WATCH: David Letterman Delivers His Old Late Show Marquee to Contest Winner

David Letterman’s albatross has been lifted—and it’s now living its best life in Connecticut. 

The albatross, in this case, is the iconic blue-and-yellow Late Show marquee that hung outside New York City’s Ed Sullivan Theater for two decades. “A year or two ago, we realized we had this big hunk of plastic with the Late Show sign on it,” Letterman explained in a new video he posted to his YouTube channel Wednesday. 

Not knowing what to do with the sign, the late-night legend decided that rehoming it was the best possible option—and to do it in the name of charity. In November 2023, Letterman and his longtime bandleader Paul Shaffer (whose name is also on the sign) announced a sweepstakes where anyone who donated $10 or more to Habitat for Humanity would be entered to win the 20-foot-wide sign. The promotion ended up raising a whopping $116,000 for the organization.

The lucky winner was also to receive a trip for two to New York City, on Dave’s dime, to appear as a guest on The Barbara Gaines Show—a segment on Letterman’s YouTube channel ostensibly hosted by Gaines, Letterman’s longtime executive producer, alongside her old boss. Instead of having the winner travel to New York to meet the duo, the show’s newest installment documents the marquee’s journey to its new owner’s home in Connecticut, just about 20 miles from Letterman’s own home.

After making it clear that neither he nor Gaines would be doing any of the heavy lifting of the sign, Letterman called in his hired team of movers to “get this junk out of here” and helpfully reminded them to “lift with your legs!”

While it was New Jersey resident Helen Halford who actually won the sign in the contest, the real winner turned out to be her uncle, Preston Bealle. When Halford learned she had won, she quickly realized that she had no room for such an enormous prize. So she asked her uncle, Bealle—who owns a 150-year-old barn in Connecticut—if he would want it. He immediately said yes. 

“I will say that the uncle’s property here is lovely,” Letterman said in the video, “and I feel confident that the sign has found a lovely new home.”

Letterman and Gaines were greeted by Halford, the official winner, who explained how she wanted to enter the contest and give something to Habitat for Humanity, but didn’t think she’d win.

“This is a valuable lesson,” Letterman explained. “Didn’t think she was going to win; in fact, has won; realized the suffocating pressure of the victory,” hence donating it to her uncle. 

In what turned out to be a fun twist of fate, Bealle’s father was a lead sponsor of The Ed Sullivan Show. That honor came with at least one major perk: When The Beatles arrived in America for the first time in 1964 to perform for Sullivan’s audience (and the 73 million people who tuned in), Bealle was there—with a fifth row aisle seat, no less. 

“So I appear in all the clips,” he told Letterman and Gaines of his place in pop culture history.

Letterman was intrigued by Bealle’s story, though he made sure to do his due diligence and ask the rest of the family “Now is he lying, or can we verify this?”

When they finally made their way to the barn that will be the marquee’s new home, Letterman was impressed. “This thing is beautiful,” he marveled. “It’s big, it’s colorful…. Now are you in any way planning to exploit the ownership here?”

“No,” Bealle assured Letterman. “I’m going to make continual donations to Habitat for Humanity as gratitude for this.” To which Dave responded: “God bless you.”

The Darien, Connecticut edition of the Daily Voice—of which Bealle is a founding member—caught up with the sign’s lucky new owner to get some further details surrounding his visit with Letterman. As the two share an affinity for cars, Bealle confessed he was curious about what Dave would be driving. “Turned out he had a blue Tesla S, inch by inch just exactly like mine, and he went to inspect my car first thing,” Bealle shared.

Though he stayed for more than an hour, Bealle recalled to the Daily Voice how “Dave’s first comment in our kitchen was, ‘How many people don’t want to be here?’ And he raised his hand.”

Bealle had hoped to have Letterman autograph the sign, which he was happy to oblige. But the weather had other plans. Given the raininess of the day, the signature wouldn’t have stuck. So Letterman promised to come back when the weather was better and put that finishing touch on the marquee. 

As Letterman repeatedly reminded viewers throughout the 9-minute video: “I love making people’s dreams come true.”


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  1. Jaclynn Carroll says:

    This is the kind of offbeat insider story that makes this site fun to read.

    1. Jennifer M. Wood says:

      Thanks for the kind words. These are just the kind of stories that are so fun to find and write about!

  2. Helen H says:

    Good story and well told!