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Larry King Live

TV Moms Tell Their Real Stories

Aired July 5, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANNOUNCER: Tonight, five decades of TV's most famous moms join Barbara Billingsley from "Leave It to Beaver" and her showbiz son, Jerry Mathers, plus Meredith Baxter from "Family Ties," Joanna Kerns from "Growing Pains," and Doris Roberts from "Everybody Loves Raymond."

Tonight's guest host, Florence Henderson from "The Brady Bunch." They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

FLORENCE HENDERSON, GUEST HOST: Good evening. I'm Florence Henderson, sitting in for Larry King, who's on vacation.

Earlier in my career, I had the great pleasure of being mom to one of TV's best-known families, "The Brady Bunch." Tonight, I'm joined by other famous TV moms. In Los Angeles, Barbara Billingsley from "Leave It to Beaver," Meredith Baxter from "Family Ties," Joanna Kerns from "Growing Pains," and Doris Roberts from "Everybody Loves Raymond."

I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to have all of you great ladies here with me tonight. It makes me very comfortable.

So Barbara...

(LAUGHTER)

... Billingsley, I want to start with you, because you're kind of the -- the dean of TV moms, I would say. And I have such respect for you. I mean, you were the perfect mom of the '50s, and of course, have been Beaver's mom for years. It just goes on and on and on, like "The Brady Bunch."

But do you see any great differences between TV moms today and when you were doing "Beaver" originally?

BARBARA BILLINGSLEY, "LEAVE IT TO BEAVER": Of course! There's lots of difference between them. I think -- well, I think you were similar.

(LAUGHTER)

You were you were the...

JOANNA KERNS, "GROWING PAINS": Similar but not quite, right? BILLINGSLEY: No, I think there's a lot of difference, because they're lucky if they've got a mother and father together today, where we were...

HENDERSON: That's...

BILLINGSLEY: Yes.

HENDERSON: That's true, Barbara. You know, I was thinking, too, we were so restricted. I mean, "The Brady Bunch" started end of the '60s and through the '70s. You know, we weren't allowed to do certain things. We weren't allowed to talk to our children above a certain level.

It's interesting what they get away with today in television. And I'd like to ask Doris Roberts about that, because she is the, I think, currently the only one that is a mom on "Everybody Loves Raymond."

So Doris, what's it like being Ray Romano's mom?

DORIS ROBERTS, "EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND": Well, it's great. I've got a job, which is terrific.

(LAUGHTER)

But -- no, I love being that character. A lot of people refer to her as the mother from hell. I don't think so. Maybe purgatory, but not hell.

(LAUGHTER)

But everything I do as my character comes from love. I mean, these are women who were taught to get married very early, have children immediately, and take care of a family. And when the kids leave, they feel that they're dismissed, that they have no purpose in life. So they get into your life, and tell you how to live it, what to do about it, and why you should, because they think they're saving you from pain and from making wrong choices.

But I do think everything I do is from love.

HENDERSON: Well, I think so, too, and also, it happens to be very funny, Doris. You're a very funny lady.

ROBERTS: Thank you.

HENDERSON: I want to ask Meredith Baxter, because I think you were really kind of the first one that broke the mold. You and Michael Gross were ex-hippies, and so you started breaking some new ground, I think, as far as TV moms went.

MEREDITH BAXTER, "FAMILY TIES": Well, I know that we were -- I think I came from the era of the fallible mom. You know, there was no need to really be perfect.

HENDERSON: Um-hmm.

BAXTER: Although -- although, you know, although they got to show the parents screwing up once in a while and not living up to the kids's expectations, and then it gives us an opportunity to say, I'm sorry, I was in error.

There was a wonderful episode in which Michael Gross, who played Steven Keaton, my husband on the show, had an extramarital affair -- or no, he was tempted to. But it was so juicy that I went to the director and the guys going, and I was going, hey, you know, Elyse could do that, Elyse could be tempted to have an affair in some arena. And they went, no, no, she's the mom.

(LAUGHTER)

So, that was the end of it. It never went further than that. That was the end of any real excitement in Elyse's life.

HENDERSON: Well, Joanna, Joanna Kerns from "growing pains," I think you were one of the first to actually have a job. I mean, you had an occupation.

I used to beg for a job for Carol Brady. I said, just let her do anything. I mean, eventually at one of the reunions I became a real estate agent, you know.

But you actually were important. I mean, you had a job.

KERNS: Well, actually it was premise of the show, was that Maggie goes back to work after raising her kids, and Jason comes home to -- he puts his psychiatric practice in the house, and he's Mr. Mom. And I also was, I think, the first television mom to keep her maiden name, Maggie Malone. So I wasn't -- I was Maggie Seaver, but on air I was Maggie Malone, so.

It was -- it was kind of -- that was a big deal, but it was -- we were the Seavers. "Leave It to Beaver," the Cleavers.

(CROSSTALK)

I mean, there was a lot of inside kind of comparisons between our two shows, but it was really "Father Knows Least," you know.

(LAUGHTER)

You know, it had the comedy kind of father role, and if anything, I was the tougher one in our TV family.

BAXTER: If I can -- if I can say, Florence...

