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Larry King Live

Joan Lunden, Bill Kurtis and Harry Smith Discuss Life at A&E

Aired December 27, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET


ANNOUNCER: Tonight, Kathie Lee Gifford sits in for Larry and gets up close and personal with a trio of TV pros: From the A&E Network, Joan Lunden, formerly of "Good Morning America" and author of "Wake Up Calls"; Harry Smith, host of the top-rated "Biography" series; and Bill Kurtis, host of the award-winning "Investigative Reports" and "American Justice."

It's all next, on LARRY KING LIVE.

KATHIE LEE GIFFORD, GUEST HOST: Good evening, everyone. I'm Kathie Lee Gifford in for Larry King, who I'm sure is enjoying life somewhere in that wild man about town.

So grateful that all these old friends of ours could joins us here tonight. Joan's here, and Harry and Bill in Chicago.

Now, Bill, there's no trouble within the ranks, right, why you, you know, didn't want to be with these other two? Is there a little problem we should just get out right from the very beginning?

BILL KURTIS, A&E'S "INVESTIGATIVE REPORTS": Well, we call it trouble in the air.


GIFFORD: Already?

KURTIS: Trouble in the air rage. No, I'm caught in Chicago and thank you for sending pictures through the air to magically be with there. No, we enjoy each other very much.

GIFFORD: And this is new troika, in a sense, right? Joan, are you the newest member of the A&E family?

JOAN LUNDEN, A&E'S "BEHIND CLOSED DOORS": I am definitely the baby of the family,the newest member. We used to be against each other for a lot of years in those early morning hours, remember?

HARRY SMITH, A&E'S "BIOGRAPHY": Oh, many, many, many years.

LUNDEN: Many, many, many years.

SMITH: And actually, well, now were you against Bill, too, because Bill did the morning years with Diane Sawyer? LUNDEN: Oh wait, yes. Oh, my gosh. That's right.

KURTIS: Joan was there. I think you were there.

GIFFORD: Glad see the three of you finally getting along.

KURTIS: We're all mentally scarred. I think that's why we found each other at this stage in life.

GIFFORD: But all three of you have a network background and you have seen over the many, many years of your experience, so many changes in the world, not just of networks and cable but also, in the field of journalism. Is there anything that's better now, other than the technical -- technological advances that we've made in this world? Is there anything better about the news world today than when you started in this business?

SMITH: Maybe.

LUNDEN: Go ahead, Bill.

KURTIS: Well, we're able to see things, almost anything we want to see, instantly. The difficulty is to catch up editorially because we can get the pictures before we can get the facts, and that puts a greater responsibility on reporters and producers on an apparatus like this.

So, I really enjoy that, and, you know, for cable. For cable, which is a wonderful development, we have documentaries now where 15 years ago you couldn't have bought time to put them on. They were scrapping documentary departments. So we have nonfiction television and that's why we're here.

LUNDEN: Well, I'm good example of that, too. A program like mine a network like ABC...


GIFFORD: Which was a network special.

LUNDEN: Absolutely, it was a special that really was only put on twice a year, and I don't know if there's room in the network spectrum like an ABC, NBC, CBS for a show like mine or a show like "Biography" or any of them to be there because they've got all the sit-coms and the dramas, and things change...


GIFFORD: You mean on a regular basis.

LUNDEN: On a regular, weekly basis because they just don't make room for them.

GIFFORD: Yet, they're among the most popular shows of all, so explain that?

LUNDEN: I can't explain that part, but I just know that they don't make room on the networks.

SMITH: We don't have to draw the same kind of an audience that a network, ER or "Millionaire" or whatever has to draw, so we contain costs. We know what we need to spend. We know what our audience is, and if we can serve that audience well -- I mean, that's part of the whole reason of network audiences has eroded so much is because there's so many more choices.

GIFFORD: So, are you much happier now, then? Even though it's maybe not as -- as visible a spot in your career, it, -- in terms of press that you might generate -- are you happier personally doing this kind of work on this kind of work on this kind of a -- with this kind of a form.

SMITH: One of the reasons I went was I said, "Biography" is great show. I want to be involved with "Biography," but I also want to go out on the road. I want to do specials. I want to do documentaries that Bill talked about.

GIFFORD: The freedom to do those things.

SMITH: I'm in middle of doing a documentary on faces from the Civil Rights Movement that I'm pretty sure I have never would have gotten network on television.

GIFFORD: Now, did you take that idea to them?


GIFFORD: And they're still -- they're open to your ideas when you bring them in?

SMITH: Oh, yes. We had a -- we've had series of shows on the History Channel based on letters written during World War II, written during World War I. It's gotten critical acclaim; some best things that have even been on History Channel and that's just -- you know, you bring an idea in a place that's our size, they'll say run with the ball.

GIFFORD: Yes, yes.

LUNDEN: I really feel -- I look at it like real quality television where they really keep the bar raised to very high level, and you're able to come up with ideas and produce television at that level, and you don't have the demands on you to be quite as -- I don't know, commercial or serving all people for all things. I just think for programs like ours it's really a great venue. It's a perfect venue.

GIFFORD: So, you're not looking at the ratings the very next morning to know if you're going have a job?

SMITH: Of course you are.

GIFFORD: You are.

SMITH: Of course you are, because -- but number isn't as big. You know that going in I don't have to have a 9 or 10 or 11 or 12.

GIFFORD: To be here next week.

