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Larry King Live

Remembering Morton Downey Jr.

Aired March 13, 2001 - 9:00 p.m. ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Zip it, zip it, zip it!

MORTON DOWNEY JR.: Oh, no. No, no. He has no idea, neither does his wife. This belongs to me now, folks!


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: TV trailblazer Morton Downey Jr. is dead after a brave fight against lung cancer. We'll share memories with his wife, Lori, and three of his daughters, and we'll also look back at highlights from Mort the Mouse, opinionated appearances on past LARRY KING programs.

And then: You know Jim Bakker's headline-making history of scandal and salvation with a past that included drug abuse and abortion. His wife, Lori, has a riveting life too, and they'll both join us and take your calls later. And it's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening, and welcome to another edition of LARRY KING LIVE. We were all saddened last night by the news of the passing of Morton Downey Jr., a frequent guest on this program and an old friend. And so we're thankful that we were able to put this panel together to discuss him.

Lori Downey is the widow of Morton Downey Jr. And she and Mort have a young daughter, Seanna, who is here, but too young to go on camera. His three other daughters from two different marriages are here, and they are Tracey Downey, his younger daughter, and Kelli Downey Cornwell, his junior daughter, and Melissa Downey, another daughter. The -- Joan was the mother of Tracey and Kelli, right?


KING: Right? And, Melissa, your mother is Helen.


KING: And all the women are alive. Was Helen friendly with Mort?

MELISSA DOWNEY: Oh, yes. Yes, they talked just a few weeks before he passed away.

KING: And your mother as well, Joan, was friendly.

MELISSA DOWNEY: Yes, very friendly.

KING: When did he pass away, Lori?


KING: Were you there?

L. DOWNEY: I was there, mm-hmm.

KING: In the hospital?

L. DOWNEY: In the hospital.

KING: Cause of death?

L. DOWNEY: Very complicated -- he had lung cancer. He had -- he had -- he had a heart --

T. DOWNEY: He had a heart attack on March 6th.

L. DOWNEY: Thank you.

T. DOWNEY: And they actually coded him, and he was coded for about 40 minutes. He -- he was able to be resuscitated, and -- which gave us about a week to spend time with him, in intensive care, before he passed away yesterday.

KING: Because he always kept fighting.

T. DOWNEY: Oh, yeah.

KING: Did everything trigger the heart attack, do they think? Or was it separate from the lung?

T. DOWNEY: No, I think it's -- it's been a combination over the years. The lung cancer really took its toll after the radiation, and it just took a toll on his body.

KING: In addition to being a personal pal, Morton Downey Jr. was a guest on this show a number of times. One dramatic visit was July 11, 1996. It was the night before Mort underwent surgery for lung cancer, and I wanted to know why he'd gone so public about his health problem.


MORTON DOWNEY JR.: I became public because my wife and I talked about it, and the one thing that I had -- that I really regretted when you said, "What was your fear," my fear was that I had spawned a generation of kids to think it was cool to smoke a cigarette. Kids walked up to me until a matter of weeks ago, they'd have a cigarette in their hand and they'd say, "Hey, Mort," or, "Hey, Mouth, autograph my cigarette." And I'd do it.

KING: You had a lot of kids that liked you and they aped you.

MORTON DOWNEY JR.: Yeah. And I realized I was part of the problem, not part of the solution. I told Lori, I said, "If God gives me another chance, maybe this is the time that I can find some way to empower kids not to smoke. We empower them to do everything else, but we never empower them not to smoke."

KING: Yet to show you how addictive this is, you didn't stop smoking right away, did you?


KING: You smoked another two weeks.

MORTON DOWNEY JR.: Took me another two weeks before I could give up the cigarettes. Knowing I was dying from cancer, or had the potential of dying -- I kept smoking, trying to -- I kept saying, "Well, I've already got it," and then I'd say, "No, that's wrong, I've got to get rid of this," because my doctor would say, "Your lungs will build every day if you're not smoking." So I tried to find a way.

I finally found a way. A friend of mine, Russ Regan, who is my boss, as a matter of fact, gave me cinnamon sticks, and I used those. That was the beginning, then I switched to some kind of horrible herbal cigarettes that if -- if the cigarette companies would put out herbal cigarettes, nobody would smoke. You know, it -- the herbal cigarettes smelled a lot like my wife's cooking.