HENDERSON: Yes, please do.

BAXTER: Elyse Keaton did have a job, and in one, oh, memorable season, I think I even had a drawing board. I was supposed to be an architect. I had a drawing board in the kitchen.

HENDERSON: Wait a minute. Wait a minute, Meredith, Robert Reed was the architect on "The Brady Bunch."

BAXTER: OK. Well, this were our spin on "The Brady Bunch."

HENDERSON: OK.

BAXTER: However, the best -- the most I could do after the first season -- I think, maybe the second season, the drawing board left. And I would just beg to: "OK, instead of a load of laundry, I will carry through some drawing. I would be hustling through the background, `Hi, everybody, I'm off to' -- and gone."

But...

BILLINGSLEY: I have to tell you that June Cleaver had a job in "The New Leave It to Beaver." She did.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't know that.

BILLINGSLEY: Sure, she was a council woman. She went to work. She wasn't a sit-at-home grandma. She went out, got a job.

HENDERSON: Well, Barbara, so that we can all keep our jobs, we're going to take a short break. But please stay tuned for more of TV moms. We'll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND")

ROBERTS: You...

(LAUGHTER)

You -- you never appreciated my Robby.

RAY ROMANO, ACTOR: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

(LAUGHTER)

ROBERTS: You never loved him for the decent, delightful boy he is. You never realized how lucky you are to be a part of this wonderful family.

I have held my tongue for two years, and I have given you every benefit of the doubt. That's the kind of person I am.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: The kind of person you are: You're an angry, pushy, manipulative bitch.

ROBERTS: Oh! Oh! You (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HENDERSON: Welcome back to TV moms. Last year, Michael J. Fox announced he had Parkinson's disease. Meredith Baxter was Fox's TV mom on "Family Ties." Here's a clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "FAMILY TIES")

BAXTER: Watch, Alexander. OK. Now the momma bird rides back to her nest and the baby bird opens up his mouth so big.

(LAUGHTER)

Come on, open your mouth. Open -- open your mouth, Alex!

(LAUGHTER)

MICHAEL GROSS, ACTOR: Hi, guys.

BAXTER: I can't get either one of them to eat.

MICHAEL J. FOX, ACTOR: Dad, we need a new mom. This one's had it.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

HENDERSON: Well, Meredith, I know that -- that that news was probably very devastating to you and to everyone on the show. Tell me a little bit about your relationship with Michael. I know it was pretty close.

BAXTER: Oh, I tell you, during those years, I've got to say we -- it was nonstop laughter, seven years of laughing the entire time we were working, because we were such a close relationship with all of the -- actually all of the cast members.

And it was heartbreaking to see what was going on with Michael and what he's had to deal with. But I have to say -- and you know, I don't mean to say I'm an intimate part of his circle there. But I talked to him a couple of weeks ago, and I'm so impressed with the grace and dignity and incredible courage that he has shown in dealing with this. And you know. I'm sure it was not his idea of how wanted his career to finish out, you know, working with the Parkinson's Foundation and creating his own foundation here, but what a gift to other people who are struggling with this: the courage to say, OK, you know, he can do this, I can do this. And he's doing it in a very public way. It's beautiful.

HENDERSON: You're right, Meredith. He -- it's very inspiring to hear Michael. He -- I think he's just been a great inspiration to all of us, and we wish him only the best.

I think that an audience doesn't realize on a show -- like most of us have had very long runs with our series -- that you grow so close to each other. I mean, it really is like a second family. It was for us on "The Brady Bunch." And I would like to ask you if all of you had those kind of relationships on your shows.

I know Meredith has just spoken. How about you, Joanna?

KERNS: Oh, we did, and it was -- we were the same way. All we did was laugh. And I always said that I would have loved to have tapes of the times between scenes when we would just be playing for the audience, because it was so much fun.

(LAUGHTER)

We were so free to make fun of each other.

But I have to say one thing about Michael J. Fox. I have to tell you he showed up at Kirk Cameron's 16th birthday party in support of Kirk, basically in a way to pass a mantle and say you're going to be the next teen star.

And he showed up not on one occasion, but many occasions. And...

HENDERSON: Well, Joanna...

(CROSSTALK)

I know that you also dealt with an illness on your show with Tracey Gold, who suffered anorexia nervosa. How did you help her? I understand that you did.

KERNS: Well, I didn't ignore it. I didn't act like it wasn't happening. And I actually, I think, lost her friendship for a short period of time because I was so afraid she was going to die that I called the head of the studio and I asked them to intervene. And we talked very much, Tracey and I did, about her taking the initiative to get help herself and she just couldn't do it. Her family really came through and helped her at the time. And she now is OK about it, but it was very hard, because I think she was mad at me for a long time.

HENDERSON: I'm sure, but you probably saved her -- saved her life.

KERNS: Well, I just couldn't -- I mean, I'm a mom! You know, all of us are -- these kids become your kids, and you go through everything with them. And you can't ignore something like that. And just because you're in the public eye doesn't mean you can't be sick, you know. You can be sick in the public eye.

BAXTER: But all the more reason to try and keep it quiet and keep a lid on it...

KERNS: Right, right.

