It was a big milestone, but the celebration was low key Thursday as David Letterman marked 25 years as a late night talk show host.
Joining Letterman, musical director Paul Shaffer and Hello Deli owner Rupert Jee for the anniversary celebration on "Late Show With David Letterman" were Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James and actor Bill Murray.
Shaffer may have had one of the most memorable lines, intoning in a top ten list of "Late Show" staffers marking the anniversary that he had "wasted" his life in his long association onstage with Letterman.
Murray meanwhile made a grand entrance, stepping in time to the strains of "Let's Get Physical," carrying anniversary champagne for Letterman while dressed in top hat and tails not unlike the elders of Punxsutawney, Pa., who preside over each year's ceremonies.
Looking around, he recalled his first appearance with Letterman, many years ago, and complained about the lack of festive atmosphere, taking off his top hat in protest at the absence of pomp.
Murray's trip to the Ed Sullivan theater where the "Late Show" unfolds each night was not without reward. At Murray's request, Letterman called CBS president and CEO Les Moonves to try to finagle a Super Bowl XLI invitation for Murray, who briefly posed as Letterman's brother when Letterman put Murray on the phone with Moonves.
The CBS honcho, not fooled, was quick to inform the imposter that Letterman does not have a brother. Busted, Murray was forced to reveal his identity, and apparently succeeded in his Super Bowl quest.
Murray was Letterman's very first guest back in 1982 when "Late Night" made its debut on NBC, running there for eleven and a half years before making the switch to CBS.
When Letterman moved to CBS on Aug. 30, 1993, Murray was the guest for the inaugural "Late Show" broadcast.
Here are some highlights from Letterman's 25-year career on late night television:
- Feb. 1, 1982 — "Late Night With David Letterman" premieres with guests Bill Murray, musician Warren Zevon, science guy "Mr. Wizard" and Larry "Bud" Melman. Murray does jumping jacks and sings "Let's Get Physical."
- Feb. 4, 1982 — The first edition of Stupid Pet Tricks is broadcast, featuring a bunny on a skateboard and a dog using the telephone.
- Sept. 18, 1985 — The very first Top Ten List, "Things That Almost Rhyme with Peas" is presented.
- Aug. 30, 1993 — More than 23 million viewers tune in for the premiere of "Late Show with David Letterman" on CBS. Guests include Murray, who spray paints "Dave" on Letterman's desk, and singer Billy Joel. News anchor Tom Brokaw and actor Paul Newman make surprise appearances.
- March 31, 1994 — Madonna makes her infamous appearance on "Late Show."
- Dec. 2, 1994 — The "Late Show" premieres the first edition of "Fun With Rupert" featuring Hello Deli owner Rupert Jee.
- April 12, 1995 — Dave gets a birthday gift he'll never forget when drew Barrymore jumps on his desk and flashes her breasts to a stunned Letterman.
- June 6, 1997 — Farah Fawcett makes an unforgettable appearance on "Late Show"
- Dec. 31, 1999 — "Late Show" rings in the new millennium with a prime-time broadcast. Guests include "The King of Queens" star Kevin James, a performance by the Brooklyn Philharmonic and special cameo appearances by Dick Clark and New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
- Jan. 14, 2000 – Letterman undergoes quintuple bypass heart surgery at New York Hospital. He returns on Feb. 21 and brings his doctors and nurses on stage to personally thank them. The following night Bill Cosby becomes the first person other than Letterman to host the "Late Show."
- Nov. 3, 2000 — Madonna makes her first return to the "Late Show" since her infamous March 1994 appearance.
- Sept. 17, 2001 — Letterman returns to the airwaves after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in a show that featured Dan Rather and Regis Philbin. The Emmy Award-winning broadcast was hailed by the New York Daily News as "one of the purest, most honest and important moments in TV history" and a valuable service to the community.
- Nov. 4, 2003 — Letterman proudly announces that "last night at 11:58, I became a father" to his first son, Harry Joseph Letterman.
- May 9, 2006 — Britney Spears makes a surprise visit to the show and announces to Letterman that she's having her second child. "Don't worry, Dave," she says. "It's not yours."
For more highlights, visit the official "Late Show" Web site.