IS the future of top-rating TV comedian David Letterman uncertain ? The CBS Network that airs his Late Show is investigating his past relationships with female staff, following a bizarre extortion plot.
Letterman stunned his audience last week when he revealed on his nightly program that he was the victim of a $US2million ($2.31m) blackmail attempt.
Stephanie Birkitt, a personal assistant to Letterman, has emerged as the woman at the centre of Robert Halderman's blackmail attempt. Halderman lived with her briefly and allegedly used some photos and correspondence involving Letterman to set up the extortion, saying he planned to write a damning screenplay unless the star paid him.
A second woman who was previously an intern on the Letterman show, Holly Hester, has came forward as another former fling. She told The New York Daily News she had been madly in love with Letterman and would have married him. "He was hilarious," she said.
After making fun of other people's wacky sex lives for years, Letterman last week said that a man had threatened to expose his past relationships with women who worked for him on the Late Show.
The television comedian went out of his way to be seen to do the right thing by going straight to police and co-operating in a sting that led to the arrest of Halderman, a disgruntled network producer.
Halderman, an Emmy-award winning producer for the CBS series 48 Hours, faces up to 15 years' jail after demanding money in return for keeping quiet about evidence he had of Letterman's past dalliances.
While Letterman is not accused of any wrongdoing by police, the issue has presented CBS with a conundrum.
So far the network is standing by Letterman, who is enjoying a ratings resurgence since the rival Tonight Show was taken over by Conan O'Brien.
Under the terms of his contract, Letterman's quaintly named company Worldwide Pants leases airtime on CBS, so he is not an employee.