Origin of “The Donz”

First and foremost: This was neither my creation nor promotion. Some have suspected it’s a play on “The Fonz,” but it’s not. Here’s what happened:

In the mid-Eighties, I was working as a music editor at a publishing house in midtown Manhattan. One of the art directors, Mary Ellen (“M.E.”) Morganteen would add an “s” or a “z” to our names. For the hell of it.

Here’s a memo from 1986 that cc’s “Stan” as “Stans”:

And here’s a note from M.E. to me from June 20, 1986:

Somewhere along the way “The” was added, here also from 1986. Note the “z” is missing:

The music project ended in mid-1987, and with that everyone working on it went their separate ways, nearly all into other publishing houses or their own companies. I began my career as a freelance music typesetter.

Three years later I signed up to AOL and selected “Donz” as my screen name. But it was already taken, as were “Donz1,” “Donz2,” “Donz3,” and “Donz4.” So I grabbed the next available slot with “Donz5.”

In the mid-Nineties, as I began cultivating contacts with David Letterman’s writers, producers, and musicians, they would soon refer to me as “Donz,” and soon after “The Donz.”

The writers even got Dave in on the action when they composed a Top Ten list to commemorate the launch of the Late Show’s web site in May 1998:

And now I’m stuck with it for life. Here’s an excerpt from an episode of the “Upgrade” podcast, June 24, 2019, with Jason Snell and Andy Ihnatko:

And that’s the rest of the story. Good day.

3 thoughts on “Origin of “The Donz”

  1. When I was hanging outside Rupert’s before the last Late Show in 2015, Will Lee showed up and greeted me, “It’s Don Zee!” But a week earlier when I was taking a selfie with him inside the theater after the show’s taping, he addressed me as “Don.” So who knows. 🙂


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