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Larry King Live

Ann-Margret Discusses Being a Showbiz Survivor

Aired January 1, 2001 - 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: survival secrets from a gutsy superstar who's turned tragedy into triumph, worked with everyone from Elvis to Bob Hope along the way: show-business legend Ann-Margret. What a movie her life would make. She is next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Happy New Year from all of us here at CNN to all of you everywhere around the world; 2001 is here. And what a great way to kick off the year, with an old friend, a great star: Ann-Margret. And she has given me credit for which I don't deserve, of wearing a tie that is the colors of her native Sweden.

ANN-MARGRET, ACTRESS: Yes. And also look at your shirt. It is blue.

KING: These are the Swedish colors.

ANN-MARGRET: Yes.

KING: Blue and yellow, right?

ANN-MARGRET: Yes.

KING: So...

ANN-MARGRET: The flag.

KING: OK. What's the latest injury?

ANN-MARGRET: I'm going to give you such a hit. And you will have an injury.

KING: Everything happens to you. What's the latest?

ANN-MARGRET: Well, I just do a lot of things with gusto.

KING: Well, your arm is in a cast.

ANN-MARGRET: Yes, it is.

KING: What was that from?

ANN-MARGRET: This happened Christmas Eve. I was just trying to...

KING: Last week.

ANN-MARGRET: That is correct. I was just trying -- we have six cats now, and a dog who thinks she is a cat. And I was trying get the sixth one in, Jezebel (ph).

KING: In the house.

ANN-MARGRET: Into the house, yes, because it was getting dark. And I had this little toy thing that we made: a little stick and a string and feathers. And doing like this, you know. And she was jumping all over the place. And I happened to turn around. And I didn't have my crutch. And my cast, which is down here, caught...

KING: That's from the next accident we'll discuss.

ANN-MARGRET: From the motorcycle.

KING: Motorcycle.

ANN-MARGRET: Caught onto the flagstone. And I just went down on this particular wrist.

KING: Broke it?

ANN-MARGRET: Yes.

KING: OK. So you have a broken left wrist.

ANN-MARGRET: Yes.

KING: Now, your broken right foot.

ANN-MARGRET: No. Those are tendons that were bashed.

KING: In a motorcycle accident.

ANN-MARGRET: Part of it -- tail end of it, yes.

KING: Where was that at?

ANN-MARGRET: That was in Brainerd, Minnesota. And...

KING: What you were doing there?

ANN-MARGRET: I was going to be -- and I was, the next day...

KING: What's the National HRA. What's NHRA.

ANN-MARGRET: Oh, my goodness: racing association, National Hot Rod, I believe.

KING: You are a hot-rodder?

ANN-MARGRET: I should hope so.

KING: So you were riding a motorcycle. What happened? ANN-MARGRET: Well, I have to explain this to you. I was asked a year ago to be the grand marshal of this particular race -- you know, where they go 315 miles an hour in 4.5 seconds. And they have to -- with a parachute, they...

KING: Then they go back to the home. OK, go ahead.

ANN-MARGRET: No.

KING: All right.

ANN-MARGRET: OK. Always making fun of me.

KING: I'm not. I'm making fun of them. Now you. What did you do?

ANN-MARGRET: OK, this was before -- this was the Saturday before. And it was a gorgeous day: 85 degrees -- out in the country. And, well, there were eight of us. And the paramedic's wife, he was riding with us, too. They had gotten us -- Roger and I -- Harleys.

KING: Your husband, Roger.

ANN-MARGRET: Yes.

KING: They have -- why -- is there any particular reason why paramedics go with you?

ANN-MARGRET: No. No, it just was a...

KING: No, I mean, it's good thinking.

ANN-MARGRET: No. That is weird. I...

KING: All right, so the paramedic is out on the trip.

ANN-MARGRET: I didn't even think of that. It was the paramedic's wife whose bike that I happened to be riding. Mary Jeanne and -- Nancy Jeanne (ph). And...

KING: What happened?

ANN-MARGRET: It was so sparkling brand new. And I just sort of -- I did a little joke. I said to the gentleman, I said: "Oh, boy I sure hope I don't mess up your wife's new beautiful bike."

KING: What did you do, Ann-Margret?

ANN-MARGRET: Well, they all knew those country roads. And there was -- actually, there were no signs on this side. And I just went around. And it happened to be a 90-degree turn. And I hit some sugar sand and it just went off. And I bumped and bumped and bumped. And I thought: Well, this is a beautiful lawn. And then I hit something. And it was a boulder -- a decorative boulder. But you know, it was a rock.

KING: Were you in pain?

ANN-MARGRET: I went: "Ooh." And they took me away to the -- oh, the gentleman's name -- and the whole family is Coughlin (ph) -- my people.

KING: They're your people. So you were taken to a hospital, and yet still went on and was the grand marshal.

ANN-MARGRET: The next day, yes.

KING: So that is another injury.

ANN-MARGRET: And I waved to 140,000 people. And nobody knew.

KING: And do you still ride motorcycles?

ANN-MARGRET: I have a beautiful, brand-new one waiting for me.

