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Larry King Live

Katie Couric Talks About Her New Book, Her New Look and Life After Tragedy

Aired December 18, 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: Tonight, a rare interview with America's sweetheart and co-anchor of NBC's top-rated "Today" show. We'll discuss her new book, her new look and life after a tragedy.

Katie Couric for the full hour is next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening. What a great pleasure to have as our special guest tonight Katie Couric. She'll be with us for the full hour. She's the author of "The Brand New Kid," from Doubleday. We'll be talking a lot about that.

But we've got to begin with the most important question that all, that everybody wants to know: your hair. What's with this.

KATIE COURIC, CO-HOST, "TODAY": Very funny.

KING: What's with this?

COURIC: What do you mean? Well let's talk about your...

KING: What are you, Marcia Clark, you don't know how you look?

COURIC: Can we talk about your hair?

KING: My hair is my hair.

COURIC: My hair is my hair, too.

KING: Men don't talk of it. Does that offend you that no one would ask a man -- no one would say to Dan Rather, what about your hair?

COURIC: I think all women for whatever strange reason are fascinated by hair, particularly women. Because I think -- I was actually thinking about this the other day because there seems to be a bit of a national obsession lately. And I think it's the one part of you that's easy to change and easy to play with. And it's not like losing 10 pounds or going out and buying an expensive dress, but it's something you can do fairly easily to change the way you look.

KING: Is it mentally around you all the time? I mean, when you go change, is it the kind of thing you, oh, how do I look? COURIC: Well the bottom line is, you know, I didn't really change it that much. I grew it out -- I had short hair and I grew it out. I'm getting very gray -- you can relate to that, I'm sure, Larry.

KING: Yes, keep it up.

COURIC: And I just decided to put some highlights in it. And, sort of the whole country gets to watch me growing out my hair most while most people get to do it in the privacy of their own home or office. So that's sort of basically it.

I guess through the years I have sort of played around with my hair a lot, because I do get a little bored with looking the same every day.

KING: A lot of people do that. Hillary, right? Different hair every six months.

COURIC: Right, and, you know, I think when you are in the public eye and people watch you consistently and can really see and check out every detail. I mean, it's so funny. I mean, you know how it is. When you're on the screen, people look at you, they look at what suspenders you're wearing, what your tie looks like today, what glasses does Larry have on.

KING: They're new glasses.

COURIC: You know what I mean? And so they really do look at every gory detail.

KING: Before we talk about this extraordinary book, we go back a long way. I mean, we go back -- you were an original CNNer. You were there.

COURIC: That's right, that's right, a long time ago.

KING: You worked at TVJ in Miami, I worked at TVJ in Miami. We stayed friends.

COURIC: I followed in your footsteps in Miami.

KING: That's right. You came right behind. Do you pinch yourself a lot? Do you say, wow, at all that's happened to you?

COURIC: Yes, once in a while, not as off as I used to. I think it was sort of something I used to do on an hourly basis. And now, I think I'm at the point where I so appreciate what has happened to me professionally and in some cases personally. But I think I'm learning to live with it.

And, you know, I have to say that I'm completely energized by my job on a daily basis. I mean, sometimes I'll look across the table or, you know, across the room and think, gosh, I'm talking to former President Jimmy Carter, or I'm getting breaking news about what's happening in... KING: Crisis.

COURIC: ... during a really -- an election that is truly unique and will be written about for decades in history books.

KING: So we feel like we're in the middle of it, right?

COURIC: Yes, I do. And for me, that is so invigorating and exciting. And I'm grateful that I'm here. You know, I don't know if I so much pinch myself, you know, as often as I did, as I said, but I am very honored.

KING: It's fun to look back at those who say -- who must have told you somewhere, don't go in this business.

COURIC: Oh, yes, I had many of those. I...

KING: You're cute, but don't go in this business.

COURIC: I usually mention them by name and they get so mad at me, but I did not, early on in my career, have a tremendous number of supporters. I mean, I think people thought that I was smart enough and that I maybe would make a decent reporter one day at the local level. But I never really did have somebody sort of embrace me.

KING: What was the buzz? Too cute?

COURIC: I don't know...

KING: Your looks hurt you? You look young?

COURIC: Yes, I definitely looked young. I remember when I did a live shot from the White House from CNN, Stuart Lorrie (ph), who was at the time Washington bureau chief was nice to give me an opportunity to go live from the White House and talk about the president's schedule.

And there was a husband-and-wife anchor team -- not Chris and Don, because they were great, Chris Curl (ph) and Don Farmer (ph) were really mentors to me at CNN. But the woman said to me man, who is that -- during the commercial and I had my little earpiece on -- who is that girl? She looks like she's about 16 years old.

Well I was so nervous anyway that that completely destroyed my self-confidence. But I think too young. At the time, I think that anchors were a certain junior miss glamorous type that I wasn't. And, you know, I don't know why. It just didn't happen. But I made up for it, I think.

KING: Yes, you sure did. We'll cover a lot of bases, but let's now discuss the brand new kid -- why a children's book.

COURIC: Well, I have children, as do you. And, in fact...

KING: In fact, you interviewed me and my daughter when we did a children's book. COURIC: That's right, exactly.