BAXTER: ... because of the, you know, the shame, and you feel like you have to -- you have a profile you have to keep up and expectations there to fulfill, and it's very difficult.

KERNS: But she's done a lot for kids, young girls with this problem. And she's in recovery and she's doing great. HENDERSON: Well, I know when Robert Reed on "The Brady Bunch" became ill and he died, and of course, the tabloids put it on the cover that he died of AIDS. And it was so devastating, because all of us loved him so much and knew that he was gay, had so much respect for him. And I don't think people often realize, as one of you mentioned, you know, people in public eye do get ill. And people do love them and care about them and care about their feelings.

So how do you feel about that, when the tabloids jump on to these problems?

KERNS: It's terrifying. You know, you kind of live, I think, hoping in an odd way that it will never happen to you.

I had a situation many, many years ago where a man I knew died of AIDS that I had dated, and the tabloids threatened -- he didn't die of AIDS. They said he had died of AIDS, and he hadn't died of AIDS. He died of cancer. And they were threatening to write a story saying he had died of AIDS, and then print all the women that he had dated.

And I was terrified. I had a little girl. My parents were around. The show was new. And I just didn't know what to do. And somehow this story got squashed, but it was -- it was the fashion then to do the things like that.

HENDERSON: Right.

KERNS: I mean, I don't think it's changed.

HENDERSON: OK, Joanna.

BILLINGSLEY: It hasn't changed one bit.

HENDERSON: We have to take just a short break. Please don't go away. We'll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "GROWING PAINS")

KERNS: A tattoo! You got a tattoo?

JEREMY MILLER, ACTOR: But it says "Mother."

(LAUGHTER)

KERNS: I don't care what it says, Ben. Do you realize that for the rest of your life you'll be walking around with my name on your arm?

MILLER: Well, we could, like, add an "s" and it would say "Smother."

(LAUGHTER)

KERNS: Don't tempt me, Ben. How could you do this to your body? Do you realize that when I was pregnant with you I walked around for nine months and didn't have a single cup of coffee so that your body would be perfect?

Now look at you. I could have gone to Colombia and sucked beans off trees!

(LAUGHTER)

MILLER: You never said I couldn't get a tattoo.

KERNS: OK. Fine, fine. Then let's go over all the other possibilities. You may not stick knives up your nose, you may not gargle with razor blades, and you may not drink water directly out of the toilet.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LEAVE IT TO BEAVER")

JERRY MATHERS, ACTOR: Violet?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: What?

MATHERS: Do you want to be aggressive?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: 'Gressive?

MATHERS: Because if you want to be aggressive, I can be just as aggressive as you can.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: I don't know how to play. What's "aggressive"?

MATHERS:: That means, do you want to fight?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: No, I don't want to fight.

MATHERS: OK. What else do you want to do?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: I don't know. Let's go spit off the bridge.

MATHERS: Uh-uh. I did that on the way over here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. We're talking to TV moms. We're now joined by Jerry Mathers, also known as the Beaver in "Leave It to Beaver."

Hi. Hi, Jerry.

MATHERS: Hi, Florence. How're you doing?

A TV mom. Now, where do I fit in? That's what I want to know.

BILLINGSLEY: Yes. Where? Where?

MATHERS: I don't know. I'll ask Florence. She's -- she's the host. She'll tell me.

HENDERSON: Well, Jerry, you're the only child we have here live.

MATHERS: Thank you.

HENDERSON: In person. I want to ask you what it was like for you as a small child to be on "Leave It to Beaver"?

MATHERS: Well, you know, I had been an actor since I was 2 years old. So I had done quite a bit of work before "Leave It to Beaver." But going to the studio was something I really liked. I mean, every day it was something I looked forward to. So it was a very, very good time. Everyone on the set was very nice to me. And so it was something that I really enjoyed and had a good time doing.

HENDERSON: How was Barbara Billingsley to you? Did you -- did you feel -- I mean, we know how mean she is.

(LAUGHTER)

MATHERS: Barbara Billingsley has always been great. Barbara Billingsley is one of my favorite people, and she knows it.

BILLINGSLEY: Oh, dear.

MATHERS: We've always been...

BILLINGSLEY: I should have done that.

MATHERS: Well, we've always been very, very good friends. So it...

HENDERSON: Yes, you...

MATHERS: She's a joy to work with.

HENDERSON: I was going to say you weren't like -- you weren't like Greg Brady and Carol, were you? You didn't date, did you?

(LAUGHTER)

MATHERS: No, I'm afraid that I never did. As I say, Barbara was always, though, a true role model for me. She was a great actress. And a lot of people, you know, when they see her talk jive talk, they always go she can do other things besides be a mom on "Leave It to Beaver." And I tell them, "Airplane," she's been a great comedian all her life. And in a lot of ways, just like "All in the Family," we kind of stifled her, because her true talent didn't really come out in "Leave it Beaver." She was like the straight man, but she has an awful lot of talent.

BILLINGSLEY: You mean I can talk jive?

MATHERS: You can talk jive great, and I've seen you do it.

HENDERSON: Talk a little jive for us.

BILLINGSLEY: Hanging in, blood. We going to catch up on the rebound (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

(LAUGHTER)

HENDERSON: You do that -- you do that awfully well. So...

