Illinois city mocked by Letterman in '99 plots cold revenge

Illinois city mocked by Letterman in '99 plots cold revenge

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KANKAKEE, Ill. (AP) — High school students in a city that David Letterman lampooned as an awful place to live are plotting some tongue-in-cheek revenge, more than 15 years later.

The late night TV talk show host piled on in 1999 after Places Rated Almanac called Kankakee and its surrounding area in northern Illinois the worst metropolitan area to live in the U.S. and Canada. One of his famous Top 10 lists suggested area slogans, including "We put the 'Ill' in Illinois," and "You'll come for our payphone — you'll stay because your car's been stolen."

To spruce things up, Letterman sent Kankakee two gazebos, which the students plan to turn into a rocking chair to commemorate Letterman's upcoming retirement.

"I think we know that Dave likes a good joke," Barbara Wells, the area's board of education president, told the (Kankakee) Daily Journal. "So, I thought he'd like this. And I like seeing the kids get so involved. This will be one class they tell their kids and grandchildren about."

A spokeswoman for CBS' "Late Show with David Letterman" said crews plan to film the project next month and to air the footage on the show.

Removing them has become a two-semester project. Students have demolished one gazebo next to an old train depot and hope to do the same with the other in a nearby park. Much of the wood has rotted, though students saved wood for building the chair.

Although residents were irked by Kankakee's lowly ranking and the buzz it got, many grew to appreciate the gazebos. Couples got married in the white, wooden structures, and some residents are unhappy with their removal.

While working on the project, the students are also raising money for new gazebos, hoping it'll help show how their community about 50 miles south of Chicago turned a national embarrassment into a positive message.

The project's organizers admit that part of their motivation was to bring renewed attention to the improvements the city has made since Letterman's gag.

Junior Sam Foster told the newspaper he's enjoying the class.

"This is about the only project where my parents and relatives ask me about how we're doing," he said.

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