KING: But why did you do it?

COURIC: Well, I read a lot of books to Ellie and Carrie, and...

KING: They're how old now?

COURIC: They're -- Ellie's 9 and Carrie's just about to turn 5. And I think it was sort of a combination of things. You know, you watch children grow up and it sort of reignites memories of your own childhood. And they both have had a great time in school, but you start realizing, you know, there are times when their feelings are going to be hurt or when cliques start forming. And I think first and foremost I want my children to be nice. You know, it would be great if they got into Harvard and became big successes. But really, most importantly I want them to be nice and happy. And whatever that -- wherever that takes them is fine with me.

And I think combined with the fact that I was covering these terrible school shootings, where young people, mostly young men, completely disenfranchised and isolated and ostracized, were taking out their frustrations and anxiety and actually shooting people and in many cases killing them. And I thought, you know, maybe we're not doing as good a job as we could as a society and as parents and as teachers in talking about the importance of basic traits like kindness to each other. And the importance of seeing someone who is different and reaching out to that child instead of making fun of them.

KING: So did you say, I want to do something else...

COURIC: Well, I just sort of started...

KING: ... or did someone come to you with...

COURIC: No, I just sort of started writing little rhymes down on the weekends...

KING: Really?

COURIC: ... because I get up early because of my body clock. And I wasn't sleeping that well after Jay died. And so I would sort of occupy myself by grabbing an envelope. And I just sort of started forming this little story about two little girls named Ellie and Carrie. And the protagonist's, or one of the main character's, name is Lazlo Gasky. And I actually went to junior high with a boy named Lazlo, and many of the kids ridiculed. He was very awkward and sort of a hulky guy...

KING: With a funny name.

COURIC: ... and he was from a foreign country and he was different. And I think that I had a little collective guilt, as well, that I hadn't sort of reached out and been kinder to him. And I actually did see his mother leaving my school looking very haggard and forlorn as the mother in the book does. So I think I just sort of used that childhood experience and my desire to get people to just talk about it and talk about the importance of kindness, because I feel too often parents and teachers both kind of say, kids will be kids. This happens and you can't do anything about it. And I think you can.

KING: You know, we've been talking about it. Let's as we go to break get Katie to maybe do a little read from the book.

COURIC: OK, this actually is right after Lazlo starts this new school, and everybody thinks he's very strange because he's different.

"One day after school, Ellie walked out the door and she saw someone she hadn't seen there before, a lady whose face looked so tired and worn she had tears in her eyes and she seemed so forlorn.

"'Who's that,' Ellie asked of a student she saw, 'Oh, that's Lazlo's mother said Susie McGraw. Her son's having trouble, she might pull him out. The school may be wrong for him, she's full of doubt.'

"Ellie watched Mrs. Aske as she walked toward the car. She thought about how things were going so far, about Lazlo and how he felt different and strange and wandered allowed just what she could arrange."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, APRIL 22, 1999, "TODAY")

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was just laying on the floor. I was praying to God to give me courage, to keep protection over us. He told me to -- God told me to get out of there. And I got up and everybody was in shock. And I said -- I told everybody, I go, let's get out of here. Let's run out of here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The aftermath of Columbine that led to "The Brand New Kid." That was a tough story.

COURIC: Oh, terrible, and something of a surreal quality. I'll never forget that morning. You know, they basically were going to have the two people who were speaking kind of meet on the air. And I felt like it had a bit of a "Truth or Consequences" feel. I just didn't feel like it was appropriate under the circumstances. But it turned out to be one of the most compelling interviews I've ever done.

And I think -- it was snowing. It was in March and it was snowing outside. It might have been even in early April. And Mr. Shoals came in, and it was the day after he had found out his son had died at Columbine High School. And Craig had lost his sister. And I thought there was something so beautiful about the way that these two human beings came together and shared their grief.

KING: Why do you think they went on? COURIC: You know, that's a question I've often asked myself that I've always thought that would be a terrific thesis for a journalism student, somebody getting their masters at Columbia, about why it is so -- in some cases -- why people do it. You know, you think, gosh, they are in such indescribable pain and agony. And to go on national television and share that with millions of strangers, you wonder what motivates them.

But I think, if I had to hypothesize, I think in a way it validates the lives that had been lost and that people feel a certain compassion from viewers and compassion from whoever they are speaking with that makes it helpful to them somehow in the healing process. I think these two individuals were in a state of shock, but sometimes I talk to people and I -- and I think, how do they find the strength to go on?

I talked to a husband and wife who had lost their two precious daughters in a train crash. And they talked to me the next morning. They're very religious people, but my heart just broke so much. And I thought, I have no idea where they're getting the strength to do this.

KING: Could you have been interviewed after Jay's death?

COURIC: No, never.

KING: Never.

COURIC: Never.

KING: All right, now the book, back to the book. "The Brand New Kid" is obviously about welcoming and isolation and all. Do you -- you're writing for what age?

COURIC: Well it says 3 to 7, but I have found that a lot of different ages -- or 3 to 8 -- that it really doesn't matter in a funny way how old you are.

