Denny’s Daily Zinger: Sam Homsey: The Guy Who Revolutionized Late-Night TV

Five late-night TV pioneers.

Slate's Letterman retirement coverage. Click to enlarge.

David Letterman’s retirement announcement set off a minor media flurry. From “David Letterman Revolutionized Late Night,” by Philip Maciak.
David Letterman did not revolutionize anything.

  • In the early 1950s, the king of late-night was a zany second banana with a Bugs Bunny face, Jerry Lester. His show: “Broadway Open House.”
    A regular guest was Dagmar.
  • While attending Columbia College in the 1950s, I worked nights and weekends as an NBC page for several years on the “Tonight Show” for three geniuses who truly revolutionized late-night television:
    1. Steve Allen
    2. Jack Paar
    3. Ernie Kovacs

No taping. Everything was live.

Who Was Sam Homsey?
Peripatetic, dark-haired and rail thin with glasses and a bleeding ulcer, Sam was constantly in motion. I met him a couple of times in 1960. Very little exists about him on the Internet. No photograph.

How did Homsey revolutionize late-night television?

It was Sam Homsey who invented the set design that became de rigueur for all late-night television shows—the host’s desk with a sofa at right for the guest(s).

SAM HOMSEY JR., PRESS AGENT AT 14; Earner of $300 a Week While in High School Dies at 29
Sam Homsey Jr., who opened his own publicity office in Manhattan at the age of 16 and billed himself as the
world’s youngest press agent,” died on Sunday in Bellevue Hospital of a stomach ailment. He would have been 30 years old yesterday.The New York Times, 20 August 1963

In eternal obscurity, Sam Homsey deserves to be remembered.

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Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at

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  • mikewrite

    Loved Steve Allen and Ernie Kovacs. Both were comedic geniuses.