids don’t listen to parents when it comes to advice on hairpieces.” In another Top 10 segment, she presented little-known facts about her son, sharing that he earned a Boy Scout merit badge in whining, was voted “most likely to be turned down for ‘The Tonight Show’” and that you were looking at his senior prom date.
2. Reporting from the Olympics
Mengering bundled up and headed off to Lillehammer, Norway, for her first Winter Olympics. She proudly showcased her hotel soaps, described the Northern Lights and asked the locals if they had heard of David Letterman. The answer was usually “no.” She also tried out cross-country skiing and interviewed famed figure skater Nancy Kerrigan.
3. Cooking demo
While doing the rounds to promote her cookbook “Home Cookin’ With Dave’s Mom,” Mengering appeared on “The Late Show” to demo Letterman’s favorite childhood meal: fried bologna sandwiches. But it was her son who fumbled through the recipe as she presided over their makeshift kitchen. “When I was a kid, we would have this, I would say, every day two or three times a day for four or five years.” Her response: “I don’t think so.”
4. Guess the pie
During Thanksgiving shows, Letterman would call his mom to guess what kind of pies she was making. In 1998, they talked about the family and the weather before showcasing a few desserts she baked. “There might be one wacky [pie],” she told her eager son. In a 1991 episode, she recited her entire menu over the phone and Letterman got particularly hung up on her creamed onions side dish.
5. Mother’s Day montage
Letterman, before retiring from “The Late Show” in 2015, devoted a sweet Mother’s Day montage to Mengering’s greatest moments. The video led with a clip of her interviewing then-First Lady Hillary Clinton at the Olympics, asking her if she or her husband could do anything about the speed limit in Connecticut to help her son out with a few speeding tickets.
Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles TimesDavid Letterman