SMITH: Exactly, exactly. If I know that -- I mean, there's a certain number that we have all set. You know, we all have our bars set for the, you know, certain shows or whatever, if you make that, if you can make it and do a little better -- you're always trying to grow the audience, that's the most amazing thing about A&E is it continues to grow, grow, and grow.

GIFFORD: Something Bill said as we just began about having to be so fast in the network news; is it -- has it become more important now at the networks to be first or to be right?

KURTIS: Well, of course, during the election, we learned that it's not necessarily good to be first and not be right. We took our lumps. So you have to be right. But, when you're on a breaking news story on the front line, you want to be first, and you want to be factual and right. For us, we're sort of the other end of the game. In documentaries, we run two months to a year behind the headline. We have...


GIFFORD: A luxury.

KURTIS: Yes, it is because we have to be right. People get tired of let's say Jon Benet Ramsey or the election story or almost anything else and so the day after a verdict comes in, the networks will drop it. Boom.

Then it takes awhile for to interest decline, and down the line on O.J. Simpson, or the Ramsey story, people start wondering I wonder what happened there. And so we're able to go back and explain and answer the question why. That's why we're in business to say "why?"

GIFFORD: And just in time, O.J. resurfaces in the news like he did a couple weeks ago.

KURTIS: That's right and you want to know why. More.

GIFFORD: All righty, we'll back in just a few moments with our three guests this evening.


KURTIS: When we looked at the Ramsey case, we found a series of conflicts and missteps that still have not been resolved. It all started with the police and what they did after they walked through the door to the Ramsey house on December 26th, 1996.



LUNDEN: And Al Gore joins us this morning from Beaumont, Texas. Senator, good morning again.


LUNDEN: These pools seem to show that the gap has narrowed. There is one poll this morning, I'm sure you've seen it, it dropped to a two point lead over the president. Do you feel that kind of loss of support and what do you need to do to get it back?


GIFFORD: Talking with Bill and Joan and Harry and I just think it's sort of an interesting hypothetical question, what if A&E came to the two of you now or three of you and said, you know what? We see a vulnerability at the networks. We want to do a morning -- morning show with three of you, familiar faces."

SMITH: Right, starting about 10 a.m.


GIFFORD: We joked about this.

LUNDENT: You know, you were joking. That's our worst nightmare.

KURTIS: I'd say Harry and Joan.

GIFFORD: Bill's saying you two would just be great.

LUNDEN: Thanks a lot, Bill. We love you, too.

GIFFORD: Joan, when you happened to turn on the TV in morning and you turn and on there's "Good Morning America" or you see Katie and Matt, or Jane Bryant, what do you...


LUNDEN: I can channel surf now.

GIFFORD: Yes, ... vulnerability at the networks. We want to do a morning -- morning show...


GIFFORD: ... with the three of you...

SMITH: Right.

GIFFORD: ... familiar faces...

SMITH: Right, starting about 10:00 a.m.

LUNDEN: We joked about this. When I first came over, you know, you were joking, saying this is our worst nightmare.

KURTIS: I'd say Harry and Joan...

SMITH: Right.

GIFFORD: Bill's saying you two would just be great.

LUNDEN: Thanks a lot, Bill. We love you, too.

GIFFORD: When -- Joan, when you happen to turn on TV in morning, and -- and you turn on, and there is "Good Morning America," or you see Katie and Matt or Jane and Bryant, what do you...

LUNDEN: I channel surf now.

GIFFORD: Yes, yes. What is your thought? Do you ever say, oh, gee, I love those years. I'm glad I don't have to do it. What are thoughts when you watch it?

LUNDEN: I do say I love those years. I mean, I really wouldn't change a minute of my tenure at "Good Morning America."

GIFFORD: Twenty years, by the way, right?

LONDUN: Twenty years. And I never would have guessed when I went there that I would have been there 20 years. I mean, you just don't think about that, particularly in the -- in the world of television.

GIFFORD: Exactly.

LUNDEN: But I think what surprised me most, was that I never looked back. Because I worried a little bit towards the end...


LUNDEN: ... even though I wanted to get off the early morning shift. I wanted to kind of get my life back a little bit. I wanted to move on and do something else with my life, you know, after that 20-year span.

But I was a little afraid that I would look back and have a little bit of a regret or say, gee, I wish I was there. And I never did. And I've always used the analogy that if you eat a piece of chocolate cake that's reallym, really rich, that when you get finished with it, you say, I don't really want any more, I'm satiated. And that's kind of how I...

GIFFORD: Been there, done that.

LUNDEN: I eminated from practically every country several times, and I just enjoyed it all, but I was done with it.

GIFFORD: It's over.

LUNDEN: Yes, it was over.

GIFFORD: Same with you, Harry? SMITH: Not quite.


SMITH: This is -- this is what I would say. I miss the day-to- day news business. It's like the old...

GIFFORD: The excitement of it?

SMITH: ... the dalmation dog and the fire alarm goes off and you want to get on the back of that truck and go, go, go, go, go.

GIFFORD: There's still a lot of the old dog in you.

SMITH: Even -- even at A&E a year ago, when the whole refugee crisis was unfolding in...

GIFFORD: Kosovo.

SMITH: ... Kosovo, I went in and knocked on the door and said, you know what? The story isn't being told well enough. Can we go? And they said, go.


SMITH: So we did an instant hour documentary that was on television two and half weeks later. So, it's -- I -- I may have one of the best jobs in television now, from the standpoint of not only the visibility of "Biography," but, I can get my jones, I can get my fix when I have to go out and do some news.


