THE SHELVES AT K & L’S ROCK AMERICA are overflowing with desktop Statues of Liberty and Big Apple piggy banks, but it’s not the tchotchkes that have lured out-of-lowners Paul and Jan Franklin into this midtown Manhattan souvenir shop. Instead the Chicago couple head straight for two amiable, Bangladeshi-born salesmen named Mujibur Rahman and Sirajul Islam. “We can’t go home without seeing you!” squeals Jan. “It happens all the time,” says Rahman, 39, who, with Islam, 33, poses for dozens of snapshots a day. “People come in here and say, ‘You touched Dave, let me shake your hand!’ ”
Dave, of course, is David Letterman, the host of CBS’s Late Show, which is taped at the Ed Sullivan Theater, just four doors down from the store on Broadway at 53rd Street. And one of Letterman’s favorite shticks—”dropping in” on the local merchants via remote camera—has made the shy, usually silent Sirajul and his gregarious, lens-hogging friend Mujibur at least as famous as Meg Parsont, the office-worker-from-across-the-street.
One night Letterman had the pair blow kisses and bow as their images (in a group shot) appeared on the 32-foot-tall Sony Jumbotron TV screen that towers over Times Square. Another time, the salesmen visited the studio so Rahman could adorn Dave’s Christmas tree with a Statue of Liberty. “Even when Dave warms up the audience, he mentions us,” says Islam. It has been a heady experience for these two not-so-wild-and-crazy guys, who met while students at the University of Dakar. In 1981 they emigrated to the U.S., where both settled with their wives and families in Astoria, N.Y. Now the twosome are thinking of cashing in by putting their own mugs on a line of coffee cups or T-shirts. But will they overshadow their most famous patron? Nosirree, Dave! “He’s unbelievably popular,” says a grateful Rahman. “He’s like a god.”