Larry King Live Weekend
Paul Anka Talks About His Life in Show BusinessAired March 11, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: He's a former teen idol with 40 years of show business success -- Paul Anka joins me in L.A. for the entire hour, next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Often on these editions of LARRY KING LIVE we like to salute amazing legends, and this gentleman is certainly one. Paul Anka, singer, songwriter, businessman, actor, 40th anniversary in the business. His current project Paul include a new album called "Paul Anka: Live 2000" and a PBS special, "Paul Anka, Night of a Lifetime."
Does it feel like 40 years?
PAUL ANKA, ENTERTAINER: Not at all.
KING: It feels like yesterday.
ANKA: Always does. When you're moving, having fun, it goes by so quickly.
KING: You are Canadian import, right?
ANKA: I left Canada in 1956.
KING: At what age?
KING: To sing?
ANKA: I came down with a couple songs in my pocket. I was looking for a record deal.
KING: Songs that you had written as well, right?
ANKA: Yes, I'd written them in Canada. You know, back then, pop music was in its infancy stage, and to really get something going, you'd have to wind up in New York, or L.A. or maybe Nashville back in the '50s. So I realized that it couldn't happen for me in Canada. So I borrowed a hundred bucks from my dad, and put myself up for the President Hotel. I knew some guys in Canada. They put a mattress in the tub, and I slept in the tub, and I started to making the rounds, and I went to ABC Paramount, and Don Costa listened to me. He was A&R director. And they said, where's your parents? I said, they're back up in Canada. He said, well, you know, we want to sign a deal, but we can't without their signature. I said they'll be here tomorrow, and so I flew down, and I signed the deal.
KING: Were you kind of a prodigy, in that you at a very young age were able to write and sing songs? Did it come to you naturally? Did you train?
ANKA: Well, I wanted to be a journalist, actually. I was working at "The Ottawa Citizen," under Mr. Finn (ph), who was the editor, and I'd won some awards for my writing, and then I took piano lessons. I got thrown out of shorthand class. I took music, and I started writing poems, and then I started, you know, just dabbling around with songwriting. I was a big fan of the music, and I started collecting a little, you know, bag of songs, and then I saw this girl Diana that I had a crush on. I wrote this song for her.
KING: "Oh Please Stay."
ANKA: "Oh Please Stay by me, Diana."
KING: Were you also singing?
ANKA: Oh yes. I was singing at, you know, local theaters. I was doing clubs. I was at certain, you know, school outings, so I had a sense of what I was doing, and I used to sit at the light booth up at the nightclub and watch all the acts that had come through town, all the groups that were popular at the time, so I had a sense of what it was about, and I had about a year under my belt. I had a group called "The Bobbie Socksers," and then that flunked. We were making about 30 bucks a week, and then I took the money and went down to New York.
KING: And the ABC deal -- and was "Diana" the first record?
ANKA: That was my first record. Actually, I had one before that. I came out to L.A. when I was 15 to visit my uncle, and I used to sit over here at Wallick's (ph) Music City, and I used to listen in those little booths, and there was a record out then called "Stranded in the Jungle," by The Cadets, and I loved , and I'd sit there and I'd play it over and over. While out here, I wrote a song, "Blau Wilde De Veest Fontaine."
ANKA: It's a city in Africa, Blau Wilde De Veest Fontaine. And it was the premise in which this story took place, and I wrote a song about it thing -- Blau Wilde De Veest Fontaine, where love is so splendid. Had the song, hitchhiked to Culver City, and I went and saw two guys called the Beharry (ph) Brothers. They Had a garage in the back of the office. It was a studio. They said, what's your name kid? Gave them my name. They said, what do you want? I said, I want you to hear this song. So I played them the song, and they said, you know what, we want to record you.
So they brought The Cadets in, who sang "Stranded in the Jungle." They recorded the song with me, "Blau Wilde De Veest Fontaine." The other side was "I Confess," and the song did really nothing. I mean, I was a failure at 15. KING: Ready to give it up?
ANKA: Give it up.
KING: And "Diana" hit, right?
Now Irving Feld, the late Irving Feld, who owned the circus, and Siegfried & Roy -- his son now runs all of that -- he had a lot to do with your career, right?
ANKA: Well, not initially. After I got my contract, I went back to Canada. I met Irving Feld originally at a rock concert. He was the promoter of all the rock shows.
KING: In Washington.
ANKA: Exactly. And I was in Ottawa, Canada at the time, and there was a big rock concert starring Fats Domino, and I was a huge fan, and I went out and bought a new jacket that had with white, leather sleeves, and I wanted to get as many autographs as I could, so I went to the auditorium, where the show was. I snuck in backstage, and I pushed this brick in the wall so I could look in at Fats, and I yelled, hey Fats! I want you to sign my autograph. And Irv Fled ran out. He was the promoter, said, kid, get out of here. You're not supposed to be back here. I says, you're going to hear about me some day. Fade out, fade in, "Diana" comes out it says, whatever, and I get a phone call from Washington, this guy Irv Feld. He doesn't know who I am.
KING: You're not the kid certainly.
ANKA: He doesn't know. Talks to my father, and my dad says, fine, I'll let him go with you as long as you take care of him. I show up for rehearsal, said, Mr. Feld, do you remember when Fats Domino was in Ottawa? He says, yes. I said, do you remember the kid that you threw out? He says, yes, vaguely. I said, that's me. Ever since that day, he became my partner and my manager.
