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Rick “Shecky” Scheckman, who for more than 30 years came up with oddball footage for David Letterman’s late-night programs while also finding his way on camera for wacky comedy bits, has died. He was 67.
Scheckman had “multiple health issues” and died early Friday morning at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan, his friend Leonard Maltin told The Hollywood Reporter.
The Queens native was an avid film collector who had acquired obscure footage from decades and decades of celluloid that could be repurposed for commercials, TV shows and the like.
“This meant organizing and cataloging hundreds upon hundreds of 16mm reels and figuring out a way to provide quick access to individual shots,” Maltin noted in a blog post.
Scheckman joined Late Night With David Letterman in March 1982, a month after the show debuted on NBC. The writers called on Scheckman so often, he was given a full-time job as film coordinator.
“If 20 minutes before tape time, the writers suddenly came up with a bit that required film of a monkey washing a cat, Shecky knew where to find it,” writer Mark Evanier wrote on his blog.
When Letterman moved to CBS in 1993, Scheckman came along and remained with the Late Show through its 2015 conclusion. For those 33-plus years, his stuff was referred to as “Shecky Footage,” Letterman archivist Don Giller pointed out in a tribute post on YouTube.
As did many Letterman behind-the-scenes staffers, Scheckman often wound up in front of the camera, playing, for example, Elvis Presley; a naked man in the shower with a copy machine; a fan of Star Wars and Pokémon; and himself, getting shot by Bruce Willis (“Yippee ki yay, Shecky!!”), as seen in another tribute video.
Giller wrote that Scheckman “was one of Late Show‘s producers, though never titled as such, sitting in the back row of the control room during the tapings, being at the ready for any Shecky Footage that might be required ASAP. He was also responsible for distributing clips to legitimate parties requesting them.”
Born Dec. 1, 1955, Richard Scheckman went to NYU and Baruch College, where he earned his master’s degree.
He landed on Late Night with the help of writer Stephen Winer and early on shared a 30 Rock office with Chris Elliott and Edd Hall, though the office “was actually just the coffee/supply room,” he said in 1997.
Scheckman was chairman of F.I.L.M. Archives since 1986 and director of film programming for Cinefest, which brings together fans of classic movies in Syracuse, New York, from 1980-2015.
“If you arrived at a dealer’s room at a convention like Cinefest after he did, you lost out on the real goodies,” Maltin wrote. “The dealers might as well have placed a ‘Ricky Was Here’ sign on their tables.”
Scheckman recently donated his large 16mm film collection to the Library of Congress, Evanier said.
Survivors include his brother, Michael.
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