It's interesting. I've gotten lots of letters from school-age kids, but I've also have talked to many adults who remember what it was like to either be the kid who was left out or the kid who did the leaving out.

KING: So you didn't think in terms of a 4-year-old is read this?

COURIC: Well, yes, I did, actually. I mean, I think I thought of any school-aged child who's facing a situation like this, which is really all of them. And I do think that if we could start introducing this at an early age and introducing the concept of empathy and compassion and the idea that we're really not all that different and how hard it is when a child is sort of shoved aside and not accepted into the group, that, you know, I think 4-year-olds are a little young for that.

I went and read it to Carrie's preschool, and developmentally I don't think they understood the concept. But maybe now that I've introduced it, when they're presented with a situation, maybe they will.

KING: Is it hard not to write down? You know, in other words, you're not writing for a newscast.

COURIC: Right.

KING: Is it hard to think 5?

COURIC: You know, I think I just sort of had fun writing it and wrote a story that I thought was understandable. And I think rhymes are great for kids because...

KING: Do you naturally rhyme a lot? Are you a rhymer?

COURIC: I do. I write little poems. For example, I have to give an award...

KING: You're like Jesse.

COURIC: Like Jesse Jackson?

KING: Yes, you and he could go on the road.

COURIC: Yes, I think his poems are a little different than mine. Mine aren't political. But...

KING: But you've always been a rhymer?

COURIC: Yes, I had to present an award to Martha Stewart several years ago, and I thought, oh, I'll write a poem for her. And it was quite a prestigious event. I mean, there were very important people there from Katherine Graham to Jesse Norman and Whoopi Goldberg. And it was really quite an event. And I wrote a cute little poem. And I had so much fun writing it.

It was like, Martha, dear Martha, what should I do? These people have asked me to introduce you. I haven't eaten, I haven't slept, talk about making a girl feel inept. Anything I can do you can do better, dipping a candle or knitting a sweater. You know, and so I went on and on. And it's sort of a fun way, I think, to communicate things to people and to get things -- and to also have a little fun and poke fun at them without it being too stinging.

I said something like, so many awards -- something Emmys maybe yours for taking, I can only imagine the green stuff you're making. You know, so it was kind of -- you're able to, I think, sort of have a good time without getting too serious.

KING: A new talent. We'll be right back with the new Dr. Seuss.

COURIC: I don't know about that.

KING: Katie Couric, "The Brand New Kid" is the book from Doubleday.

Don't go away. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, APRIL 5, 1991, "TODAY")

ANNOUNCER: This is "Today," with Bryant Gumbel, Katherine Couric and Joe Garagiola.

BRYANT GUMBEL, CO-HOST: Good morning, and welcome to "Today" on a Friday morning and to a new chapter. How did it sound?

COURIC: Sounded good. And I still can't decide whether I'm Katherine or Katie.

GUMBEL: Alex, re-rack it for us, will you?

ANNOUNCER: Katherine Couric.

GUMBEL: One more time, Alex.

ANNOUNCER: Katherine Couric.

GUMBEL: Thank you very much.

COURIC: There you go.

GUMBEL: In case you haven't gotten the message, Katie is now a permanent fixture up here, a member of our family, an especially welcome one. Deborah Norville is not. We had some good times here, and we wish all the best to Deborah and Carl and their new baby.

Katie, welcome aboard.

COURIC: Thanks, I'm thrilled to be here. And I guess this means you're stuck with me...

GUMBEL: Yes.

COURIC: ... or maybe I'm stuck with you.

GUMBEL: Till death do us part or something like that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COURIC: Wow, nice 'do.

KING: How long -- there you go with the hair again. How long you were Katherine?

COURIC: I think when I first started in the business I used Katherine because a problem...

KING: I remember you as Katie, though.

COURIC: Yes, but when I was at CNN I did Katherine because I remember George Watson, who used to be the...

KING: giant.

COURIC: ... the Washington bureau chief of CNN when it first started...

KING: (OFF-MIKE)

COURIC: ... and everybody called it the chicken noodle news -- right. I remember him telling me, don't do features and get typecast as the "P.M. Magazine" cutesy type. And I think that Katherine was an effort to kind of give me more gravitas, if you will. And then I realized how, truth be told, I am really not a Katherine. I'm pretty much a Katie, no matter how hard I fight it. So I went back to Katie.

KING: All those stories that broke out about you and Bryant -- true?

COURIC: Well I don't know, there are a lot of stories.

KING: There are a lot of stories, but that there was...

COURIC: Tension?

KING: ... that it was a competition more than a co...

COURIC: No, I think Bryant and I had a really good, solid professional relationship when were we worked together. I think probably, you know -- he and I are very different people in terms of our sensibilities, and -- but I think there was always mutual respect there. I think he is enormously talented. You know, we don't agree with everything, but a lot of different things...

KING: That would be strange.

COURIC: Yes, it would be strange, and I think that, you know, there was some sparring, you know, naturally, I think, and not even overtly but I think we were two different people. And I have always said, I wish him all the best, and that I think he is a really talented journalist.

KING: Matt Lauer.

COURIC: Matt and I have really enjoyed working together.

KING: Is it personally easier with Matt? Are you more alike?

