NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- After more than 30 years and more than 6,000 shows, David Letterman's legendary career in television will come to a close tonight.
He will officially say goodbye to "The Late Show" at the Ed Sullivan Theater Wednesday night.
As CBS2's Lou Young reported, the last we saw of Letterman was a glimpse through the stage door – all smiles and a wave to the crowd.
Letterman's people kept a lid on security for the show, releasing only the first few moments. A YouTube video showed his final run across the stage at the Ed Sullivan Theater, 1697 Broadway, and the audience wildly cheering.
Following the show, Letterman looked like he was leaving in a fake limousine, but it was a decoy. He sneaked out the door of Angelo's Pizza in the Ed Sullivan Theater building in a white jacket and went on to the after-party at the Museum of Modern Art.
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CBS2's Hazel Sanchez reported Letterman's wife and son were to be present for the finale, and there were also to be plenty of surprises – including one that even Letterman himself didn't know about.
And secrecy surrounded just who Letterman's final guests were until the show aired late Wednesday into early Thursday.
However, rockers Foo Fighters let at least one cat out of the bag.
Other celebrities spotted at the Ed Sullivan Theater included Jerry Seinfeld, Steve Martin, Chris Rock, Peyton Manning, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tina Fey and Barbara Walters.
Mayor Bill de Blasio officially proclaimed it "Late Show With David Letterman" day.
"Congrats," de Blasio Tweeted. "You've earned your place in history."
"For more than 30 years, we've all stayed up later than we should to watch the comedic genius of David Michael Letterman. From his Stupid Pet Tricks and Top Ten lists to always keeping guests on their toes – New Yorkers and Americans alike have happily traded rest for reveling in The Late Show's best moments," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. "In the wake of 9/11, he helped us heal and brought us together with his strength, compassion and inspiration. Night in and night out, throughout thousands of tapings and guests from around the world, Dave made it clear that he felt lucky to be in the middle of New York City. Together with his stalwart sidekick Paul Shaffer, he ushered in a new generation of late night comedy that has both inspired and influenced countless comedians and hosts. After tonight, we will all feel a little lost without our late night legend – but also a little relieved that we no longer have to worry about objects flying off the roof of the Ed Sullivan Theater."
Many, many attendees were still giddy when they emerged out onto the street after the 90-minute show taping.
"I just feel honored to be one of the 450 people in the world to experience Letterman's final, final show," said Sanjay Chhauba of East Brunswick, New Jersey.
"It was the end of an era," said Lori Watzman of Washington, D.C. "It was so touching. It was wonderful."
"It was fantastic -- Paul Shaffer with his outfit – that beautiful outfit that he was wearing; and the orchestra, the music, and when David Letterman came out," said audience member Ira Weintraub. "It was, like, moving. It was energetic."
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Letterman did not have any of the classics such as Velcro Walls or dropping items from great heights in his final outing. But there were some surprises, Young reported.
"Obviously the Top 10 List – that was shocking," said audience member David Frid.
After it was over, many wondered about the next gig. Felicia Collins is a member of the band.
"If you need me, just flash an F in the sky!" she said.
For his part, Letterman left avoiding cameras – consistent with the impression he made with his final audience.
"I've never seen a more humble man in my life," one audience member said. "He was just amazing."
Letterman's sidekicks all said it is hard to say goodbye – including bandleader Paul Shaffer, stage manager Biff Henderson, and Rupert Jee -- proprietor of the Hello Deli at 213 W. 53rd St. around the corner from the Ed Sullivan Theater.
"It's going to be even more difficult knowing, you know, that every day coming to work from now on, that he's not around here," Jee said.
"It's sort of bittersweet I guess, in a way -- you know, sad to see it end, but you know, like everything else in life, things end -- and this is it, at least for now," Henderson said.
But a lucky few people were overjoyed – after winning an online lottery to witness Letterman's historic exit.
"We are so excited that they didn't say what was going to happen," said fan Alisa LeSueur. "That we're going to get to see it first."
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And for fans of a certain age, Letterman's last show ends a love affair going back 35 years. Letterman's first show debuted in the mornings on NBC in 1980, and was not successful.
"The morning show between grammar school and middle school, I watched it. Nobody else watched it, but the housewives hated it," said Paul Serraino of Yonkers.
And while many people didn't make it in for the show, they just wanted to be close for the final day.
"Just sitting here," said Mark Coffin of Midtown. "He's the best, and there's never going to be anybody like him."
Tuesday marked Letterman's second to last show before his retirement and Bill Murray marked the occasion by jumping out of a giant cake.
Wearing what Letterman called "protective cake goggles," Murray offered bits of cake to band and audience members before sitting down in one of the seats next to Letterman's desk—covered with cake.
"It's been great to see you grow from that tubby little Hoosier to the man you are today," Murray said.
"The best part of it is friendships, the friendship you brought to this program, thank you for that," Letterman told Murray.
Murray appeared on Letterman's first "Late Show" on CBS in 1993, and on Letterman's first "Late Night" show on NBC in 1982.
On Tuesday night, Letterman talked with Murray about the 35th anniversary of the iconic movie "Caddyshack" – in which Murray played groundskeeper Carl Spackler. The pair sat for a retrospective of Murray's 43 appearances and often bizarre antics on Letterman's shows over the past 33 years.
Letterman went on to go out onto the street with a crowd of people pleading with Letterman not to go -- singing, "All we are saying is more Worldwide Pants," to the tune of John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance."
Bob Dylan also performed on "The Late Show" Tuesday night, making his first appearance on the program since Letterman's first year on CBS – on Nov. 18, 1993.
With the house lights down, Dylan performed the 1940s jazz standard "The Night We Called It a Day" to the accompaniment of country-style pedal steel guitar and soft brushes on the drums. The song appeared in his recent pop standards studio album "Shadows in the Night."
Dylan had performed on Letterman's "Late Night" show twice, on March 22, 1984 and Jan. 18, 1992, Radio.com recalled.
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Earlier in the show, Regis Philbin made an unannounced appearance, noting that he has appeared on Letterman's shows more than 150 times.
When Philbin suggested that he should appear on Letterman's last show on Wednesday night, Letterman replied: "Last show booked solid, sorry. We couldn't even squeeze you in for this bit."
"You did though," Philbin replied.
And deli proprietor Jee has been a regular on "The Late Show" since the earliest years. He joined Letterman to look back at a 1994 skit in which Jee went around to restaurants and outdoor cafes and annoyed customers and staff – reciting lines that Letterman fed him through a two-way radio.
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On Wednesday, many were wondering what will come next for Letterman.
"He looks forward to spending the summer with his family, and after that, well, I don't think he's going to just lie down. I think we'll see something from David Letterman," said his longtime musical director Paul Shaffer.
Letterman told Jane Pauley he doesn't think he'll ever set foot again in the Ed Sullivan Theater.
"I think it'd just be too difficult for me, emotionally too difficult for me. Because I just don't want to come back and see others living our lives," Letterman said.
Earlier this week, "Late Show" announcer Alan Kalter stopped by CBS2, 1010 WINS and WCBS 880 to talk about what it's been like working for Letterman.
"No matter what my day is like, 4:30 to 5:30, I laugh. I smile, every day he makes me do that," he said.
Kalter described Letterman as a "very complex human being, a perfectionist, a funnyman, he's every man and he sets the chemistry that we've all lived by for these years."
He said Letterman is the man we can trust.
"It's going to be a very emotional Wednesday," Kalter said.
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