KING: Harley.

ANN-MARGRET: Hand-painted, lavender, with gorgeous, gorgeous daises.

KING: Let's just -- there are so many things to talk about. But why do you ride motorcycles?

ANN-MARGRET: Why do you do this show?

KING: Well, it ain't going to send me off the cliff.

ANN-MARGRET: No, but don't you love it?

KING: Yes, I love it. But why do you love motorcycles?

ANN-MARGRET: It is everything. It is -- I loved it since my uncle...

KING: Did Presley get you started with this?

ANN-MARGRET: No, my uncle Carl (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Sweden got me started.

KING: Oh, so you go way back with motorcycles.

ANN-MARGRET: Yes. Yes. And then, of course, I saw "The Wild One."

KING: Marlon.

ANN-MARGRET: And I have always loved speed. I mean, the bikes, not the...

KING: You don't drive fast when you drive a car?

ANN-MARGRET: Not really.

KING: Not really.

ANN-MARGRET: No, not really. You know the feeling that you have in a convertible, with the elements and everything, the little bit of danger, the speed...

KING: So you...

ANN-MARGRET: Freedom, independence.

KING: Exhilaration.

ANN-MARGRET: Exhilaration, yes.

KING: And so accidents are something you accept from it, right?

ANN-MARGRET: There are two types of motorcycle riders: ones who have had an accident and ones who will.

KING: That's the nature. And the worst accident you ever had was in 1980 -- 1972. My God, that is 28 years. You fell -- for those of you who had forgotten this.

ANN-MARGRET: Actually, 29 now.

KING: On September 10, 1972, you fell 22 feet during a stage show at the Sahara Hotel: facial bones fractured, jawbone broken in two places, left arm broken, knee injured severely -- back up on the stage in late November.

ANN-MARGRET: Well, actually, 10 weeks later, yes.

KING: The whole audience saw this fall, right?

ANN-MARGRET: They did not.

KING: They did not?

ANN-MARGRET: It was -- my -- oh, my great friends who are fabulous comedians, Mitzi McCall and Charlie Brill were just coming off doing their act. And they hoisted me up. They had changed the rigging between shows and hadn't told us. And Roger happened to be at home in Los Angeles. It is the first and very last show that he has ever missed.

KING: And you -- what? What was the idea? You would come down off a trapeze?

ANN-MARGRET: It was actually a hand platform. And they had put a bar here. And once I came up faster -- because they had changed it -- then the other. And I was just thrown. And my face hit first, and then this. Or did this hit first? I don't know, because I was out.

Ann-Margret. And we'll get back to the healthier side of things.

ANN-MARGRET: Yes. KING: We just -- we get caught up, for all of you emergency-room freaks out there. By the way, she was a little late coming here. We thought a bus hit the car. We will be right back with Ann-Margret. So many things -- she is going to tour in the "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," one of the best musicals ever. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "BYE-BYE BIRDIE")

ANN-MARGRET: Bye-bye, Birdie, time for me to fly. Time for me to fly, time to say good-bye. Bye now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Winner of five Golden Globes, two Oscar nominations, six Emmy nominations, makes her theatrical debut in "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," coast-to-coast tour starts in February. Her first two movies were "Pocketful of Miracles" and "State Fair." She was terrific in both, but the movie that sent her over the top was the one we just saw a clip of "Bye- Bye Birdie." How'd you get that part?

ANN-MARGRET: Interestingly enough, George Sidney had seen me like two years before that on New Year's Eve and in Las Vegas, I was dancing with someone, and...

KING: On stage or just...

ANN-MARGRET: No, just...

KING: Dancing with someone.

ANN-MARGRET: Yes.

KING: A man.

ANN-MARGRET: Yes, yes.

KING: And he remembered that.

ANN-MARGRET: Yes, he did.

KING: What must have been a provocative kind of dance.

ANN-MARGRET: It was the twist.

KING: OK, that's it.

ANN-MARGRET: And he remembered that when he was casting, and he wanted someone who would look...

KING: High schoolish.

ANN-MARGRET: Yes, so I didn't have -- I looked all over and I finally found a rust-colored pleated wool skirt, and a blouse which I never wear, and a rust-colored sweater and some low-heeled shoes which I never wear, and he told me later that he chuckled so much when he saw me come in because he knew that that is not the way that I looked. It was...

KING: But you got the part.

ANN-MARGRET: Yes, I did.

KING: Now, "Pocketful of Miracles" was wonderful. Glenn Ford, Peter Falk, Bette Davis; "State Fair," Pat Boone, Arthur Godfrey, Bobby Darin, but the big-shot was "Bye-Bye Birdie." Now, you went to a famous high school, as I notice. New Trier High School.

ANN-MARGRET: Yes.

KING: In...

ANN-MARGRET: Winnetka, Illinois.

KING: Winnetka, Illinois. You grew up there, right? Came from Sweden, but grew up.

ANN-MARGRET: I came when I was six years old from Sweden, and we moved to a place called Fox Lake, and then we moved to Wilmette.