SMITH: It's -- it's really quite splendid in a way that I'm not sure you could get that on network television. I'm not sure it's there anymore.

GIFFORD: And not the same ammount of pressure on you for performance...


GIFFORD: ... as such.

LUNDEN: It would be a different kind of a pressure, and it would be a different kind of even an opportunity than it is at A&E, I think.

SMITH: Well, so often -- so often, what, you know, the expectation there is, if I was going to go to Kosovo, well then I would have to get Garth Brooks and Kathie Lee and, you know, who else else can we promote...

GIFFORD: I know, I know.

SMITH: ... on the show in order to go tell the story of the refugees. So... GIFFORD: Yes, definately.

KURTIS: When Diane went back to the morning, I called her. I think I was in the middle of the Cambodian jungle and, I had a satelite phone. And I said, what are you doing? And she said, oh, no, I'm just going to do it for a month or two.

LUNDEN: Yes, yes, right.

GIFFORD: Just a short time thing.

KURTIS: I don't think so. But, I think one of the things, it can be great fun. And I'm sure she's having a lot of fun. People are good, the time is actually wonderful. And you're traveling the world, and it's live television, so you can utilize all your talents.

The one element that nobody talks a lot about -- we -- we joke about it -- is the physical toll it really takes.


KURTIS: You are out of sync with the world. You're getting up at 3:00 in the morning...


KURTIS: ... but it's so glamorous, you can't complain about it. And everybody thinks, oh, what a wonderful -- what a wonderful, great thing. But you do begin to lose energy. And about Friday, I'm ready to -- I've actually done this. I've gone off and crawled into a corner while everybody finishes the dinner party, because you need...

GIFFORD: Party animal.

LUNDEN: Oh, yes.

KURTIS: Just absolutely so tired.

SMITH: So you have perpetual jet lag, that's what I call it.



LUNDEN: You know, it's really interesting because after I left "Good Morning America," a couple months later I was flying to Washington to go to the Pentagon to try -- for my next stupid human trick, as my kids call them. I remember I was walking...

GIFFORD: They'll keep you humble when no one else will, right? I'm sorry.

LUNDEN: Yes -- when I was walking through the airport, I said to someone, god, I'm so tired. And they said, well that's because you got up this morning at 5:00 to make this flight. And I said, but you know what's really weird? This is the way I used to feel all the time. And I thought it was normal.

SMITH: Right.

LUNDEN: And I -- all of a sudden, there was that realization that, oh, my god, the way I feel right now, that's not normal. That's not how you're supposed to feel.

GIFFORD: Well, I should skip...

LUNDEN: And it's a huge toll. It's a huge price, a huge commitment for your whole family -- not just you, but your whole family.

GIFFORD: Your -- your daughter must be thrilled with your new...

LUNDEN: Oh, I don't know. I don't know if they love the fact that I'm down in their room at 11:00 at night, who's on the phone calling you? It's like, get this woman a morning job again, you know? Get her out of here.

GIFFORD: That's so interesting. My daughter wanted me to leave my show -- really.

LUNDEN: No, they really are happy.

GIFFORD: And then -- and then once I started doing something else, she's the first one to say, Mommy, I want you to get your old job back.

I told her, why is that? She goes, at least you were always home.

LUNDEN: Ooooh.

GIFFORD: You know, so everything is relative, right?


GIFFORD: All right, we're going to talk some more. I want to talk about why people in general are so fascinated with other people's lives. Are they living vicariously through other people, or are we voyeurs by nature, or is it all of the above or none of the above?

We'll get the the answers from the experts when we come back.


KURTIS: But after a year-long investigation, we found that recent changes in the immigration laws and rigid enforcement by the federal government may be unfairly targeting thousands. Families are being broken up, and many who have lived here for years are being kicked out of the country.


GIFFORD: Hi again, everybody. I'm Kathie Lee Gifford sitting in for Larry King tonight. Our guests are Bill Kurtis and Harry Smith and Joan Lunden, all familiar faces, familiar names.

SMITH: Did you think about wearing suspenders? That's what I want to know.

GIFFORD: No. Should I have?

SMITH: Not for a second. Just kind of slumped over, and with the suspenders on.

GIFFORD: I was just here as a guest about a month ago and I said you still love it, don't you? And he says, I've got the greatest job in the world, you know. This is a man who's on top of the world. Everybody seems thinks it's Regis that's on top of the world. I think, yes, Regis is up there, but I think it's Larry, you know. I really do. And have you taken a look at the wife? Gorgeous is not the word, and the two kids. I mean, who would want -- I don't know. Regis has a book out now "Who Wants to Be Me?" Right. Right.

SMITH: Not Larry King.

GIFFORD: Not Larry King. Larry -- there are some of us who, you know we have had -- let's talk about the tabloid world. In general, some of us have experienced it first-hand. Have you --

LUNDEN: I wouldn't know anything about that.

GIFFORD: No, you wouldn't know anything about that, Joan. Nor would I, of course. It's funny because I was doing something the other day and Whoopi Goldberg says to me, she goes, hey girl. You and I sharing are the same "Star" this week. I said, what star, hoping it was a good one. She goes, no. "The Star." And then she proceeded to tell me what was happening in my life.

Now, there used to be a fine -- I mean, I think a very distinct line between tabloids and mainstream journalism, mainstream television, that sought of thing. Is that line -- does it even exist anymore?

