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FILE UNDER: WRITTEN BY XANDER

A BOX OF PARTS

Groucho Marx would read CHARLOTTE'S WEB at least once a year. He did so, he said, in order to maintain his innocence and sense of childhood wonder. I, too, have a similar yearly ritual. But the book I have chosen is CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND by GONG SHOW maven Chuck Barris. With the big screen release of Chuckie Baby's tome scheduled for Christmas time, I think it is fair to call me properly stoked.

CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND director, big time movie star, and as Dave so aptly put it, 'pretty boy', George Clooney made an appearance on THE LATE SHOW Tuesday night.

It's always interesting to see how Dave will respond to a guest. I've always been fond of Chris Elliott's description of the old Letterman modus operandi: namely, he is what he is. Always. Dave's completely genuine, he's never acting. When he's pissed off, he's pissed off. When he's in a good mood, he's in a good mood. Whatever his mood, it ends up on the air. 

It's also true that when Dave is bored, he is genuinely bored. If he's not truly invested in his guest, he'll merely work the clock. Let it be said, Letterman books no idiots. To truly earn his interest (at least for a segment or two), you have to be interested in something or at the very least, be knowledgeable, amusing, or somehow ingratiating. Sad to say, many of your big time movie stars have a problem with these admittedly rudimentary talk show guest qualifications.

Too many of your young actor types get by solely on their looks. Their lives consist of nothing but horseplay and grab ass. They bring nothing else to the table because there is nothing else to bring. (Yes, I'm talking to you, PEOPLE Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive, Ben Affleck). A shot on THE LATE SHOW, to them, is just one more stop on the old publicity mill. Bad strategy. You got to work harder when you appear with Dave.

The best LATE SHOW guests tend not to be the biggest names. Amy Sedaris on Thursday nights show is the perfect example of someone who isn't a household name but who's appearance is always money in the bank. Jeff Goldblum has been around for a long time but his oddball persona seems to be completely in sync with Dave's. His occassional appearance on the show are frequently noteworthy. Amanda Peet may not be a star yet but she will be. Her appearance with Dave a couple of months ago probably did more for her career than the forgettable movie she was promoting. On the show, she was charismatic and alive and Dave was with her every step of the way.

George Clooney looked like he knew the drill. On other talk shows, he is fittingly charming and swank. With Dave, he seemed much more alert and focused. THE LATE SHOW's George Clooney was quick witted and vital. A strong effort from an actor who knows what Letterman expects.

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