KING: So, you were kind of wealthy?

ANN-MARGRET: You must be kidding.

KING: Everybody in Winnetka had a little money; right?

ANN-MARGRET: I didn't say I lived in Winnetka.

KING: It's the north shore of...

ANN-MARGRET: I know, I was very lucky to go to that school. My...

KING: You were bused.

ANN-MARGRET: No. My daddy had had -- it's so weird -- had an accident, where he fell from...

KING: He fell. This is starting to get funny.

ANN-MARGRET: ... from a two-story building onto cement. He was and electrician, and so...

KING: That's how you got into New Trier.

ANN-MARGRET: Six months, and we needed some money, and mother was...

KING: Your mother is here tonight.

ANN-MARGRET: Yes, was cleaning houses, and one of the people that she worked for owned a mortuary in Wilmette and they said would you please come and live in the apartment.

KING: You lived in a mortuary.

ANN-MARGRET: Yes, our living room was the mourning room, yes for three years, and that's how we all...

KING: Wasn't that weird?

ANN-MARGRET: No, it wasn't. It wasn't at all. It was very peaceful and I...

KING: Got used to death around you, I guess, huh?

ANN-MARGRET: Yes.

KING: I mean, that was an interesting life to be a part of.

ANN-MARGRET: Yes.

KING: I never knew this.

ANN-MARGRET: Really.

KING: So that's how you went to New Trier.

ANN-MARGRET: Yes, because I was in that district, and when we got on our feet again, and -- but it's so strange that he fell. Who knows, a second story.

KING: That school -- then you went Northwestern.

ANN-MARGRET: I went to Northwestern for one year, but I remember mother saying that they sent you a letter, saying why aren't you coming back, because I supposedly had good grades, but I got into showbiz.

KING: And the rest, as they say, is history. A lot to talk about. We'll take your phone calls as well. She's our guest the hour to kick off our new year. The wonderful Ann-Margret, here's a scene from "Murderer's Row."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "MURDERER'S ROW")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: What's he to you?

ANN-MARGRET: What's the difference? Look, Copa had something to do with this. She's a bad guy and she's capable of anything.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: And what are you. Do you think I'm a murderer? You lie to the police on a chance that you'd find your boyfriend.

ANN-MARGRET: He is not by boyfriend. Norman Solaris is my father.

(END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "VIVA LAS VEGAS")

ELVIS PRESLEY, MUSICIAN (singing): What'd I say? Tell me what'd I say. It's all right. Baby, it's all right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: "Viva Las Vegas." Ann-Margret and Elvis Presley. OK, finally tonight. You can do it. It's the new year. It's 2001.

ANN-MARGRET: What.

KING: You had a good relationship with Elvis; right? I mean, you had intimate -- you had a -- you had a romantic relationship with Elvis. It's OK. It's OK, just finally, Ann-Margret, let us know. That's all. It's OK.

ANN-MARGRET: I have said everything that I was going to say in my book.

KING: OK, and he -- you miss -- what was it like?

ANN-MARGRET: Are you having trouble talking to me.

KING: No, what was it like being with Elvis? I'm not having trouble -- it's the new year. I'm bubbly. What was it like?

ANN-MARGRET: I've never seen you happier.

KING: I've never been happier.

ANN-MARGRET: I know, I know, and in good health.

KING: Thank you.

ANN-MARGRET: God bless you.

KING: OK, what was it like? Look at us. I mean, obviously there was a lot of chemistry.

ANN-MARGRET: He was terrific. He was just terrific. And he had such great talent that he never had a chance to show. I think he would have been a wonderful dramatic actor.

KING: Really.

ANN-MARGRET: Yes.

KING: He had a lot of qualities we didn't appreciate; right? But he was also, I'm told, a very nice guy.

ANN-MARGRET: Yes. Yes, he was.

KING: You don't talk about him a lot, though, do you, Ann- Margret.

ANN-MARGRET: No, I don't.

KING: And the reason for that is what? Almost out of things, but why don't you? I mean, he's gone now and it's part of history.

ANN-MARGRET: He's not really gone. I mean he's also in our hearts, and you always hear in your mind.

KING: But he's more in your heart.

ANN-MARGRET: No, in everyone's heart. I mean, look what he did with the industry. He was a great talent.

KING: Were you shocked that he let himself go the way he did.

ANN-MARGRET: I'm not going to not going to talk about it.

KING: This obviously is a deep loss to you.

ANN-MARGRET: Yes.

KING: Roger accepts this discussion.

ANN-MARGRET: They were great friends.

KING: That's right, they were.

ANN-MARGRET: They got along great.

KING: When you met Roger, he was bigger star; right? I mean, when you first met, Roger had a major television series. In fact, he gave up the business for you, didn't he?

ANN-MARGRET: He never enjoyed being an actor.

KING: Really.

ANN-MARGRET: No, he never wanted to be told where to stand, where to sit, what to say, where to look. He wouldn't to do that.

KING: He'd rather be...

ANN-MARGRET: Directing and behind the cameras, and it's fine with me.

KING: And this marriage has been how long now?