LUNDEN: No, because I think some of the most obscure ridiculous stories about me that had no truth in them broke in "The Daily News" or "The New York Post," and then went to tabloids because, of course, it's got to be true once it gets printed, right? And then gets printed again and again and again and again until you finally somehow intervene. And I don't know if everybody out there realizes, on television, I mean, I really feel that, you know, if we say something, it comes out of our mouths, you hear us say it; if it's not right, we have to really...


GIFFORD: We're held accountable.

LUNDEN: ... we're held accountable. But in the tabloids, they can saying anything they want about you, and they have all kinds...

GIFFORD: Unless you prove it, you have no other recourse. LUNDEN: But people don't realize that to sue them costs thousands of dollars, just to...


GIFFORD: Hundreds of thousands of dollars.

LUNDEN: Well, if you really go to court, it costs millions.


LUNDEN: But, I mean, I sued one of the magazines one time -- never went to court, the two entities never met face-to-face, they finally made a settlement with me out of court, and gave me a -- a what do you call it? A retraction. And I spent $38,000 to do that. Now, $38,000 to protect myself against something that was absolutely slanderous, and totally bizarre.

GIFFORD: What do you say to people who say, that's the price of doing business -- that's the world you knew you were getting into it when you got into it, or did you?

LUNDEN: We should have to spend tens of thousands of dollars to protect ourselves from completely untrue things being written about us? I don't really see the justification there. I don't see why we should assume that because we've picked this profession -- I mean, what if, they all of a sudden started doing this to doctors, or to lawyers, then would we say, well, you picked that profession, so hey, there you go?

GIFFORD: Comes with the territory.

LUNDEN: Comes with territory. It's -- I don't know. I don't know where, first of all, I don't remember signing that piece of paper where I signed away all rights to -- privacy.

GIFFORD: Constitutional rights.

LUNDEN: That one got by me somehow.

Go ahead, Bill.

KURTIS: I will give you another spin, actually, the tabloid story. I went out to the Jonathan (ph) Ramsey investigation after it was over, and I was interested in the angle that perhaps tabloids, and actually media in general, had intruded upon the judicial process, and was actually affecting the outcome. And I was surprised.

Because all those who took part in it. And It was a botched investigation, and process, largely because of the media involvement, said well, yes and no. No, it did not hurt us because, they were spending $5,000 dollars per interview to turn up evidence. So anybody who wanted to talk could get $5,000 -- it ran up to $100,000. I mean, that is real checkbook journalism. Yes, it did because, every time a headline came out we had to run off an interview that person and chase that lead which took us a way from a focused investigation. So now the fourth estate, where it was held at bay for 20 or 30 years, really has jumped over the line into an investigative unit that is part of the entire process. It can be dangerous. So, that is a little more serious than celebrity attack.

LUNDEN: I think that checkbook can give incentive to people to, you know, embellish the story or to lie.

KURTIS: You pay for -- you get what you pay for. That is right.

SMITH: I remember the conversations in news rooms at CBS, within, say, the last 15 years, when no network news room would ever touch anything that came out of a tabloid.


SMITH: Just, it was not done. There became so much material and in the tiny most infrequent occasion, actually happened to be right, and in which really proved itself to be true, for instance: in O.J. and a couple other places, where the tabloids were ahead of everybody else. But what ended up happening was, a line got crossed where the mainstream media started to report what the tabloids said. They didn't say, we're saying it, we are saying, so and so says, blah blah blah, and once....

GIFFORD: Their investigation.

SMITH: Whatever, and once that bridge was crossed, that's when it really -- that's when all hell broke loose.

KURTIS: You only have to be right once, and if they are right once, and they have been stumbling on it or actually doing some digging -- and if you stop and think, Harry mentioned earlier, that expenses have been cut, and CNN is almost the only organization that really has bureaus all around the world, and New York Times, of course, and suddenly, a tabloid throws a couple million dollars at a story with people, and hiring every private eye in the area -- and that is exactly what it is, and they get paid almost by commission on the stories they bring in, then you are going to come up with some stories and leads that others have to follow.

GIFFORD: It's a fascinating subject, and there is -- I wish we had several hours to discuss them, and we still wouldn't get to the end...

SMITH: You were glazing over it...

GIFFORD: No, I'm not.

SMITH: Why did I bring this up? Oh, God.

GIFFORD: No, I just find it fascinating and I -- we still haven't gotten to why other people find it fascinating, but I promise we're going to do that when we come back. You are Mr. bad boy, aren't you?



SMITH: Welcome to 6th annual "Biography of the year", our choice of the person who had the greatest impact during the year 2000.

GIFFORD: People are fascinated by other people's lives and no more do we see it, than in the success of magazines like "People Magazine" -- and Biography has been on how many years, now, Harry?

SMITH: 13 years.

GIFFORD: And how many biographies have they produced now...

SMITH: More than 700.

GIFFORD: Have they done you yet?

SMITH: 150 new ones every year.

GIFFORD: But they haven't done you yet?

SMITH: It's not an interesting story.


GIFFORD: But they're not just successful on A&E, they're successful on Lifetime, and E-channel, and everywhere else. Why are people so fascinated with them.

SMITH: I think, by and large, because so often people of notoriety come from pretty normal, even humble, even...

GIFFORD: Difficult.

SMITH: Difficult places. To, for better or worse, achieve some sort of celebrity, or change the world in one way or another. And that's really the truth. And one of the things that we always try to do that makes us a little different than the other guys who always try to put the baby pictures in.

