Dick Assman still chuckles over his David Letterman fame
2 decades after they met, 81-year-old Regina man still working, as talk show host set to retire
Dick Assman, the Regina gas station attendant whose surname led to a brief stint on David Letterman's late-night talk show, and a tidal wave of publicity, is still pumping gas and chuckling over his time in the spotlight.
"A lot of people sure got to know me," Assman, 81, told CBC News just ahead of Letterman's final show on Wednesday night. "No matter where you go, everybody just knows you."
There were some days I didn't do nothing else except take pictures and sign autographs.- Dick Assman
In the summer of 1995, Assman had moved from working at one gas station location to another and the owner decided to put an ad in the paper to let people know.
The ad apparently struck someone as humorous since a copy was submitted, anonymously, to the Late Show with David Letterman for a segment called Dumb Ads.
The popular television host took sophomoric glee in the name and made Assman the focal point for a comedy bit.
When Letterman phoned Assman for more laughs, the then 61-year-old man became an instant celebrity. In time, he was invited to New York City to appear on the show.
"I didn't know who he was," Assman said. "It was really something to go on the show."
Assman said he was aware, from the start, that Letterman was simply looking for humour.
"If he wants to have fun, go ahead," Assman said, noting it wasn't the first time people had poked fun at his name. It is a German name and he usually pronounces it oss-man.
Within days of his appearing on Letterman's show, Assman become the talk of Regina.
The gas station put up a sign saying Home of Dick Assman, attracting additional business.
With his new celebrity status, the quiet but amiable Assman was invited to perform the coin toss for a Saskatchewan Roughriders game and throw the first pitch at a Moose Jaw baseball game. A merchandising effort (T-shirts, coffee mugs, pens and more) also sprang up based on his fame and news media sought him out to talk about the experience of becoming so famous so quickly.
"There were some days I didn't do nothing else except take pictures and sign autographs," he said about the height of his popularity, which was a boon to the gas station.
Today, with his characteristic easygoing attitude, Assman said he is happy he had the experience.
"Everything went OK as far as I'm concerned," he said.
Still, he never became a follower of Letterman.
"He comes on too late," Assman said. "I'm in bed by the time he comes on."
In a farewell message to Letterman, Assman — who is still working (he says he just likes to keep busy) — wished the talk show host well with his retirement.
With files from CBC's Bonnie Allen