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Larry King Live Weekend

Cuba Gooding Jr. Talks About 'Men of Honor'; Richard Ben Cramer Discusses Joe DiMaggio; Montel Williams Describes his Battle Against MS

Aired December 23, 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, Oscar winning actor Cuba Gooding Jr. He's starring in a terrific new movie. "Men of Honor," that tells the dramatic story of this man, Carl Brashear, the Navy's first African- American master diver.

We'll also meet Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Ben Cramer, to talk about his extraordinary new biography, "Joe DiMaggio: The Hero's Life."

Plus, Ellen DeGeneres' mom Betty offers advice about accepting and supporting gay kids, and then talk show host Montel Williams discusses his books and his battle against MS.

They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening, welcome to another edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Usually I don't get the chance to see a film before it opens, but in this case I've seen "Men of Honor," so I can't be too objective. This is one terrific movie. It's the true story of Carl Brashear. Mr. Brashear is with us from Chicago. His life inspired "Men of Honor." He was the Master Chief Petty Officer in the United States Navy, now retired. He was the first African-American master diver.

And the man playing him in this movie is Cuba Gooding Jr., who has already gotten an Oscar as supporting actor for "Jerry Maguire." May well get nominated another one for "Men of Honor." He co-stars with Robert De Niro.

How did this script come to you, Cuba? And is it true you didn't want to do it at first?

CUBA GOODING JR., ACTOR: Yes, well, it's kind of a long story, but when I read the screenplay it was the first time that I was introduced to Carl's life, learning that there was an African-American who had given so much to our Armed Services almost embarrassed me because I didn't know there was a man like him. So, I was inspired and said this movie had to be made. Then negotiating with the studio and what not, I kind of fell out of the project.

KING: Someone else was going to do it or they weren't going to do it? GOODING: Well, what had happened was they first had to lock Robert De Niro in, and once they looked locked him in, they went for my role and I was the first one to be offered, but then through negotiations and things in my contract, I kind of fell out of it for three days and then I got a call from Mr. De Niro, and he proceeded -- he for 15 minutes he cussed me out. He said, do you understand how important this man's life is, and this movie is bigger than us and I'm forever indebted to De Niro for that because he was right. He was absolutely right.

KING: Now, Carl, you're the son of a sharecropper. You worked on the farm. You went to the -- what made you go the Navy, by the way, which was always known of all the services then the worst with regard to blacks?

MASTER C.P.O. CARL BRASHEAR, U.S. NAVY (RET.): My brother-in- law, he was in the Army and I liked that military look. So anyway, I went to the post at Fort Knox to reenlist into the Army, and I think the sergeants thought I had been sworn in, but I was coming there to take the exam, and I got irritated and got upset and I didn't go into the Army and I returned to my little hometown, where the Navy recruiter was located and walked in, and he talked real nice to me and I took the entrance exam and passed it. So, I'm in the United States Navy.

KING: Wow, that is a fascinating story. Now he became -- before I ask about being a diver, did you handle the water well?

GOODING: I loved it.

KING: You did?

GOODING: The only thing, though, it's not for someone who's claustrophobic. I'll tell you that right now.

KING: Because you had -- tell them what a Navy diver does.

GOODING: Well, there are salvage and rescue divers.

KING: It's not the seals.

GOODING: They go down -- it's not the seals. What happens is if a ship goes down at sea, they bring it up. If there's dead bodies trapped in an airplane or in a bus or on a ship, they go down and retrieve the bodies and bring them up and this isn't an easy feat because they don't have things that just scoop ships and bring them up. All of this has to be done by hand.

Back in Carl Brashear's time, they only had the Mark 5 helium gas suits that weighed 290 pounds, and they would put these metal helmets with the gas lines and they would send these men down with no visibility and they would almost like feel around and find things -- and their gloves are like --they keep your hands like that. So, it isn't like you're grabbing with your hands. You're grabbing with these big leather suits and it's restricted to walking and they go down there and they retrieve. KING: So, you had to do all that?

GOODING: Yes, we did a little work in the ocean, but mainly in a big tank.

KING: Carl, why did you want to do that? Why did you want to dive?

BRASHEAR: Well, diving looked challenging and interesting, and I was always, as a kid growing up, I like a challenge and I like something exciting, so that's why I wanted to be a deep sea diver.

KING: You lost a leg, right?

BRASHEAR: Yes, I lost my leg in 1966 retrieving a nuclear bomb off the coast of Parlamance (ph), Spain.

KING: And dove after that?

BRASHEAR: Yes. I was treated with an artificial leg, a prosthesis and I dove and stayed in the Navy for another 10, 11 years after that happened.

KING: Carl, are you mentally okay?

BRASHEAR: Am I mentally OK?

KING: Yes, I mean, you want to dive under the water in 200 pounds of gear, you lose a leg, and then you dive again?

GOODING: Not only that, he made master diver after that with just one leg.

KING: That's right, made master -- that's one of the best scenes in the movie when you made master diver, but I mean, really, did you ever say to yourself why do I need this?

BRASHEAR: No, I never said to myself why I need that, and I want to refer to what you just said. You know, don't have to be crazy to be a diver, but it certainly helps. Because, you know, we always say, like we say there the movie, a salvage diver is not a fighting man. He is a salvage expert. If it sunk in the water he'll bring it up. If it's lost, he'll find it. If it's in the way, he will move it.

GOODING: If he's lucky, he will dive 200 feet beneath the waves, but that is the closest he'll ever get to becoming a hero.