GIFFORD: Thanks a lot for that. I had one eyebrow all the way across. Thank you for that.

SMITH: But, people see that, because they see the you that is on TV everyday, or...

GIFFORD: ...not anymore.

SMITH: Exactly, or you know, from a book that you have written or an album you recorded or appearing in a special. And they said we have idea who this person is, but they don't know -- they don't know who you were at 5 or 15 or even 25.

GIFFORD: The saga.

SMITH: I remember. But, that's why -- that's why people come back night after night after night. I think.

GIFFORD: And do they feel like they have something to learn from our defeats and our successes? What do you think, Bill?

KURTIS: I think that we compare ourselves with others. We like to see how you are doing, like Mae West: mirrors on the ceiling, she said I like to see how I'm doing. It's sort of the same way, we want to see how they respond.

GIFFORD: From every angle.

KURTIS: That is right. And, we are measuring ourselves, and I think actually it can be very helpful. He got through that, therefore, maybe I can, too.

GIFFORD: Maybe I can survive this, too.

SMITH: There is no great story. No person who really gets there, without serious world class struggle. It's not a show anybody is going to watch anyway.

GIFFORD: Or a book that they're going to read, and Joan, you have a new book out -- pretty much all about that. Wake-up calls.

LUNDEN: It's all about the right attitude -- having the right attitude. You know, waking up and approaching life in a way that's going to make you happy or successful, or feel like you have made a mark by the end of the day. And, you know, I think that is why people, you know, have looked to me and then when they found out that I was going through struggles, and they actually saw them on the air, you know, it is just that bond that all of a sudden they say, oh, my God, you know, she is home changing diapers, or she's home dealing with a divorce, or whatever it is -- just like all the rest of us, so you are not that person on TV anymore. You are a real human being that they can feel a little bit closer to.

GIFFORD: And I've read reports -- and here is your moment to tell us if it is true or not, because I, of all people, don't believe anything I read anymore, that you and your new husband would love to have another child.

LUNDEN: Yes. A first child actually, between the two of us.

GIFFORD: Does he have children?

LUNDEN: He doesn't and I have three girls.

GIFFORD: So this will be your first child together.


GIFFORD: So, they were telling that I'm supposed to ask you about that, but you know, having been on the end of questions like that, if you don't want to answer it, honey, you don't have to answer it. If that is something you guys would love to do, God bless you.

SMITH: You go. You go.

LUNDEN: You know, I don't want to get out of the game, yet. I still want to be in the game.

I'm not finished with that part of my life yet.

SMITH: You know, her husband has a greater job than we do.

GIFFORD: He runs camps for kids?

LUNDEN: He runs summer camps for children. Yes, it's great. And I spend my summers up there in Maine with him. And it's really wonderful. You know, he works hard, and I get to canoe and climb the climbing wall.

GIFFORD: You get the fun part. You get to be one of the kids. What about your own daughters? Do they have career aspirations like their mom's, or...

LUNDEN: Well, what a surprise: My oldest daughter is in college as a communications major, not necessarily wanting to be in front of the camera.

GIFFORD: Yes, so there's a whole great creative world behind the camera as well.

LUNDEN: Yes. Yes. But I think that that is a good testament, after they have lived a life where they...

GIFFORD: They have sacrificed.

LUNDEN: They have definitely sacrificed for me to do my job.


LUNDEN: And yet still thinking that that is a job where you can make enough of a mark on the world and make a difference, or that it really provides a meaningful life -- that they still want to go after it. I think that that -- I'm happy about that.

GIFFORD: And they're still into horses and...

LUNDEN: Oh, yes, jumping horses.

GIFFORD: How about your kids, Harry? Do they...

SMITH: Little boys.

GIFFORD: And what do they want to be?

SMITH: Seven years old, 11 years old. And, you know, it's hockey one day. It's basketball another day. It's baseball another day. And...

GIFFORD: Would you encourage them if they wanted to be in the news world? SMITH: Oh, yes.

GIFFORD: Would you?

SMITH: Oh, yes. What better? Oh. Joan...

GIFFORD: Even in light of all of the changes.

SMITH: Joan was talking about the places you get to go, the people you get to talk to.


GIFFORD: There's also the other side: the places you got to go and the people you have to talk to.

SMITH: Except those are the best experiences. Those -- the worst places you go are the best places you go -- I mean, as far as I'm concerned. I don't care if I ever interview another president of the United States or king or potentate or whatever. But...

GIFFORD: The real people.

SMITH: Real -- yes, exactly. That -- oh, my goodness, the opportunity to tell those stories.

GIFFORD: We are going to hear a little bit more from these three illustrious people when we come home. I want to get to the real nitty-gritty of all of this. You ready for that?

SMITH: Fire away. Take your best shot.

GIFFORD: Hit me with your best shot. We'll be right back.



SMITH: I was an American. And the kids couldn't help but say hello. We played ball. We laughed. Their smiles filled my heart. For them, America is a savior. And they weren't shy about showing their appreciation, their affection. I felt guilty knowing, at the end of the day, I would speed off to a hot meal and a comfortable bed. And after a week I would return to New York to be home with my family. Where would these kids end up?




KURTIS: In July, 1975, the investigation into murder of two FBI agents quickly moved beyond South Dakota's Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The group of Indians involved in the shootout had scattered. And the hunt for them had begun. Topping the suspect-list was a 30-year-old member of the American Indian movement: Leonard Peltier.