MORTON DOWNEY JR.: All right? So I really didn't...

KING: Are you angry at cigarette companies?


KING: Because?

MORTON DOWNEY JR.: Because they're liars. Because they're liars. I spent, as you probably know, Larry, almost three years on the National Smokers Alliance.

KING: That is...

MORTON DOWNEY JR.: That's the pro smokers, where they try to make you think it is a huge act of lobby out there that's getting ready to attack: Let's frighten Congress and the president and everyone else. And over the course of time, I discovered inconsistencies with the truth, I guess a nice way of saying "liar."

And so last March, which was three months before I found out I had cancer, I resigned from board and refused a second -- a new term, which had been offered to me. And I resigned from board because they lied about the content of nicotine, they lied about the manipulation, and it was nothing more than a group of guys getting together every couple of months to go to a beautiful area of the country and play golf and have a meeting, and toast each other with our cigarettes.

KING: I guess we never answer this, I stopped nine years ago after having a heart attack. Do you know you why you smoked?

MORTON DOWNEY JR.: I know why I began. I was going to the University of -- beg your pardon, it was long before that -- I was going to Georgia Military Academy. My father worked for the Coca-Cola company and they -- everyone sent their kids to GMA.

KING: He was the singer. Famous...

MORTON DOWNEY JR.: Yes, my dad was the singer.

KING: And a smoker.

MORTON DOWNEY JR.: The Irish tenor, and a heavy smoker, as was my grandfather and everyone else in my family.

And when I got down there I was 12 years old, and one of the things that they did, being a Yankee boy, was tie me to a chair, open up a wire hanger, and teach me how to inhale. And every time you vomited, they whipped you over the legs with the iron hanger, so I finally, after seven or eight shots at it, no longer vomited.

KING: And then you became addicted, right? I mean, you were addicted to smoking...

MORTON DOWNEY JR.: I guess I was addicted to being a big guy, you know. Most of these kids out there think they're addicted after a week or two, they're not addicted. They're just addicted to thinking they're big shots. When you become addicted is when you lose total control of your life.


KING: What kind of father was he, Kelli?

KELLI DOWNEY CORNWELL, DAUGHTER OF MORTON DOWNEY JR.: He was such a dynamic man, and he -- I could have -- he told me I could do anything and be anything I wanted to be, and he would be proud of me. I decided to get married have kids, and that was wonderful to him. I was a good mother and he was proud of me for that.

KING: When he -- when he and your mother broke up, how old were you?


KING: So he was good throughout the divorce period? Attentive?

CORNWELL: Oh, yes.

KING: Visited?


KING: How he was with you, Tracey?

T. DOWNEY: I actually went to live with him. Kelli stayed with our mother I went with my father.

KING: At what age?

T. DOWNEY: I was 13 at the time.

KING: So obviously you were close.

T. DOWNEY: Oh, very close.

KING: And, Melissa, you're the daughter of first marriage, right?


KING: How he was as father to you?

MELISSA DOWNEY: We had a great time together. He would come and visit me, and when I was a teenager, we'd be going out together. He'd take me to plays that my mother said weren't OK. He took me to see "Hair" when I was -- I think I was 12 or 13, and my mother was horrified. And they'd all think he was my boyfriend when we'd go out together.

KING: He was a born rebel.

MELISSA DOWNEY: Uh-huh. Definitely.

KING: We'll be right back with more of Lori Downey and her step- daughters as we're remembering the late Morton Downey Jr. We'll be right back.



MORTON DOWNEY JR.: Fifteen minutes before the show, I turn on rock'n'roll music as loud as I can, and I dance behind the set, and get myself into a lather and get myself perspiring and out of breath.

KING: You're kidding?


KING: That's -- in order to maintain a pace then?

MORTON DOWNEY JR.: To maintain a lively pace, to show that there is energy, to -- just not to be some old dead guy standing out there nodding his head all the time.


KING: That was Morton Downey Jr. that had gotten quite famous in the '80s. How did you meet, Lori?

LORI DOWNEY, MORTON DOWNEY JR.'S WIDOW: We met on stage in Atlantic City. I was doing a show, and -- for the summer...

KING: Doing what?

L. DOWNEY: Dancing. I was dancing. And he asked the cast -- or the producer -- asked the cast to remain there, and they were going to do Morton Downey Jr. live from Atlantic City promos. So, he came into the room, and he was at the back of the stage, and I was at the front, and we just -- came right together, and just never stopped talking from that day forward.

