Awesome Men Throughout History: Calvert Deforest
Old school Letterman fans who remember when his show was actually funny probably remember Calvert Deforest, aka Larry “Bud” Melman, a weird little guy who looked like Patton Oswalt’s Dorian Gray portrait and was hilariously out of place by design.
Calvert wasn’t much of an actor, although he wanted to be one for much of his life. His mother did all she could to squash that ambition when he was a kid, often imploring her uncle—a vaudeville actor from the silent film era—to talk some sense into young Calvert about how awful show business was.
Despite this, Calvert got into theatre as a young adult, but didn’t pursue acting because of his mother’s wishes. Instead, he worked a series of odd jobs for roughly the first half of his life, which he considered a waste in retrospect. “I was very unhappy,” he matter-of-factly told People Magazine in 1994, before adding that the years he spent on the Letterman show were “the joy of my life.”
Calvert threw himself into acting after his mother’s death, but it wasn’t easy for him. For one thing, he was about as smooth as a burlap sack, and his lack of polish and reliance on cue cards were serious impediments. He was working as a receptionist at a rehab center when he took a role in an NYU student film called King of the Zs, which the film’s writers submitted to the Letterman show as a sample. They got jobs out of it, but so did Calvert – Letterman loved his delivery and his look, and just the fact that he existed in a world as obnoxiously image-conscious as show business.
As Larry “Bud” Melman, Calvert’s many, many Letterman appearances saw him give people hot towels at the Port Authority bus terminal in Manhattan, perform bad impersonations of Ronald Reagan and Elvis, and many other roles for which he was completely and purposely unsuited. And it was great. He was hilarious. The audience was never sure if his persona was legitimate or an act, but there was a strange connection there, and he was one of the main reasons Letterman’s show took off.
He also got a lot of commercial and film work from his work on that show. The second half of his life delivered all the opportunities he’d been denied (and denied himself) during the first half.
Through it all, Calvert remained a humble, soft-spoken guy who didn’t always understand his appeal, but appreciated it all the same. “Everyone always wondered if Calvert was an actor playing a character,” Letterman said of him, “but in reality he was just himself—a genuine, modest and nice man.” He lived alone in the same Brooklyn apartment for decades, and never married or even dated, really. It sounds like a lonely life in a way, but it was a life he lived on his own terms, and it ended up being a pretty happy one.
Calvert Deforest died in 2007, which prompted a neat little tribute from the Letterman Show. I’ll leave you with that.
About Dave Kiefaber Dave Kiefaber is a Baltimore-based writer who regularly contributes to Adfreak and the Gettysburg Times. His personal website is at www.beeohdee.blogspot.com.