ANKA: That's right.
KING: And he really then...
ANKA: Absolutely, taught me a great deal. He managed my entire career for those first few years.
KING: How well did "Diana" do?
ANKA: Well, you know, the accounting in those days, Larry, was voodoo economics, a sense. You really never knew. It sold millions of records through the years -- 10, you know, 10, 20 million.
KING: Do you still do it?
ANKA: Oh yes, I love doing it. You know, I don't retire too many songs. I work globally. I travel, you know, throughout this world and have done for 42 years, and everywhere I go, my demographics, have grown up on my music, other people from the '50s, they really want to hear those.
KING: How many combined hit records have you had, you yourself, and then other artists singing songs? Have you ever figured it out?
ANKA: I've never figured it out. I've sold, myself, over 40, 50 million records.
KING: With you singing?
ANKA: With me. Between Tom Jones and Sinatra and all the other cover records, maybe 150 of them, I'd be guessing, it's a big number.
KING: So now, back to this kid that said, you're going to hear from me. Did you always have that self confidence?
ANKA: Always, yes.
KING: In other words, you knew you would make it.
ANKA: Well, I...
KING: Streisand told me once, before she was known, she was doing -- I can get it for you wholesale -- you're going to hear about me.
ANKA: I always had the very strong conviction that something would happen if I stayed with it. I believed in myself a great deal. Back then, you had to, because unlike today, where it's kind of indigenous that you get young people -- I mean, they just throw them out there, you're going to be a star -- it was unheard of back then, but I really believed in what I was doing and had a very strong sense that it was going happen for me.
KING: We'll be right back with Paul Anka. His PBS special has aired. They'll be airing it more -- "Paul Anka, Night of a Lifetime." The new album, "Paul Anka: Live 2000." is out. We'll be back with more. He's our guests for the full hour.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANKA (singing) Please, stay by me, Diana.
Oh, please, Diana. Oh, please, Diana. `
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Paul Anka. He has more than 900 songs to his credit.
Are you still always writing?
ANKA: All the time. Just wrote for my last album, "Body of Work." You're always ready always ready, always in action.
KING: That difficult era when the age went by you and you had all those rock kids and everything was just jumping, and then we went into the '90s and hard rock and the like, was it difficult for you?
ANKA: The difficult period, if you could call it that, was probably the '60s. The Beatles came in and wiped all of us off the charts. When you're young, you're not really quite ready for that. And all my contemporaries and the guys I knew, it was a big shock, even though I knew the Beatles, because I'd met them in Europe. I was working in Paris. The only thing that kind of kept it together for was Bobby Darin and I, we evolved into the clubs. We did the Copa. That was at 1959. This was Sophie Tucker, and then I met Sinatra in '60, '61 at the Sands, and I was writing, you know, "The Longest Day," "The Tonight Show" theme. So the other things were making it a lot easier for me to take the hit, and then I realized that you've got to spread the songs around and wait, and if you've got a solid foundation, you'd be OK.
KING: But it wasn't then emotionally difficult?
KING: Did not see your name on the charts.
ANKA: You know, if you stay active -- and I had an international career -- and if you're positive that you're going to make that evolution, you're working at your craft, it jolt you a little bit, but it's not the end of the world.
KING: How did you get into writing themes like "The Tonight Show?" By the way, did you get paid for that every time you played?
KING: Is that the way it works?
ANKA: That's right.
KING: Every time they played it, every night.
ANKA: Every time it gets played.
KING: Or "The Longest Day," that terrific movie about D-Day. How did that enter the balliwick for you? How did you get hired to do that?
ANKA: Well, first of tall, "The Tonight Show" theme, I was doing a television special for "Grenada (ph)," and we needed a comedy relief, so I started looking at tapes of comics, and I saw this one guy called Johnny Carson. He did a bit where he was a host of this kiddie show in the morning, but he drank all night. So you can imagine what he's like when got there. I thought it was very funny. Anyway, Johnny shows up, he does the show. We get to know each other. I run into him about a month later in New York, he and his manage. I say, what's up? He says, I'm taking over this show. He says, I need this, I need this, I need that, and I need a new theme. You know, that's like asking the pope to pray. I said, you got it, so we went upstairs. We talked about it. I went and did a demo for him, and -- which is a demonstration record. I sent it to him, and it's been on the air ever since.
KING: What do you visualize when you wrote that theme which would become part of the nomenclature?
ANKA: Well, you try and custom make it. You try and say, let's write something simple because it's late.
KING: You know, he's going to come through a curtain, right? You've got to know all of that.
ANKA: Exactly, you've got to get it done real quick, so it's got to be catchy, the same, in a sense, with "The Longest Day." I was over there working as an actor...
KING: Did they show you the script of the movie?
ANKA: I was in it.
KING: I know, but I mean, so you know the whole...
ANKA: Yes, oh yes, sure. I knew the whole story. Well, in fact Mr. Zanuck said to me -- we were all having lunch that day. We did it down at the beaches of Normandy. And we'd have lunch, and I said, Mr. Zanuck, who's doing the music? He said, nobody -- no love story, no music. This is my picture, documentary. I says, you know, I have been working on the film here for a couple of weeks, and I've got this melody in my head. He said, no music. I said, well look, I'm going back to New York, and I'm going to make a demonstration. I'll send it to you, no obligation. No music.
