Bruce Willis subs for ailing Letterman. An eye infection forces Dave to use a guest host for the first time since his 2000 heart surgery

By Gary Susman
February 27, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST
Bruce Willis: /Stefano Rellandini-Files/Reuters/Newscom

Bruce Willis was promoted from talk-show guest to talk-show host on Wednesday. He was called in to sub for an ailing David Letterman, sidelined by an eye infection he had joked about on Tuesday’s show. Booked as a guest (to promote his movie ”Tears of the Sun,” opening next week), Willis found himself behind Dave’s desk, sitting opposite Dan Rather (talking about his interview with Saddam Hussein, which aired on CBS hours before ”Late Show”), Carmen Electra, and Grammy winner John Mayer.

On Tuesday, Letterman commented on his visibly puffy eye, saying, ”I look like somebody gave me a beating. It’s either an irritation, inflammation or infection…. For the love of God, does it hurt!” As it turned out, ”Dave has an infection of his right eye,” his doctor, Louis Aronne said in a statement. ”It’s under treatment and we expect a full recovery.”

It was only the second sickout for the 55-year-old host in his more than 20 years of late-night broadcasting. His first came with his heart bypass surgery in early 2000. A recuperating Dave alternated with guest-hosts like Bill Cosby and Nathan Lane for several weeks before resuming a full schedule. This time, producers say, there will be repeats for the rest of this week and all of next. He is expected to return March 10. We’ll keep an eye out.

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