GIFFORD: Hi, again, everybody. I'm Kathie Lee Gifford, in for Larry King tonight, with our guest Bill Kurtis, who, of course, is the host of A&E "American Justice" and Investigative Reports."

Are American and justice still synonymous sometimes, Bill?

KURTIS: That may be an oxymoron.

GIFFORD: Oh, yes. I was going to ask you. And -- I'm sorry. Go ahead.

KURTIS: Well, you know, it is incredibly popular.


KURTIS: As is "Biography" and Joan's show, primarily because we have a storyline. And I would call it a morality play, because you get to see what happens after the verdict comes in. I mean, to see two 21-year-old kids there in jail for life does something to me. But we will be 10 years coming up on this year. That is something almost unheard of in this business.

GIFFORD: Yes, it is

KURTIS: A cable show, hard-news documentaries. But we found an audience. And people want to be informed, want to learn something. And they get hooked on this storyline of crime. But more than that, it is process. It is how to solve a crime forensically. It is using new technology, which is a kind of a sense of wonder, a Sherlock Holmes solution to something. And I think that is a lot of the success.

GIFFORD: Joan Lunden is with us, who is the host of the "Behind Closed Doors," and Harry Smith of the great "Biography" series.

Joan, what is your -- what have you not done that you are going to do or you are afraid to do?

LUNDEN: Well, actually, I can tell you about a couple of things that I have done recently that will be on after the first of the year.

GIFFORD: OK. You have already done these.

LUNDEN: Yes. I spent a week with Green Berets -- went through survival training. I ate the worm. I ate the worm.

GIFFORD: Yes, but it also has the tequila in it.


LUNDEN: No, no, no, no. You know, it wasn't so bad, because I thought it was going to be alive. And we have been talking about this story forever. And they actually -- they cook them. And a day later...

GIFFORD: Oh, a cooked worm.

LUNDEN: A day later, I was actually still there at Fort Bragg. And I was walking up the steps go into some big building to interview one of the higher-ups. And I saw a worm had been, like, cooked on the cement of the stairs. And I was thinking to myself: Oh, my God, I could actually survive now. I actually know -- like, what a concept: There is lunch right there.

GIFFORD: Now, I know about worms on "Survivor." The worms in the Green Berets is new to me.

LUNDEN: Well, this is part of going through survival school. They teach you what plants you can eat, which frogs are poisonous, which...

GIFFORD: Well, then you can be on the new "Survivor" series, too.

LUNDEN: Absolutely. I would do very well.

KURTIS: The host!


GIFFORD: ... the host.

LUNDEN: And then I spent some time with 82nd Airborne and the Golden Knights. I jumped with the Golden Knights from three miles up. You descend at 135 miles-an-hour, which means that you descend two miles in less than 60 seconds. And it is over so fast. And then you deploy your parachute. And you are back on the ground in like 5 1/2 minutes. It's like: Take me up again.


GIFFORD: Do you ever say to yourself: I'm the mother of three children who still need me, and this might not be the best idea?

LUNDEN: No, no, no, but I always -- I never do any of these adventures ever just like -- I do them with the best experts in the world. I put myself in the hands of experts.

GIFFORD: But accidents happen to the best experts in the world, too. I mean, does it ever cross your mind: This might be a...

LUNDEN: Yes, but we really -- we do look at every single thing that I'm going to do. And we -- I mean, they just, yesterday -- I'm going down to do Hostage Rescue Team. And the Hostage Rescue Team are divided into two parts. It's part of the FBI. You are either an assaulter or a sniper. So I'm spending part of my time with the assaulters. We scale buildings and repel down and those kind of things.

And the snipers, you shoot machine guns. And they say: We do this one scenario where you are in a building. You can be the person being held hostage. And there are two people next to you holding you hostage. And we come in with live gunfire. And I said, "I don't think that sounds very safe for me to do." And they said, "Well, our people do it all the time." I said, "That is really great."

GIFFORD: Good for you.

LUNDEN: "But I have three kids. And I think I'm going to pass on that one."

GIFFORD: OK. So it does -- do you put those...

LUNDEN: And it is not that I don't trust them. It is just that it is over the line.

GIFFORD: And it's not necessary to tell your story.

LUNDEN: It's over the line to tell the story. I mean, part of the beauty of "Behind Closed Doors" it that it is not just a documentary where you point your picture -- your camera at something. But I actually become involved, so that you can vicariously live that slice of life through me.

GIFFORD: Again what we were talking about earlier in the "Biography" series by Harry. And you were telling me earlier that Oprah holds the record for


SMITH: That was so much fun to do, because, a: She is such an amazing person to begin with. And when I told my friends: Well, we are going to go do Oprah's biography. And they said: You know, what do we not know about Oprah? We went to her farm in Indiana. She had just -- timing is everything, right?


SMITH: She had just had this horrible failure with "Beloved." She had not done anything all summer.

GIFFORD: She hadn't experienced that kind of...

SMITH: Right. Exactly. She said, "I never in my life so misjudged -- my instincts were so wrong about something." It took her 10 years...

GIFFORD: Well, it ain't over yet, though.

SMITH: Well, no, no, no, no. Well, 10 years -- 10 years in the making. So she had this whole summer off. I was the first one she talked to.

GIFFORD: Oh, my gosh.

