Scoop: David Letterman on sex scandal: ‘I’m in hell’

David Letterman’s upcoming biography has some juicy sex-scandal and TV rivalry material.

People, which obtained a copy of “Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night” by New York Times writer Jason Zinoman, reveals the TV star’s reaction after Robert “Joe” Halderman attempted to blackmail him after coming across a diary that proved he was having an affair with his assistant Stephanie Birkitt.

” ‘I’m in hell. I will always be in hell until the day after, when I will go to hell,’ ” Letterman apparently told writer Steve Young when they were preparing the monologue in which he would talk about the indiscretion.

After admitting the scandal (“I have had sex with women who work for me,” he said on air), the host was “shaken.”

“‘It was akin to having killed your family in a car crash. It was like that to me,’” Letterman said about his desperation, according to Zinoman. ”‘I was afraid my family was gone.’”

The author also describes the feud between Letterman and Jay Leno and reveals how Leno got the job hosting “The Tonight Show” in 1991 after Johnny Carson retired.

In the book, Zinoman writes that Rick Ludwin, head of late-night programming at NBC, respected Letterman as an entertainer, but was skeptical that he could draw broad numbers of viewers.

Ludwin “also saw Letterman as difficult to deal with,” while Leno was friendly and approachable.

QUICK TAKES

Bay Area food writer Karen Solomon points out that the 562 students of Buena Vista Horace Mann, a Spanish-immersion public K-8 school in the Mission, has an excellent fundraising auction, with “459 items you cannot live without” — including Mitchell’s Ice Cream, luxury accommodations at a Mexican and much more — up for bid through April 21; visit www.wearebvhm.com.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY

Actress Saoirse Ronan is 23. … Model Brooklyn Decker is 30. … Singer-guitarist Brendon Urie of Panic At The Disco is 30. … Actress Jennifer Morrison is 38. … Actress Claire Danes is 38. … Actress Shannen Doherty is 46…. Singer Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls is 53. … Singer Vince Gill is 60. … Actor Andy Garcia is 61. … Poet Gary Soto is 65. … Singer-actor David Cassidy is 67. … Talk-show host David Letterman is 70. … Actor Ed O’Neill is 71. .Musician Herbie Hancock is 77. … Author Beverly Cleary is 101.

— Staff, wire reports

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