(CROSSTALK)

BRASHEAR: If he's lucky, he will dive 200 feet beneath the waves, but that is the closest he'll ever get to becoming a hero.

Hell, I don't know who'd want to be a diver anyway.

KING: This is a terrific movie. The Navy is supporting it so much so that Defense Secretary Cohen presented Brashear with the Secretary's Medal of Outstanding Public Service and Cuba Gooding was named an honorary Navy diver. And we'll be back with more and then we'll meet Betty DeGeneres and then a fascinating new Joe DiMaggio, Right back with Cuba Gooding Jr. and Carl Brashear. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "MEN OF HONOR")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Sonar, turn that equipment off. You've got a diver in the water.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: That's not our sonar.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: What are you talking about.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Unknown contact, probable Russian submarine bearing at two zero niner, at 16 knots and heading directly for your position. Take immediate evasive action. Repeat, immediate evasive action. Prepare for emergency surface.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "MEN OF HONOR")

ROBERT DE NIRO, ACTOR: How about me, cookie? You better than me?

GOODING: You're damned right I am.

DE NIRO: Well, let's just see.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back with Cuba Gooding Jr. in Los Angeles, Carl Brashear in Chicago. Robert De Niro signed for this movie before you, right?

GOODING: Yes.

KING: And helped you go into this movie.

GOODING: That's right.

KING: What was it look to work with him?

GOODING: Amazing. It's so funny. I get a call from Kevin Spacey. And he goes, hey, Cuba, how are you? I said hey, Kevin -- we had done "Outbreak" together before any of us had won any Oscars, and he goes, you -- I go what? Get to work with De Niro before me, how dare you.

KING: That's right, he's never worked with him.

GOODING: That right. And I was like, I know, I know. KING: What's it like when you're working with an actor of that stature?

GOODING: It's interesting because it really is about the work, and to say that in the truest. He never says a line unless he believes it, and a lot of times, we would have just one-line scenes together, and it would take us a long time because he wouldn't respond. There was a scene where he's got to break a radio that my father gave me, and he smashes it and we started this scene some time in the morning and we didn't actually complete the scene until 10:00 that night and I remember we were doing his coverage and all day he was like OK, OK, yes. I throw the radio. I throw the radio, and he never did it for rehearsal or anything.

And we're like, you know, OK. Then we get on with the day, and we're working at the scene and it's like the fifth or sixth take, he takes it and he goes to throw it and he stops, and he kind of like gets frustrated, and he goes like this, like he's going to smash it and the handle breaks and the heavy radio goes straight in the air, and he crouches down like this, right, because it's -- and I'm looking and I'm going, oh, that's going to hit him right in the top of his.

And sure enough, it cuts his hand. And he looks up in rage and he goes, you keep that camera on, and he breaks, and he just almost has like a mental breakdown on it. The next take, we did it again. That was the take in the movie. It was like -- it was what he needed to get there and that's how he makes it all.

KING: He's a super perfectionist. Carl, what's it like to see your life portrayed on the screen?

BRASHEAR: Larry, it was very exciting, and -- but in some scenes I get a little bit emotional, especially the accident and all of the challenges I went through to prove to the Navy that I could be a deep sea driver as an amputee, but it was clearly exciting, and I was glad to see it come together on the screen and it was a pleasure to see those two Oscar winners, Robert De Niro and Cuba Gooding work together. It was amazing.

KING: And De Niro had to assume an accent of a southerner.

GOODING: Right.

KING: And the actress ain't bad, either.

GOODING: Yes, Charlize Theron. She's beautiful.

KING: She doesn't have a long part in this, but it's a very important part.

GOODING: She doesn't have a long part, right. And every moment she's on screen you can see she's going through some emotional duress, and she just really -- like the scene when she meets him in the phone booth, she's just in minutes there and she stayed there the whole day.

KING: Carl, do you ever miss diving?

BRASHEAR: No, Larry I don't miss it anymore because I've been out of the Navy now 21 years, but when I first retired I thought I missed it and it was a heck of a transition for a first year I might say, but I'm adjusted now.

GOODING: Hey, Carl, didn't you say that -- I said when was the last time you'd been in the water, you said I ain't been nowhere near a pool since 1970-something. You said I want to see water I see it in my directions.

KING: You know, one of the keys -- why did you want to dive after losing the leg?

BRASHEAR: Well, because I wanted to reach my goal, Larry. My goal was to be the first black master diver in the United States Navy, and the Navy hadn't had too many master divers and I just wanted to be a master diver, and I set my goals high to be a master and I viewed my amputation as a nuisance and inconvenience, never disabling to prevent me from performing my duty.

KING: What was it like to play him? First of all, he's alive. So, you're playing a living person, right?

GOODING: Right.

KING: So who do you -- did you work with him a lot?

GOODING: Every day he was on the set. Every day, and it was godsend because I could've been so closed off or it could have been attention thing because you saw the movie. It went pretty personal and dealt with a lot of emotions and things and he could have been intrusive, and come in and said no, no, no, but he wasn't. He was very supportive.

You know, as an actor you're always trying to draw from something in every scene so you keep the internal dialogue going on and I had him there every day and all I had to do because walk up to him and say, what do you feel about blah, blah, blah? And he would go on and on about some story that happened to him, and they'd have to pull me -- they need you on the set, and I couldn't get away. I mean, he had -- you just sit and hear these stories.