KING: Do you believe this? On paper 33, off paper 36.

KING: 36 years.

ANN-MARGRET: This year will be 37. How about that?

KING: How do you account for it? ANN-MARGRET: We both want it to work. And we don't try and hurt each other, you know. And this Virginia Woolf thing is horrendous. You know, it starts off just between the two people. And then it will be in a group. And then it is just constant, constant until there is nothing left of the relationship.

KING: How do you explain your own -- and this is true of Ann- Margret -- your wholesome image, yet very sexy at same time. In other words, your image is girl next door, Miss America, but also wowie. How do you -- can you explain that to yourself, because you do admit you have had both. You have had both images concurrently.

ANN-MARGRET: I have no idea. The -- when I am on stage, or if I'm on film playing a certain kind of a role, I will do it to the hilt. And if you are talking about off stage, that is in the eye of the beholder.

KING: Do you think of yourself as sexy?

ANN-MARGRET: No.

KING: Never have, have you? But you know when you are up there -- like in those early films. And we -- doing the twist, you know that that has to have an impression on people. You know you are making some kind of impression on people.

ANN-MARGRET: I'm having a great time.

KING: You drive me nuts, Ann-Margret. You really are driving me nuts.

ANN-MARGRET: Good. Good.

KING: OK. Our guest is Ann-Margret.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: One of her great roles -- and boy she had many of them -- as we go to break.

ANN-MARGRET: And some big clunkers, too.

KING: Here's Ann-Margret -- yes, some clunkers, too -- here's Ann-Margret in "Carnal Knowledge."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "CARNAL KNOWLEDGE") JACK NICHOLSON, ACTOR: This place is a mess! There is not any food in the house. Half the time you look like you fell out of bed. You spend more time in bed than any other human being past the age of six months than I ever heard of.

ANN-MARGRET: The reason I sleep all day is because I can't stand my life.

NICHOLSON: What life? ANN-MARGRET: Sleeping all day!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "TOMMY")

ANN-MARGRET (singing): What it's all worth when my son is blind? He can't hear the music. No more joy will I find. His life is worthless, affecting mine. I'd pay any price to drive his blight from my (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That was from the musical "Tommy, Ann-Margret. And you were just telling me that Mr. Townshend, Peter Townshend wrote that for you.

ANN-MARGRET: Yes. Brand new song for the movie.

KING: Did you enjoy doing that? The movie was not a hit, was it?

ANN-MARGRET: Yes. Oh, yes.

KING: It was a hit?

ANN-MARGRET: And people that have seen it recently say that it still holds up. And it was a rock opera. Nothing was spoken.

KING: So when did you start to be taken seriously? Was there a role you did?

ANN-MARGRET: Well, I always took myself seriously.

KING: I know. But you know, the industry took you as...

ANN-MARGRET: I know.

KING: ... "Bye Bye Birdie"?

ANN-MARGRET: Probably -- probably "Carnal Knowledge."

KING: So Mike Nichols had a lot to do with you then -- casting you in that part.

ANN-MARGRET: Yes.

KING: Did you always want to be a serious actress?

ANN-MARGRET: First of all, I never thought, when I was in high school, that I would be an actress. I was always thinking of being a musical-comedy...

KING: Dancer. ANN-MARGRET: Entertainer.

KING: Vegas.

ANN-MARGRET: I mean, on stage, concerts and things like that. Never took any acting lessons.

KING: Still have not.

ANN-MARGRET: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. I have. Acting coach. But I -- it was such a shock to me. It really was.

KING: And you were good at it?

ANN-MARGRET: This whole thing has been a shock.

KING: You mean, all these nominations and

(CROSSTALK) ANN-MARGRET: But I loved it when I first -- when I got into the first "The Pocket Full of Miracles." I loved being another person.

KING: Why?

ANN-MARGRET: That set me free. Like I'm on fire. It set me free.

KING: In other words, you didn't want to be you? Or it was more fun being someone else?

ANN-MARGRET: Yes, it is hard for me to be me -- like right now. But if I were playing a character -- if you give me a character to play with you, that would be much...

KING: You could go right into it.

ANN-MARGRET: Much easier, yes.

KING: All right. And the hard part is, it is hard to explain why it is hard being you, then. You are basically shy is what you are saying.

ANN-MARGRET: Yes, sir.

KING: And so that lets -- that is an exit out for you.

ANN-MARGRET: Well, I'm sure a lot of people that you talk to feel the same way -- a lot of actors.

KING: Actors, especially.

ANN-MARGRET: Yes. Yes.

KING: They can get lost in themselves, hard to bring them out. Once they get on stage, different world. ANN-MARGRET: Exactly. It is fun.

KING: Our guest is Ann-Margret, as we go to break. We'll be taking your calls in the next portion. We will talk about her starting in a kind of new career on the Broadway stage in a touring revival of "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," the...

(LAUGHTER)

ANN-MARGRET: The way you say it.

KING: That is the way we say "Whorehouse" in Brooklyn, written by my namesake, Larry L. King.

ANN-MARGRET: Yes.

