March 30, 2004 02:58 PM

Everything appeared to be A-okay with Janet Jackson’s low-cut, sexy red dress on David Letterman’s “Late Show” Monday night — much to Dave’s chagrin.

When Jackson first came onto the set, Letterman said, “Welcome to the show. Now that’s almost malfunctioning, isn’t it?”

The television appearance was Jackson’s first since the Feb. 1 Super Bowl halftime flap during which one of her breasts was exposed on live TV while she performed a song with Justin Timberlake, an incident the two later claimed was the result of a “wardrobe malfunction.”

But that halftime performance was a long way from the shy star who showed up on Letterman’s show to promote her new album, “Damita Jo.” Insisting that she didn’t think people wanted to keep talking about the so-called “boobgate,” Jackson called the whole ordeal “very embarrassing” and added, “It truly was an accident.”

But Letterman — clearly a bit frustrated — pressed her on the issue, saying that he didn’t think that viewers were necessarily sick of hearing about it.

That exchange also led to the show’s only censoring of Jackson, which happened when she was asked by Letterman whether the Super Bowl stunt was intentional.

“Oh, Jesus,” Jackson replied. (Unedited transcripts of the show reveal that “Jesus” was bleeped out of the conversation, the Associated Press reports. “The Late Show” is broadcast by CBS, the same station that carried the Super Bowl and the Jackson-Timberlake performance.)

After her appearance on Letterman, Jackson and boyfriend Jermaine Dupri made their way downtown in Manhattan to the trendy new restaurant Spice Market, where they partied late into the night with a host of friends and well-wishers including Ja Rule, Patti LaBelle, Courtney Love, Lennox Lewis and Al Sharpton, among others.

Jackson’s appearance on Letterman was the first in what promises to be a string of promotional stops to support her new album. Some critics are suggesting she may need all the help she can get, as “Just a Little While,” her first single from “Damita Jo,” disappeared from radio-station play lists without much fanfare.

Janet seems to be faring much better with her relationship to Dupri. Jackson has been flashing a giant rock on her left ring finger, fueling speculation that the pair may be engaged, New York’s Daily News reports.

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