Letterman's Unlikely Star Mom Dies at 95

Dorothy Mengering charmed America with her pies, Midwest attitude
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 12, 2017 9:24 AM CDT

David Letterman's mother, Dorothy Mengering, a Midwest homemaker who became an unlikely celebrity in her 70s as she baked mystery pies and covered the Olympics for her son's show, has died at age 95, per the AP. Letterman had made ironic celebrities out of dozens of regular folks before he thought to bring on his mom. But the moment he did, she became a hit, usually with a cheerful "Hi, David!" starting every appearance. The two had great on-air chemistry, her homespun sincerity proving the perfect foil for her son's urban acerbity. Her first appearances came via satellite from her kitchen in Carmel, Ind., for a segment called "Guess Mom's Pies," which became a Thanksgiving tradition. Letterman would make a huge production before finally declaring, usually correctly, "chocolate chiffon!" or "rhubarb!"

She really became a star when the show took her out of the kitchen. Mengering was a correspondent for the Letterman's Late Show at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, a role she reprised for the next two winter games, wearing bulky snow gear that made her tiny self almost invisible, and oozing pure sincerity even in absurd bits Letterman's writers had her perform. "After Lillehammer, I couldn't believe how it all took off," Mengering told the New York Times in 1996. "I think it's about the idea of mom and of a family." Mengering lived all her life in Indiana. She married Letterman's father, a florist named Harry Letterman, in 1942. He died in 1973, and she married structural engineer Hans P. Mengering, who died in 2013. Once famous, she put out a cookbook, 1996's Home Cookin' With Dave's Mom. (How Letterman would have handled Trump.)

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