BREAKING NEWS! Dishwasher Pete, aka Pete Jordan, to Appear on CBS’ Late Show with David Letterman this Friday, July 20, 2007
PITTSBURGH — Any of you out there with even a passing interest in author Pete Jordan, the man formerly known in zine circles as Dishwasher Pete, will certainly want to pay close attention to this Friday’s episode of CBS’ Late Show with David Letterman. Pete himself, if you can believe it, is a scheduled guest.
Those of you not familiar with Jordan’s work will probably not find this information unusual in the least, but as someone who has obsessively followed the man’s career for the better part of a decade now, I nearly had to lift my jaw off the floor when I read this news.
The backstory is that during the height of the zine explosion, Jordan became something of a minor underground celebrity. He was working as a dishwasher at the time, and his goal was to dish professionally in each one of the 50 United States. He naturally found himself in a number of especially odd and amusing situations — his dished on an oil rig, for instance, and on a dinner train, at a fish cannery in Alaska, at a summer camp — and he documented these experiences in a self-published zine.
Once the mainstream media discovered the zine culture, they started digging for work that was well written, or well designed, or unusual — in other words, anything that would make their own audience sit up and take notice.
Jordan’s story was certainly one of the most fascinating, but because he was wary of being exploited by the corporate class, he consistently refused to play ball when the magazines and the news shows came knocking. He was legendary for turning down any and all interview requests. I once attempted to set up an interview with Jordan myself — I was putting together a little pamphlet about independent travel culture — and the guy even turned me down!
At any rate, I suppose Jordan had simply had enough of all this by the time letters from the David Letterman crew began appearing in his mailbox, requesting that he appear on the show. But as it happened, Jordan had a good friend — Jess — who had always dreamt of being on TV, and so the two cooked up a plan. It was simple enough: They would both go to the studio, although Jess would claim that he was Pete, and Pete would claim that he was Jess. Since Pete was also famously camera shy, the two never figured they’d get caught; there were very few photos of Pete in which his face was actually exposed.
Long story short: They got away with it, for a while. Jess did appear on the show, and he essentially made a mockery of both himself and Letterman. Jordan tells the entire story in full detail in his new book, which I highly recommend. And on Jordan’s website, you can watch the actual video of Jess’s Letterman appearance. It’s an absolute classic. As far as I know, the only other guests to ever successfully prank Letterman were actor Crispin Glover (who was supposed on acid during his appearance) and comic book author Harvey Pekar.
It’s anyone’s guess, of course, what will happen when Jordan stops by the Late Show set for the second time. Jordan now lives in Amsterdam, where he has a wife and a child, and he even published his book with a mainstream house. So it’s unlikely he’ll be causing any trouble himself. But who’s to say what Dave might decide to cook up? I received an email from Jordan yesterday, in which he wrote the following:
“Originally the producers seemed cold to the notion of inviting me again to ‘appear’. But it seems that the big guy himself is the one who thought it’d be a good idea to have me back. I guess he has a sense of humor after all. But this time I’m going into it knowing that the joke may very well be on me. So I don’t know what to expect. (An ersatz host?) Tune in Monday night to find out… “