MATHERS: Better than I do it, let me tell you.

BILLINGSLEY: Blood the one that help blood to get the help.

HENDERSON: Jerry, you say that people really thought of your show as a real family, because you followed "The Ozzie and Harriet show," right?

MATHERS: You know, I think that's true. I think, you know, television when "Leave It to Beaver" went on -- we went on in 1957. So a lot of people -- and they had heard "Ozzie and Harriet" on the radio and knew they were a real family. So a lot of people, when "Leave It to Beaver" came on, thought that naturally, you know, even though we all had different names, last names, they thought that we really were a family.

HENDERSON: Jerry, did you feel that being a child actor and being in a very successful TV series, did it affect your life in a negative way? I mean, we hear so many stories about child actors and what has happened to them and how difficult their lives were. How do you feel about that?

MATHERS: You know, I consider it a great blessing. I was very, very lucky to -- you know, it's something that has served me all my life. I was lucky to have the education I did on the show. I made a great deal of money. It served me very, very well. So it's something I'm very proud of.

I was lucky to be around in the golden age of television and allowed to work at that time.

HENDERSON: Well, you have another interesting viewpoint about the demographics out there today.

MATHERS: Well, you know, it's not even an interesting viewpoint. It's just a fact. The -- when they do demographics about "Leave It to Beaver" right now -- and "Leave It to Beaver" at this time shows in about 180 countries in 160 different languages.

BILLINGSLEY: Wow! MATHERS: And yet the demographics for "Leave It to Beaver," what would you would think they'd be, Florence? You probably already know.

HENDERSON: Well, I don't know, you know.

MATHERS: You know, I got this one wrong, because they came to me and asked me, and I said, well, I thought it'd probably be, you know, young boys and girls, you know, pre-teens. They said no. I said, well, then it's probably people in their 30s and 40s. They said no.

Actually, the No. 1 demographic group for the original "Leave It to Beaver" is women 18 to 35. And when they went and polled them to find out why that was their favorite show, they said that a lot of them really wished that they had that kind of life now.

In the society that we live in and work in now, most of those mothers are working moms, and they watch "Leave It to Beaver" and wish that they could be home with their, you know, two boys or two daughters or whatever. But it's a type life that in a lot of ways has disappeared.

HENDERSON: Well, I agree with you, Jerry. I mean, I can judge that from my own experience. People absolutely long for that, and not too many people have it, it seems, these days.

But we want to thank you, Jerry Mathers, for joining us. We appreciate it very, very much.

You look great, by the way.

MATHERS: Thanks for inviting me.

HENDERSON: OK.

MATHERS: You know what I feel great: first male spokesperson for Jenny Craig, I've been on three years and I feel great.

BILLINGSLEY: Got to plug it.

HENDERSON: You look great. Say hi to your kids for me.

MATHERS: I certainly will.

HENDERSON: And please stay tuned for more on TV moms. We'll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LEAVE IT TO BEAVER")

HUGH BEAUMONT, ACTOR: Beaver, turn around.

(LAUGHTER)

BILLINGSLEY: Beaver, what's the matter with your eye?

MATHERS: Which eye, mom?

BEAUMONT: Beaver, come here.

BILLINGSLEY: Beaver, you have black eye!

MATHERS: Guess so, mom!

BEAUMONT: OK, Beav, where did you get it?

MATHERS: I fell down. Didn't I fall down, Wally?

TONY DOW, ACTOR: Yes, he fell down, dad.

BEAUMONT: Oh, you fell down, did you?

MATHERS: I fell down fighting.

(LAUGHTER)

BILLINGSLEY: Oh dear. Maybe I better call the doctor. He might have a concussion.

MATHERS: I don't have a concussion. I just have a black eye.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HENDERSON: Welcome back to TV moms. I'm Florence Henderson, filling in for Larry King. And I'm so excited to be here with my friends, who are back in L.A. there.

Doris Roberts, I want to talk to you about "Everybody Loves Raymond" and Peter Boyle. What's it like -- I mean, I want to talk about our TV husbands, OK? What's it like working with this great actor?

ROBERTS: Well, it's fabulous, but I have to mention something. We all talked about TV moms, and I'm a TV mom of the 21st century now.

(LAUGHTER)

And I want you to know that I stay home, and we have done a scene in which, or actually an entire episode, in which Peter Boyle and I are having more sex than Ray and Patty.

(LAUGHTER)

So it is a new ballpark here.

(LAUGHTER)

We did show about PMS. We did a show about breast implants. So it's a whole new century. It really is.

HENDERSON: And how did Peter Boyle fit into that other than the sex?

ROBERTS: Well, he loved to do breast implants.

(LAUGHTER)

He adored that.

He was totally dismissed -- dismissed PMS. He doesn't believe it existed.

And as far as the sex story was concerned, he was delighted. It gave him a -- a feeling of great -- what? -- potency, I guess.

(LAUGHTER)

HENDERSON: Well, let me ask some of the others about their TV husbands.

Meredith Baxter, your husband, Michael Gross -- another fine actor -- what was your relationship like? Were you ever really attracted to each other and off-screen?