KING: You certainly glad you did it?

GOODING: Yes.

KING: Do you think it's going to do well? Actors you have to guess at this.

(CROSSTALK)

GOODING: Hard to guess.

KING: But it's a phenomenon? GOODING: I just -- I think -- there's been a couple movies in my career that I say it doesn't really matter how it does, now I know I've done a piece of work that represents what I want to be my career.

KING: This is it? This is one of them?

GOODING: yes.

KING: Carl, we salute you. We thank you very much for being with us. We wish you a longer life, and maybe go swimming some day.

BRASHEAR: It was a pleasure being with you, Larry.

KING: You deserve all the honors you've been bestowed, and Cuba, you're at the top of you game, man. Cuba Gooding Jr. and Carl Brashear. Cuba plays Carl in the new movie, "Men of Honor." You'll thank me for recommending it to you. If you don't like it, take your pulse. You've passed away.

Betty DeGeneres is next.

Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "MEN OF HONOR")

DE NIRO: Go to bounce dive. Put him on a rescue line and yank him up.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Bounce dive?

DE NIRO: Bounce dive, before the nitrogen builds up in my system. I've done it before.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You won't make it. He's too deep already, and you will call me sir.

DE NIRO: I've got a man dying down there, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Give me the wrench. Give me the wrench. Give me that spare life line and air hose.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Damn it. I've lost two men on my watch. I've got another drowning and I'm not about to let you commit suicide.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I will take you to the captain's mast and you will lose if you touch that water. Do you hear me?

DE NIRO: Yes, sir.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Still to come, Richard Ben Cramer with a fascinating book on Joe DiMaggio and Montel Williams. We're going to spend a few moments with a lady who's guested with us before, Betty DeGeneres, the mother of Ellen DeGeneres and the author of the book "Just a Mom: Heartfelt Advice from a Mother Who Understands What It Means to Love and Support a Gay Child." She previously was involved in the book, "Love Ellen." Why did you -- why'd write this, Betty?

BETTY DEGENERES, AUTHOR, "JUST A MOM": This is sort of a follow- up to that book, Larry. I got lots and lots, hundreds of letters, and a lot of the stories are in this book, so I hope this book will be a resource for a lot of people. There's a lot of good information in it, and I hope it's widely read because...

(CROSSTALK)

KING: One would guess there's hundreds of thousands of parents facing situation, right, children who are gay?

DEGENERES: Of course. Of course there are, and there are all kinds of ways that they deal with this, and directly is the best way and with love and acceptance and working through the myths and stereotypes that we've all been fed about this subject.

KING: I know how much you liked Anne Heche, were you saddened over the break-up of that relationship?

DEGENERES: Of course.

KING: How is Ellen doing? Ellen has a new girlfriend now.

DEGENERES: Well, she's met someone and they're very -- you know, she's a very nice person, but naturally taking this very slowly. Ellen wasn't looking, as you can well understand, and Ellen's doing great, just great. Her friends have been so supportive and so have I, as always.

KING: Betty, what was the toughest part of being the parent of a gay -- a lesbian child?

DEGENERES: The toughest part for me always is the -- the hatred, the discrimination that's aimed against our gay citizens, really, not just our gay loved ones. You know, we don't have any second-class citizens in the United States, and that's why I fight for equal fights for our gay family members. They're wonderful people. It's just part of who they are, just a part of it, that's all and we should all calm down.

KING: But didn't you as a parent have difficulty dealing with the fact that -- you know, I was raised in heterosexual world, I am heterosexual. Is something wrong with my daughter?

DEGENERES: No, I never worried about that is something wrong. It was a surprise and a shock and Ellen gave me the time I needed to come to terms with this and work through it because we don't expect to have a gay son or daughter. That's not our preconceived notion. So, I had to work through things, which is why a lot of parents can relate to my experience because they're doing the same thing. KING: This book is the kind of a how-to book?

DEGENERES: Sort of a how-to book, sort of a lot of experiences in it that some are heartbreaking -- what gay boys and girls go through there schools today, really heartbreaking and it has to stop. We have to speak up for love and acceptance, acceptance of diversity.

KING: Are you glad that like Ellen, more and more people are coming out?

DEGENERES: Yes. It's a healthy thing. If being gay is the just an abstract, nobody cares very much. They can't get very involved in equal rights, in inclusion of sexual orientation and hate crimes prevention acts which certainly should happen. So, yes it's a healthy thing. Just be who you are. Then we don't have to talk about it anymore.

KING: Yet the controversy continues, the big battle in Vermont over their civil union law. Do you think we're coming more towards civil unions or against them?

DEGENERES: Well, I think they'll happen someday. I think people are -- we're very upset, we heterosexuals -- that somebody else wants to claim to be married, but I've met gay women who have been together 54 years, men who have been together 44 year. They have no rights, no protections, no benefits So, it should happen. It certainly should happen to committed relationships.

KING: Betty, I thank you for being with us and I applaud you on your guts.

DEGENERES: Thanks.

KING: It's always great seeing you and knowing you and I wish this book the best.

DEGENERES: Thanks Larry. Appreciate it so much.

KING: Betty DeGeneres, the mother of Ellen DeGeneres and the author of Just a Mom." When we come back, Richard Ben Cramer has written an extraordinary biography -- "Joe DiMaggio: The Hero's Life." We'll meet him right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: In a little while, Montel Williams. We now welcome Richard Ben Cramer to LARRY KING LIVE. His new book is "Joe DiMaggio: The Hero's Life." There you see its cover. He also wrote "What It Takes: The Way to the White House." He's a Pulitzer Prize winner, and this is an extraordinary book. As I said about the movie earlier, I've read this book and it's a brilliant biography, sports or otherwise. Why did you tackle this topic?