COURIC: I think that Matt, honestly, is a little less prickly in his personality than Bryant, so it is a little -- there is a little more he equanimity, probably, there. That doesn't mean that it wasn't a lot of fun, being in a situation that was, sort of, more Pat and Mike-ish, if you will, but I really enjoy working with Matt as well.

KING: Why is the "Today Show" in your opinion, if you can -- it's hard to step back from what you are doing, so successful? If we could take Katie out of the picture.

COURIC: I think that the "Today Show" enjoys such an incredibly rich history, and I think in this day and age when shows come and shows go, and, things happen, that it's longevity, maybe, is its greatest strength.

KING: A lot to be said for longevity.

COURIC: I agree and I think it really is an American institution. And there is a certain amount of respect that goes with the program. I think the people who occupy the chairs, no matter how short or long the period, are coming into something that is a very special program. You know, and, so I think maybe its history is one reason it has been so successful. And I guess also the chemistry of the people who are on the show is good.

And I also think that Jeff Zuker (ph), our executive producer, is really brilliant and quite good at sort of predicting or keeping his finger on the pulse and figuring out what is going to be interesting -- what's going to be hot. He's just a very, very bright person.

KING: The book is "The Brand New Kid." It's a best-seller. It's from Doubleday. Great idea for Christmas.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK).

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "TODAY")

COURIC: I guess, what I'm trying to say Senator, is some people think, from your comments that you've made of late that you are being an apologist for the tobacco industry...

SEN. BOB DOLE (R), KANSAS: I think only...

(CROSSTALK)

DOLE: Only people like you in the media who don't question the Democrats in how much money they have received, and the Democrats. And as liberally...

COURIC: In 1992...

DOLE: ...always buys the Democratic line.

(CROSSTALK)

COURIC: Wait a second, wait a second....

DOLE: And they get it all free.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COURIC: Let's talk about the book.

KING: Is that a tough -- bad morning?

COURIC: It was actually, I think, a Sunday afternoon, and... KING: You were taping.

COURIC: I was taping that and I went on to actually quote how much Senator Dole had accepted in campaign contributions from the tobacco industry, and that was a very tense interview, I have to say. I think that his people really didn't prepare him for the interview. He and Mrs. Dole -- I'm sure you probably talk to them, had added a chapter on to their book. He was running for the presidency, and you know, it was fair game to ask them about all things political, and I think they might have thought it was going to be a much more -- a much softer interview; more about their courtship and his war experiences, but it was at a time when he was being hounded by Butt man. Remember him with the Democrats?

And it was also right after he had said that nicotine isn't addictive so it was a very -- relevant news subject area for me to delve into and so I did, and I don't think, with all due respect to Senator Dole, who I think is enormously nice, I do not think he was prepared to answer some of the hard questions that people were asking.

COURIC: Do you like the diversity we have? That it is not politics all the time or show business. We get a chance to branch out.

KING: Oh, definitely. I mean, I think I would pull my hair out if all I had to talk to were politicians or movie stars. I think that is one of the greatest pleasures of this job. You get to talk to so many accomplished people from so many different areas. I mean, I love to talk to you authors and writers.

I interviewed a woman yesterday about -- not yesterday but, rather, last week, about nuns in this country and what happened to nuns because the numbers have decreased so dramatically. It was such a fascinating topic. You know, people like that, I think, are so interesting -- you should have her on the show. I mean...

KING: Tell Wendy. She is your friend. Wendy's our producer and you and Wendy are like life-long...

COURIC: We are. We used to live together in Georgetown. We both started at ABC together on the same day.

KING: You are about the same age.

COURIC: No. Wendy is older than I am. I don't know if that'll fly, and Wendy will appreciate my pointing that out.

KING: People who do the "Today Show" sometimes hit a point where they want to get out. The mornings become a bit much. They want to branch -- have you had those thoughts?

COURIC: You know, I think everybody...

KING: ...syndicated a new Katie Couric show, later in the day?

COURIC: I don't know. You know, in April, I'll have done this show for 10 years. And, it is hard because I love the job so much, for all reasons that we have talked about. And the show has such prestige, and it's doing so well, people want to be on our show which is great. You don't have to beg them.

KING: It's hard to leave.

COURIC: It is a little bit hard to leave, and, you know, I have never really been one to think five years ahead. I'm still under contract for two more years or at least a year 1/2, I think, and, I'm just going to enjoy it as long as I can and maybe I would like to stick around. I'll just have to stick around and see what other opportunities are out there but right now, I think you and I have the best gigs in town. I really do.

KING: The best. We've got the same agents. Everything's good.

COURIC: I thought you were going to say the same age and I was going to have to...

KING: No, No. My children are younger. OK?

COURIC: That is true. OK. You get points for that.

KING: Much younger than yours. Your children could babysit for my children. Does it ever get, ohhh -- not another morning?

COURIC: Oh sure. Are you kidding? Yes. You know, I have to say, getting out of bed every morning is tough. But once you get there and once you realize how exciting and important the people are, you're going to be speaking with, you know, you can't help but get jazzed. That and a couple of cups of coffee and you're good to go. But, yes; it does get to be a grind.

KING: What time do you get up?