So I went back to New York to BellSound studio, made the demo for about 1,200 bucks. I sent it to him. He's still filming in France. And I get a telegram from him: There will be music. I'm going to use this, and only this. Who would you like to work with? And I'd heard this of the great arranger when I was living in France, called Mussiare (ph). I said I'd like him to score it with me. Well, in the entire film of three hours plus, there is maybe 21 minutes of music. That's all you hear is that theme, but it was being there, getting the feel for it...
KING: And Jar (ph) went on to be famous.
ANKA: It was incredible.
KING: Did you do other movie themes?
ANKA: Yes. I did "Lonely Boy," which came out of a Mamie Van Doren film called "Girls Town" and then I did "No Way Out," a Kevin Costner film. KING: Oh, and that was great.
KING: But "The Longest Day" will stay...
ANKA: Oh, "The Longest Day," it's a classic.
KING: This business end of Paul Anka, which has now become famous. You bought all your old masters, right?.
KING: How old were you when you did that?
ANKA: I what about 20 years old.
KING: Twenty years old? How many old masters could you have had?
ANKA: Well, all my catalog. I had everything that I did at ABC Paramount from "Diana." There's about six albums all the way to "Put Your Head on My Shoulder." There's quite a few masters afterwards.
KING: "Having My Baby" in there, too? No, that was after.
ANKA: No, "Having My Baby" came in the '70s. What I felt was ABC didn't the distributorship and RCA did, and I made a new deal with RCA Victor, and I took all my masters and I asked the company if I could buy them from them, and they said, well, a quarter million dollars. I said, OK, you've got it, and I bought the masters. They thought I was nuts.
KING: With what in mind?
ANKA: Well, I wanted to keep my life together. I was going on to RCA Victor, and I really believed that they were a good company, and I wanted to keep everything in one pot. So I formed a new company at RCA. I bought my old masters and put it all together, just to keep my life together, not knowing or even having the vision that what would be happening today in terms of technology, where this kind of software would be so important, the leasing of it.
KING: So you were ahead of your time, but not knowing you were ahead of your time?
ANKA: That's right.
KING: Just thought you ought to do this.
Did you always have that business sense? Are you still involved in the business end of the of the business...
ANKA: ... very much so. KING: ... as you are in performing?
ANKA: I'm very hand on with my business. I mean, Irv taught me that.
KING: Most aren't, right? Most artists are at the mercy of their business people.
ANKA: Yes. Well, you know, unfortunately, you can't articulate -- most artists come from the streets, in a sense, and they don't really have the business acumen. There's always someone around them that's doing it.
KING: They're street smart, but they're not dollar and sense?
ANKA: Right, exactly. And unfortunately, they get taken advantage of. I had all that done to me as a teenager. And when Irv Feld came into my life, he taught me the rudiments of what to do and why and what to look out for, and I've kind of kept that, because you know, fortunately, I've seen a lot of guys -- and even Presley. That was very sad. I mean, the days he'd hang out with me in Vegas...
KING: Yes, let me talk about that. Let me get a break.
ANKA: Yes, sure.
KING: My guest is Paul Anka. What a story. He is considered by "Billboard" magazine in "Billboard" history the 21st most successful artist in music history worldwide.
ANKA (singing): I hope that I can sing for you five years from today, then I'll be in my 20s with my hair turned gray. Though I'll be old and weary, still I'll cheerfully say, thanks for helping my career get underway. Yes, thanks to you.
KING: We're back with Paul Anka.
You were mentioning you learned from and about a lot of this business from Presley in a sense, good and bad.
ANKA: Well, the analogy is, starting so young, and hanging around Sinatra and all of those guys, you get an education. You see what to do, what not to do. You get a real sense as a performer. There's a lot you can learn from watching the best. The point I was making, Elvis, near the end, who really didn't have a control of his life. there was a lesson to be learned there. And he would come over, and we would sit in my dressing room in Caesar's Palace, and he'd sit in the back and watch the show, and then we'd would come down and we'd BS, and I could see the evolution of this guy that was this God-looking guy, this great artist, to slowly unraveling, and it was very sad, because no matter how you talked to him, and in some cases you couldn't, because he was so out of it, you just realize that the business, and his lack of understanding who he was, and the place he was at and having no control of his own life, you could slowly see the demise.
KING: Jackie Gleason told me when Presley did his show first, his summer replacement, Tommy Dorsey, and Gleason told him, I'm going to give you a kid, go out, don't hide, go to dinner, walk on the street. If you don't do that, you're going to be isolated, you're going to be a lonely guy.
ANKA: Very true. I would sit with Elvis and go, let's go to dinner. There'd be 12 guys with him. He would say no, no, we have to go back to the hotel, Paul, got to go the hotel. If you went to the Hilton where he stayed, there was aluminum foil on the windows. He never wanted to see the sun shine. It was the most bizarre -- you couldn't penetrate to say -- I mean, I heard that years ago with Sinatra, go out. We'd go out. You know, Frank we'd go out. We'd sit there, four of us, three of us, whatever, have laughs, and I mean, I've been like that ever since. I mean, I just go out.
