Springsteen plays as Letterman exits


NEW YORK -- Ending his 11-year-plus reign as the host of NBC's "Late Night With David Letterman," the host, and the show, went out with a bang.

The special guest promised by Mr. Letterman -- the one formerly elusive person, Mr. Letterman said, "I always really, really wanted as a guest" -- turned out to be Bruce Springsteen, who sang a rousing version of "Glory Days." with The World's Most Dangerous Band.

Mr. Letterman ended the show with lots of sensitivity, but only after giving Calvert DeForest one more appearance as Larry "Bud" Melman, having a spirited conversation with Tom Hanks (who provided impressions of everyone from Barbara Stanwyck and Gregg Allman to Elvis Presley and Slappy White) and watching Mr. Springsteen wail.

Then, as the show ran over by five minutes -- with NBC's blessing -- Mr. Letterman took time to thank all his co-workers and the show's viewers, to wish successor Conan O'Brien good luck and, somewhat surprisingly, to hope that Mr. O'Brien asks him back as a guest.

"I would get a kick out of that," he admitted.

Then came the signoff, during which he avoided mentioning CBS, but pointedly mentioned the earlier time slot of his new series. "The next time we see you folks," he said, "it will be Monday night, August 30 . . . at 11:30. Have a good night."

Afterward, Executive Producer Peter Lassally said, "I cried. It's the second time in 13 months that I've closed a show -- the Carson show last May, and now this one."

For Mr. Letterman, though, it was not goodbye, just a change of address and a very classy sendoff.

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