Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

David Letterman On How He Ended Up In Montana


In 2007, Whitefish writer and photographer Brian Schott had an idea. He wanted to start a print publication to feature the literature, art, and photography of mountain culture. And so, over pints of beer after a day on the ski slopes, he pitched his idea to a couple of friends: “We’ll publish some cool stories. It’ll be fun. Really!”

Now, eight and a-half years, one nonprofit status, and countless sleep-deprived nights later, Issue #18 of the Whitefish Review is about to be released. The theme of this issue is “Growing Up and Getting Older.” It was guest edited by Rick Bass, and includes the transcript of a phone conversation Editor-In-Chief Brian Schott had with David Letterman, who owns a ranch near Choteau. Their conversation began with Letterman’s recent departure from the Late Show on CBS.

Brian Schott: You’re retired we’ve heard.

David Letterman: Yes, I have retired. I am no longer in show business.

BS: How has that change in your life affected you?

DL: We did this television show, my friends and I, for a long, long time. And it’s probably like anybody’s professional pursuit. When you’re doing it for so long, and each day … and I’ve always likened it to running a restaurant because you get response to the day’s endeavor immediately—either from the audience or from the ratings, but you know as early as the next day how you did. And because of this introspection you begin to believe that what you’re doing is of great importance and that it is affecting mankind wall-to-wall. And then when you get out of it you realize, oh, well that wasn’t true at all. It was just … it was silliness. When that occurred to me, I felt much better and I realized, Geez I don’t think I care that much about television anymore. But I feel foolish for having been misguided by my ego for so many years.

Schott and Letterman also talked about skiing.

DL: The last time we were up at Big Mountain, or I guess they call it Whitefish Mountain now. As you’re riding the chair lift up, you’re looking into the Canadian Rockies and then you’re looking back at Glacier and then you’re looking south and you see the ranges that run forever in that direction. And one of my early ski instructors said to me, The first lesson in skiing, he says, when you get off the chair lift take in the view. And, you know, we’ve been halfway up the mountain on the chairlift and it’s like an IMAX movie. It’s beyond an IMAX movie. It’s all there. It’s crazy. You don’t see stuff like that.

Many celebrities own land in Montana, but for a long time Letterman resisted coming here.

DL: Tom Brokaw is the reason we ended up in Montana. For years and years and years, Tom said, You oughta go … Meredith and I … you oughta go to Montana. And I said, Okay, sure Tom, sure. And I would look at [a map of] Montana and I would think, Good Lord! Why would you want to go … look at that! It’s too wide, for one thing. So finally we went. And so we stumbled on to the Rocky Mountain Front. The first thing that this experience brought to us is, you just can’t stop seeing once you’re out there. And, you know, the Big Sky and all … and for heaven’s sakes it’s true, but also the endless horizon. And the Front, uh, I can remember one day being out there just kind of walking around and I realized the wind, it was coming at me and it was fairly gentle. And what it was bringing to my ears was just … dead … quiet. I couldn’t believe that the two things could exist. But the wind would be blowing and what it brought to you was absolute silence. And the place is full of surprises like that.

Credit Brian Schott /
Brian Schott

The Whitefish Review was also a surprise to Letterman.

DL: I’ve been looking through—I believe the word is perusing—the magazines, the collections, the Whitefish Review. And I’m in love with the publication and I feel stupid because prior to a month ago, or so, I don’t think I was aware of it. And it’s a delightful project and must be very satisfying to work with.

BS: Well, thanks for saying so. That’s really generous.

For Brian Schott publishing the Whitefish Review has been a labor of love that has consumed a large chunk of his energy, time, and money for nearly nine years. So why does he persist?

BS: You know, ultimately, I think it’s all about beauty—in the landscape, in the words, in the art, and in the photography.

The list of other celebrity interviews and conversations published in past issues of the Whitefish Review includes John Irving, David James Duncan, Doug Peacock, Terry Tempest Williams, Russell Chatham, Tom Brokaw, Pam Houston, and Bill McKibben.

A launch party for the new issue of the Whitefish Review is scheduled for Saturday, the 19th of December, at Crush Lounge in Whitefish.

You can read Brian Schott's entire conversation with David Letterman at the Whitefish Review's Web site.

Links To More:

GQ magazine
David Letterman Explains that Creepy Beard

Yahoo TV
David Letterman Talks Crazy Beard, Letting Go of the Past in New Interview

David Letterman Reflects on TV, Retirement, Montana, and Fatherhood

David Letterman Talks! Interview with Montana Journal, Whitefish Review

Chérie Newman is a former arts and humanities producer and on-air host for Montana Public Radio, and a freelance writer. She founded and previously hosted a weekly literary program, The Write Question, which continues to air on several public radio stations; it is also available online at and
Become a sustaining member for as low as $5/month
Make an annual or one-time donation to support MTPR
Pay an existing pledge or update your payment information
Related Content