KING: I saw you walking in New York.
ANKA: Yes, that's the thing to do.
KING: He was a good guy though, Elvis? Sweet guy?
ANKA: Absolutely a sweet guy. A gentleman -- yes, sir, no, sir. I mean, I'd never seen him rude to anybody. He was really a good guy.
KING: So it's sad.
ANKA: Very sad.
KING: Was it the Colonel's fault, or do management get that way?
ANKA: Tough question. You know, unfortunately, Larry, I think some artists, most that I've known, they don't want it any other way.
KING: They want the protection.
ANKA: They want the protection. You sign the checks. You make the deals. I want to have fun and spend, and I'll be where you want me to be. So you can't always blame management. A lot of the artists, unfortunately they don't listen. They don't want to learn. They look at this dream that's happened to them, and they don't get outside of it to understand.
KING: So what makes a -- could you be a good manager?
ANKA: Oh, absolutely.
KING: What makes a good manager? ANKA: Well, a good manager will down and look at the artists in the eye and say, here's the way it's going to be, here's I want you to be responsible for, and here's what I want you to learn, but I'll never forget the words Abe Glassfogel (ph)...
KING: One of the greats.
ANKA: Who found William Marcy (ph). He said, Paul, if you're dealing with an artist that has no brains, walk away from it. They're no one. He says, I'll never handle an act that doesn't have brains. And he was very right, because if you sit with somebody that doesn't get, that's stupid, no intellect, not worldly, or doesn't have a concept of what you're talking about, I mean, you're just banging your head against the wall. I mean, you have to walk from it.
KING: What do you make of all these kind of -- it's wrong to lump them -- the modern acts, the one-hit acts, the acts with no act?
ANKA: Well, that's what they are, you know. Unfortunately, it's form over content today, and a lot of things on the charts today, they're are not musical, and they're happening because every generation has to have its own thing. And it's like a freight train. I mean, every few years that train is coming down the track and you've got let it through, but it doesn't mean that it's quality. It doesn't mean that there's any substance. And whenever they ask me advice, I say, save your money, because that's what it is.
KING: So today's music is what? What is this generation's music? Is it non-musical?
ANKA: Well, you can't clump it all together. In some of this, there is good music. They're is some very talented people. I mean, if you look at the Santana success, Clive Davis, who is probably one of the great record men of all time, and there's not a lot of them, when you look at some of the musicians around today, the David Fosters, the Walter Affanasieff, the Whitney Houstons, Celine Dion, some good composer, you know, it's being diffused by this other stuff that you don't get. But never think that there's not any talented people in there. There is, but not enough of it breaks through.
KING: What are the Cole Porters and Gerswhins doing now? In other words, they must be there.
ANKA: I think they've turned over for the thousandths time.
KING: Is there a 30-year-old Gershwin around, writing melodies and beautiful stuff that nobody listening to.
ANKA: Yes, there are some, absolutely. There are some talented people that are equatable. They don't write the same way. I think Cole Porter and Gershwin are some of our best. you'll never see that kind of writing. That was a different kind of pop music, especially the lyrical, the inner lines, and the lyrical and the intelligence of it. You don't have that today, but you do have some very good, melodic pop writers that are good technicians. KING: But we don't have "Embrace Me You Irreplaceable You"?
ANKA: No, we don't have that kind of writing.
KING: That's not in the culture, right?
ANKA: Not at all.
KING: So that wouldn't produce young writers.
ANKA: It has to be very simple.
KING: Did they have an effect on you, did Porter and Gershwin?
ANKA: Absolutely. I was brought up on it. You couldn't avoid it. You have to remember in the '60s, Sinatra and the Rat Pack, that's what was around.
KING: And they sang that music.
ANKA: They sang it. But the young kids, the teenagers that I started with, when we were sitting there looking for where we were going to go, all we had to look at was the Rat Pack. Boy, if you could be like them, dress like them and sing those songs. Rock hadn't hit. There was nothing on the horizon.
KING: We come back, we'll talk about Sinatra and Anka. They go together.
Don't go away.
KING: We're back with Paul Anka. The "Paul Anka: Live 2000" album is out, the PBS special as well, "Night of a Lifetime." We'll talk about that.
You and Sinatra -- I know you were on our show the night after Frank died. When we were with Sinatra on many occasions, we talked about his involvement, how you got him to record "My Way," you pressed him. Did you write that for him?
KING: You thought of him when you wrote it.
ANKA: Oh, no question. I'd known Sinatra since '59, got to know him well at Sands Hotel. And all those years we played the same places. He came down to Miami to do a film. He was doing one of those detective movies, and I was...
KING: "Tony Rome" it must have...
ANKA: "Tony Rome." And I was working the Fountain Blue for Ben Novak, and he'd come to see the show. He'd always called me "the kid" -- hey kid, come on, did, we're going to dinner, kid -- kid, kid. In fact, when he said you're going to dinner, you take your passport. You know Frank.
Anyway, so a few years prior to when I wrote "My Way," he said you've got write something for me. I didn't have the chops to write -- you know he'd come off Gershwin and Cole Porter, if I'd given him "Lonely Boy," he would have thrown a chair at me. You know, what Frank liked. So finally I spent a week with him and Jilly (ph) down at the Fountain Blue, and I went back to New York, it was 1:00 in the morning, and he told me in Miami he was going retire, said I want to get out.