RICHARD BEN CRAMER, AUTHOR, "JOE DIMAGGIO: THE HERO'S LIFE": Well, there's a couple reasons. You know, I was raised as a baseball fan, and a Yankee fan. Properly raised, as we say in the family. (CROSSTALK)

KING: Therefore a lover of Joe D.

CRAMER: Absolutely. I knew Joe D. the ball player and Joe D. the icon, but nobody had ever written about the man inside that huge myth, and it wasn't an easy life. It was a hard life to learn and it was a hard life to live.

KING: Puzzled when we think why a biography hadn't been done?

CRAMER: Well, Joe was against it. You know, so he...

(CROSSTALK)

KING: So he never cooperated?

CRAMER: He would never cooperate. He'd never help anybody. It wasn't about me, but he knew that if people got a look at him, that this shiny surface that he had constructed over 50, 60 years could be dented and harmed.

KING: People don't like and some have complained about seeing a myth destroyed. There was a myth of DiMaggio, this solitary hero and you take us into him, the warts and all. There a lot of good aspects and a lot of bad aspects.

CRAMER: Right.

KING: Was it emotionally difficult?

CRAMER: It was because of the suspicion in Joe's world. You know, you knew him and met him a number of times, and DiMaggio always lived amid a coterie that protected him and kept the silence around him, kept the mystery around him. So, there were literally years when you would go around and, I mean, you had to be passed from hand to hand. It was a very Sicilian business.

KING: How do you think he got to be the way he was? Here's this superhero raised in a poor neighborhood of San Francisco, average intelligence and then turn into miserly, extraordinarily selfish.

CRAMER: Yes.

KING: How do you explain it because, I mean, it's an American life, this book?

CRAMER: It is. It's a real American story, and he cut a swath through the American century that, you know, is unparalleled, unequalled. But, you know, we gave him the hero's life at age 18 in his first year, first professional baseball experience, he hit in 61 straight games. So, he was literally on the front page before anybody could spell his name, yes.

KING: We knew DiMaggio when he came up.

CRAMER: Right.

KING: He was coming.

CRAMER: And he was the Messiah when he arrived, you know. So, first day he's on the field, they write here is the replacement for Babe Ruth. Now, that's a lot of pressure. He was 21 years old. He had never been anywhere, and so what he did was he allowed them to give him the hero's life, the hero's story, and he would -- he devoted his life to keeping that whole.

KING: You came across the bit when I interviewed his son and put that in the book.

CRAMER: You were the only guy to get that story. His son would never tell it.

KING: We walked onto to where I was broadcasting. It was just an accident, but he had no contact with his father. Didn't like his father. Didn't know his father.

CRAMER: No, and he didn't want anything from his father. He would go around -- he wouldn't use his own name. He hated that name, Joe DiMaggio Jr. It was a bane to him. You know, imagine. He didn't look like the old man. He didn't have the physical gifts, you know.

KING: He played football to deliberately avoid playing baseball.

CRAMER: Right, but he hadn't the build for football, either, so it was -- you know, the kid didn't have a chance, and the old man was terrible to him -- cut him off, you know, while big Joe was making a quarter million dollars a weekend signing his name on baseball, the kid was living in a dumpster in California.

KING: Why was he cruel to people, do you think? He was cruel.

CRAMER: He was. He would cut people off, you know. Joe came to look at every new acquaintance or every chance to -- for an intimacy as somebody else who was going to take advantage of him.

KING: Wary of everyone.

CRAMER: Of everybody, and everybody he'd look at he'd say, why should this guy make a buck off my life? You know, in one sense you could say it was the upbringing in his house. His father had, you know, the old world, Sicilian suspicion of outsiders. In one sense you could say it was growing up in the Depression, but there were millions of Depression kids and millions of Sicilians. Joe had something inside him that drew him and made him sufficient unto him.

KING: And Richard Ben Cramer finds a lot of it in this brilliant book. We'll be back with more. The book is "Joe DiMaggio: The Hero's Life."

Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: You write, Richard Ben Cramer, about Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe and say they were going to remarry?

CRAMER: They were going to remarry. You know, the famous marriage, the marriage that America was in love with, was only nine months; and it was a disaster. I mean, they knew before they got married -- it was only Joe's insistence that they get married. But after the marriage, after the divorce, they actually were friends. And Marilyn knew she could count on Joe.

KING: He was very protective of her.

CRAMER: He was.

Well, you know, he understood. This is what they had between them. All his friends said, well, how could this ever work, you know, this old-world Italian and a girl who didn't wear underpants? I mean, what could they have in common?

But what they had in common was the biggest thing -- that they both had to live inside these giant personages that the hero machine had created for them. And when they saw each other through those big myths, it was like brother and sister meeting, you know. They almost...

KING: They shared the same...

CRAMER: They were like two little kids together.

KING: How about Joe and the Mob?

CRAMER: Well, Joe was courted by the Mob at every turn. He was the most famous guy in the world of sports...

KING: The most famous Italian...

CRAMER: The most famous Italian American.

KING: And he was hero-worshipped by them, right?