KING: Our guest is Ann-Margret. She has done it all. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "GRUMPY OLD MEN")

WALTER MATTHAU, ACTOR: What release? There is no release.

ANN-MARGRET: Oh, yes, it is beautiful.

MATTHAU: No, I'll tell you what's beautiful: this monster on my wall -- stuffed.

ANN-MARGRET: Oh, no. There can be no stuffing. This is a live creature, full of courage and life!

MATTHAU: Nobody is going to believe it.

ANN-MARGRET: Oh.

MATTHAU: Let me get a camera. Now, just hold it.

ANN-MARGRET: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Here we go!

MATTHAU: Wait! Here, hold it! Hold it!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: "Grumpy Old Men." What was -- we adored him when he was on this show many times. What was he like to work with?

ANN-MARGRET: Yes.

KING: What was he like to work with, him and Lemmon?

ANN-MARGRET: He's Frick and Frack. I always called him Frick and Frack.

I did three films with Walter. The first one was "You ought to be in Pictures" -- yes, "Ought to be in Pictures," the Neil Simon play. And I was afraid of him, the first one, because, you know -- well, you knew know him very well.

KING: He could (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

ANN-MARGRET: He loved to shock people...

KING: Yes, he did.

ANN-MARGRET: ... especially women. And I was a great audience for that. And I didn't...

KING: Just look at that face. Look at that face.

(LAUGHTER)

What a lovable guy.

ANN-MARGRET: And then on the first "Grumpy"...

KING: The first "Grumpy."

ANN-MARGRET: On the first -- yes. The snow -- I went to him, because I realized what he was like, and I said, you know, I really was afraid. And he laughed, and we just started talking. And it was so wonderful to see his relationship with Jack, you know.

KING: Amazing.

ANN-MARGRET: Just really concerned about each other, and I've got a picture of them -- and Jack doesn't know this. It's so cute. It's the sun and the snow and that goofy hat that Walter always -- and here are they in their director's chairs, and they're both taking a snooze in the sun. It's so cute.

KING: What was it like working -- George Burns did a lot for you, right? Put you in his nightclub act.

ANN-MARGRET: He discovered me, yes.

KING: He really literally discovered you?

ANN-MARGRET: Yes, he did.

KING: And what was he like to work for, the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Georgee man?

ANN-MARGRET: He loved to rehearse. And I was so glad, because I loved to rehearse, to make sure that you're comfortable in everything.

He taught me so much about timing, and he told me stories about Gracie. You know, she was from a very dramatic Irish family, and he tolled me to say things, if it's a joke, just say things seriously. Just if you have something to say, explain it s seriously.

KING: That's right. The funny person doesn't think he's funny. ANN-MARGRET: Exactly, exactly. And he remembered the sand dance that we did in 1961.

KING: That was a great act.

ANN-MARGRET: And he remembered it like 20 years later, and I remember seeing him -- he was 100 years old, you know, January 20th. And I remember seeing him. I had gone over for -- always went over for giving him a Christmas present, and then I sang "Happy Birthday" to him for his 100th birthday.

KING: I asked him once if he ever had like a sickness or if he ever had arthritis. He said he was the first one to ever get it.

(LAUGHTER)

Alexandria, Virginia, hello.

CALLER: Hello.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: This is an enormous privilege. I'd like to ask Ann- Margret how does it feel for you to be a part of this enormous, phenomenal, talented group of people that you've played with, such as the late Alter Mathau and Jack Lemmon? And...

KING: Yes. What was it -- what was it -- I mean, you've worked with Bette Davis, Bing Crosby, Steve McQueen, Edward G. Robinson, John Wayne, Dean Martin.

ANN-MARGRET: I have been so lucky. I have been so blessed to have been with some of the greatest talents in the business.

KING: And good talent...

ANN-MARGRET: I cherish it.

KING: And good talent -- what was that like? John Wayne?

ANN-MARGRET: Ooh!

KING: Why does everybody love him? The Duke.

ANN-MARGRET: Well. First of all, you know, when he hugs you, when he embraced you, you know, where am I? I'm lost. And he had the biggest hands, you know, he'd shake your hands, and you felt like a little baby. And he was so great to my parents. Do you remember?

KING: Really? In other words, he went out of his way to be kind to...

ANN-MARGRET: Yes. And you know, I remember a couple of times when we were in Durango, Mexico doing this film, "The Train Robbers," and I rode with him a couple times. I was in the back seat; he was in the front. And he was so big, I mean, he practically took over the whole two seats, had the window open. And everyone was, in the fields, I mean, they were -- they all knew Duke. And he just was -- well, I remember once he, when I was ill, he went on "The Johnny Carson Show" to accept an award for me.

KING: Really?

ANN-MARGRET: Yes, yes.

KING: All right. Tell me about "Best Little Whorehouse," this idea of Ann-Margret going out on a touring, a rebirth of a Broadway show.

ANN-MARGRET: You know what? It's really exciting to me, because I've never done a book show. I've always done my own show, my...

KING: "Book show" meaning a script, songs, you follow the scenes, act I, act II.