KING: Were you a fan of his show?


KING: Did you smoke?

L. DOWNEY: I did. Yes.

KING: You did. Did you stop because of him or no?

L. DOWNEY: When he got cancer? No. No.

KING: You continued to smoke?

L. DOWNEY: I continued to smoke.

KING: Still smoke?


KING: Any of the girls smoke?



KING: So, was it almost like love at first sight?

L. DOWNEY: You know, he was lot of fun. He was a really great man. He had a heart of gold, and he was -- I just never met anybody like him.

KING: Did you know his father?


KING: His father died some time -- you know, of course.

L. DOWNEY: Yes. Yes.

KING: Your grandpa, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, definitely. KING: Who also smoked.


KING: And was a great singer.

L. DOWNEY: Yeah, he was.

KING: Just days before his first lung cancer surgery, Mort Downey made a tough anti-smoking ad. We talked about that in a conversation on July 11th. Watch.


KING: You have done a public service announcement for the American Lung Association.

MORTON DOWNEY JR.: Just finished one on Saturday for the American Lung Association, using my little girl in it, Seanna.

KING: Let's watch it. This is from Morton Downey Jr. for the American Lung Association.


MORTON DOWNEY JR.: I am Morton Downey Jr., so-called television tough guy. You know something, I knew cigarettes could never hurt me -- wrong. Now, I have got lung cancer, and I could die. What really bothers me is I won't be around to see my two-and-half-year-old grow up and say no to smoking.


KING: We understand you've also -- this not very easy, Morton, I really appreciate -- do you want to take a break?

MORTON DOWNEY JR.: No, I'm fine, thank you.

KING: You also got a two-year contract that you are signing today?

MORTON DOWNEY JR.: You know, one of the most amazing things was is you get a disease that is not necessarily a disease that's a happy disease, and nobody wants to hire you, they are afraid you are going to go. And Russ Regan, who has been a friend of mine for 30-odd years, but is also one of the leading people in the entertainment field -- we have been negotiating for a couple of months over whether I would go to work for his company, which he is chairman of.

And today, he gave me a contract for two years. He said here, you don't think I think you are going to make it out of that hospital? You are wrong. And it's a two-year guaranteed contract.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Kelli, what did you think when he -- in the wild days, when Morton Downey Jr. would blow smoke in the face of guests and get "tyros" -- in fistfights.

KELLI DOWNEY CORNWELL, MORTON DOWNEY JR.'S DAUGHTER: I was so nervous. I was around a lot in those days, and I would go to the shows, and I would be so nervous to go and watch him. I was so scared somebody was going to hurt him. I was so protective.

Because for 21 years, he was just my dad, and then all of a sudden, I became an adult, and he became a big sensation.

KING: In ways, Tracey, though, he wasn't anything like that, was he? I mean, that wasn't -- part act, just getting revved up, as he explained what it was he was doing.


KING: That was an entertainment show, right?

T. DOWNEY: Absolutely. He loved to make people laugh, he loved to make people think.

KING: And he loved to make people getting angry at each other.

T. DOWNEY: Absolutely. Because when you get angry, you speak the truth. That was what he always thought, if you get angry...

KING: And he didn't mind if they got angry at him?

T. DOWNEY: No. No.

MELISSA DOWNEY: You know, he was something. He wrote a book of poetry years ago, and it was called -- angry -- what -- "Quiet Thoughts Make The Loudest Noise." You know.

KING: You know, that show seemed to be anti-intellectual, yet he was highly educated, right?


KING: He had a papal award from the Pope.


KING: He hid a lot of this, and he did a lot of jobs in his lifetime, right? I mean, he worked at various odd things -- he would turn up -- and then came back with the radio talk show host, right? Before that wild show.

As I was telling you, one night -- one day in my column, I criticized that show, and I said -- I really liked Morton -- I said the guests on that show looked like direct inheritants of the apes, and the next night, he had everybody in the audience wearing a gorilla mask. So, he had great sense of humor about himself.

L. DOWNEY: Yes, he did.

KING: We will be right back with Lori Downey, and Tracey, and Kelli, and Melissa, on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


MORTON DOWNEY JR.: The death penalty! The bleeding heart pukers think it is cruel and unusual punishment. Like hell! I don't think it's cruel or unusual enough! I'm sick and tired of hearing about defendants' rights and prisoners' rights. How about rights of the people being murdered every day because the law has no teeth?