CRAMER: Exactly; and they, you know, what's the point of being the king of the rackets if you can't have DiMaggio at your table? So they courted him, they brought him women, they brought him jobs, they paid millions to him, you know, over the years. They put money into a trust account for him that he could take out after the baseball was over.

KING: He never worked, did he?

CRAMER: He never had much taste for work, no.

KING: He did Mr. Coffee; he did the bank in New York.

CRAMER: Right.

KING: Coached for the Oakland As for two years so he could make his pension.

CRAMER: Exactly, to get his maximum pension.

KING: Never spent his own money on anything, right -- clothing, food?

CRAMER: No; for instance, that pension, he never touched. It was just another stack, you know. By the end of his life, Joe was so obsessed about piling up the millions even his friends couldn't understand it.

KING: How were you able to recreate the death scene?

CRAMER: Well, I had eyewitnesses who were in the room. You know, Joe had 24 hour attendants who were on loan from the local hospital. And so I talked to them and I talked to the people who had been able to come into that room.

KING: The public was told mistruths about his condition for a time, weren't they?

CRAMER: Well, everything surrounding Joe was lies. There was a lawyer in Florida who kind of appointed himself as Joe's closest friend and his bulwark against the world. And this guy just lied through his teeth -- oh, Joe had walking pneumonia, he'll be out in three days. He's up, he's eating pizza, he's -- you know, none of it was true.

KING: We should say that, despite all this, he was not only an incredible player, but a brilliant player?

CRAMER: He was a brilliant player. And the other thing was that he had a fidelity to what we had given him, what he had to be for us.

KING: So he had to look good; this may be the first time they saw me play, right? So he had to look good, the uniform had to be perfect.

CRAMER: Well, you saw him in the old-timers game, and he was furious.

KING: They were going to shoot him -- or take pictures with his underwear on -- with his undershirt.

CRAMER: Exactly.

KING: You don't shoot Joe DiMaggio like that.

CRAMER: He thought they were trying to make him look bad, see. If Joe couldn't show to maximum advantage, to be the hero we wanted him to be, he didn't want to be there at all.

KING: So he was aware, at all times of how he appeared to the public?

CRAMER: Every minute; and that was the misery of his life. You know, you could say he gave his life to be what we wanted him to be.

KING: He would have had a miserable time in tabloid history, wouldn't he, with what we have now?

CRAMER: It was an accident of time, but Joe came along just as we found the means to peer into our heroes' lives. "Life" magazine debuted the same year as him, the AP wire photo, baseball on the radio, TV -- and this was, you know, we wanted more than a center fielder, we wanted him to be a personality for us. And that was his dread.

KING: And we created our own for him, then.

And he became -- he was a persona. He changed the room. I know there -- I remember being at a lunch they gave for me in Oakland, and he came. First they were thrilled for me, that Joe DiMaggio came to this lunch.

I remember, he was wearing his bright yellow sweater and he looked great. But he walked into the room, the room changed.

CRAMER: Right; well, that was the great thing about this life, because he knew everybody, from the littlest Mob guy in Newark to the president of the United States. They all wanted to be with Joe. And so Joe made this swathe through the society. He was America's guest.

KING: How was he with his teammates?

CRAMER: He had teammates, but he didn't have mates.

KING: He roomed alone.

CRAMER: He roomed alone and, you know, his friends on the team were supposed to be his fellow outfielders, Tom Hanrick (ph), Charlie Keller (ph) -- they never even went out to dinner. In 12 years they played together, they never once went out to dinner.

Joe was -- there was Joe, there was the rest of the club. And if he hung out with anybody, it was a rookie who would never be mistaken for his peer.

KING: He didn't like Stengel, right?

CRAMER: Oh, he hated Stengel. Well, Stengel demoted him from the cleanup spot, tried to play him at first base. Stengel had no reverence for the majesty of DiMaggio.

KING: Joe McCarthy handled it better.

CRAMER: Well, Joe McCarthy understood him, exactly. And McCarthy and DiMaggio really made the Yankee ethic of, no mistakes. That was what Joe carried forward. And when Stengel came, of course, he saw his center fielder under the blond brush cut of Mickey Mantle.

KING: Was DiMaggio jealous of Mantle?

CRAMER: Terrible about Mantle. Terrible to the end of his life.

I -- in fact, in 1995 I was at a card show, where Joe was in his suite signing baseballs, and Mickey walked in. And Joe knew very well who it was, of course, and who had come in. He said, who's there, without looking up, you know. And Mantle said, it's Mickey. He said, Mickey who?

KING: This is a great book, Richard; I salute you. Another Pulitzer, in my opinion.

Richard Ben Cramer; the book: "Joe DiMaggio: The Hero's Life."

Montel Williams is next. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE, one of the good guys, Montel Williams, famed talk show host. His program is now in its 10th year. He's the author of two books, published simultaneously; one is "Life Lessons and Reflections," the other is "Practical Parenting."

Now how did this work out?

MONTEL WILLIAMS, AUTHOR: It's been great, I just...

KING: I mean, why two at the same time?

WILLIAMS: Well, I wanted to put one book out, which was, "Life Lessons and Reflections," which is a quote book. And I thought, getting ready for the holiday season, it's a perfect book for people to run out and buy, give as a gift, put on a coffee table.

But why do you want to do it? It's because I've donated 100 percent of my writer's royalties directly to MS research from this book. So this would not only be something that's a nice gift, but it's a nice way to help...

KING: And famous quotes that you've gathered...

