KMEG and Sioux City draw national attention from David Letterman
SIOUX CITY, IA —
It was a popular catch phrase during the first 21 months of the Late Show with David Letterman on CBS. "From the Home Office in Sioux City, Iowa." Especially since the city's CBS affiliate, KMEG-14 decided not to air Letterman when he made the transition from the 11:30 time slot at NBC to the 10:30 time slot on CBS in August of 1993.
"But when he made the transition because he didn't get The Tonight Show over to CBS people were worried that kind of humor wouldn't translate to a 10:30 time slot," says Bruce Miller of the Sioux City Journal. KMEG general manager Bruce Lewis was among them.
"He knew the history of CBS's late night attempts at programming. He remembered The Pat Sajak Show, although none of us remember the Pat Sajak Show anymore. He remembered the CBS Late Night Movie with Columbo and all those other shows. And he remembered other various attempts," according to former KMEG station manager Fritz Miller.
Lewis decided to stick with reruns of Star Trek which was a strong number two opposite NBC's Johnny Carson.
"And the Letterman people caught wind of it. And they called me and said, 'what can we do to keep this going?" says Bruce Miller. They'd heard about K-MEG's decision through articles written by Bruce Miller of the Sioux City Journal.
"And I said, 'geez help me because we want to try and get your show on.' And they said we'll do something, be ready. And what they did was they named Sioux City the first home office," recalled Miller.
The decision drew immediate attention here and from across the country.
"You name the outlet. They were all calling to find out what is this stupid thing going on in Sioux City, and can you tell us about it," adds Miller.
"I wore out the knees of my pants begging us to pick up Letterman. And he, Bruce Lewis, said I just can't do it," says Fritz Miller.
Lewis's refusal actually turned out to be a boon for Sioux City. City hall, which was closed for renovations, became the de-facto "Home Office."
"People would come to Sioux City to have their picture taking in front of the home office with Dave smiling. It was on more Christmas cards that year than you can imagine," says Bruce Miller.
It even spurred the sale of t-shirts and various Home Office commemorative items. "And we'd had a rally at city hall where Bruce and I kind of debated each other about why we need Letterman in Sioux City and why he didn't think we did. And he was a really good sport about playing with it," recalls Bruce Miller.
Nearly a year later the station relented. "I think we reached out to CBS and said, 'Is there any chance we can get David Letterman or Paul Schaeffer or anybody to come?' And they said, 'Oh no. That ship sailed when you didn't pick up the show,'" says Fritz Miller.
Instead, K-MEG settled for a visit by Calvert DeForest, the dweebish man who gained cult status as "Larry Bud Melman" on Letterman's shows.
And Mujibur Rahman, who often conversed with Letterman from a nearby souvenir shop. Rahman signed a one day contract to throw out the actual first pitch for the Explorers.
Fritz Miller credits Lewis's character and stewardship for helping turn a perceived *negative* into something that ended up being so *positive* for Sioux City. "And Bruce again... to his credit said, 'Alright. We would be better off and our viewers would be better off if we offered this program instead of that."
When Letterman retired in 2015 his people sent Bruce Miller the actual cue card from the first show that reads. "from the home office in Sioux City." And Miller also received an autographed from Letterman thanking him for everything. "And he was nice about it. He was never mean about it. He would mention Sioux City. We would wait every night to hear, 'From the Home Office in Sioux City, Iowa. And we got it," says Miller.