SMITH: So we sat down to talk one afternoon at the farm in Indiana. And we're -- by end of the day, we're crying. We're hugging. We're -- you know, whatever else. And it showed in the show, in the two-hour show.

LUNDEN: And that kind of humanity really reaches people.


GIFFORD: It sure does.

SMITH: Well, and of course -- and, in a sense, she introduces the magazine. It was only the most singular successful...

GIFFORD: Launch.

SMITH: ... new launch in, what, 25 years or something like that?

GIFFORD: That's right. But a celebrity's "defeats" -- in quotes -- are so magnified out of proportion, aren't they? And I think you probably -- if you asked her, "Would you do it again?," even knowing what the box office receipts would be, something tells me Oprah would say: I wouldn't have missed doing that -- having the experience of making this film.

She wouldn't have done it again.

SMITH: It was pretty raw. It was pretty raw.

GIFFORD: It'd be interesting now to ask that when she had some...

SMITH: Now, two years later as opposed to.


LUNDEN: When she had some hindsight to it.

GIFFORD: Right, because whole concept of success as Webster's definition perhaps would put it, is don't you think success should be a personal definition? You know, there's all kinds of success. You write a lot about it in your new book.

LUNDEN: Yes, I mean, to me when I was younger, I think success was being on TV and making a bigger salary and then, at this point in my life, being a success means finding things I can do with my life that'll make a difference in other people's life. I mean, my whole definition of success has changed.

GIFFORD: Exactly. Yes, exactly. OK, we're going to talk a little more about that, too, from a man's perspective when we come back.


LUNDEN: I eventually learned to steer my body where I wanted it to go, but then overconfidence caused me to overshoot. I got too close to the edge of the tunnel, loss my air, and crashed, narrowly missing our cameraman.



GIFFORD: We're back with Harry, Bill and Joan and I'm Kathie Lee in for Larry King. We were talking about success, and you started saying...

SMITH: Well, the stuff that doesn't kill you; the problem is in real life for anybody, whether they're on television or at home or whatever, is the stuff that feels like it's going to kill you. It's that day-to-day-to-day of living in that is -- and I've watched you -- that's why I'm so impressed with you because you just rise. You keep rising. And, because when you are in middle of it there have to be times you just wonder.


GIFFORD: Everybody's human.

SMITH: Is this all caving in on me and why did I even start on this?


SMITH: In the end, it's the stuff, though, that doesn't kill us that once it gets back in the rear-view mirror you think, I learned so much from that about myself, about my friends, about all of that, and it's nice when it gets back there. But when it's literal living hell when in middle it.

GIFFORD: Especially when it's done in public, when so much of what's written publicly is not true and you feel like you have no forum for the truth, at times like that you have to live within your own truth. Right Bill Kurtis, out there in Chicago?

KURTIS: I think you do have to live within your own standards. You have to set them early, but we all achieve and once you reach them, you realize you have to have new standards or new goals. I interviewed the philosopher Mortimer Adler once and I asked, what is happiness? And he said, well, happiness is largely good fortune. I said luck?

He said yes, a lot of luck, and it worried me so I said you mean you can go to college; you can do all the training; you can have your success and it depends on luck? And he said well, consider if you hadn't been born in the United States in last 75 years and you were born in a Communist country. You would be unlucky and probably very unhappy. He said consider all the little serendipitous accidents in your life that allow you to achieve and push you on the right path.

If you hadn't chosen that moment or run into someone at just that moment -- so, he said, in his own life, he wrote or became editor-in- chief of Encyclopedia Britannica, oversaw the great books, all because of a chance meeting with the chancellor of the University of Chicago. It was interesting, to think about. You know Joan, in her book, I've often wanted to wonder about happiness, so you get up, you know you have to go to a job that maybe you're not having a good time at anymore -- how do you get yourself going early in the morning in a positive way?

LUNDEN: Because I think happiness is something you have to work at and practice at. I don't think it's something you sit around and wait for. And I think that it's something that you work at in your own inside. You know, we go to the gym and we work on our muscles, and we have to work on our inner muscles just the same way, in my opinion, and I have so many people that say to me, God, your life so incredible. You know, I wish I had some of that. My life just isn't as exciting and happy.

And I say it's all about the choices we make, and you have to make choices to bring things into your life -- choices of relationships; choices of what you're going to do with your life to decide to get up and do something to help other people to give your life meaning -- to me, those are all things we can do to bring happiness to ourselves. I don't think it is something that we wait around for, and if we're lucky enough, it hits us.

GIFFORD: You quote Vince Lombard in your book a couple of times and then of course, he was Frank's coach for many years with the Giants and he used to say to guys, you know, if you're looking at what the other guy is doing, you ain't doing your job. And I think too often we tend to look at other people and compare ourselves when we really should be taking that energy and working on ourselves.

LUNDEN: He also said if you aren't fired with enthusiasm you'll be fired with enthusiasm.

GIFFORD: That's the one I was thinking of. I love that one. We'll be right back.


OSCAR THE GROUCH, "SESAME STREET": Good evening. I'm Harry Smith. Tonight, on "Biography," Oscar the Grouch.

SMITH: Excuse me, I'm Harry Smith and Oscar knows. And we are not doing your biography.

OSCAR: Correct.




SMITH: Life and death keep close company in the camps. Minutes later we met Kamarrhea Reyea (ph), nine months pregnant. She and her three children left Kosovo in early May. The day after she arrived in camp, she given birth to a baby girl.


