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About (Late) Last Night: Chilean miner Edison Pena channels Elvis on 'Letterman'

November 5, 2010 |  7:17 am

Chilean miner Edison Pena, one of the 33 men rescued after 69 days underground, stopped by David Letterman's "Late Show" on Thursday night, but not alone. He brought along a female translator, who sat to his right for the entirety of the interview, notepad in hand, whispering along in Spanish as Letterman spoke. The animated and charismatic Pena might have done just as well without her.

"The first time I walked into a mine, I wanted to turn around and get out," Pena explained via his helper. His flailing arms did well to illustrate the same point. Pena giggled willingly at Letterman's quips, albeit a few seconds after the audience. Ultimately, though, Pena got the bigger laughs.

When Letterman asked about the collapse of the mine, Pena seemed to turn grave for a moment. Then he indicated with his hands and mouth the way the rocks began to fall. For the noise, no translation was needed, but interpreter did it anyway. Pena grinned big.

When asked if any of the trapped miners got on everyone's nerves, Pena nodded mischievously. He held his finger to his lips.

But Pena's real star-turn came in English. When asked about the miners' penchant for singing Elvis Presley songs to pass the time, Pena insisted he'd rather sing alone than in a group. He began The King's "Suspicious Minds" a capella: "I can't walk out ... I love you too much baby." Letterman's music director, Paul Shaffer, picked up quickly on the keyboard, and Pena rose to his feet. He swung his hips and mimed a microphone. "We can't go on together with suspicious minds," he belted, shockingly on-key. At that moment, the translator seemed most superfluous. The showmanship was universal.

-- Joe Coscarelli