BAXTER: What kind of question is that?

(LAUGHTER)

HENDERSON: A legitimate one, I think.

BAXTER: Do you know, I think -- I think we probably were just in the sense of there was a lot of give-and-take and a lot of electricity there. I don't know that you would say that this is something that would have gone on to something else off-screen. We were both, you know, in marriages. But there was that kind of electricity there that makes it interesting to act with them.

And I think the characters at the time, one of the running jokes they had was every time the kids walked in there they were kissing, after all these years.

Well, I liked that. I like to -- I like children to see that there is, you know, heat in a relationship. I think this is important for them to know that this is not something that just happens before marriage and is over, although that certainly is the way it happens a lot of the time. But that wasn't what happened for Elyse and Steven.

HENDERSON: Joanna, Joanna Kerns, how about you and Alan Thicke?

Now, Alan, he's an amazing cut-up, isn't he?

KERNS: Yes, he is. Yes, he is.

I'll tell you, I love Alan, and we had a great time. And I think from the moment we met each other, we had the freedom to make fun of each other. And I don't know if that's -- you call that an immediate attraction or what. I mean, I -- he's a very smart guy. He's one of the smartest guys I've ever met. And he's so witty and so funny and so able to make fun of himself that it made me very comfortable when he was making fun of me. So... (LAUGHTER)

Which makes for a good set.

HENDERSON: Well, before -- before we go do break, I just want to ask Barbara about Hugh Beaumont.

BILLINGSLEY: Well, Hugh and I were great friends and stayed friends even after the show was over. And no, I -- I was very found of Hugh, felt very badly when he died.

HENDERSON: Well, we're going to take just a short break here, and when we come back we'll have more on TV moms.

Please stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HENDERSON: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. I'm Florence Henderson, sitting in for Larry King.

Tonight we've got some of the most famous "TV moms." In Los Angeles, Barbara Billingsley from "Leave it to Beaver," Meredith Baxter from "Family Ties," Joanna Kerns from "Growing Pains," and Doris Roberts from "Everybody Loves Raymond."

I want to ask all of you, did you feel playing, I mean, such a memorable character -- I mean, people just seem to love TV moms, you know, that have lasted. They just have a special place in their hearts for us. Do you feel a responsibility because of that to be a role model?

Barbara, how about you?

BILLINGSLEY: I do. I very strongly feel this. I feel that I can't do certain things that have sent to me, scripts, because I think that really -- I've been June Cleaver for so many years, because we went back, you know, and we did -- 20-year hiatus we had -- and we went back and made 105 new ones. And so I really feel very strongly that there are certain things I won't do.

HENDERSON: Doris?

BILLINGSLEY: I don't know the rest of them.

Now, Meredith, you are so busy doing so many things always, you have to play every kind of role. I -- I -- it was a little different for me.

BAXTER: See, it's interesting that -- I really respect your point of view there. I don't know that I could have adopted that myself. I -- every time we had a hiatus on "Family Ties," I felt that I had to go out and do a movie for television with a diametrically opposed character, whether it was someone who was crazy, someone who was kidnapping children and then trying to kill them or just someone who was mentally disabled, because I guess I was always thinking about, when "Family Ties" is over, I don't want to be just, forgive me, a TV mom. I really wanted there to be another life out there. And there is that tendency in this business, to be what you were last acting, you know as, to be what you last were. And I, you know, I really wanted more varied legacy than that to just create more opportunities for myself.

HENDERSON: Well, apropos of that, Meredith, you know, with Nick at Night and TVLand, I mean, it just never goes away, our shows. I mean, they're always there.

BAXTER: (OFF-MIKE) "Family Ties."

HENDERSON: Exactly.

BAXTER: But that's OK. You know, I get a lot of response from people who say, oh, you were just the perfect mom. You know, we were all the perfect moms, which is lovely, which tells you that everyone is looking for a mother out there somewhere.

BILLINGSLEY: That's true.

BAXTER: It is true. And I think people want to know, OK, look at this family. How are they doing it? How are they communicating? How does this mother react to this situation? And it was lovely. Elyse Keaton had great writers. I wish I had such writers in my life. My kids would have thought I was funnier instead of just withholding or whatever.

HENDERSON: Joanna, how about you? Do you feel a responsibility as a TV mom?

KERNS: I feel...

HENDERSON: Of course, you do so many other great things, but...

KERNS: Well, I feel a responsibility as a human being to do certain things. And I have certain beliefs, and that kind of colors everything, except I'm an actress. And I'm like Meredith, and I like to do all kinds of roles and mix it up and have continued to do so.

I did what you did. I went out and did movies in between and continued to do that or direct or do whatever's going on.

BAXTER: Don't typecast us.

KERNS: I just try to keep, you know, changing.

BILLINGSLEY: I did a lot of those things before "Beaver." Yes, I always played the bad woman. I actually did.

HENDERSON: I just wanted to ask Doris, before we get a break, Doris Roberts, of course you, you know, being on this show, it hasn't been as long -- it probably will be, though. It will come back to haunt you for years and years and years.

ROBERTS: I hope it does. HENDERSON: How do you feel about, you know, being an actress and being in people's homes. Do you feel a responsibility?