The electric chair? I would hit that damn switch faster than a two-bit gambler in room full of slot machines! Murderers and drug pushers, I say, hang the creeps by their testicles!



KING: Well, they might compare Jerry Springer now to that. The shows were different, and Mort was always putting himself on. I mean, it was funny to Mort -- as you could tell, that opening is camp.

He also -- he never got into sex and sleaze, did he? I mean, he never had -- or did he?

L. DOWNEY: Sex and sleaze? Well -- no, I don't think so, no. It was more politics...

KING: No, I'm not sure. I don't remember, like, ex-wives fighting each other...

L. DOWNEY: It was more about politics, and, you know...

KING: Issue-oriented.

L. DOWNEY: Right.

KING: A little like Joe Pine's old radio show.

L. DOWNEY: I never saw him.

KING: You never saw Joe Pine?

MELISSA DOWNEY: Yes, much more like Joe Pine, yes. And he was more into working with the everyday person and seeing what their ailments were, almost.

KING: What about his acting career? He did a few -- and he did a wild "Tales From the Crypt," right?


KING: Did it scare you when he did -- that was a wild show? T. DOWNEY: I had a really hard time watching it. It was a little bit too real for me. So -- Kelli loved it. I liked it, but -- it got a little too gory, so I had a hard time watching it.

KING: How is little "Seanny" taking it all? She is seven.

L. DOWNEY: Yeah. Well, she -- me -- I'd rather say -- well, see -- my husband always wanted his girls together. He loved all his girls, but we were all over the place, so it was hard to get the three of them and Seanna together, and plus him being sick and in and out of the hospital, it was really tough. Ultimately, in the end, he got what he wanted.

KING: They were all together.

L. DOWNEY: They were all together, and...

KING: You all were in the hospital?


L. DOWNEY: And he -- Seanna -- I was not really sure what to do with her, because she is so young, and I did take her in, and she stood on the chair, and at this time he was so sick, he was so very sick, and he had a feeding tube in his nose, and she said, what is that?

And we said, oh, well, you know, it's a feeding tube, and she said to him, well, dad, I guess you can't get a turkey in there. And he smiled, but he said bye. And we always had a rule that you don't say bye because bye is very final, you know. We would leave each other and say, see you later or catch up with you later, but it was never bye. And so when he said bye to Seanna, I just knew.

KING: Were you there at the moment or were you...

L. DOWNEY: Yes, yes.

KING: All of you.

L. DOWNEY: Two of us. We were all there the whole time.

T. DOWNEY: I was outside. I just stepped out.

L. DOWNEY: He had everything arranged, you see. He knew exactly where we were. He had -- this is so Mort.

KING: Controlling.

L. DOWNEY: Yes, I mean, we all had different functions at the last -- in the end, you know. She would swab his mouth, and I would get Dr. Marty Gordon for him, because that's all he said to me, was Marty, Marty, and Marty's the one that saved his life five years ago. He's a wonderful man, and...

KING: Six nights, just six nights after his cancer surgery, Morton Downey Jr. was back on this show. They'd removed the upper part of his right lung and worked on the lower part, and Mort said every bit of the cancer was gone. He thanked God and his doctors and the public, who had sent him goodwill and good wishes.


MORTON DOWNEY JR.: I didn't realize, over the years of my being a talk show host, what a bastard I had been so many times, and that there were still people out there who cared enough for me that they were wishing the best for me.

KING: It was unbelievable, the response that you got that night. Senator Dole the other night, and you were critical of Senator Dole, told us the other night, Monday, how he watched you and it moved him so much. You moved a lot of people, your wife, too. I mean, you realize you touched a lot of people by coming forward.

MORTON DOWNEY JR.: They touched me, and I will never forget the touch that they put on me.

KING: Were you scared that morning?

MORTON DOWNEY JR.: I was terrified. I was terrified. When I left you that night, I told you I was afraid, but I was going to -- I tried to get over the fear of dying so that in case I lived, I could get over the fear of living.

KING: You're going continue that fight, by the way?

