The Time David Letterman Called Rosalynn Carter

Fourteen-year-old Amy Carter never knew what hit her
The Time David Letterman Called Rosalynn Carter

Rosalynn Carter passed away peacefully this weekend at the age of 96. In addition to her humanitarian efforts, Carter was known for her close relationship with her daughter, Amy — during Jimmy’s Presidency, Rosalynn made a point of being in the family’s private quarters every day at 4 p.m. when her daughter returned from public school. You can get a glimpse of that affinity in this clip from Late Night with David Letterman when the former First Daughter and Dave decided to give Rosalynn a call.

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Fourteen-year-old Amy, who has just landed a job as a Senate page, seems so nervous about her conversation with Dave that one wonders why she’s making the appearance at all. She’s soft-spoken to the point of being difficult to hear — who would put this poor kid on national television if she was so camera-shy? But when Dave gets Rosalynn on the phone, it’s pretty clear what’s going on. “I'm glad (Amy) got to meet you,” Rosalynn says. “I guess you know by now that she's your number one fan.” Aha! She’s starstruck!

Whatever the reason — she’s only 14, after all — Amy is a tough interview, providing awkward, one-word answers as Dave tries to get her to talk about her new job. When that goes nowhere, he gets conspiratorial: Did Amy ever do anything in the Washington that would get her in big trouble if Jimmy and Rosalynn found out? Amy rats herself out, confessing that she and some friends once carved their initials into a White House window sill. Uh-oh, warns Dave. “If Nancy Reagan hears this, you're in big trouble.”

The biggest hassle between Rosalynn and Amy? That would be her clothes. Dave thinks the kid looks terrific — beautiful hair and a lovely dress. Wouldn’t Mom find it acceptable? Nope, says Amy. 

“This is a very nice, simple, elegant black dress,” argues Letterman.

“Well,” says Amy, “she thinks black washes me out.”

“Would it help if I talk to Mom?” And with that, Dave dials up the former First Lady and informs her that Amy has defied her wishes with that damn black outfit.

“Does it look too old?” Rosalynn asks.

She looks stunning, says Letterman.

“Well,” Rosalynn countered. “Well. Amy and I argue about clothes often but she’s usually right. I trust her judgment.” But does she? “I told her that I like the white one we had at home. Well, she left it at home.” 

Amy, in true 14-year-old fashion, shakes her head in disgust at the mention of the white dress. MOM! The funniest part of the clip is Amy alternating between giggles and mortification as Dave and Rosalynn chat. When Letterman spills the goods about the sill-carving prank, she looks like she’s about to die. “Don’t listen to what he says about the window,” Amy tells Rosalynn once Letterman surrenders the phone. 

It’s about as wholesome as a Letterman bit gets, with the embarrassed teen trying to play it cool while enduring a long-distance family call on national television. Rosalynn plays her part perfectly. “It’s different with Amy gone,” she says. “It’s lonesome! Tell her!”

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