ROBERTS: I feel -- I love the fact that I make people laugh. A woman came up to me not too long ago who told me something that will stay with me for the rest of my life. She said, I have cancer. And I watch you every Monday night. And you make me laugh so much that I forget I'm ill. Now if I can do that, there's no -- there's nothing better than that.

So my responsibility is to keep my character truthful, and impossible as she may be, but people can laugh at her, because I'm like a lot of mothers and grandmothers out there. And...

HENDERSON: I was going to say, Doris, that I think a lot of people see themselves in your character. And you are such a wonderful actress. You bring her so to life, and you're so funny.

ROBERTS: My son...

HENDERSON: And all of you -- go ahead, Doris.

ROBERTS: My son says, please keep on this show, mother, because you can do all of that to Raymond and not to me.

HENDERSON: Well you can see, ladies and gentlemen, we have a great group with us tonight. So please stay tuned for more, right after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, THE BRADY BUNCH")

MAUREEN MCCORMICK, ACTRESS: Mom, you know what?

HENDERSON: What?

MCCORMICK: Well...

BARRY WILLIAMS, ACTOR: Go on, tell her.

HENDERSON: Tell me what?

MCCORMICK: Well, two weeks from Friday night is our high school's annual family night frolics.

HENDERSON: Yes, I know. I already read it at the PTA meeting.

MCCORMICK: And all the entertainment that night is by the students and their parents.

HENDERSON: Yes, cute idea, isn't it?

MCCORMICK: Well, it's for a great cause -- isn't it, Greg?

WILLIAMS: Yes, yes, it's to raise money for special school equipment.

HENDERSON: I know, we're going to buy tickets.

ANN B. DAVIS, ACTRESS: Yes, I'll take a stack down to Sam to sell at the butcher stop.

WILLIAMS: Go on.

MCCORMICK: Well, it's going to be a fantastic evening, and it's going to be a really super act. One of the mothers and a daughter are going to sing a duet.

HENDERSON: Oh, sounds great. Anyone I know?

MCCORMICK: Yes, you and me

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "HAPPY DAYS")

MARION ROSS, ACTRESS: Good morning, Richard.

Would you like corn flakes for breakfast, dear?

RON HOWARD, ACTOR: I never want corn flakes again -- oatmeal.

ROSS: Oh, well I thought you liked corn flakes.

HOWARD: Oatmeal.

ROSS: I'll make oatmeal.

TOM BOSLEY, ACTOR: What kind of a way is that to talk to your mother?

HOWARD: Oh, I'm sorry, Mom. Corn flakes are OK. See, I was just trying out some advice that Fonzie gave me. He said if you sound tough, people listen -- and it works.

BOSLEY: Boy, I tell you, this one with her hi-chu, and this one yelling like King Kong, who can eat breakfast around here? I'm going down to the store.

ROSS: You're not going anywhere. Sit down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: Welcome back to the show.

Well, of course, that was a scene from "Happy Days," and our good buddy Marion Ross starred in that show.

What do you think of some of the other TV moms? The great Jane Wyatt -- I mean, talk about another queen, Barbara -- and Shirley Jones, there's been quite a few.

What do you think of some of the other TV moms? I'll start with you, Barbara. BILLINGSLEY: Well, we worked with them, Florence, you and I, so many times, so we know how great they are. And their shows were wonderful. No, that was fun, all those times we did things together, wasn't it?

HENDERSON: Always, yes, and had we not been TV moms, we wouldn't have had the opportunity to spend as much time together as we have over the years.

I want to ask Joanna -- I don't know who's younger, Meredith or Joanna -- but did you pick up anything...

BAXTER: You'll never know.

KERNS: What did you say?

HENDERSON: Don't ask, don't tell.

KERNS: No, the age thing comes up, we all get very foggy here.

HENDERSON: Except for Barbara Billingsley, she'll tell you right out.

BILLINGSLEY: No, I will not.

HENDERSON: OK, anyway, did you, Joanna, did you learn anything from some of the older shows when you started "Growing Pains"?

KERNS: Well, I grew up watching "Leave it to Beaver" and "Make Room For Daddy" and...

HENDERSON: "Father Knows Best," was that before your time?

KERNS: "Father Knows Best" -- no, "Father Knows Best," and, you know, all those shoes. I loved them. I love them. "I Love Lucy," I mean -- I mean...

BILLINGSLEY: She was the greatest.

KERNS: ... just great, great...

BAXTER: But no one calls Lucille Ball a TV mom.

KERNS: No, no, she came back and did a TV mom, but...

BILLINGSLEY: She was so good.

KERNS: ... she was just a great actress. All of those were role models, and I wanted to be like them, you know?

HENDERSON: We have a caller right now, my first call. I'm so excited. Now I feel like Larry King.

Caller, you're on the air. Caller?

Golden, Colorado, you're on the air. CALLER: Hi, ladies.

HENDERSON: Hi.

BILLINGSLEY: Hi.

ROBERTS: Hi.

KERNS: Hi.

BAXTER: Hi.

CALLER: If you were a kid, would you like to have a mom like the one you played on TV?

BILLINGSLEY: I would.

