Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Domestic affairs and entanglements

Well, it had to happen. The final word in the David Letterman extortion case came in yesterday and the word was "guilty." Former CBS producer Robert "Joe" Halderman admitted in open court that his so-called treatment for a movie and a possible book was, as Letterman had stated publicly, a thinly-veiled attempt to wrest millions of dollars from the "Late Nite" talk show host. In the end Halderman admitted his role in the scheme, accepted a six-month prison sentence and four and a half-year period of probation and will be forced to provide 1,000 hours of community service in restitution. For Halderman it was the best of all possible outcomes because he would have undoubtedly been found guilty by the court and could have served a decade of hard prison time over this incredibly stupid act. Letterman, who contacted New York police over the matter, took his share of licks in the process. He publicly addressed the issue on his October 1 show, admitting he "had sex with women who worked" on his show in various capacities, but claiming the he had not cheated on his wife nor had any affairs following his marriage to Regina Lasko. The apology to his staffers was awkward enough for the comedian, but having to admit to being a womanizer to the public ramped up what he himself called his "creep" factor. Letterman, who had been linked romantically for a decade with former staffer and head writer Merrill Markoe, had hooked up for a short time with Stephanie Birkitt, who later became Halderman's live-in love interest. She reportedly moved out in August of last year. Halderman, an award-winning producer (seven Emmy Awards and an Alfred du Pont Columbia School of Journalism Award recipient) had devised his scheme between the time Birkitt moved out and last September, when he initially contacted Letterman and put his plan forward. Halderman's career, which included a long-term stint in London and work with the Winter Olympic Games XVIII, has now been suspended and it is doubtful he will be able to work in TV production in the future. He has been forbidden to speak out about the plot and cannot enter into any contracts in which he would reap profits such as a book or movie deal. The unsung victims from this tragic affair may be Halderman's divorced wife and two sons, who will probably lose child and spousal support payments while Halderman decides what course the rest of his life will take while imprisoned. Had the case gone to trial, it might have gone very bad for Letterman too, who might have had to admit just how many women literally worked under him. Frankly, it seems to me that Letterman, who named his production company Worldwide Pants, might well have been well advised to have kept his own on.

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