Things You Didn't Know About David Letterman's Mom

Legendary late night host David Letterman lost his mother, Dorothy Mengering, on Tuesday, April 11, 2017. She died at her home in Carmel, Indiana. In a touching obituary, written by her children, it was said that Mengering loved spending time with her family the most, particularly her grandchildren, and that her "detour into the spotlight" was just one aspect of her normally quiet, but full life. While it's clear that Mengering's surviving family cherished their beloved matriarch, she also touched the lives of many others in her turn as a public figure. Here are some things you didn't know about David Letterman's mom.

She made many appearances on Dave's shows

In February of 1986, Dorothy Mengering made her first appearance on episode of Late Night, her son's first after-hours talk show. In the skit, Mengering is hanging out with the band in Letterman's office, until he comes in and has her make an announcement with a microphone to the streets of New York City below. "Attention New York, my name is Jane Pauley. I'm being held prisoner by Willard Scott. He's not wearing pants," she said, expertly delivering her lines. She instantly became a fan favorite, and would return for many segments over the years.

Some of the more memorable times were when Mengering returned to deliver Top Ten lists, a classic staple of the show performed nightly, and sometimes by celebrity guests. When Mengering presented "Top Ten Things I Have Learned In My 84 Years," she brought the goods as usual, delivering the one-liners in her folksy midwestern lilt. Number one on the list was "It's hard having a son who looks older than you," which is hilarious, but more importantly, also goes to show that Mengering herself was never the butt of the joke.

Dave sent Richard Simmons to her house once

Richard Simmons was a longtime recurring guest on The Late Show. Not only were he and Letterman locked in a perpetual passive-aggressive debate about Simmons' sexuality, but the funnyman would also constantly play pranks on the flamboyant exercise guru. In a twist, the show sent Simmons to Mengering's house where he declared that he'd been there for days. Whether Letterman was thrilled about his comedic nemesis palling around with his mom remains a mystery, but the experience definitely left Mengering with a positive impression.

In an interview with The Northwest Indiana Times, Mengering said that one of her favorite guests from the show was Richard Simmons. "One time, Dave sent him to my house to help me in the kitchen with my cooking. It wasn't easy with all of the wires and cables from the filming, but we still had fun. We made Dave's favorite sour cherry pie and Richard took it to New York to deliver it to David on-air," she said. Outtakes from the segment can be seen here, and it's clear what a good sport both Simmons and Mengering had about the whole thing.

Her olympics appearances

Out of all of her appearances on both of Letterman's shows, perhaps the most well-known were the times Mengering was sent to cover the Olympics as the "Late Show Olympic Commentator." She was first sent to Lillehammer, Norway in 1994, where according to NBC Sports, she "offered cocoa to figure skater Nancy Kerrigan (twice), sampled cross-country skiing and asked then-First Lady Hillary Clinton if she could take care of Letterman's speeding tickets." That was a breakout moment for Mengering that even garnered her an invitation to the White House by Clinton herself.

Letterman was actually worried about his mom taking on the larger role, since they previously only used her mostly via phone calls or remotes from her own home. He told The St. Petersburg Times (Via NBC Sports), "The best part of it for me was that she got through the three weeks with some dignity. And she was not embarrassed, so that was nice. I was very worried about that." Fans loved Mengering's appearances so much that Letterman sent her to the next two Winter Games, in Nagano, Japan in 1998, and Salt Lake City, Utah in 2002, as well.

She wrote a cookbook

On the heels of her success reporting from the Olympics, Mengering decided to channel her newfound fame into a charitable cause. And since her whole schtick on Letterman's show was basically dispatches from her legendary kitchen, a cookbook was the perfect vehicle. In 1996, Mengering published Home Cookin' With Dave's Mom, to raise money for the Kiwanis Club. Mengering and her husband were longtime members, so she donated proceeds from the book which raised "a significant amount of money for the Kiwanis' international effort to end iodine deficiency in children of third-world countries," according to her obituary.

The cookbook is a study in home-cooked American cuisine, with recipes like "Meat Loaf, My Mother's Way" and "Uncle Earl's Creamed Chipped Beef." It's also packed with family photos and anecdotes from both Mengering and Letterman's family life. In the book's introduction, Mengering also reveals that outside of appearance's on her son's show, the cookbook would be her only other claim to fame. "I have decided that for the most part, people see enough of me on The Late Show. I don't want to wear out my welcome. But when Pocket Books asked me if I wanted to put together a cookbook, I jumped at the opportunity. Now, cooking — that's something I know about," she writes. Seriously, is this not the sweetest woman on the planet?

She's also proud of her non-famous kids

Dorothy Mengering had two girls in addition to David, named Janice and Gretchen. In an interview with The New York Times where she makes pies with the writer to promote her book, Mengering makes sure to mention her daughters as well. She said that both women are also good cooks and that Jan stayed close to home in Indianapolis, raising two children of her own, and Gretchen worked in St. Petersburg, FL as a features editor for The St. Petersburg Times.

In another article compiled by Gretchen for the The St. Petersburg Times (via The Washington Post), Mengering reflects on a time that she was asked, "Don't you have your own identity?" It was presumably in reference to becoming a character on The Late Show. Mengering's response was, "I am another person besides Dave's Mom," she told the St. Petersburg Times. "I'm Gretchen and Jan's mom, too, and grandmother to four and wife to Hans. So, I have a whole life other than being Dave's mom."

Dave can thank her for his sense of humor and the gap in his teeth

Another revelation from Home Cookin With Dave's Mom is the fact that she decided not to fix the famous gap in Dave's teeth. Apparently it's a story Mengering liked to repeat, as indicated by Northwestern Indiana Times reporter, Philip Potempa, who claims she felt "she thought it was part of his personality." Mengering also credits Letterman's legendary sense of humor to her side of the family. "Well, his dad had a good sense of humor, but I think he may get it from my dad," she told The New York Times. "He drove Mother crazy sometimes, cracking jokes. I guess I'm more like she was. I kind of take things more seriously, although I'm much more laid-back than I used to be," she also said. From her consistently hilarious TV appearances, she certainly could have fooled us.