HENDERSON: Oh, I would love it. I would love to. When people ask me about Carol Brady, I say that -- Carol Brady was the kind of mother I wish that I had. And I don't know about -- the other ladies can speak for themselves -- ladies?

BAXTER: Well I had a mom, or have a mom, who was a TV mom. Actually, I hadn't even thought about it until just now. My mother was an actress, Whitney Blake, and she was on the series "Hazel" and played -- just a coincidence -- her name was Dorothy Baxter. And it never occurred to me that what she was doing was off being a mother to someone else. It was just, she was off.

KERNS: You know...

BILLINGSLEY: Gone.

BAXTER: Poof.

KERNS: My daughter actually, at the pilot of "Growing Pains" came up to Jeremy Miller and said to him, you know when my mom put you on her lap and said that she had to go off to work but she loved you more than anything in the world? And he said, yes. And she said, well she was thinking about me. She was saying that.

BAXTER: Oh, protective.

KERNS: Yes, and I was. I was.

HENDERSON: Well, Barbara, I know you have children, too. They're grown, but...

BILLINGSLEY: They're grown, yes.

HENDERSON: ... did you ever have any conflict when they were small?

BILLINGSLEY: When I was doing the show?

HENDERSON: Yes. BILLINGSLEY: No, no, they just thought mom went off to do her thing and -- but we were all working moms, you know? We're talking about television, how nice it is to stay home with your children. But all of us were away doing...

BAXTER: Yes.

HENDERSON: That's true. We all...

BILLINGSLEY: ... roles of moms.

BAXTER: There is a price.

HENDERSON: We all had to work, whether we had to because we just needed to or we had to for other reasons.

I have to take a break right now. And we will be right back.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HENDERSON: Welcome back. I'm Florence Henderson sitting in for Larry King, and I'm talking to my friends, my TV moms.

And we touched just briefly upon our own children, and I think most of us feel very happy with our children, and they have all turned out pretty well, I think. I do want to ask, and I'll start with Meredith, about their relationship with their husbands. Working as hard as we all did for so many years, so many hours a day -- I don't think people realize how many hours a day you must put into a successful TV show.

BAXTER: Long. But, however, on sitcoms, on, you know, three or four camera shows, the hours are less demanding than if you were doing a film show, an hour film show. So this is ideal for family life, actually.

HENDERSON: Well, Meredith, I know that you were married to David Birney, a fellow actor, and your marriage -- did your marriage fall apart during the series or after?

BAXTER: Boy, you're really getting into it, aren't you, Florence?

HENDERSON: Well, you know, we don't have much time, and I think these questions are important because I know that I had problems. I think a lot of us do. And I just wonder if sometimes if it's the work, if it's our dedication, you know.

BAXTER: No, I don't think it would have been much different no matter what.

HENDERSON: Well, that's what I want to know, you see.

BAXTER: Yes. HENDERSON: And that's important for an audience to know, that we...

BAXTER: It didn't help. I'm sorry, I don't think it was an asset, frankly, but...

HENDERSON: Meredith, I wanted to ask you -- while you are there looking so beautiful, I must say...

BAXTER: Thank you.

HENDERSON: ... about the great work you're doing today for breast cancer. You're involved in so many activities.

BAXTER: Oh, thank you.

HENDERSON: Tell me a little bit about that.

BAXTER: Do you know -- well, to backtrack, I developed a line of products called -- and you can find out about them on meredithbaxterproducts.com -- and a portion of the sales of all of my products goes towards a foundation that I've made for breast cancer research. It's Meredith Baxter's foundation for breast cancer research. And I did a film called "My Breast" many years ago, during the course of which I realized that I knew nothing.

I thought that if your mother had cancer then you were indeed a candidate for breast cancer. However, I found out that it's affecting people with no known connection, that would not be candidates at all, you know, 17-year-old girls having double mastectomies. So I thought, I have -- and hope to continue to have -- a lovely career in entertainment. I thought, this would be a place where I could give back a little bit for all the ways I have been blessed. So that's where I am right now.

HENDERSON: Great.

We have a caller from West Palm Beach, Florida. You're on the air.

CALLER: Hi, ladies. Come to Florida.

HENDERSON: OK.

CALLER: Listen, I wanted to know how fame is a positive aspect in your life.

HENDERSON: OK, Joanna you want to start?

KERNS: This a hard question. You mean, besides getting a table at a restaurant occasionally? I think -- I think the wonderful thing about being connected to a show like "Growing Pains" was that it was a very positive show. And it has really opened the door for many other opportunities for me to have a very creative life. And if fame allows me to have a creative, productive life, that allows me that and allows me to give back, like you, Meredith, and to feel confidence and self- esteem, then that's the blessing of fame.

There's the other side of that that's, you lose a little bit of your privacy, quite a bit sometimes. And that's a big price to pay. But I think if I were to have to choose, it's been a good ride.

HENDERSON: Thank you, caller.

We're going to have to take a short break, but we'll be right back with our remaining moments.

Please stay with us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW")

LARRY MATTHEWS, ACTOR: Mommy, Mommy, he's after me.

MARY TYLER MOORE, ACTRESS: Richie, who's after you.

MATTHEWS: The giant woodpecker. He was in my bedroom.

