Big man on campus

Late Show regular hits Ball State for Homecoming weekend.

Note: This story originally ran in the Friday, Oct. 19 issue of the Ball State Daily News.

Ball State's most famous alumnus will not make it to Homecoming this year -- but he's sending an emissary.

Biff Henderson, stage manager of the Late Show with David Letterman, hits campus today through Sunday, to film an edition of "Biff Henderson's America," said Al Rent, director of marketing.

While on campus, Henderson will interview the football players and coaches, said Joe Hernandez, assistant athletic director. He'll also be around for the game, and Homecoming events, including the bed race, according to Rent.

"I thought Biff would look great going down the road in a bed," Rent said. "But they said he would just be covering it."

Rent sent the show a list of campus notables who might be "fun to interview," including President Blaine Brownell, student leaders and Benny Benefiel, who has been the Student Center barber for more than 30 years.

At the same time, Rent said no one knows for certain what Henderson might do.

"They'll bounce to the beat of their own drum," Rent said. "We'll just be around to facilitate."

The Late Show has planned Biff's arrival for over a month, but nothing was certain until the past few weeks, Rent said.

The Late Show itself has remained mum on Henderson's trip, and Rent was reluctant to speak to the press. But rumors have been spreading across campus for several weeks, and on Thursday, signs began appearing in some residence halls announcing Henderson's imminent arrival.

"(The Late Show) likes to do these segments without advance press," Rent said. "They feel it gives them a more honest look at what's going on.

"But that's difficult to do at Ball State. Once he walks into town, the word will spread. We're just far too sensitive to Dave and the show."

Letterman, a 1969 graduate of Ball State, has often heckled his alma mater on air. During the Cardinals' 21-game losing streak last year, Letterman began covering the football team in earnest. The talk-show veteran continued the coverage this year, with previews and highlights of each game.

All of this, Letterman says on the air, is a ploy to have the stadium named after him. So far, the administration is not biting.

Henderson -- born James Jackson Henderson Jr. -- has been with Letterman since 1980, when the two worked together on Letterman's short-lived morning show, according to a biography on the Late Show Web site.

Over the years, Henderson has been featured on a number of segments, including Biff Henderson's America, which is similar in format to Charles Kuralt's "On the Road," but with the trademark Late Show sarcasm and panache.


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