David Letterman collaborated on the book “This Land Was Made for You and Me (But Mostly Me).”

Drew Gurian • New York Times,

David Letterman partners on book satiring One Percenters

  • Article by: DAVE ITZKOFF
  • New York Times
  • November 8, 2013 - 1:40 PM

David Letterman is not only an author of “This Land Was Made for You and Me (but Mostly Me),” a new humor book he created with Bruce McCall. He is also a target of its pointed populist satire, and he knows it.

“We’re at the top of the list of dopes with too much money, who go to Montana and buy up land,” Letterman, the longtime host of CBS’ “Late Show,” said recently, referring to himself and the few people who can call themselves his economic peers. “But there is a different view of it, hopefully, that some of us have not fallen prey to.”

“This Land,” which Blue Rider Press will release Tuesday, and which bears the mocking subtitle “Billionaires in the Wild,” contains dozens of McCall’s quietly absurdist paintings, depicting nonexistent monuments to extravagant modern-day wealth: a hunting lodge with an indoor airport, a ski chalet hurtling down a snow-covered mountain on a set of giant metal runners.

The art is accompanied by descriptions of fictional moguls and their irresponsible indulgences, like the “pharmaceutical patent fixer” who painted an entire river to match the clothing worn by his new wife, “the only former groin model to market her own line of eco-friendly sex toys.”

Though much of this writing is McCall’s, “This Land” has a lot to say about Letterman, an enigmatic figure who rarely expresses himself outside of his late-night show, but who recognizes the book as a vehicle for ideas — about this country and about himself — that he cannot necessarily get across in his TV gig.

In a telephone interview, McCall, 78, described himself and Letterman as kindred spirits who share “a certain skepticism about the nobility of the human race.”

An outsider’s perspective

Letterman “still thinks of himself as being outside the mainstream,” McCall said. “He really doesn’t feel part of the wider world.”

But Letterman is also a prosperous entertainer with annual earnings of $42 million, according to Forbes. In addition to an estate in Westchester County, N.Y., he owns a Montana ranch on the Rocky Mountain Front, where he goes to relax and fret about the excesses of other zillionaires.

As one such example, Letterman pointed to the 17,000-acre Colorado getaway of fashion designer Ralph Lauren and its 30-mile-long teakwood fence. (“It’s a three-rail fence,” Letterman said. “That’s 90 miles of teakwood the guy’s got.”) There was also the Resort at Paws Up in Montana, which has helped popularize an especially cosseted form of the luxury outdoorsmanship known as glamping.

“They have Wi-Fi in the tepees,” Letterman said, exaggerating slightly. “The more you looked around, the more you realized: ‘Oh my God, this exists. These guys have gone nuts.’ ”

While riding horses with friends on his ranch, Letterman said he would riff about an imaginary 1-million-acre estate in Manitoba called the “Triple-XL,” established by “a guy who had made lots of money in nonslip rubber place mats he sold to Friendly’s.”

Letterman began pitching his flights of fancy to McCall, using McCall’s daughter, Amanda, an author and former “Late Show” staff member, as a go-between.

But Letterman admitted to a certain cognitive dissonance underlying his involvement in “This Land.”

“I would make fun of myself, first and foremost, in this equation,” he said. “I think you’re allowed to make fun of dopes, whether they’re dopes with too much money or dopes in Congress.” 

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