In the latest issue of Vanity Fair, Mark Seal took an inside look at David Letterman's sexual scandal and the love-triangle that rocked CBS's "Late Show" last October with Letterman's live confession on-air. Interested in juicy details and pop psychology, Seal effectively vindicated Letterman for the numerous affairs he had with various employees, assistants, and interns.
As the article notes, the scandal came to a head when Joe Halderman, a veteran but financially-troubled producer of "48 Hours Mystery," discovered his live-in girlfriend and "Late Show" intern Stephanie Birkett was having an affair with the host.Halderman attempted to blackmail Letterman with stories about multiple women whose careers progressed because they slept with the star. In September '09, New York's district attorney charged Halderman for attempted grand larceny by extortion.
Seal interviewed Rob Burnett, executive producer of the "Late Show" and one of Letterman's closest friends, for the story, allowing Burnett to inform the world of his "myth busting" account of the saga.
Burnett told Seal that image of Letterman as a sleazy portrayal as a skirt-chasing, vigagra-popping, misogynist is profoundly misleading. "Here's a guy that's worked as a network-television host for 29 years, 16 hours a day. Relationships develop," Burnett says. "In this country, people meet people at work - that's what happens."
He also claims "Late Show" women have never been paid for their silence and the allegation that his friend does not respect female staff could not be further from the truth: "I'm a dad. I've got two daughters and a son. I would be happy and proud for my children to work in an office like this one day."
According to Seal, Letterman is an insecure human being who simply seeks approval and positive reinforcement from others - through sexual affairs. "Letterman is, by his own admission, one of the most unhappy, insecure, guilt-ridden, self-loathing, self-pitying people on the planet. All of this informs his choices, especially when it comes to women," writes Seal. He makes note of how the countless attempts by celebrities, including Julia Roberts and Madonna, to seduce Letterman have been in vain.
On the other hand, Seal's interviews with numerous insiders, staffers, and employees conducted for the lengthy piece proved it simply isn't Letterman's fault - he can't help the fact so many women find him so alluring and helplessly fall in love with him. "I've come in contact with countless celebrities, and only two emit a tangible, almost magnetic force, electricity that draws you to them: David Letterman and Bill Clinton," said a former "Late Show" segment producer.
"I was madly in love with him at the time," a former intern is quoted as saying. "I would have married him. He was hilarious."
And from an anonymous "former insider": "It was intoxicating to me, and I can see how someone could cross the line. It's like Jesus Christ saying, ‘Hey, let's go to dinner!' You're going to go, ‘Wow! He chose me!'"