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Willis hosts Letterman show, host sick

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LOS ANGELES, California (Reuters) -- Actor Bruce Willis filled in as host of the CBS "Late Show" on Wednesday in place of David Letterman, who was sidelined by an eye infection, producers of the program said.

It was Letterman's first absence since his recovery from open-heart surgery in early 2000, when he missed several weeks of shows, then alternated with a series of guest hosts for a few weeks.

Before then, Letterman, 55, had never missed an appearance in his more than 20 years of late-night television.

A statement released by Letterman's production company quoted the comedian's physician, Dr. Louis Aronne, as saying, "Dave has an infection of his right eye. It's under treatment and we expect a full recovery."

Willis already was scheduled to appear as a guest on Wednesday's show, along with CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather, just back from his exclusive interview with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Also appearing were actress Carmen Electra and singer John Mayer.

"Late Show" episodes scheduled to air on Thursday and Friday will be replaced with repeats, and, as previously scheduled, the show will be dark the week of March 3, producers said.

Letterman's eye was visibly puffy during Tuesday night's broadcast.

"I look like somebody gave me a beating," he remarked on the show. "It's either an irritation, inflammation or infection ... For the love of God, does it hurt?!"

Letterman was first sidelined from his show undergoing bypass heart surgery on January 14, 2000. CBS ran repeats of the show for the next three weeks, followed by a series of taped "Late Show Backstage" telecasts, with frequent guests showing clips of their favorite moments from the program.

Letterman returned part time on February 21 of that year, then alternated for a few weeks with a series of guest hosts, including Bill Cosby, Nathan Lane, and David Brenner, before coming back full time the week of March 27.

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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