KING: He did retire.
ANKA: Oh yes, said I want to get out. And I was sitting there in my apartment, and I was doing everything on a typewriter...
KING: Not a piano?
ANKA: Well, a piano and a typewriter. And I started -- I had this French melody. I got married in France and was on vacation, and I translated it to the piano, and I was living with it for about six months, and I started, "And now the end is year, and so I face the final curtain," and it started to write itself as I thought of Frank. Spit it out, ate it up. I mean, everything that we knew, the way he talked. I just thought of him as I was writing. I finished it about 5:00 in the morning, big rain storm, and I knew that he and Don Costa -- Don Costa was my producer -- were at Caesar's Palace in Vegas, and I called him up, I said, Frank, I've got something really interesting -- because I knew he was recording. I said, I want to bring it out to you. Flew out, went to his dressing room in Caesar's, played him "My Way," played him a demo, and he looked at me and he said, cookie, kid, cookie. You know, Frank, he never said very much.
Fade in, fade out, I get a call a month later from United Studios in Los Angeles. I was in New York. Frank put the phone up to the speaker and said, kid, listen to this, and they played the entire record. And man, I started to cry. That was like a turning point in my life.
KING: Because? I mean, you were a major hit already. You had your own hits. Did you know it would do well?
ANKA: Yes. Oh yes. It's a song at that time was so different than anything, and you know Frank, he could sing the phone book, and he just laid into it.
KING: He did.
ANKA: And I knew that the song was so different.
KING: one of the few songs that begin with "and."
ANKA: Yes, yes, exactly. The trivia point about that is, he "woodshedded" that song. You know, when Frank wanted to learn something, he got into it. When he didn't, you knew he didn't. But he really got into the song. He showed up.
KING: "Woodshedded" it.
ANKA: "Woodshedded" the song.
KING: Meaning he took it home?
ANKA: Took it home. When he showed up he listened to the band play it a few times, walked into the vocal booth, and sang it once. The choices that that man made on that song, taking it once, and then he walked out.
KING: How did you react to the critics, some critics of Sinatra and you, who said it was too sentimental. It was too personal?
ANKA: You know, you...
KING: You've heard that, obviously.
ANKA: Yes, yes, of course. That's OK. You know, you're not going to please everybody, but you look at the majority of people that are affected, you look at the reaction every decade. I mean, you get people that are, you know, people are playing it at funerals, people are playing it at weddings. I've never had a reaction -- nor has Frank. I mean, Frank, you know, right down until the end has always thanked me for that song. Of course it's personal. What else is it going to be?
KING: Sammie Kahn wrote some wonderful personal songs, "September of My Years."
ANKA: Oh, Sammy was a dear friend of mine. And Sammy and Jimmy wrote a bulk of the great hits for Frank.
KING: They had him in mind? Well, when he was little...
ANKA: All the time.
KING: ... he would do it by order, right? Let's -- "Come Fly With Me," right?
ANKA: Well, of course. We're doing a film, here's a premise, write it. Frank's doing an album, "Come Fly" -- I mean, I -- one of my dearest friends, and I learned a lot from Sammie, was Sammie Kahn. I mean, a brilliant writer.
KING: Brilliant. Did you ever record "My Way"?
ANKA: Yes, I did it on an album later. The company I was with, RCA, at the time got very unhappy with me that I didn't do it myself. I said, look, I'm in my 20s, and that's Frank Sinatra. There's no way.
KING: Did Sid Vicious also record it? ANKA: Oh, yes.
KING: He did?
ANKA: Oh, yes, he really did it.
KING: Do a lot of people use it?
ANKA: It's got a couple hundred covers. The Sid Vicious record he did in Paris with a make-up band. There's been an eclectic array of people that have done it in every way in every language. Well, the French government recently gave me their top honor, their Letter D'Arts, and it's probably the most played song in the world as far as they're concerned.
KING: More with Paul Anka on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE, salute to a legend.
Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANK SINATRA, ENTERTAINER (singing): The record shows I took the blow and did it my way, my way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Paul Anka. What about "Night of a Lifetime"? What was the concept of that PBS special?
ANKA: The people at PBS had seen a few of my concerts in Washington, a few places around the country, and they wanted this to be their key concert of the year, and...
KING: For helping promote membership?
ANKA: Yes, exactly. And, you know, my kids were brought up on PBS, and we all know how exceptional it is, the programming. And I said, well, as long as I'm allowed to do what I do and where I want to do it for the aesthetic value and the song content. Anyway, we went around with it a few times and we finally agreed to doing it the Mirage Hotel, where I wanted to do it.
And it's something that I'd wanted to do, because the last one I did was for Dr. Pepper, you know, a few years ago. And a music series, unfortunately, these kinds of specials, you don't see a lot of them. And I thought the proper place for displaying the culmination of all these years, what I'm about today, and getting it out to everyone -- because I don't think a lot of people everywhere have seen Paul Anka or quite know, because I'm kind of -- once I do my casinos and where I want to work, that's it.
And I thought it would be nice to, you know, have the freedom to do what I wanted to do with no attitude.