MORTON DOWNEY JR.: I am. I made that promise to myself, all right, the dedication to help other people who are having a difficult time with cigarettes, especially young people, to empower them. I'm probably meeting tomorrow morning with a young man who has the name of Downey, Robert Downey Jr., so I can talk to him and tell him how tough my battle was, and I know how tough his battle is.

KING: He's in it, too.

MORTON DOWNEY JR.: And if I can help him, I want to do that. We Downeys got to stick together

KING: You did not think last week you'd be here...

MORTON DOWNEY JR.: No, I didn't.

KING: ... on Wednesday night.

MORTON DOWNEY JR.: I wasn't sure I'd be here at all.

KING: What now, Mort? Do you got a new career?

MORTON DOWNEY JR.: I've got a new life, and I've got a new respect for things that I maybe didn't have enough respect for before. I have to determine that I have to help people now. I have to -- it's time to stop thinking of Morton Downey and time to start thinking of other people. KING: You've got a contract, though, to come back, though, right?


KING: Putting together a show.

MORTON DOWNEY JR.: Russ Regan at the Tampa Bay Entertainment Company. They put together a slow for me, put together a contract, and it was more than nice because that happened in the night I was on this show when they called to say we've given you a two-year contract which said we believe you will be alive two years from now.

KING: So you're going to focused the majority of your efforts to raising your daughter, to staying alive and to getting kids not to smoke. Are you going to go around to schools?

MORTON DOWNEY JR.: I'm going to go around to schools. I'm going to go -- you know, it doesn't happen in schools. What about the kids who don't go to school? These are the kids who get themselves in trouble when they've got something else to do. So, I need to empower them so they know it's cool not to smoke, not that it's cool to smoke. If they smoke, they're like every other kid. They're nothing special.

KING: Now, you were in intensive care, so all you have left is a habit. You don't have the need for nicotine.

MORTON DOWNEY JR.: I have no need for nicotine. I don't have any desire for it. It scared me to straight.


KING: Know the feeling. Right back with more of the Downey family after these words.


MORTON DOWNEY JR.: You know, I've got to tell you something. We've heard a lot of yipping and yelling tonight, and God knows some major differences of opinion. Well, I guess that's what freedom is all about. No one will ever convince me that good ideas only come from soft-spoken intellectuals in university conference rooms.

Baby, if it's a good idea and you believe in it, stand up, shout about it. That's what freedom is all about. That's what you guys can do. Stand up and shout about it.



KING: In our next and final segment after this one, I'll ask how the girls feel about cigarettes and the like. In December of 1996, the defendant in a talk show related killing was given from 25 to 50 years in prison. The show involved was "Jenny Jones." In an interview after the sentencing, I asked Mort if as a pioneer in what we call trash TV, he felt responsible for tragedy.


MORTON DOWNEY JR.: Someone had to be the first to do it.

KING: But you didn't do shows with surprises, did you?

MORTON DOWNEY JR.: There were no real ambushes and I didn't bring on people who were somewhat distorted in their emotions. I tried...

KING: But you got into trendy -- you were different and part of it was trashy; right? You admitted it.

MORTON DOWNEY JR.: The biggest part of it was trash. It was entertainment.

KING: Are you ashamed of anything you did?

MORTON DOWNEY JR.: Yes, I'm ashamed of a couple shows I did, but I always went to the people and apologized for them. And a couple of times they said absolutely not, I don't forgive you. In my new incarnation, thanks to you and your viewers, having beaten lung cancer, in my new incarnation would never let those things happen again. Never.

It just isn't worth it to entertain someone on the back, on the heart, on the stomach, on the bowels of another human being. Not worth it.

KING: Wouldn't it -- and watching what's on today, embarrass you to host that now? Could you host a show of coming out of behind the door, the man you left when you were 12?

MORTON DOWNEY JR.: I would do it as comedy.

KING: Have to all crack up.

MORTON DOWNEY JR.: Exactly, I mean, you'd have to be laughing because -- and anyone who wants to watch that thinking that their life is better off because they're watching this happen to someone else, basically think about it. Maybe your wife is having the same problem as those people up there.

KING: It is a kind of black comedy, isn't it?

MORTON DOWNEY JR.: Right, that's exactly what it is.

KING: Why do they watch?

MORTON DOWNEY JR.: I think they're drawn in by the fact that there are people out there who have such humongous problems, and here they are on national television and they're still smiling. So, no matter what my problem is, I'll be able to smile. I can smile. Someone has a worse one. Sad.

