It’s Saturday morning, 9am. You’ve just had your first (or second or third) cup of coffee and you’re in a whimsical mood. You want to be entertained and you’ve already binge watched Breaking Bad, Dexter and Game of Thrones. You want something different. ‘Dave’s Gone By’, an eclectic mixture of comedy, music, theater, news, culture, interviews and just plain silliness might be the ticket.
For the past seventeen years the enigmatic David Lefkowitz has broadcast a weekly entertainment show to loyal listeners entitled ‘Dave’s Gone By’. The show began October 6th, 2002 as an hour long radio program but soon expanded to ninety minutes and continued to grow as David added more and more segments. It currently runs every Saturday morning from roughly 9am to noon. You can listen to it on the radio or watch it, as I do, from his Facebook Page. This past week he celebrated his 709th broadcast. Each show opens with his signature ‘There goes the Daaaaverhood’ with the syllable held for an impressively long time.
The fact that it has been running for seventeen years without funding from a major company (something David would love to see change) is a testament not only to Dave’s hard work and passion but also to the talent and charisma which keeps listeners tuning in week after week. The show includes songs, skits, puns, parodies, news (both serious and frivolous) and lots of theater talk. His knowledge of Broadway, and most especially Broadway musicals, seems encyclopedic. In his segment ‘Inside Broadway’ he’ll tell you not only what shows are opening and closing but also WHY they are opening and closing.
Dave Lefkowitz grew up in Long Island and started writing for theater at an early age. An accomplished playwright, he found success writing for such publications as Backstage, Show Business, Playbill, Playboy and Entertainment Weekly. In 2002 he was working for WGBB and was given an hour long time slot from 11 to midnight on Sunday to do pretty much anything he wanted. Inspired by radio legends Vin Scelsa and Howard Stern (Lefkowitz refers to his wife Joyce as ‘the Robin Quivers’ of the show), ‘Dave’s Gone By’ has filled a niche for those in search of slightly off the mainstream commentary and entertainment. Various segments have included Greeley Crimes and Old Times, Potato News, Wretched Puns of Destiny and the Colorado Limerick of the Damned.
In 2009 his wife Joyce received a job offer from the University of Northern Colorado and they moved out west. Dave became the program director for the radio station at the university and the show continued without a hitch. Joyce is a huge supporter of the show, managing the Facebook page and organizing watch parties on Saturday mornings to attract more viewers. The couple have been married over twenty-one years.
Doggedly perseverant and capitalizing on his three decades of work in theater, Dave has managed to attract a veritable Who’s Who to his program. His guests have included such notables as Neil Sedaka, Judy Collins, Ed Asner, Linda Lavin, Carol Channing, Charles Grodin, Robert Klein and Carl Reiner. He cites a moment with comedian Gilbert Gottfried as one of the highlights. He told me ‘Gottfried made a joke about the Holocaust which absolutely floored me.’
If a joke about the Holocaust seems irreverent and offensive, it’s also perfectly in keeping with ‘Dave’s Gone By’. There is a ‘no prisoners’ attitude about the show which skewers everything from religion to politics to sex to hypocrisy on all levels. No one is safe, including and most especially Dave himself. While comfortable and articulate in front of a microphone, and now a video feed, he is humble and self-effacing, constantly making jokes about his Jewishness, his acting ability and the size of his audience, among other things. While Dave the Host is affable and winning, he manages to channel his real rage for things which frustrate him into his alter-ego, Rabbi Sol Solomon.
Rabbi Sol appeared on the very first broadcast of ‘Dave’s Gone By’ and has been a fixture ever since. The Rabbi is a bit of a curmudgeon and does not suffer fools gladly, although he manages to control his more fiery views when conducting the interviews for ‘Dave’s Gone By’. The Rabbi is the spiritual leader of Temple Sons of Bitches in Great Neck, New York and even has his own one man show, entitled Shalom Dammit! An Evening With Rabbi Sol Solomon which Lefkowitz hopes to bring to Off Broadway very soon. I actually caught a reading of the show here in New York, directed by Angie Kristic and featuring musical director Richard Shore. The show is funny, witty, controversial, occasionally offensive (which is the point) and never boring. Despite his modest claims as an actor and singer, Lefkowitz as Rabbi Sol Solomon is engaging and perfectly cast.
And then there are the potatoes. The story goes that one day Lefkowitz came down with a strangulated hernia and had to be bed-ridden for a while. His wife and mother went shopping one day to take a break from their rather needy patient and came back with two items. A sweater and a plush toy stuffed potato. An obsession was born. Originally the idea was that when Dave and Joyce would go visiting other people’s houses instead of bringing the obligatory bottle of wine or flowers they would bring a stuffed potato. Soon Dave found himself not wanting to part with the potatoes and so he incorporated them into his home (people would walk in and see dozens of potatoes), his office (imagine the student going to visit his English teacher and being greeted by a series of potatoes) and finally his broadcast. Dave estimates that he currently has nearly 400 stuffed potatoes and notes, ‘We’re long overdue for another numbering ceremony.’
The potatoes are a perfect metaphor for ‘Dave’s Gone By’. Silly and irreverent but also fun and substantial. As they head into their 710th show, the goal is for ‘Dave’s Gone By’ to be picked up by a major sponsor or company and broadcast on a higher level than where it currently stands. Perhaps that will happen and the show will get a much wider audience. But even if it doesn’t, one gets the feeling that ten, twenty, thirty years from now Dave, Joyce, Rabbi Sol and the potatoes will still be doing their thing.
For more information on ‘Dave’s Gone By’ or ‘Shalom Dammit!’ check out their website at http://www.davesgoneby.com.
Thanks, Tony, for such a flattering and fun article. You make me want to be a better person. It won’t happen, but I can dream.