ANN-MARGRET: Yes, yes. And this is a very happy, happy...

KING: Funny.

ANN-MARGRET: Funny. I didn't realize how funny it was.

I had never seen the show...

KING: No?

ANN-MARGRET: ... until a couple months ago. I saw a very grainy, grainy film of the show.

KING: The movie was a failure. The movie, I don't think, made it.

ANN-MARGRET: Oh, I'm sure it did. My friend, buddy Lee Reynolds was in it.

KING: OK, but I -- I don't think the movie...

ANN-MARGRET: And let's see, Charles Durning, and...

KING: Charles Durning was wonderful.

ANN-MARGRET: ... Dom DeLuise, I believe.

KING: But it didn't -- it was a bigger Broadway hit than it was a movie hit.

ANN-MARGRET: I don't know.

KING: Ann-Margret, some things are not great in the world. OK?

ANN-MARGRET: I'm going to take off your glasses, you know that.

KING: OK.

You play the madam?

ANN-MARGRET: Yes, Ms. Mona Stangley, yes, and I'm going to have a little Texas accent, and Carol Hall, who did the music and the lyrics, wrote a brand-new song for me. It's called "A Friend to Me," and it's so beautiful.

KING: Who plays the sheriff?

ANN-MARGRET: The sheriff is played by Mr. Gary Sandy (ph), who just called me today, and from Kentucky. That's where he's from. And he's at -- he's just wonderful.

KING: And where -- how much of a tour is it?

ANN-MARGRET: Oh, I try not to think of it, but it is 30 cities.

KING: Really?

ANN-MARGRET: Yes, but unlike the one-nighters, it will be, let's say, eight days in one, two weeks in another, 12 days, that kind of thing.

KING: Looking forward to it?

ANN-MARGRET: Very much.

KING: Roger going?

ANN-MARGRET: Yes, he is, and we're bringing a little white furry animal named Missy, a little Maltese.

KING: Cat?

ANN-MARGRET: No, this is a little dog who thinks she's a cat.

KING: OK. Don't trip over it.

ANN-MARGRET: This is a -- no, this is the one that I had in Oliver Stone's movie with -- "Any Given Sunday."

KING: You were great in that. What a movie that was...

ANN-MARGRET: Thank you.

Wasn't that something?

KING: You had a tough role in that.

ANN-MARGRET: No. But I mean, I love football. Hey, how about the Raiders? Oh, that's right, you're a Miami Dolphins...

(LAUGHTER)

KING: They haven't played yet. Ann-Margret, they haven't -- they play Saturday.

ANN-MARGRET: I know. Guess who's going to win?

KING: The Raiders are favored by 9.

I like Al Davis a lot. He's one of the great...

ANN-MARGRET: I -- ohh..

(CROSSTALK)

KING: ... precious good guy.

ANN-MARGRET: He's such a good...

KING: But you know, I'm Dolphins. I lived there 20 years. I broadcast their games. I did color for the Dolphins...

ANN-MARGRET: I understand, you know...

KING: They're in my heart.

ANN-MARGRET: They're in your heart. I understand, I know!

KING: They're in my blood. I bleed Dolphin aqua.

ANN-MARGRET: Hey, hey!

KING: Hey!

ANN-MARGRET: Hey!

KING: Don't -- we'll go to more calls here as we...

ANN-MARGRET: More calls.

KING: Keep it up. Keep it up! As we show you a scene from "Grumpier Old Men."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "GRUMPIER OLD MEN")

ANN-MARGRET: Where's John?

WALTER MATTHAU, ACTOR: Where's John?

JACK LEMMON, ACTOR: Wait a minute!

ANN-MARGRET: John!

LEMMON: What?

ANN-MARGRET: How could you?

LEMMON: What -- this -- this isn't what it looks like.

MATTHAU: Gustafson, you're doing it again.

LEMMON: What the hell are you talking about? (END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "KITTEN WITH A WHIP")

JOHN FORSYTHE, ACTOR: Get your foot off that pedal.

ANN-MARGRET: OK, but step on it. We've lost him. We can't stop now.

FORSYTHE: You're right about that, anyway.

ANN-MARGRET: Oh, what an ooffus, that Buck. Now, there's only one, one down and one to go.

FORSYTHE: One down and two go.

ANN-MARGRET: Oh, you can't get me mad now, lover. I'm free. Now all's we got to is dump that drunk out along the road.

FORSYTHE: Are you crazy? I've gone this. Now where is that doctor?

ANN-MARGRET: Sure. Why not? That's as good a place as any to dump him. There's a road up there. When you get to it, take a left.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: "Kitten With a Whip," I don't know that movie. How did we even find that movie?

ANN-MARGRET: It was in black and white.

KING: I know, with John Forsythe.

ANN-MARGRET: Yes, and I -- every time, I see him I apologize to him for being so cruel to jim.

KING: What do you mean?

ANN-MARGRET: As the character, Jody.

KING: Oh, you were mean to him in it?

ANN-MARGRET: Oh, yes.