KING: Why do people go on?

MORTON DOWNEY JR.: That instant, as the painter Warhol said, 15 minutes of fame.


KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with the Downeys and another clip of Mort then we'll meet Jim Bakker and Lori Graham Bakker. Don't go away.


KING: When is the funeral, Lori?

L. DOWNEY: It's on Saturday.

T. DOWNEY: It's Saturday. It is at 2:00 p.m. at Saint Francis de Sales in Sherman Oaks.

KING: Open to public. Saint Francis...

T. DOWNEY: De Sales.

KING: De Sales. Let's get a call in. Ellijay, Georgia.

CALLER: Yes, Mrs. Downey, was Mr. Downey as conservative politically as he was portrayed on his television show?

L. DOWNEY: I think it depends on what the issue was.

KING: Some he was, some he wasn't

L. DOWNEY: Right.

KING: But a lot of it was an act; right? Right?

L. DOWNEY: Right.

KING: San Francisco. Hello.

CALLER: Yes, I was working at a restaurant in Century City in California, and, I was -- Mr. Downey came in restaurant I believe with his wife, and, I didn't want to wait on him, and I tried to even give the table away, and they said, no, you have to wait on him.

And I just want to tell her he was the nicest, nicest celebrity I have ever waited on, and I think that is quite important because in a service industry you get to know what they really are like, and I often tell people whenever they ask me about any celebrities, I always say he was most wonderful guy. I mean, practically, asked me to sit down with you guys and eat.

So, I just wanted to tell you guys I think he had a wonderful heart, and he lived a great life, and, he touched somebody that I don't even know him. So, that is all I can say.

KING: That's very nice of you to say that.

L. DOWNEY: Thank you.

KING: Are you folks mad at the cigarette industry? Do you carry your father's anger?

MELISSA DOWNEY: Yes, I see so many young people smoking at my sons', I have two in high school and one in middle school, even middle schooler hiding behind buildings smoking and they don't understand. It still looks good to them, you know.

KING: You know, you have great memories. He was how old?

L. DOWNEY: Well, 68, even though everyone gave him the year younger. You're not getting away with this, Downey.

T. DOWNEY: That was pretty good.

L. DOWNEY: But 68.

KING: I thank you all for coming.

L. DOWNEY: Thank you.

KING: I really appreciate it. Our guests have been Lori Downey, the widow of Morton Downey Jr., and her -- they don't like the term stepdaughters. Her three daughters: Tracey, Kelli, Melissa, and little Seanna is here, too. We thought a little too young to put her up with this. Thank you all very, very much.

L. DOWNEY: Thank you, Larry.

T. DOWNEY: Thank you.


KING: Morton Downey Jr. was one of a kind, a bundle of contradictions, but a guy with a brilliant mind and, as we have said, an incredible heart. These were the closing moments of our interview in December of 96.


KING: How is life for you now?

MORTON DOWNEY JR.: It's wonderful. You know, I've got to get back to work and get a talk show someplace. But otherwise, life is really good. I'm getting to watch my 3-year-old grow. I'm getting to spend time, more time at home with my wife, who's still trying give up cigarettes, Lori, God bless her. And she's going to do it. New Year's Day is the day she's off them. She won't -- at midnight stops smoking.

KING: Do you miss them?

MORTON DOWNEY JR.: No, I don't. And you know, because I was so frightened. When I came on your show that night, Larry, when you asked me to come on your show, I thought to myself I have never revealed this to you before. I was sure I was dying because I had been told it was good possibility, and said to myself, you know, I lived some of my life like a real creep.

If nothing else, I want to go out, I want to die like a man, like a mensch, like a good person. I want my daughter to be able to look at reruns of THE LARRY KING SHOW someday and see her dad on there proud, brave, knowing he is going to die, and trying to make up for some of the garbage that he spewed.

So, I'm extremely grateful for what happened, and I intend to live a good life.



KING: We have come to know them as an extraordinary couple. They are Lori Graham Bakker and her husband, Jim Bakker. Lori is the author of "More Than I Could Ever Ask." This book was just published. There you see its cover. They both minister through Camp Hope and Morning to Joy.

I guess what we did, from a ministry standpoint, is the toughest part; right? Ministering after death.