KING: And they gave you that. ANKA: Yes.
KING: And they run it as a concert, right?
KING: As if you did -- in other words, they shoot the Mirage show when you do it?
ANKA: They shot the concert the way that I put the complement of songs together. There's a live album that we along with -- for proceeds to go to PBS -- along with the special. It will air now right up until for 12 days, and then they're going to air it again in the fall for another go.
KING: And the album, "Paul Anka: Live 2000," is new music.
ANKA: It's -- well, it's the entire show. It's the concert.
KING: Oh, it's the recording of the concert.
ANKA: It's pretty much what you see and more of what you see on television. And we produce that album to coincide with the PBS special.
KING: So you're really -- you don't make a lot of money on this. This is going to PBS.
ANKA: No, but it's -- you know, it's PBS, absolutely.
KING: How much do you work?
ANKA: I work and I -- well, I average these past 42 years, 30 to 35 weeks a year and I continue to do so.
KING: Same schedule?
ANKA: No, a little different. Times are different. You know, in Vegas years ago you worked two shows a night, seven days a week, three weeks. Now we work one show a night and you have a couple days off. I work today, unlike years ago, my own terms -- where I want to work, how I want to work. Last year was a banner year for me. With the...
KING: In what way?
ANKA: Made a lot more money. The demographics were wider, some new places, the casinos that are cropping up around the country, the Indian casinos.
KING: You were for a lot of Indian casinos?
ANKA: Do a lot of...
KING: You work Foxwoood's, don't you?
ANKA: I have major deals with Foxwood's Casino, the Hilton Park Place Corporation and Steve Wynn and the Mirage.
KING: Foxwood's is the largest in the world.
ANKA: A billion dollars a year.
KING: Is it enormous -- what kind of place is it?
KING: I mean, it's Connecticut, right?
ANKA: It's in Connecticut. It's about two and a half hours from New York. It's aesthetically beautiful. The rooms have well over a thousand rooms, well appointed, great staff. They draw from millions of people in that area.
KING: Who drive there.
ANKA: Who drive in, and they support that place. It's just the most remarkable operation.
KING: Is it difficult singing for gamblers?
ANKA: Not for me it isn't. I sung for them all my life. I know the mentality. I've been singing since I was 18 to gamblers.
KING: Because you really have to entertain them, right?
KING: A lot of that crowd has lost money.
ANKA: A guy loses some money and comes in, the last thing he wants to look at is me.
ANKA: And they're comping him. Oh, great, I just lost $500,000, you're giving me a $52 ticket.
It's a little different, though. In a lot of the casinos today, the public that go to Vegas and most places, they're not just gamblers.
KING: Family go there.
ANKA: Oh, families go, people go to enjoy food, they go to enjoy other things. So it's not always a guy that's losing money. And most of the guys that are there or the women that are there have lost the proportion they want to lose. So they're really there for the shows in most cases. It's not like years ago at the Sands, where they were all high-end people, all losing, it was a Sinatra crowd, for anybody else they'd be a little tough.
KING: Night clubs are dead except the casinos, right?
ANKA: Oh, yes. Absolutely.
KING: And Branson, Missouri, have you worked there?
ANKA: No, I've been offered a theater, offered to move there. But that's not my thing. I'm too active. I work the world. I mean, this year I'll be in Australia, South America, Holland, all of Europe. So my schedule -- I mean, I'm booking next year already, so I don't want to settle down anywhere, nor is that really my demographic for 12 months a year.
KING: Non-English speaking countries, too?
KING: Back with more of Paul Anka, true legend worldwide.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "PAUL ANKA, NIGHT OF A LIFETIME")
ANKA: I'm just a lonely boy, lonely and blue. I'm all alone, I've got nothing to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "PAUL ANKA, NIGHT OF A LIFETIME")
ANKA: You're the woman I love and I love what it's doing to you. You're having our baby.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Paul Anka.
On some of the critics, when you write a song like "Having My Baby," they take you apart, right?
ANKA: Well, they -- well it was more...
KING: They do. they're a lot of -- what is he writing about?
ANKA: Well, no, it was not the critics, it was the women's lib. It was kind of a timing thing.
KING: Oh, really?
ANKA: Yes, the critics -- actually, what "The Washington Post" -- I mean, a lot of journalists and editorials, because there was such controversy, really came to my aid in a sense. And they said, you know, what are you people getting on him for? We've got a drug problem, we've got a war to deal with, we've crime in the streets. He just wrote this song. So I really didn't get on a soap box and try and defend myself. It was a timing issue. I understood it sociologically. And I said, you know, every time you write out a song and put out a record, I'm not going to hand out a pamphlet. It is what it is. It's only a song.
KING: And women's lib objected, why? ANKA: "Having 'My' Baby," as opposed to...
KING: Not like "her" baby.
ANKA: ... "our" baby or "her" baby.
KING: Did you think of titling it "Having Our Baby?
ANKA: You know...
KING: It was a male song.
ANKA: Yes, it's a curious think about writing -- and Sammie Kahn taught me this. He said you've got to put the right word on every note. And there's many instances, including "Stardust," where the wrong words were on there until they got to the right word. Well, when you're singing and writing, you want the right vowel. Everything has to sing. And you can always sense when it fits right. You're having "her" back doesn't sing. You're having "our" baby. You're having "my" -- "my," it sings.