KING: Onward to Chicago with Ann-Margret. She'll start touring in "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas." They open, I believe, in Connecticut, right?

ANN-MARGRET: February 13th in Wallingford, Connecticut at the Oak Dale Center.

KING: To Chicago, hello. CALLER: Yes, hello. No one has yet heralded Ann's great beauty. She is in the same league with Catherine Deneuve and Grace Kelly. She is just...

ANN-MARGRET: Oh, are you nice...

CALLER: She is, and you're one of my mentors. And I loved the remake of "Stagecoach." I thought you were wonderful in that.

ANN-MARGRET: Oh, God bless you. Aren't you nice?

CALLER: I really mean that. You're one of my mentors. And I just love the fact that you love your parents, and I love the fact that you are, most of everything else, you are a lady. The fact that you didn't spill your guts about Elvis. You are just a lovely, brilliant, talented woman.

How do you stay that way being in the business?

ANN-MARGRET: Thank you.

CALLER: Is it your bond with your parents? Is it your great marriage? What is your secret, Ann?

ANN-MARGRET: Wow.

KING: Well, you're in a business where you're kind -- what are you, crying?

ANN-MARGRET: Wow. That was really something. I'm very touched. Thank you very much.

KING: You're in a business where, you know, as George Burns once said, if you can -- the whole key is sincerity. If you can fake that, you've got it made.

ANN-MARGRET: Yes. No. I do believe that the way that I am now, all the good, whatever good points I have, come from my parents. That's the way I was raised.

KING: There they are.

ANN-MARGRET: Daddy...

KING: Your mother is here tonight.

ANN-MARGRET: Yes. She is right here.

KING: And they raised you...

ANN-MARGRET: With a lot of love and with a lot of discipline. I'm the only child, and it's something intangible.

I know now what they did looking back. I didn't realize it growing up, but this is just the way I am. Even with my mother -- just tonight you met her. But daddy was an incredible man. He was very quiet, but real strong, but polite. I mean, civilized. People should have manners. Don't you think?

KING: Yes, and you certainly prove it. St. Joseph, Missouri, hello.

CALLER: Hello. I just want to say, first of all, that Ann- Margret, the ultimate diva. And I am a huge fan of Tina Turner, and I would love to know how your relationship is with Tina. And I read in her book, when she left Ike, she came to your home and stayed. And I'm just so fascinated by your relationship with Tina.

KING: Yes.

ANN-MARGRET: I believe it was in 1976, wasn't it? Are you still on?

KING: No. He's gone.

ANN-MARGRET: Oh. I believe it was in 1976. And she came from wherever she had left -- I think it was Houston or something where they were playing -- with her secretary, Rhonda Graham (ph), and manager at that time. And they came to Vegas. I was playing the Hilton. And I remember she just had had it, and I remember I was very frightened for her.

KING: Why you, though?

ANN-MARGRET: We had met -- well, I had her records, you know, like 1959 I think was the first time I bought an Ike and Tina Turner record. And then Roger and I went to see -- went to see them perform, and she came with her whole group, her cast, in '73. And actually that's the first time we met, was in '73, and then we did "Tommy" together.

KING: And has the friendship remained?

ANN-MARGRET: Yes, and she is very, very happy. I just spoke with Rhonda two days ago, and she has been with the same gentleman, I believe, 14 years now.

KING: By the way, speaking of gentlemen, your husband, Roger Smith, star of "77 Sunset Strip" -- who can forget? -- had a major illness. Still have it? That's life illness, right?

ANN-MARGRET: It is -- yes, it is. But he's in remission.

KING: What's it called?

ANN-MARGRET: Myasthenia gravis

KING: And he's been in remission for a long time.

ANN-MARGRET: Yes, it goes in and out, you know, like we all have a bad day. But he's --he's having real good days.

KING: First diagnosed a long time ago, right?

ANN-MARGRET: '81.

KING: Couldn't work, right?

ANN-MARGRET: No.

KING: You're a gutsy girl. We'll come right back...

ANN-MARGRET: You're a gutsy guy.

KING: Could have been a contender. We'll be right back. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE")

TREAT WILLIAMS, ACTOR: What did you do that for?

ANN-MARGRET: So I could twist the broken end in your face.

WILLIAMS: Oh, I bet you would do that.

ANN-MARGRET: Oh, I would and I will.

WILLIAMS: Oh, you want to rough-house.

All right. Come on, let's have some rough-house.

(CROSSTALK)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Phew! That was a great "Streetcar" and you were a great Blanche. Treat Williams was great. Beverly D'Angelo.

ANN-MARGRET: Yes indeed.

KING: Did you enjoy doing...

ANN-MARGRET: And Randy Quaid.

KING: Randy Quaid, the friend.

Was that the hardest part you ever played? Hard part to play. Finding that character?

ANN-MARGRET: I think it was the hardest because we did it just like a play. I had to learn the entire thing in a week.

KING: And you did it in sequence?

ANN-MARGRET: Yes, we were so -- what a luxury.

KING: I depend on the pleasure of strangers.

ANN-MARGRET: Kindness. KING: Kindness.