WILLIAMS: Famous quotes that I've gathered; there are a few of them in here that I'm hoping that will become famous, because they're from me, but we'll see. We'll see what happens, I don't know.

KING: Your own quotes are in there?

WILLIAMS: Absolutely.

And then I also decided -- I've been working very closely with the doctor on our show, for several years. His name is Doctor Jeffrey Gardere. He and I have done several shows on kids, on parenting, on family relationships, communication in the home. And sometimes we don't agree, sometimes we do agree. And this was like the perfect opportunity for a couple fathers to sit down and talk about what it's like, this day and age, to raise children.

KING: Is it a good idea to have two books come out at the same time? I've seen them both in stores; some featuring others, some -- I'd try to be sure they were both in windows.

WILLIAMS: Well, you know, the good think about it is, a book like this one will sit in that section in the bookstore that's more for gifts, and this one will go over and have a long life. I hope a lot of people will go out and pick it up. Dr. Gardere is a very noted doctor and has done a phenomenal job for us; and so it was a wonderful thing to be able to do a book with him.

KING: You've learned a lot of lessons doing that show, haven't you?

WILLIAMS: Oh, you've got to be kidding me. In 10 years -- do you know that, at the end of this year I will have completed my 2,000th show. I've had 15,000 people sitting on the stage beside me. I mean, not as close to the number that you've had -- but 15,000 people sitting beside me that I've had a chance to talk to.

KING: Anyone can be a parent.

WILLIAMS: Yes.

KING: Can you teach parenting?

WILLIAMS: You know what, you really can't teach parenting as much as you can provide the information and hopefully -- just like the old saying, that you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink; you can provide information, you can't make a parent pick up on it, but we're hoping that there's enough information out there, that you surround yourself with it. When something happens, it's there for you to make the right decision.

KING: How many kids do you have?

WILLIAMS: I have four children. Four children from two different marriages. I have a 5-year-old, a 7-year-old, I have an 11- year-old and a 16-year-old.

KING: And all four of them have been the product of separation, right?

WILLIAMS: Yes, all -- well, I was married -- the first marriage, had two children, was divorced. I'm in the process of a divorce right now, with two more.

KING: Is parenting much more difficult as the absentee father?

WILLIAMS: Well, you know, one good thing about, I think, the way I've tried to do this, especially in the last few years -- for my first marriage I was an absentee father for a period of time. I saw my kids a lot, but not as much as I wanted to. Now my relationship has changed with them.

With my two younger children, I'm trying my best to see them as often as I can. But, you know, it's one of those things, Larry that, I think, one day I'd like to come back, we'll talk about it. It's the state of matrimonial law in America, because what happens is, once you get lawyers involved and they start their mess it affects children more than it does the two people getting the divorce.

And what we have to do is try to figure out a way to do this a little bit more amicably so that we respect our kids and we make sure that we go through it -- put your differences aside, settle those issues, and let's work towards raising the children.

KING: How's the MS? Lets get into that.

WILLIAMS: You know, I'll tell you something, it is a daily grind. It's a daily struggle.

KING: What are the symptoms.

WILLIAMS: You know, I am fortunate in one way, being a sufferer of MS, that I only have one major symptom, and that is nerve pain. And for me it's a major symptom, I can sometimes...

KING: In where, or part?

WILLIAMS: Mostly in my feet, mostly in my lower extremities, sometimes in my side.

KING: Is that the first indication?

WILLIAMS: Well, you know, it's funny; I've probably had this disease for almost 20 years. Twenty years ago was when I had my first bout, but it was misdiagnosed for 20 years...

KING: As?

WILLIAMS: As anything from, you know, I was a heavy-weight lifter for a long period of time. I still lift a lot of weights. And I'd go into the doctor's office and he'd say, yes, I can understand why you're numb in your legs, look at you, look how big you are; stop lifting all those weights and you'd do better.

So I would back off my training a little bit, feel a little bit better. Then two years later I'd get hit with another bout. And this happened for 20 years in a row until last year, March of 1999, I suffered from the worst bout of MS that I could possibly ever have; and it's left me with some residual degradation. Which means I have some scarring in the brain, some scarring in my spine that causes my synapses to just keep firing. And there are times when I can walk around -- you know the feeling when you strike your elbow and that first feeling is, that hurts, and then you get the pins and needles?

KING: The funny bone.

WILLIAMS: Yes, well, sometimes I will have that striking pain for 10, 12 hours a day multiplied by 50. It can be that hard. So my feet will hurt, sometimes, so hard that I feel like taking a hammer and whacking myself, so at least I know what's making it hurt.

KING: Some victims get the shakes, right?

WILLIAMS: They get the shakes; there are a myriad -- there are probably as many symptoms to MS as there are patients who have it. And I'll tell you something about that: in the last 20 years in this country, we have been telling a bald-faced lie about how many people in America have MS.

I spoke at an event this past June for Nancy Davis (ph). The race was a race out in L.A. And while I was there I spoke about the fact that, you know, when I came forward with MS, they said there were 350,000 people who had it. Since my coming forward, I've heard from 10,000 people across America who said, Montel, I've been diagnosed after you.

I've never seen the number change from 350,000 to 360,000.

KING: How many -- what's the ballpark figure?

WILLIAMS: We took a poll after this, Zogby Corporation took a poll, and we're estimating that the number is really more like 2.75 million people in America right now have this disease. And Gallup is going to follow up with another poll just to verify.

KING: Will they all wind up in wheelchairs?