JIM BAKKER, EVANGELIST: That's the most difficult time. That's when a pastor needs to move in and basically do everything, and that's what I always did with -- I had a large church at one time, and even took care of picking outs coffins and things...

KING: Of course, you can't relieve the sadness.


LORI GRAHAM BAKKER, AUTHOR, "MORE THAN I COULD EVER ASK": No, but you know what, God made to us mourn and to grieve when there is a loss in our life. And the most important thing that we can do when we lose a loved one -- I was just telling you a minute ago, my father passed away a little over a year ago and, you know, you still want to pick up the phone and call him or think he's going to give you a call and say, how are you doing little girl? Just checking up on you. But you can't, but it's important to talk about the person. It's important to mourn and grieve the loss.

KING: What do you mean by the title "More Than I Could Ever Ask"?

L. BAKKER: "More Than I Could Ever Ask" is really, number one, what God's done in my life, and what he has done as far as giving me a husband. He's more than I could ever ask. He's a wonderful husband.

KING: You mean he's a load? He's a handful?

L. BAKKER: Well, he's that, but he's wonderful. He's incredible. But God has done so much for me and that's what it really means.

KING: The subtitle is "A Story of a Woman Broken and Defeated Who Found that Dreams Really Do Come True." You had everything. You were married at 17. You were -- wound up being a bettered wife. You had drug abuse.


KING: Five abortions by age of 21.

L. BAKKER: Yes, yes.

KING: You were out there.

L. BAKKER: I was out there. I was, and you know what, it started with a cigarette. It started with a cigarette when I was in fifth grade, smoking behind the alley. Just started with one little cigarette and that cigarette led to smoking marijuana, to doing LSD, cocaine, all the way to heroin, Larry, all the way. But it started with that one little cigarette just trying to be cool. Just trying to be accepted.

KING: What was the turning point, Lori?

L. BAKKER: The turning point was when I was -- as far as...

KING: In your life. Were you at the bottom?

L. BAKKER: At the bottom, at 22 years of age, after I had had five abortions -- I had to have a complete hysterectomy as a result of a last abortion. My dreams were shattered. I wanted to be a mom. That was my heart's desire in life, and yet it was shattered at 22.

And so the turning point was actually almost 10 years later, when I was 31. I walked into church. I walked into church on Easter Sunday 1989 and...

KING: Changed your life.

L. BAKKER: It changed my life.

KING: Why did -- if you wanted children, why did you have so many abortions?

L. BAKKER: Because I was married at the time to a man who said it's either me or the child. And he was tangible, I could touch him, so I would do anything for him. And that's the No. 1 reason women have abortions.

KING: How did you meet Lori?

J. BAKKER: I met Lori here in L.A. at the Dream Center, which is the old Queen of Angels Hospital, where I was working with inner-city people.

KING: And how did the meeting occur? J. BAKKER: And she came to speak there, and my son had met Lori four years before in Phoenix, when he was working there and went there for a school kind of a project at Master's Commission.

And so Jamie introduced us actually in the ally behind the church after a Thursday night service. And...

KING: Liked her right away?

J. BAKKER: Oh, I -- it was love at first sight for me.

KING: It was. For you, too?

L. BAKKER: About 24 hours.


KING: Did her past, even though you certainly had your problems -- but not like this -- did her past bother you or affect you?

J. BAKKER: It didn't bother me. It really...

KING: Didn't bother you?

J. BAKKER: ... in a way, I identified, because I had messed up so bad. You know, I'd made so many mistakes. Two of us, broken people. We got together, and it just perfect.

I mean, I fell in love. It was like bells rang, violins played. I couldn't believe at my age that this could happen to me again, that I could have another chance at life. And today, we are so happy. I mean, we can have good fights, but we are in love. And it gets better all the time.

KING: Did you have any hesitancy marrying someone who as a couple were so famous? I mean, his ex-wife...

L. BAKKER: Right. And you know, I have a whole -- I have a lot in the book about Tammy Faye as far as meeting her for the first time and all of that. But no, not as the famous couple. You know, I really didn't really probably know how famous they were, quite frankly. So, but there's -- there's a chapter in the book that's called "Full Disclosure," where Jim gives me a full disclosure, as much as he possibly can, about what I'm about ready to enter into, or if even I want to enter into this, the possibility of even dating this man.

