Letterman's 'Bud' Melman

Actor worked on NBC, CBS talkers

Calvert DeForest, known to millions of fans of David Letterman's late-night talk shows as the bespectacled, raspy-voiced Larry "Bud" Melman, has died. He was 85.

DeForest died Monday at Good Samaritan Hospital on Long Island, N.Y., after a long illness.

He was the first face seen on the first episode of NBC's "Late Night With David Letterman" in 1982 and appeared dozens of times on the New York-based show through its run until 1993. A longtime fan favorite with his deadpan manner and maniacal laugh, he often did goofy things on the show, including supplying hot towels to commuters at the Port Authority bus terminal.

When Letterman left NBC in 1993, DeForest moved with him. The only thing that changed was the character's name, which became "Calvert DeForest" on CBS' "Late Show With David Letterman" because NBC claimed ownership of the Melman name. His last appearance was on his 81st birthday in 2002.

"Everyone always wondered if Calvert was an actor playing a character, but in reality he was just himself, a genuine, modest and nice man," Letterman said Wednesday. "To our staff and to our viewers, he was a beloved and valued part of our show, and we will miss him."

DeForest was born July 23, 1921, in Brooklyn to a doctor father who died when DeForest was 16 and a mother who once worked in theater. He was working at a social-service agency in 1982 when he was called to do an appearance on Letterman's show, which he later called "the greatest thing that had happened in my life."

DeForest appeared as Melman in a 1985 episode of "Saturday Night Live" as well as a handful of small movies. He also appeared on "Pee-wee's Playhouse" and "Wings" as well as Run-D.M.C.'s "King of Rock" video. He also added some dialogue on hidden tracks on albums by the Offspring. His movie credits include "Heaven Help Us," "Nothing Lasts Forever" and "First Time."

There won't be a funeral, but the family requests donations made in DeForest's name to the Actors' Fund of America, 729 Seventh Ave., 10th floor, New York, NY 10019.