COURIC: I get up around 5:00.

KING: Oh.

COURIC: Which isn't so easy.

KING: The previous ones used to do 4:00.

COURIC: Well, I know. I've gotten later through the years. The more comfortable you get in the job,

KING: It's called clout. COURIC: The nice thing about it is, there is a tremendous amount of flexibility in the afternoon and Jane Pauly used to say, this a great job for a working mother. Because I can go and pick up Ellie and Carrie at school, or I can spend some time in the afternoon with them. It's not like if I were a partner at a law firm and I had to work from 7:00 in the morning to 9:00 at night, so I am lucky that way.

KING: The book is The Brand New Kid. There will be others coming --you have a contract to do two more.

COURIC: I do.

KING: Brand new kid, it is illustrated brilliantly by Marjorie (ph). The author is Katie Couric.

We'll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "TODAY")

COURIC: Let's talk about that third person Ross Perot.

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I told you I was going to be here for thirty seconds...

COURIC: Aren't I great? I'm one of these less contentious reporters who can...

(CROSSTALK)

BUSH: I remember what one candidate said about you. Blame it on Katie Couric.

COURIC: I was trying to prove my manhood...

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COURIC: You're honoring them for their efforts toward campaign finance reform, but let's face it, they didn't get very far.

JOHN F. KENNEDY JR.: Well, failure is almost a prerequisite if you look in the book to political courage. So I think that the fact that they've kept it on the table, the fact that they persevered, that they took the risks they did is something that the award wants to recognize, and really provide an example to other people in politics to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: I really enjoyed interviewing him and knowing him.

COURIC: What a nice, nice man.

KING: Was that his last interview?

COURIC: That was, I think, two months before he died. And we talked about his profiles annual profiles in courage award, which he and Caroline would come on the show and talk about.

KING: Remember how you heard it that Saturday morning?

COURIC: Oh, I couldn't believe it. It was complete and utter disbelief.

KING: Were you at home?

COURIC: I was -- my sister called me and I was home and she said, have you heard about John F. Kennedy, Jr? And I just could not believe it. And I have to say I was really devastated. I just thought it was so tragic.

KING: Speaking of devastated, I guess the hardest thing in life would be losing a child. That's incomprehensible. Second is losing a mate young. Is there any way to -- any tip to someone facing that? Let's say you're watching today, you're 40-years-old, a woman watching and your husband has a terminal illness. Anything you would say to them?

COURIC: Oh, gosh. First of all, I feel for them because it is one of most painful things you can experience. You know, I think sudden death must be excruciating in its own way...

KING: A shock.

COURIC: ... but I think to have to deal with a serious illness is one of most difficult things you do, obviously, in life. And I think that you get the feeling -- you see people walking down the street and talking and, you know, pushing baby carriages and having lunch with friends and you think, hey, how can their worlds go on? Mine has been completely turned upside down -- don't they know what we're going through?

I mean, it's just -- it's almost a bizarre sensation, and I don't profess to be able to give anybody advice on how to deal with a tragic loss because I find that it's such a personal thing.

KING: Was it doubly tough, do you think, because everybody knew about it?

COURIC: Well, I think what was doubly tough is that everybody didn't really know about it...

KING: But they knew he was sick.

COURIC: Yes, but they really didn't know how sick Jay was and how serious his cancer was and how difficult it was to combat. And I think, in a funny way, that was almost more difficult because I had to go on television every morning for nine months...

KING: And act.

COURIC: And act. You know, and I would be reading copy off the teleprompter and thinking about Jay or somebody would be answering a question and oftentimes, you know, my mind would think about Jay.

KING: Or doing a story that deals with death?

COURIC: Yes...

KING: Because we all have to do that. COURIC: And I think, in a way it was a refuge for me to come to work every day, to keep kind of a normal schedule. I thought that was so important for Jay and for Ellie and Carrie, you know, that our lives had some kind of normalcy and that things went on and there was a routine. But those month were just unimaginably difficult, as you can imagine, I guess.

KING: I lost a father young; and I know what it's like from a child's standpoint.

Did you -- did he not have a colonoscopy -- that you've gotten so involved in this, get a colonoscopy?

COURIC: Well, Jay was only 41 years old when he was diagnosed.

KING: When are you supposed to get them, when you're 40?

COURIC: You really are supposed to start, according to the national guidelines, when you're 50; either a screening colonoscopy or you can get a flexible sygmoidoscopy (ph).

And, you know, colon cancer, frankly, wasn't something that we ever even thought about. He didn't have a family history. His mom died last fall of ovarian cancer and his grandmother had breast cancer, but colon cancer, gee, I never gave it a second thought, nor did Jay.

KING: So there was no procedure that picked it up.

COURIC: No.

KING: Until it was too late.

COURIC: Yes; and by the time Jay was diagnosed it was quite advanced.

KING: Was it pain -- was he having pain?

COURIC: He had lost a lot of weight. You know, but like everybody he was always trying to lose weight, you know, in this weight-obsessed culture, so we didn't really think that much about that. He was working nonstop and he was very fatigued. But he was covering the O.J. Simpson trial and he was traveling back and forth from Los Angeles.