WILLIAMS: Hopefully not. You know, this disease is broken into three categories -- four categories, really...

KING: Let me get a break in...

WILLIAMS: You got it.

KING: Montel Williams, he's got two books out and proceeds go to -- he loves -- this is a good book; I haven't read the parenting book, but "Life Lessons and Reflections" you can pick up any day and turn to it and get a great quote -- and "Practical Parenting."

Right back with Montel Williams; don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: All proceeds from these books, Montel Williams, go to...

WILLIAMS: It's my writer's royalties from this book go directly to MS research. And it goes to a fund that I have that's been set up at the Bringhman (ph) Women's Hospital in Newburyport, Massachusetts under Harvard University.

And every penny that you donate, every time you buy this book, every penny that goes to our fund goes directly to research; not one penny for administrative costs. And there are not a lot of other foundations that can say that because, you know, a lot of people will collect money in people's names, and at the pain of other people, spend 80 percent of it on salaries and other garbage -- 100 percent goes to research.

KING: You got really wrapped up in this. You didn't just get this disease and work with it. You suddenly became involved with curing it; that happens to a lot of people when they get something, they suddenly become obsessed with it.

WILLIAMS: Well you've got to take a look at -- look at all the gifts that I have. You know, I have a nationally syndicated talk show, I'm seen all over the world. Every single day people tune in to me looking for advice, and then I come down with something. How can I sit back and think that this is some sort of a curse or something that -- oh, woe is me?

The truth of the matter, I've had several gifts, maybe this is an additional gift because I'm selected -- I've got one of the biggest mouths in all America and I'm the kind of person that, for a disease like this and for the number of sufferers out there, they need a champion. And a champion that's going to try to move this forward and not come up with stopgap measures, but come up with a cure.

I'm working with noted scientists from the Noble (ph) Institute, the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. Some of the proceeds from this book will go there for research -- U.C. San Francisco, Harvard University. I'm trying to fund the research that will find a cure, not just make -- I'm sorry, some drug manufacturers rich.

KING: There are drugs that help, right?

WILLIAMS: There are three drugs out there right now; they've been out for a long time, but they are stopgap measures. They do not cure this disease. We need to start working on a cure -- look at what Michael J. Fox has been doing, look at what Christopher Reaves has been doing -- all three of us are working on injuries that are part of the central nervous system. When any one of us breaks through with something, it's going to help everybody else, so we've got to.

KING: All right; I said you'll wind up in a wheelchair, and you said?

WILLIAMS: I don't believe so. There are four different categories to this disease, and four different outcomes. And I also believe very strongly that it really is up to you.

I mean, right now, five years ago, someone would have told me, with the level of disease in my body, I should be in a wheelchair today. I work out every day. I work very hard every day at making sure that I stay as healthy as I can. I try to eat the best foods that I can. I try to take vitamins; I'm on a holistic approach; I'm looking, reading on the Internet; I'm reading as much as I can about the disease to learn as much as I can so I can keep myself healthy.

And that's what others can do. I'm going to beat this. It's, you know...

KING: By beat it, you mean you're going to live a full life.

WILLIAMS: I'm going to live a full life, but not only that, I think the work that I'm going to do, along with a lot of other people that are out there -- and it's not just about Montel, but the work that we're going to do right now by emphasizing the fact that there are people in this country who are suffering, suffering severe pain every day and have to deal with it every single day.

Your friends -- I will bet you that you know at least three people who have MS.

KING: I do.

WILLIAMS: Everybody in America, every time I talk to them they say, I know three people with MS. Well, it's about time that we stop knowing them and start helping them get better, and let's cure this thing.

KING: Is it life-shortening?

WILLIAMS: It is life-shortening. There are stats out there that say anyone with MS, it can shorten your life anywhere from 12 to 20 years. There are others who say that it may not affect that. It depends on your level of disease and how you have it.

And just like I said earlier, as many sufferers as there are; or as many different symptoms and different types, in a way, of this disease -- so we all have to come together now and try to figure out -- let's beat it, let's stop it.

New millennium, let's do something new.

KING: The doctors who treat it are neurologists?

WILLIAMS: I have neurologists all over the world; I'm very fortunate.

And that's the other sad thing about this. Some of the drugs that are out there right now on the marketplace cost anywhere from $1,100 to $1,500 a month. If you don't have the type of income or you don't have the healthcare to be able to get that medication, you're up a creek. Forget it; and they don't care.

And these are drug companies that, in the last four years, have made over $4 billion on the suffering of MS patients. And they keep saying the wrong numbers -- there's only 350,000 people with it. Well right now we're going to prove that there are plenty more people with it than have ever been reported. And as long as they keep it in that category of 350,000 and below, it remains what's called an orphan disease.

When we start telling the truth, then people will realize there are enough sufferers out there and Congress will put pressure on the drug companies -- let's cure this disease, period.

KING: Our guests is Montel Williams; some more moments.

The books are "Life Lessons and Reflections" and "Practical Parenting." We'll be right back with the good guys. Montel's one of them; don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Montel, you were a hero, huh? Let me get this right: you're driving in your car on a remote road in Idaho, what are you doing in Idaho?

WILLIAMS: Well, I was out in Idaho visiting my daughter -- my eldest daughter who is now in a school in Pennsylvania. But what happened is, I'm a driver driving down the road. I look up ahead of us and I just happen to see this smoke coming up out of the woods and I looked over. Rupert (ph) pulls over to the side of the road, we look down and there's a car there.