MOORE: Now what was he doing in your bedroom?

MATTHEWS: He was pecking at the things on my dresser.

MOORE: All right, let's go see the woodpecker.

MATTHEWS: He's not there anymore.

MOORE: He's not there?

MATTHEWS: No, I threw my submarine at him and he flew way.

MOORE: All right, young man, that's enough of this nonsense. Go put some clothes on.

MATTHEWS: No, not unless you close my window.

MOORE: Richie, there's no need to close your window.

MATTHEWS: Then I'm going back in the bathtub.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: Welcome back.

Doris Roberts, I wanted to ask you a couple of questions. I know that you're going to be on CBS's "Everybody Loves Raymond" for another 20 years at least, but I know that you also love to travel. I mean, that is your passion, isn't it?

ROBERTS: Yes, it is.

HENDERSON: And you collect...

ROBERTS: It is...

HENDERSON: ... from everywhere you go, don't you?

ROBERTS: I do. I've been to China twice, I've been to Australia, New Zealand, Jordan, Turkey...

HENDERSON: You were going to tell me a story, Doris, about something that happened to you in Jordan recently?

ROBERTS: Oh, yes. There -- there was a Bedouin chieftain who offered 20 camels for me because "Remington Steele" plays four times a week in Jordan. So he thought I was a great catch. He hasn't even seen "Everybody Loves Raymond" yet. If he did, the price would go up.

HENDERSON: Well you might get 80 camels.

ROBERTS: That's right. No, when he offered 20, I said, make it 40 and you've got a deal. It didn't work out. But I do love to travel.

HENDERSON: So that's what you do on your breaks from "Everybody Loves Raymond?

ROBERTS: Absolutely, absolutely.

HENDERSON: Barbara Billingsley...

BILLINGSLEY: Yes.

HENDERSON: ... what are you up to these days?

BILLINGSLEY: Well, I was on the Mississippi on a paddle boat.

HENDERSON: Really?

BILLINGSLEY: For 15 days I spoke, and I showed a reel of -- it was kind of fun. Have you been on the Mississippi, any of you?

ROBERTS: No.

BILLINGSLEY: Going nine miles an hour?

KERNS: I saw it.

BILLINGSLEY: Ambling along on the river you've read about always? It was fun.

HENDERSON: What were your accommodations like?

BILLINGSLEY: Absolutely wonderful. Helen Hayes had used them about eight times. And do you know that when she died, they lowered the flag at all their buildings half-mast because she'd gone so many times, and she was family.

HENDERSON: That's so sweet, that story. Knowing Helen Hayes, she deserved that.

Joanna Kerns, I wanted to ask you about your directing. I think it's so great that more and more young women are getting into directing. Was it hard for you?

KERNS: Oh, yes. Yes, it's a tough door to open, but I'm finally getting some traction. And I'm getting to direct some really wonderful, wonderful shows with wonderful actors. I just love actors so much, and this has been a really great transition for me.

HENDERSON: Are you going to direct "Ally McBeal" or you did?

KERNS: Well, I directed the Thanksgiving episode of "Ally MacBeal" last year, and I got to direct Calista -- not only that wonderful cast with Calista Flockhart, but Jill Clayburgh. I mean, when I went up to give her my first note, and I thought, this better be good, this better be good. But I'm going to actually be directing "Boston Public," which is David Kelley's new show, which is fabulous.

BILLINGSLEY: That's exciting.

ROBERTS: Yes.

BILLINGSLEY: I didn't know that. Oh, that's wonderful.

KERNS: It's great, great, yes.

BILLINGSLEY: Oh, that's wonderful.

KERNS: It's just been a good time. I did the premiere episode of "Beggars and Choosers," which was great fun, very raucous, a great show on Showtime, so...

HENDERSON: I'd like to ask you, who helped you with all the technical -- you know, the cameras, the angles, understanding all that, you know, that jargon?

KERNS: You know, I found the Directors Guild, that the good directors are very, very generous. My early mentors were Will McKenzie, Tommy Slami (ph). I mean -- Larry Shaw, Jonathan Pontell, you name it. They've opened the door, they've let me watch them. You learn to direct by observing, and these men have been great. Union leaders have been a fabulous support. And it's great because here she is, the kind of the premier lady director, woman director, and she's been just so supportive. It's has been great.

HENDERSON: Meredith Baxter, I mean, outside of your wonderful makeup line and all the work that you do for breast cancer, what do you have coming up?

BAXTER: Well, do you know, I am -- well, development hell is kind of where I am right now. But the only tangible thing right now I have is a play that I'm probably going to be doing here in Los Angeles, probably in the spring, a Mary Chagall (ph) play...

HENDERSON: Oh, well we wish you luck with that...

BAXTER: ... and I'm trying to put something together with Michael Gross to tour with.

HENDERSON: Fabulous.

Thank you, we are out of time for tonight. I do want to thank all the TV moms for joining me, and also TV son Jerry Mathers, who was on earlier.

Hugh Downs, my old buddy, will be sitting in this chair tomorrow tonight pinch hitting for Larry King. His topic is "Who is Jesus?"

Well, I'm just Florence Henderson. Good night.

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