GIFFORD: Talking with these lovely people about how sometimes when something looks like the end of something, it's really just the beginning of something else, and that something else can actually be even greater than you ever dreamed. It was in your case, wasn't it Harry?

SMITH: Well, it's interesting because I have time to do things that I could have a toe in before -- now I can put my whole body in. This -- I'll put a plug in for the Oliver project program right here in New York City, and there are projects like this in other parts of the country. But we take minority kids, seventh grade, and we get them ready to go to serious, private high school. We hold the hands of the families, we hold the hands of the kids, we study with them.


GIFFORD: A real mentoring thing.

SMITH: We work. We work. We have a little loft down on 28th Street where these kids can come and get together and know that they've got to get their game up, but the fact is, it is such a cultural leap to go to these really great high schools. That is the toughest part, so we are -- that is something that I have become wholly involved in, because I have more time now than I did before, I mean -- along with a bunch of other things.

GIFFORD: Probably rewarding you on level, too, that just work can't do.

SMITH: It's unbelievable. It's unbelievable. When we had these kids come from the toughest neighborhoods in New York City, they go to these great boarding schools, these great high schools, and they then go to the greatest colleges and universities in America. And when we have our award ceremony in the spring, and the kids come back from these great high schools, and then the junior high kids look at the these seniors in high school, they're all crying tears...

LUNDEN: It doesn't get any better than that.

GIFFORD: I don't think it does. You can change the world for -- maybe not the whole world, but one person's world forever, it's extraordinary.

SMITH: Absolutely. So that's the thing that I can do now, can be wholly involved in, that if I were going to get in airplane 5 days a week, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

LUNDEN: And people sometimes -- they'll see me and say you, oh, you know what are you doing now, I guess -- are you enjoying retirement?

GIFFORD: I know. I get that a lot too. I get that.

LUNDEN: Because you are not on TV every single day in their living rooms at that certain time, because they used -- I kind of looked at it -- they saw you at work every day. And now that they don't see you at work every day, they have this idea that you are not working. And I'm thinking, I'm doing five different things now, that I never would have been able to do all those things, if I was still going in -- getting up at 3:30 every morning, going to do the live show.

So your life changes, and I remember somebody interviewed me, in fact a lot of people asked the same question, oh, you think this is it? Is this as good as it gets? You think you will ever top this?

GIFFORD: I know.

LUNDEN: And you change your existence and you change what you do and it is just...

GIFFORD: And your dreams change, too.

LUNDEN: Your dreams change. And it is just different, but people out there have this idea that you couldn't possibly be happy.

GIFFORD: Why do they do that to women more than they do it to men?

SMITH: I don't know. When I first started talking with A&E, I saw Bill Kurtis,and I knew Bill Kurtis had been on network television. And I went to Bill,and I said, so what's it like? And what did you say? He says, I've got the greatest job I have ever had.

KURTIS: Well, you scrape away all the unnecessary -- let's say -- bureaucracy in politics, and you are able to concentrate on what you enjoy doing. And that is happiness. I just got back from Moscow, and we were doing a story on biological warfare, and got into a secret lab, and, of course, you are dealing with Russian scientists, who are now working with our department of defense, but, they had worked on Anthrax and ebola (ph) virus and things like that.

So, at dinner we were talking about this thing called happiness, and they said, well we believe that hard work and doing what you like to do, but, more than that, having a positive attitude, we see that in our research. I said research? He said yes, our white mice -- we can put a cat or something that is very scary alongside a mouse, and keep it there under stress for weeks, and they will die.

But you keep them happy -- I said now that is the kind of research I like to see coming out. The secret lab.

GIFFORD: Oh, my Gosh.

KURTIS: So a positive mental attitude, Joan; you are on the right track.

GIFFORD: When we come back we will ask each person if there is anything they would change about the news world today, OK? We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) GIFFORD: Bill Kurtis, what would you change about the world of journalism today if you could? Wave a magic wand.

KURTIS: The wish list -- I'm sure everybody in the field would want me to say, lots of money so we can devote that to original reporting to all parts of the globe.


SMITH: The profits factor is so gigantic in news today, it will -- and I think it does affect what we get at home. And, I don't know how to wave the magic wand and make that less. When CBS news was first created, it was about serving the public.

GIFFORD: It was very lofty.

SMITH: Right. And the world is still filled with hardworking journalists and very dedicated people. But I'm not sure corporations have -- feel the same way they used to about the news divisions

GIFFORD: In support of those hardworking people. Joan?

LUNDEN: Yes, I was going to say, if we could take about 10 steps back, to where we were, and not be so sensationalistic.

GIFFORD: Or editorialize on everything -- make it just "who what where why when."

LUNDEN: I think that is probably the curse that is really affecting a lot of the network news coverage that gets them into trouble.

GIFFORD: Any final thoughts from anybody?

SMITH: I want to know when you are going back on "Letterman"; I think you should convince Dave to...

GIFFORD: My real calling?

SMITH: I just -- you know what? You showed a lot of people some really good stuff.

GIFFORD: I love this guy. I love this guy. Thank you. Thanks so much for being with us. Bill, we miss you. No more hanging in Chicago. You come be with us next time.

Harry, all the best. Joan, great to see you. All the best to your daughters. Thank you for sharing this time with us. I see it wasn't just Larry, they came here to see me! OK Larry? You are sitting at home, going "aah." Bye, Larry. Hope you're enjoying everything, too.

Thanks, everybody, for being with us.



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