On October 22, David Letterman was honored with the 20th Annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. PBS aired the event on Monday, November 20 at 8 p.m. During the course of the evening, Letterman was roasted by his peers, including Jimmy Kimmel, Bill Murray, Martin Short, and Steve Martin.
Letterman’s wife, Regina Lasko, 57, and his son Harry, 13, were both in attendance to support him.
Despite being the former Late Night talk show host’s wife, Lasko, hasn’t exactly had it easy. In 2009, Letterman, 68, not only waited 23 years to marry her, but also confessed to having extramarital affairs with “female staffers” on his show.
It was just six months prior to the scandal that Lasko — pictured above with her son Harry — tied the knot to Letterman, seemingly making their courtship ironclad. Nonetheless, she and the now-retired talking head ultimately worked out their problems. Since then, not much has been said about the woman behind the funny man.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Lasko Began Dating Letterman While He Was Still Living With His Previous Girlfriend
Prior to Lasko, Letterman married Michelle Cook in Muncie, Indiana, on July 2, 1968, However, he and his college sweetheart were divorced in October 1977. Thereafter, Letterman was involved in a 10-year relationship with former Late Night head writer and producer Merrill Markoe (pictured above). Interestingly enough, Lasko began dating Letterman in February 1986, while he was still living with Markoe. The two ultimately split and Letterman carried on his love affair with Lasko.
In 1994, Markoe spoke to USA Today about the nature of her and Letterman’s unorthodox relationship.
“It’s not like Dave and I have no feeling for each other. That was the nature of our relationship, goofing around,” Markoe said.
According to ABC News on October 2, 2009, Letterman — when he first started dating Lasko — dished about his then-girlfriend, making it clear that he wasn’t looking to rush to the altar.
“Regina and I began dating in February of 1986. Well, things are going pretty good, let’s just see what happens in about 10 years,” he said.
2. Lasko & Letterman’s Son Was Allegedly Nearly Kidnapped
Lasko and Letterman have one child together. Harry Joseph Letterman was born on November 3, 2003 and was named after Letterman’s father.
When Harry was 1.5 years old, an alleged plot to have him kidnapped was uncovered. An individual phoned law enforcement after he was approached by Kelly Allen Frank. — employed at Letterman’s Montana ranch — about taking Henry for $5 million ransom.
On March, 17, 2005, Mike Ferriter of the state Department of Corrections elaborated to People Magazine about the alleged plot.
“An individual was approached by Mr. Frank, an acquaintance of some kind, about his thought on the kidnapping, and (Frank) shared his idea with this individual. I’m not sure if he asked him to assist or be a part of it.”
Ultimately, the individual contacted the police and Frank was brought into custody on a felony charge of solicitation. He was later arrested and arraigned.
Although Letterman hasn’t always been a great husband to Lasko, he did show his appreciation for her and Harry during his farewell Late Night appearance on May 20, 2015 (shown below at the 7:51-mark).
“I want to thank my own family,” the host said as the audience gave a standing ovation. “I want to thank my wife Regina and my son Harry. Thank you. Seriously just thank you for being my family. I love you both and really nothing else matters does it,” he added.
3. Lasko Has Worked Behind the Camera in Entertainment
According to her IMDB page, Lasko has four credits in TV. More specifically, she has two production manager/unit manager credits for Another World (1991) and Saturday Night Live (1989). In 2015 — as shown in the farewell video above — Lasko was a featured audience member on her husband’s final Late Night appearance. Around that time, she also appeared as herself on Extra and Entertainment Tonight.
In a May 13, 2015, Rolling Stone interview, Letterman boasted about Lasko’s smarts and entertainment industry experience.
“She’s very smart. She worked in broadcasting, so she knows everything I do here. And in addition to being a practical combination, we just have a lot of fun,’ Letterman told the outlet.
4. It Took Lasko & Letterman 23 Years to Get Married
Lasko and Letterman began dating in 1986. On March 19, 2009, they wed in a low-key courthouse civil ceremony in Choteau, Montana, the same area that he bought the above-mentioned ranch in. On March 23 of the same year, Letterman announced his marriage on TV, just after congratulating Bruce Willis on his holy union. He explained to his audience that he almost missed the wedding due to his truck getting stuck in a mud patch two miles from home. Letterman also addressed the length of time it took him to get married to Lasko.
“I had avoided getting married pretty good [sic] for, like, 23 years, and … honestly, whether this happened or not, I secretly felt that men who were married admired me, like I was the last of the real gunslingers — you know what I’m saying?”
5. Letterman Cheated on Lasko With at Least One ‘Late Night’ Staff Member
The same year he got married, Letterman found himself in the midst of a sex scandal. Joe Halderman — a TV producer — threatened to expose that Letterman had slept with multiple female employees unless he forked over $2 million. Furthermore, Halderman had been living with his girlfriend — Stephanie Birkitt — the alleged woman that Letterman cheated on Lasko with.
On October 7, 2009, CBS News reported that Halderman and Birkitt “lived together from early 2005 until August” of 2009 in his Norwalk, Connecticut house. The site reported that Halderman stated that Letterman’s affair with Birkitt began in December 2007.
In response, the retired talk show host publicly confessed to his infidelity, telling his audience that he “had sex with women who worked for me” and his wife was “horribly hurt by my behavior.”
During Letterman’s sit-down interview with CBS Sunday Morning‘s Jane Pauley, the host felt that he was more candid than usual. Pauley weighed in to Entertainment Tonight on Letterman’s decision to come clean about cheating on Lasko.
“He came on the air and publicly apologized to his staff, to the viewers and the recognized that he might have jeopardized his career and might have jeopardized his family.”