And a couple guys are down at the bottom, they look like they were with a man who was laying on the ground. Pulled over, jumped out, said, are you guys OK? And he said, no we're in some trouble. I'm looking at this car 15 feet away from them and the car is starting to catch on fire.

So I just ran down the hill. Looked at him, the young man had a broken ankle; it was broken -- snap -- two places, broken over. And I said, we've got to get out of here, the woods are going to catch on fire. So I ran over to the woods, broke off a tree limb, made a splint; took the belts off everybody there, we splinted his leg, put him on my back, carried him up the side of the hill, laid him down.

We checked his body from head to toe, got him ready for the paramedics and then I took off and left. This was something that I did, not thinking that this was ever going to turn into anything -- I left.

KING: How did the story get out?

WILLIAMS: Well, what happened is, I think one of the other people that was there on the side of the road said, you know, I think that was Montel Williams. So this happened on a Saturday morning, Monday morning I'm sitting in my office, next thing my manager calls me and said, what were you doing in Idaho on Saturday? I said, what, how did this even get out? They said, well, you know, now it's on the AP wire.

KING: How did you know how to set a splint?

WILLIAMS: Well, you know, it's part of -- that's military training.

I've got to say this before we go anywhere: I hope that all Americans are at least praying for the sailors and the families that lost their lives last year.

KING: You were on a ship?

WILLIAMS: We came, now to...

KING: Did you ever think of getting...

WILLIAMS: Many times.

KING: You were always worried about terrorism?

WILLIAMS: Very close many times, many times.

But, I mean, I think we take it for granted here, and we also take for granted the fact that every single day, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, there are young Americans out there protecting and serving us, keeping us safe. And I hope the people are praying for them and, you know, the guys out there need more. I'm telling you, I got you back, period.

KING: That's where you learned how to do a splint?

WILLIAMS: Absolutely.

KING: When a marriage breaks and it becomes public, to a public person, does that double the difficulty, when we read about in the paper of you and you wife -- and I know your wife. You two seemed so -- I mean, we never know from the outside.

WILLIAMS: Well, it's ridiculous that it's even gone public. This is something that I've tried very hard to keep from being that way, and I'm not going to discuss the problems. Unfortunately what happens is that people get involved and they figure, you know, I'm a celebrity so if you put pressure on me through the press you make me -- you know, it's so stupid.

KING: I don't want to -- the personal things are not our business. But what is it like when it's public? Does it add? Does it make it more difficult to even deal with?

WILLIAMS: It most definitely does. It makes it more difficult for a person like myself, with MS who, you know we are also afflicted -- when emotional state changes, that exacerbates this...

KING: So stress effects it?

WILLIAMS: Absolutely; are you kidding me? And now I have to turn around every day and look at lies -- lies that are printed in tabloids. The good think about is that they're in tabloids and we know that they'll be at the bottom of a bird cage next week and nobody will care. But the truth of the matter is, there's still lies, and it bothers you. And I would hope that...

KING: The effect on the children?

WILLIAMS: Yes, absolutely, because the children will read about it. They will see it. Someone will tease them about it. I'm staying out of it, I'm not...

KING: One could safely say that Montel Williams has turbulence?

WILLIAMS: This has been a turbulent -- you know, it's really funny. We talked about two years ago; and I mentioned to you, because you had mentioned to me, Montel, I heard you were in the hospital.

Two years ago May, I was laying in the hospital here in New York city for something as ridiculous as a nosebleed and I almost died in this hospital here; I was dead for about three seconds. Doctors had to bring me back; came back from that. Six months later I have to go in for another surgery, six months later -- bang -- I'm hit with MS; six months later, bang I'm hit with this.

But you know what? That's what, I think, where the rubber meets the road. And when you get adversity and it's piled on you, that's the time that you have to stop, focus in on yourself, understand that, you know what, life's going to go on, and let's get past it.

And that's what a lot of this book has to do with -- I'm going back to this book again.

KING: You're an up person, though, right?

WILLIAMS: That's right; I try to be an up person.

KING: So you write about your -- and then you -- I'll just turn to one page: "Do not say things. What you are stands over you the while and thunders so that I cannot hear what you say to the contrary," Emerson.

WILLIAMS: That's right; that's right. Think about it.

There are quotes in here, I think, that if you just stop every single day and pick it up, read one, it will get you through the day.

KING: "Do not regret growing older. It's a privilege denied to many," Anonymous. I love that.

WILLIAMS: Absolutely. And you know what, I'm looking forward to the days that I can get a little gray somewhere -- maybe here.

KING: I hope the next time you're on, and that's soon, that there is no MS.

WILLIAMS: I -- you know what, I think it will be. This is going to come real soon. I think we've got a lot of doctors out there -- wonderful doctors: Dr. Olick (ph), Dr. Winer (ph) -- doctors from all over the country -- Dr. Olson (ph) in Sweden.

These guys are working really hard, diligently, every day, trying to come up with a cure. As a matter of fact, there's a new medication right on the cusp, it will be here real soon; may help a lot of us. And I'll say it -- I take an injection every single day. Well, maybe this new medication will help me not have to do that anymore and still give me the same benefits.

KING: Thanks Montel.

WILLIAMS: Thank you so much, Larry.

KING: My pleasure.

The books are "Life Lessons and Reflections," and "Practical Parenting"; the guest, Montel Williams. Have a great rest of the weekend, I'm Larry King, good night.

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