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Letterman's Late Show turns 20, so here goes with a Top 20 list

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Bill Murray (above) was Letterman's first guest when the show premiered in 1993.

JOHN P. FILO / ASSOCIATED PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

Bill Murray (above) was Letterman's first guest when the show premiered in 1993.

NEW YORK -- Late Show With David Letterman on CBS turned 20 Thursday.

So let's get to the list, shall we? Twenty memorable moments in chronological order:

 

  • Aug. 30, 1993: First guest Bill Murray spray-painting "Dave" on the host's desk. Other first guests Billy Joel, Tom Brokaw and Paul Newman ("Where are the singing cats?") do not damage property.
  • Sept. 8, 1993: Vice President Al Gore wears goggles and smashes ashtrays. It was all in service of comedy, but the absurdity of the screen grab -- goggle-wearing vice president wielding hammer -- did not help politically.
  • Feb. 14, 1994: Dave's mom, Dorothy Letterman, joins the show as, umm, Dave's mom, and interviews Hillary Clinton.
  • March 31, 1994: Madonna discusses sex and the various parts of her body that are used to that end. She is heavily edited throughout -- 13 times, in fact -- which may be why the only recollection I have is of one long bleep.
  • May 13, 1994: After a week of airing the show from L.A., Johnny Carson, in his last TV appearance, closes it all down. He walks out, presumably to do a Top 10, but takes Dave's seat. He says not a word for 30 seconds, then leaves. "That was great," Letterman says. "That was great."
  • April 12, 1995: Drew Barrymore hops on desk, dances and flashes Letterman, who doesn't seem to mind in the least.
  • Oct. 28, 1996: That salute to manager Joe Torre and the New York Yankees after their first World Series win in 15 years.
  • June 5, 1997: Farrah Fawcett meanders aimlessly through the byways of her mind, confounding all while establishing herself as a late-night TV legend.
  • Jan. 12, 2000: Hillary Rodham Clinton, after enduring six years of Letterman torments and taunts, submits to an interview (she was running for senator).
  • Feb. 21, 2000: Letterman made a triumphant return after his quintuple bypass and had his medical team in attendance, in what may be the most memorable show of them all.
  • Sept. 17, 2001: The return after 9/11, with a succinct summation of the horror: "We're told that they were zealots fueled by religious fervor... And if you live to be a thousand years old, will that make any... sense to you?"
  • Oct. 30, 2002: The entire edition is devoted to musician Warren Zevon -- then diagnosed with mesothelioma -- who performed and spoke of what he'd learned in life. (He died in 2003.) Still probably the best hour of Late Show.
  • Nov. 4, 2003: "Last night at 11:58, I became a father."
  • Jan. 31, 2005: The Johnny Carson tribute edition, per Dave: "At the end of the day, that's who you wanted to be there" -- which is how, come to think of it, I feel about Dave.
  • Dec. 1, 2005: How could any list exclude the Super Bowl of Love in which Oprah Winfrey finally appeared, ending what popular culture had decided was a "feud." Dave was even nice, calling her "the most beloved woman in America -- despite the fact she gave us Dr. Phil."
  • June 6, then June 15, 2009: Letterman makes a pair of lame jokes about Bristol Palin. (Example: She was "knocked up" by A-Rod at a game.) He's forced to apologize.
  • Sept. 21, 2009: President Barack Obama becomes the first sitting president to do the show. Letterman hits the 5,000 shows in late-night TV mark three days later.
  • Oct. 1, 2009: The night a few million jaws clattered noisily to the floor when Dave admits to multiple office affairs and relays a wild story about an extortion plot gone bad. Later in the week came the apologies.
  • Oct. 29, 2012: There was no audience because of uninvited guest superstorm Sandy. Eerie silence pervades the Ed Sullivan Theater.
  • April 9, 2013: Lindsay Lohan is asked, "How will this time be different? What are they rehabbing?" She responds: "We didn't discuss this in the pre-interview, I'm just saying to everyone."

 

-- Newsday

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 30, 2013 D5

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