So every craftsman that writes, it's always trying to get the right word with the right note so that it sings and it hits the ear properly. I never thought of it our baby -- not that they're wrong. I mean, in concert I end it now, I end it now and I go, you're having our baby. Even the word "our" doesn't sing.
KING: What was wrong with "Stardust"?
ANKA: There's a whole new set of lyrics. I mean, there's a ton of songs I can name you that you finally realize that there were lyrics that there are other lyrics, they didn't work. They rewrote them. Somebody else came in, they fixed them, they put a whole new concept to them. It happens all the time.
KING: Alan Jay Lerner told me that they're not poets. It's a skill.
KING: Do you agree with that?
ANKA: Absolutely, absolutely a skill.
KING: A special skill.
ANKA: A skill and a craftsman, absolutely. And the skill is to find the magic of those words on that note so that when you hear it as a consumer, you get it. Because I've heard a lot of bad songs. I mean, people send you songs every day, and they don't make sense. I mean, you could hear the words don't belong with the note. And the word's as good as the note under it. I mean, did you ever hum a lyric? The note's it.
KING: Do you ever bomb?
ANKA: Not anymore. I used the.
KING: Even if a guy's lost $400,000 in the first row and he don't want to be impressed and you...
ANKA: Yes, but that...
KING: You don't have nights that are flat?
ANKA: No. I used to, Larry, on my way up, when you're learning your craft and you're a little nervous as a performer. I mean, these last five, eight years for me have been the best for me. I'm in a great place.
KING: How old are you now?
ANKA: My demographics -- I'm 58. My demographics have grown up with me, they know what I'm about as a performer, I know what it is that they want. Years ago, you're feeling your way. You're not quite there. You're in a venue because, you know, an agent sells you and Frank Sinatra or whatever, and half those people in there don't want to the hear you. You're a teenager. You're -- oh, we don't like those young songs.
All of a sudden, it all comes together where the places I play are places I belong in because I know the owners, I'm comfortable, and I know my audience. And when I have that kind of a situation, it's a strange payoff after all these years. But once you arrive at that place, you never bomb.
KING: Have you had a song written that you thought would be unbelievable and wasn't?
ANKA: Oh, yes.
KING: And vice-versa? A song you didn't expect much of that went through the roof?
ANKA: Yes. Well, "Diana," the other side of the record, "Don't Gamble With Love" was supposed to be the side.
KING: "Don't Gamble With Love."
ANKA: "Don't Gamble With Love." was the A side. It flipped to "Diana." There was some...
KING: That's radio guys that do that, right?
ANKA: Oh, they flip it over, absolutely. There are songs like -- I thought a song "Do I Love You?" which is done pretty well, I thought it would be bigger than it is. It's on my new -- on my last album, "Body of Work" with Kenny G and the Bee Gees. That happens. Listen, if I really knew -- you know, no one has a crystal ball.
KING: There's no -- you can't bottle this, right? Why a song will do well, why it will not do well.
ANKA: Absolutely not.
KING: There's no formula.
ANKA: None. If you're professional, you do the best you can. You know, you get Whitney Houston and maybe the title song of a film and it's a well-crafted song, you've got a shot. But I just...
KING: But you could miss the shot, though, no guarantees.
ANKA: No guarantee. I mean, if you're a real good music person, you can hear -- those things do come had along. I mean, as I mentioned earlier, a guy like Clive Davis, he can hear it most of the time. Most people can't.
KING: Back with more of Paul Anka on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANKA (singing): I took a little trip to my own home town. I only stopped just to look around.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: On other areas, you had a sister-in-law die of cancer. Michael Milken's been on this show many times and others that we have not gone to war in this country against cancer. If cancer were an enemy invading our shores, we'd be up in arms. Do you join that chorus?
ANKA: Absolutely. I'm very -- you know, Mike is a friend. I know the story. Many close friends of ours, I mean, there's recently some very, very tragic stories. I don't think the government's kept their promise. I think you've heard this before. I mean, they're achieving other things, to the moon, on and on. They have not kept the promise. There is more to do here. My good friend Steve Wynn, someone very close to us, has been just torn apart by this. And, you know, we sat around leisurely and very upset about a personal occurrence, and we said some day we're going to put a group of guys together and we're really going to attack this, because it has to be. And I think that will be done, because if government does not step in and do what has to be done...
KING: But yet you don't see it mentioned in the presidential campaign.
ANKA: I know.
KING: The word cancer hasn't been mentioned.
ANKA: I know.
KING: What did your sister die of -- sister-in-law? What kind of cancer?
ANKA: Oh, just totally riddled throughout had her body, lung, everything.
KING: You're also involved in a rare show business feat, married 35 years, five...
KING: Thirty-six, five daughters. Explain that longevity in a field where it's difficult to get longevity.
ANKA: Yes, I think you'll find it's tough in a few other occupations, certainly very difficult in ours. I really tribute all of it to my wife. I think my wife Anne has kept it all together, because when I first met her I didn't want to get married. And I wasn't the marrying type. I mean, I wanted children and I loved children, but I think in most cases the woman keeps it together. I mean, for me to sit here and give advice, I really can't. It's...
KING: In other words, had she been less strong, you'd not be married?
