The Late Show taped and broadcast its last show on Wednesday, May 20, 2015. Immediately after the taping that night, work crews began dismantling the set. The following day, remains of the entire studio — the set, the audience seats, everything — began to be placed in truck-sized dumpsters outside, available for public scavenging.
By Friday, barricades had been put up to restrict access of the outside trash to authorized personnel only.
The following Monday evening, May 25, I was in the area having dinner with my dad and step-family. Afterwards, I wanted to take the last photos of the Late Show marquee before, I was told, it was to be torn down the following day (it would end up being a few days later).
I then decided to walk around the corner to W. 53rd St. to see if the barricades were still up. They weren’t. There were just several small dumpsters by the sidewalk. There were no crowds.
I inspected two of the accessible dumpsters and discovered that one was filled with CDs and videotapes. (Visible here are just the CDs. The tapes are over to the right.)
As I was scooping up the videotapes, others began to gather by the second accessible dumpster. They had no interest in what I was looking for, because they no longer had VCRs. I had the CDs and tapes dumpster to myself. (Later they noticed the CDs, and I told them they were all theirs as soon as I was done with the tapes.)
I also found a basket, and the plan was to fill it with the tapes and carry it back home. But I soon realized that it was too small to fit everything; I’d need something larger. I noticed a giant double trash-bag on the ground, filled with food scraps. I separated the outer bag and filled it up with the tapes. A security guard told me to make sure that I left the sidewalks clear before I split. That’s all that concerned him; he didn’t care what I was collecting.
I dragged the increasingly-brittle bag down to the street corner on 8th Ave. and caught a cab home. While lifting the bag, it began to tear at the bottom, but I was able to retrieve the tapes slipping out onto the street.
I made it home, the bottom of the bag now nearly disintegrated but all tapes now safely in the apartment.
I spent the next week digitizing some of the tapes. I learned that they had been in Late Show writer Joe Grossman’s office; he had left them behind for workers to toss out after he and everyone else on the staff had departed for good. Around half of the tapes were live feeds of news events. The other half consisted of raw production footage that captured the rehearsals and takes of comedy segments Joe had written for the show and, after editing, would be scheduled to air at a later date (though a few never did). There was other show-related material on the tapes whose beginnings had been erased in place of the new production footage. I digitized that, too.
Update: I was asked to remove the videos I had uploaded. I willingly obliged. Maybe someday in the future.