Philadelphia, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Ann. I just think you're so beautiful.

ANN-MARGRET: Well, what...

CALLER: I want to ask you a question, honey.

ANN-MARGRET: Sure.

CALLER: I'm 60 years old and I'm having a hard time dealing with getting older. How are you dealing with it? Please tell me. .

KING: Do you discuss -- how old are you?

ANN-MARGRET: How old are you?

KING: 67.

ANN-MARGRET: Wow. I am 59.

KING: OK, this lady is 60.

ANN-MARGRET: Well, I'll tell you what. Don't -- don't think of age. It's a natural progression, you know. I came here as an ingenue. I can't believe I'm still in the industry, and I'm loving it. I'm not an ingenue. But...

KING: Strange for a 59 you still get parts. A lot of 59-year- olds do not see parts -- women.

ANN-MARGRET: Well, I'm very aware of of that, and that really is not right.

KING: So you're telling this lady don't think she's 60.

ANN-MARGRET: Don't think of any age. Look, I'm 97 actually, right? But just enjoy each day. There are just -- the Lord is so good. We are blessed to be alive.

KING: You're a believer?

ANN-MARGRET: Oh boy, am I. I'm still here.

KING: Ever doubt -- ever doubt it when you see a tragedy happen?

ANN-MARGRET: I know that there's a reason.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with Ann-Margret. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "POPULAR")

ANN-MARGRET: The second that you came into this hospital, you buried all your hope and all your faith. You thought I was trying to punish you.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Are you?

ANN-MARGRET: I've got to run. I've got folks to visit, and I'm only here on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "A WOMAN'S A HELLUVA THING")

ANGUS MACFADYEN, ACTOR: What the hell kind of a woman are you anyway?

ANN-MARGRET: I'm a woman who fiercely loved a man, who fiercely loved women, a lot of women.

He was enough for me and he was enough for your mother. But no one woman was ever enough for him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That hasn't aired yet. That's "A Woman's a Helluva Thing." What, CBS?

ANN-MARGRET: That's a feature.

KING: Oh, that's a film.

ANN-MARGRET: Written and directed by a young lady by the name of Karen Lee Hopkins. She wrote it, directed it. She also acted in it. And that young man that you saw is from Scotland. His name's Angus MacFadyen, and he was in "Titus" and "Cradle Will Rock," and he's currently in Europe doing a film.

KING: Good movie? Glad you made it?

ANN-MARGRET: Oh, yes. It's called "A Woman's a Helluva Thing."

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Toronto, hello.

CALLER: Hello. Ann-Margret, I have to tell you it truly is an honor to speak to you this evening.

ANN-MARGRET: Thank you.

CALLER: And the greatest honor I receive is people telling me that I remind them of you. Isn't that unbelievable?

KING: Wow.

ANN-MARGRET: Thank you.

KING: You're a lucky lady.

CALLER: I am.

ANN-MARGRET: Well, that's really nice.

CALLER: My question to you is, how have you maintained the health -- healthy, happy marriage in such a brutal business, and you have this reputation of being a sex kitten, and you've been around all the top major male stars? How have you stayed together?

ANN-MARGRET: Sometimes, I made a little dip here and there, but -- divorce is not an option for me.

KING: Period?

ANN-MARGRET: Period.

KING: Who's the -- OK. We're running out of time. Who's the sexies man around today?

ANN-MARGRET: My husband.

KING: The sexiest actor?

ANN-MARGRET: My husband.

KING: If you -- who is an actor you would like to work with?

ANN-MARGRET: You always try to get me to say...

KING: Who is an actor you'd like to work with you haven't worked with?

ANN-MARGRET: I'm not going to tell you. It's in here.

KING: That's a secret, an actor?

ANN-MARGRET: And in here. Yes. Yes.

KING: Anything you haven't done you'd like to do?

ANN-MARGRET: Oh, my. Well, I'm doing...

KING: "Best Little Whorehouse" will be the first book show.

ANN-MARGRET: Yes, and I'm really looking forward to that. It's going to be interesting, because I've never done it before. And to do -- actually, I did "Love Letters" with Burt Reynolds.

KING: Oh, that's a standup replay.

ANN-MARGRET: Yes. That's a...

KING: May I say not only that I love you and that you're a great talent and a great friend, knowing you all these years, but there's one thing they say in show businesses that I don't think it's advisable to say to you: Break a leg.

ANN-MARGRET: Oh, no. Please.

KING: Ann, good luck, OK? Don't -- don't break a leg.

ANN-MARGRET: Thank you. Thank you very much.

KING: Ann-Margret, the delightful Ann-Margret. Tomorrow night, Susie Orman's going to be with us. I guess nobody -- no layperson knows more about finance than Susie Orman. We're going to talk about you and your dollar in 2001.

Coming up next is "CNN TONIGHT." Bill Hemmer, who is not in Tallahassee, Bill Hemmer will host tonight's edition of "CNN TONIGHT."

I'm Larry King, and as we leave you on this good tidings of the new year, here's all the contributors who make this program possible and for which we thank them so much. Good night.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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