ANKA: Absolutely. I mean, it's all down to the individuals, and she's just a great woman who kept it all together.
KING: Did you want a son?
ANKA: You know, I did at one point, and then it just wasn't important. I started getting into that whole female thing with fathers, and I started loving it.
KING: The daddy.
ANKA: It really didn't matter. I mean, at one point there was so much PMS around my house it just didn't matter. By the way, that means Paul must suffer.
KING: Ottawa Senators, are you an owner?
ANKA: I'm not an owner. I have some options, stock, if you will.
KING: They're doing well, aren't they?
ANKA: Yes, oh, yes, every season.
KING: You're a hockey nut?
ANKA: Well I grew up on it.
KING: We going to curtail the violence? Well, they've cut it back somewhat, right?
ANKA: You now, it's...
KING: You're out of the game for fighting now.
ANKA: This recent incident is very unfortunate. KING: This guy's going jail.
KING: Maybe go to jail -- may go to jail.
ANKA: Yes, I think in his heart, knowing him, he really didn't mean to do that.
KING: This is McSorely.
ANKA: McSorley. It's always been a contact sport. And those guys are -- and I know all these guys, and I just know how tightly they're wound, and it's hard to avoid that. It's part of the game. Certainly there's a line that you cross. I'm against that. I think you cannot take that extra step and hurt somebody.
KING: Because Europeans don't.
ANKA: No, not at all. And they're great hockey players. I mean, if you talk to any American guys or Canadian guys, the Russians are the best players.
KING: In the world.
ANKA: Always have been.
KING: And they pass.
ANKA: Listen, I've known Gretzky forever, and all he used to say to me was the Russians are the best. The Russians are the best. And they don't beat up on each other like us.
KING: That's a hard sport. I mean, that may be...
ANKA: Well, you look at...
KING: Forty miles an hour on skates with a stick.
ANKA: Well, look at football. The average activity in that game is 13 minutes.
ANKA: Total. Thirteen minutes average.
KING: The rest of the time is in the huddle, coming out of the huddle.
ANKA: Whatever, the meetings, boom-bada-boom. But with hockey, they're always going. Always going, and I think it's the best spectator sport.
KING: Back with our remaining moments with Paul Anka.
You can see him as the host of the PBS special "Night of a Lifetime," with the corresponding album "Paul Anka 2000."
We'll be back with our remaining moments with Paul after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "PAUL ANKA, NIGHT OF A LIFETIME")
ANKA: The longest day in history. Yes, the longest day in history. The longest day in history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANKA: (SINGING IN SPANISH)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We are back with Paul Anka. You also have recorded in Spanish, French, Japanese, German and Italian.
KING: Is this because you just -- you don't know the languages, do you? What do you do?
ANKA: I know French, I know Italian. But in the '60s, after working throughout the world and sensing it was going to be a global community, I felt that I wanted to give something back to each of those places. And each company that I was with around the world said, would you do it? And I said, of course. why not? I knew French from Canada, and I started in Italy, and I lived there for about two years. And I was known as "Paulanka." Everywhere I went, hey, Paulanka. It was like one word.
KING: That's funny.
ANKA: So I started there. I sold about 20 million records there in Italian, won some festivals. Then I did two French albums and I did six German albums. I did a Japanese album. I've done about three Spanish albums. My last one was "Amigos" for Sony.
KING: Is German melodic?.
ANKA: Oh, it's tough. Oh, man.
KING: I'll bet.
ANKA: It's the toughest. My teacher was Ziegret Fochman (ph), and my musical director was Werner Moore (ph) -- great bandleader. And I'd sit there at 9:00 in the morning -- you know, they like to start early, which I don't -- and she'd so, OK, now get up into the teeth, ich and ich. And I had a song called...
KING: Ich love you.
ANKA: (SINGING IN GERMAN)
And I was dying. No, it's not musical. Italian's beautiful.
KING: What do you make of the current Latin phenomenon heralded by the Ricky Martins.
KING: He's a great entertainer.
ANKA: Oh, wonderful. Well Ricky was on my "Amigos" album that I did. I sensed this happening...
KING: He's something.
ANKA: Oh, he's wonderful. And I had him on my album and all the top Spanish stars about two and a half years ago for my "Amigos" album. So I'm a big believer. I mean, I go to South America all the time, Mexico and Spain. And I sensed you just couldn't hold that back. I mean, you shouldn't have been dividing this stuff up, because these guys are talented and that music is exciting.
KING: So it's crossover.
ANKA: Oh, man, it's the best.
KING: Anything you haven't done you'd like to do? Broadway theater?
ANKA: Well, you know, I've turned down Broadway every year. I'm just afraid of that concept. I don't like the system of you work a year and you're shot down in one week. I think there's another forum for me to do that in somewhere else but within a Broadway-type structure, and I am working on that. I'd probably like to do more motion pictures.
KING: It's an honor knowing you.
ANKA: Thank you, sir.
KING: There's a great talent, Paul Anka. Paul Anka's "Night of a Lifetime" is the PBS big special of the year in their big fund- raising drive, and "Paul Anka: Live 2000" is the complimentary CD for it.
We thank you for being with us for this full hour. We hope you enjoyed it.
I'm Larry King. From Los Angeles, good night.
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