You know -- I know he was on the show a number of times. And so we didn't really take the symptoms seriously. We had two young children, two career family, and we just thought we were exhausted, thought Jay was particularly exhausted. And so I guess we kind of did ignore the symptoms.

He didn't have a change in his bowel habits, he didn't have rectal bleeding; and so he didn't have any of the clear, telltale signs of colon cancer. And one morning they called me at work and said he was doubled over in pain. Our babysitter called; and I said, well, let's get Jay to a doctor right away. So we met at doctor. And he was, you know, a young, healthy, athletic guy, so he didn't really even have regular checkups, which is something that everybody needs to do, no matter how young they are, how good they feel. So he came to my internist, and I remember the internist saying, don't worry, it's not cancer. And I love my doctor, he's wonderful, but he, himself, couldn't fathom this healthy 41-year- old man having advanced colon cancer.

KING: How did you find out?

COURIC: I think he -- you know, it's all sort of a blur because it was such a nightmare; but I think he called. He called and told us.

KING: On the phone?

COURIC: I think maybe we went and Jay got an MRI or a CT scan and then we came back to the office. And, you know, we said, we're going to fight this thing, we're going to do everything we can.

KING: Anyone who knows you, knows that you're an optimistic person -- the nature you show is what you are. This had to be doubly difficult for someone who -- the glass is half full.

COURIC: Well, I sort of took on the role of cheerleader and the person providing all the hope and the positivity in a very dire situation. And that was hard, because I don't think I was ever able to really express how devastated and concerned and upset I really was because I wanted to take on the role of, "we can beat this thing."

KING: He's one of the good people Katie Couric.

The book is "The Brand New Kid," the first of -- there will definitely be three -- the contract says three, right, and we fulfill our contracts -- for a while. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COURIC: I have a pretty little colon.

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: Actually, this is good for him because here she is not overly sedated. You see, and is able to appreciate what is going on here.

COURIC: So you didn't put scope in yet, did you?

DOCTOR: Yeah, We are doing the examination.

COURIC: Oh, really? Oh, OK, good --- that's a good sign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Getting as involved as you have become, doing the colinoscopy procedure yourself... COURIC: Well, a doctor did it.

KING: Although if anyone could do it by herself, it would be Katie. Trust me, she -- you decided to make this a life for you.

COURIC: Well, you know, I've always been interested in a lot of causes. And in our positions we're asked to get involved a lot of causes.

KING: We've done together things

COURIC: And I feel passionately about children's issues and other issues. But having experienced what I experienced with this disease, I felt it would be almost criminal not to try to inform public about this.

It's the second-leading cancer killer. You know, 56,000 people die of this cancer every year.

KING: Men and women?

COURIC: Men and woman. And it's so preventable. If people are screened, it has a better-than 90 percent cure rate. So I felt like I had all this information. I became expert in colon cancer, both in the diagnostic area and the prevention area and treatment area that I wanted to share with people. I did a public service announcement and I said, you know, don't end up saying, if only. And I felt that I could keep families from being in that situation. And I have to say it has been by far the most satisfying and gratifying thing I have ever done.

KING: You saved lives.

COURIC: Well, you know, I get these letters, Larry...

KING: Well, you have --- you know you have.

COURIC: They write me and they say, you know, we saw you do it. We went to our doctor. We said, if you could do it then we could do it too, and they found a cancerous polyp or a tumor. And, you know, to be able to have an impact like that on people's lives I think is...

KING: Can't beat that.

COURIC: It is so wonderful.

KING: By the way, also, for the benefit of the audience, its bark is bigger than its bite. Everyone fears it, but it really is.

COURIC: Well you know there are a lot

KING: A nothing procedure.

COURIC: It's very easy to do, but there are a lot of issues...

KING: Very easy. COURIC: ... you know, there are insurance issues that we're going to be tackling with the...

KING: Will the insurance pay for it?

COURIC: ... National Colarectal Cancer Research Alliance.

A lot of insurers do not pay for it. Some people worry that there's going to be such a demand there won't be enough people who are going to be able to responsibly perform colinoscopies. They're all sorts of new diagnostic tools that are being tested. The fecalacol (ph) blood tests can be quite effective.

So I'm not here to necessarily say everybody needs to go out and get colinoscopy because I'm not a physician. But I do want to take away the stigma and take away the embarrassment and get people to feel comfortable talking with people they love and with their doctors about this disease and what they can do to prevent it.

KING: And now your sister, what does she have?

COURIC: My sister was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this summer. And...

KING: That's the worst of the cancer, isn't it?

COURIC: Well, it's a tough cancer. I mean, I don't think any cancer is great. Pancreatic can be very difficult, but she's doing well. And...

KING: Get it early?

COURIC: Relatively. And, you know, it's funny, my sister is a public figure, too.

KING: Sure, she's a state...

COURIC: She is a state senator in Virginia. She's head of the state Democratic Party in the state of Virginia. She was running for lieutenant governor but had to drop out of the race, so she could deal with her health issues.

You know, it's so funny. I found it so repugnant when this happened that people described it as another heart-breaking incident for me. And, you know, this is really about my sister. It's about here and her life, and obviously it's about me because cancer effects the entire family.

But I felt like my sister is so smart and so accomplished and so talented in her own right -- for them to headline it as Katie Couric's sister, I found it really disconcerting.

KING: How is she dealing with it emotionally?

COURIC: She is one of the gutsiest people I know. She's great. She has a great attitude. A lot of exciting things are happening in the field -- in all cancer research but also in pancreatic cancer. And I think the family attitude and her attitude is that we have to treat it as a chronic illness until something amazing comes along.

KING: How old is she?

COURIC: She's 53.

KING: Is that young for that disease?.

COURIC: I think it is young. You know, colon cancer is sort of my area of expertise. Pancreatic cancer, I've become much more knowledgeable, but not as much as I am in the other.

KING: Do you ever feel there's a black cloud around?.

COURIC: You know what? I think that people don't realize that a lot of people go through a lot of pain and that, you know, that they need to appreciate when they have their health. And instead of bitching and moaning about this and that, they need to be so greatful and thankful, because that is really all that matters.

KING: We'll be right back with Katie Couric. The book is "The Brand New Kid."

Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "REAL PICTURES")

TED KAVANAU, CO-HOST: Welcome to "Real Pictures," I'm Ted Kavanau.

COURIC: And I'm Katie Couric.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAVANAU: I'd been doing this show by myself as a solo anchor for about four or five months. And one day I walk past the assignment desk, and I saw this very cute little girl there. So I was kind of showing off. So I said to her, how you like to be a star -- the old cliche. She said, sure, I'd like to be a star.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "REAL PICTURES")

COURIC: That's incredible, Ted, but let's see what most people are paying for their Thanksgiving feast.

KAVANAU: When we come back, we'll visit a marine zoo in Australia.

COURIC: And we'll see how "Coco," the famous gorilla spent his holiday. Ted, were there cameras at your house on Christmas?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAVAN: My first impressions were that she was a very sweet, innocent little girl. And then when she started ad libbing those little cutting insults, I said, you know, boy, she's got some fire. There's all kinds of levels to this Katie Couric".

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COURIC: Texans are known to do things in a big way, and Billy Bob's Texas, the largest honkytonk in the world, is no exception.

Well, even though we went nowhere today, we'll hopefully go somewhere tomorrow.

KAVANAU: I have nothing more to say to that, Katie. I'm Ted Kavanau.

COURIC: I'm Katie Couric.

KAVANAU: Say something, not nothing...

COURIC: That's "Real Pictures".

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COURIC: Oh. my God, where did you all did that up?

KING: That's from the CNN...

COURIC: It's from the CNN archives.

KING: Let's put it this way...

COURIC: Did Wendy do that?

KING: I guess Wendy did.

KING: No, let me say that we were so proud to be part of your bat mitzvah, to see that happen on the air -- how did they let you on? You were a child. I know why you're writing children's books.

KING: I know why you're writing children's books.

COURIC: Was that so scary? Oh, my Gosh, Ted Kavanau. How much did you love Ted Kavanau when he was at CNN?

KING: Yes, but look at you though.

COURIC: Oh, my Lord, yes.

KING: It's weird to see. You haven't seen that in a while.

COURIC: Oh, no, I try not to watch it whenever possible. But wasn't that nice of Ted to give me a break?

KING: Yeah.

COURIC: I mean, that was one of the wonderful things about CNN in the early days.

KING: You got a chance.

COURIC: I mean they put the janitor on the air basically.

KING: Hey what are you doing?

COURIC: They were so desperate, and I had an incredible opportunity to learn every aspect

KING: Did you ever think CNN would become what it is?

COURIC: You know, I had a lot more confidence in CNN than a lot of people did.

KING: You did?

COURIC: I mean, it was tough in those early years to be ridiculed and to be Called Chicken Noodle news -- and you could see why we were called Called Chicken Noodle news from that fine program, "Real Pictures."

KING: More facts than ridicule.

COURIC: But I'm delighted that it's become such a driving force. And I think it has an unbelievable number of really talented people working on it. So I think it's great...

KING: By the way, we didn't mention your sister's Emily.

COURIC: My sister's name is Emily Couric.

KING: All right, now what...

COURIC: And I have another sister, Clara, just so she's not offended, and a brother named John as well.

KING: And you.

COURIC: We give them all equal time. My parents were great, actually, growing up. You know, they were very equitable in their pride and affection for all their children.

KING: Everyone is the same?

COURIC: They are.

KING: OK, we read it everywhere, so we have to ask about it. You have a romance going?

COURIC: Oh, Larry?

KING: What, you would ask the same thing, come on!

COURIC: I would? I don't know.

KING: Yes you would. Come on, you can just tell me, you know, what's it like to bounce back?

COURIC: You know, I'm having a really nice time. It's not something -- you know, I feel like so much of my life is out there for public consumption that there are -- I feel like I'm trying to be Jennifer Aniston or something, you know, talking about this, and I'm some kind of celebrity...

KING: Well, you're a tabloid person now; that's part of the game.

COURIC: Yes, unfortunately you're right. Whether it's true or not or has any basis in fact.

KING: That don't matter.

(LAUGHTER)

COURIC: You know, I'm just, I'm having a really nice time and...

KING: You had to get on with your life.

COURIC: Well, I think, you know, I'm 43 years old and I think that if this had happened to Jay and I had died, I would want him to be able to enjoy the company of somebody and to get support and friendship and...

KING: And you do have daughters, and they need a male figure.

COURIC: Well, they don't think so. Well, my 9-year-old certainly doesn't think she needs anybody else in the picture. And, you know, it's tricky. To navigate these waters is a new challenge for me. But...

KING: How long did you mourn, in a sense?

COURIC: You know, I wasn't really ready to go out socially, excuse me, for about a year-and-a-half to two years.

KING: It did seem a long while; I remember Wendy telling me.

COURIC: But, you know, it's just nice to -- everybody needs to have fun and have adult company and have people they enjoy being with.

KING: We only wish you happiness, that's all.

COURIC: Well, thank you. KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with Katie Couric. The book is "The Brand New Kid," and this is not about a romance, it's a children's book.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Here's one of Katie's best interviews ever.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COURIC: Pardon me for getting personal, but have you lost a little weight, because your face kind of looks thinner? Well, I think -- you know, you look incredible.

COURIC: Really, can we talk about the book?

COURIC: Oh, right, right, right, you've written a book. I'm sorry, what's it called again?

COURIC: It's called "The Brand New Kid" and a little girl, she's sad and upset and suddenly the little -- to be different and...

COURIC: I understand you're writing two more children's books, and I can imagine why you're doing this, right? Yeah.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back with Katie Couric and our remaining moments. The book is "The Brand New Kid," it's already a bestseller in children's books, perfect time of the year for it.

COURIC: And you're my agent, I love this.

KING: What are you going to do, one a year?

COURIC: Yes; I'm working -- I mean, I'm planning to right now. It is a lot of work; not so much the writing of the book, but the marketing of the book, you know, and the signing of all the books. I mean, it's been a really gratifying experience and I love getting letters, especially from kids who say, we loved your book and my teacher read it to me, or my mom has read it to me. And I've gotten a lot of really good feedback from teachers and parents.

KING: You deserve it.

COURIC: Well, thank you, thank you.

KING: Couple of other quick things.

COURIC: Yes?

KING: You like the people in the street?

COURIC: I do. KING: Yes? Did you like it when they said, let's do this?

COURIC: At first I was a little nervous about people exposing themselves, as that one woman did during the Republican Convention.

KING: Flash?

COURIC: She did -- you don't remember that? Larry, I can't believe you didn't hear about this. She basically, you know, opened her jacket and she wasn't wearing any undergarments or any overshirt.

KING: Have you been flashed by men?

COURIC: No, I haven't been flashed by any...

KING: No strange guy in a trenchcoat?

COURIC: I have to tell you, those people are remarkably well- behaved and gracious and polite. It really restores your faith in human nature and I think they add an incredible amount of energy and enthusiasm to the show and I love having them out there every day. I think it's fun.

KING: Do you like recognition?

COURIC: Sometimes I do, and sometimes I wish I were more anonymous. But again, I have been very struck by how respectful and gracious and kind people are. I don't know about you, but if they do approach me, they do it in the nicest way.

KING: Well, you're familiar -- you know, a television person is familiar.

COURIC: And I think, for whatever reason, my personality -- people feel like I'm very accessible and that they can come up and approach me and talk to me.

But I feel very gratified by it and appreciative and...

KING: Do the children like it?

COURIC: No, not really. I think it's a little bit...

KING: Mommy belongs to everyone.

COURIC: Well, a little bit hard, I think, sometimes when they're standing there and somebody approaches you and wants to talk or, you know, Ellie saying mom, come on let's go. But, I think Ellie also gets a kick from my doing the "Today Show." You know, she says, I never want you to leave the "Today Show." I think she's proud of me and enjoys it; and one time she said to me, completely unsolicited, mom, I'm so proud of the work you're doing for colon cancer.

And so I think she understands that I'm trying to do good things, that I'm, hopefully, a good role model for both Ellie and Carrie.

KING: Just remembered something -- was one of weirdest incidents the O.J.'s on O.J.'s off.

COURIC: You mean back in the...

KING: The interview -- we're getting it, we're not getting it; it's on, it's off.

COURIC: Yes, you mean, at the height of the O.J. frenzy, during the trial, right?

KING: Yes, you.

COURIC: Yes, Tom Brokaw and I were scheduled to interview him. I was 7 months pregnant, I was an absolute nervous wreck because I thought, this is pretty much a lose-lose situation.

KING: That's right. You can't win.

COURIC: It would be very, very tough. And I thought, you know, you have to handle it properly, you're not a prosecutor. You're not a defense attorney. People were so divided and so passionate about this, you thought you're bound to alienate just scores and scores of people. And when Johnnie Cochran gave word that the interview was off, I have to tell you I breathed one major sigh of relief.

KING: Great having you with us.

COURIC: Thank you Larry, thanks for having me; it's great to see you.

KING: Katie Couric -- the book is "The Brand New Kid." Thanks for joining us.

We'll see you tomorrow night with another edition of LARRY KING LIVE from New York with Katie, good night.

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