J. BAKKER: Yeah, I told her about the paparazzi and what would happen, and even our wedding, which was right here in L.A. up on one of the mountains...

KING: Helicopters came.

J. BAKKER: Helicopters right in the middle of the song, her favorite song. They were singing, "To God Be the Glory." In fact, the writer of it, Andre Crouch, was at our wedding singing the song. And the helicopters come in -- whiff, whuff, whuff, whuff, whuff, you know. And she -- she leans over to me and she says, "Can't you stop them?" Like how do you stop a helicopter.

KING: Have you adjusted to that now?

L. BAKKER: I really have. A lot of people say, Lori, it's like you were born for this, you know, you were born...



L. BAKKER: Not -- not like that. No. You know what I like? I really like being home and being a homemaker and being with our family and friends. That's really my No. 1 thing that I love, and I love to minister.

KING: Why did you write the book?

L. BAKKER: Why I wrote the book was I wanted to tell people that no matter what you've been through, that there's hope, that it's never too late in life. It doesn't matter how many wrong choices you've made, that -- that there is a turning point.

For me, it was 31 years old. I was 31 before that turning point came. But it's never too late.

KING: With all that's happened to both of you, how do you keep your beliefs so strong?

J. BAKKER: I believe in God more today than before. If it works in the troubled times, works through the valley, works through the hardship, and God's faithful and true -- and to have a god of a second chance and to -- you know, you can't help but love God.

L. BAKKER: It's true.

KING: You, too?

L. BAKKER: Absolutely. It's through the hard times. You know, Jim always says this -- and this is a really good statement. "I don't trust somebody who hasn't been through something," because it's through these hard times, Larry, that we are able to -- our faith is stronger. It's the hard times, it's the valleys that you really know that there really is a God and he really does care about you.

KING: Is it true, you had -- you had an argument right after your wedding?

J. BAKKER: Yeah, in fact, that night, we were -- it was romantic. She had candles, and we were at our friend's house that -- where the wedding took place. And we were there all alone. And in fact, the police came that night, you know...

KING: You were arguing that badly?


J. BAKKER: No, no, no. I triggered the alarm system, and the helicopters came again with search lights, and I tried to explain why Jim Bakker was in this big house on top of this hill.

KING: What was the argument about?

J. BAKKER: Tell him.

L. BAKKER: Well, it was about -- I'm always concerned about everybody, wanted to involve everybody in our lives and in our wedding that day, and was trying -- wanted to get pictures with everybody and made sure everybody, you know, was a part of our ceremony there. And I said, we didn't get enough pictures with everybody, we left so-and- so out. And I started going down the line, and Jim says, "We took enough pictures!"

J. BAKKER: And I lost it at that time, because I didn't have a chance to even hardly talk to anybody at the wedding. We just -- we just posed for pictures for the entire wedding reception. And so we had this argument, but...

KING: One trusts you made up?

J. BAKKER: We...

L. BAKKER: Yeah, we made up real good.


J. BAKKER: We had a good wedding night.

KING: The book is "More Than I Could Ever Ask," written by Lori Graham Bakker, and the Bakkers are here. We'll also include your phone calls.

Tomorrow night, the governor of Minnesota -- you may have heard of him -- a fellow named Ventura. Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... together, let no man put asunder. Amen!





KING: The Bakkers, by the way, are both involved with Camp Hope. That's for inner-city kids trying to escape drugs and gangs.

What have you -- on a political level, what do you think, Jim, and you, Lori, about President Bush's faith-based initiative to help people with charities? There's a wide dispute even in the religious community.

J. BAKKER: I think it's awesome. I think it's -- it works. And I think we should go across all denominational lines. The Dream Center here in California in the old Queen of Angels Hospital, I've been a part of it. Crime's been reduced 70 percent because of that ministry in the ghetto.

I just -- I just think it's the most awesome thing, and I think the president has tremendous guts to do this. I know there's opposition. But you've got to look at the good that's being done, and really, the church can do things that no one else can do.

KING: Do you fear, Lori, government interference?

L. BAKKER: Oh, you know, I don't know about that. You know, I just believe that it takes money, so many times, to operate any kind of a ministry. That's the bottom line. You want to reach out to people, and especially reach out to the kind of people that he's talking about reaching out to, faith-based organizations, and reach out to people that can't help you back, it takes money to do that. So as far as, you know, government interference goes...

J. BAKKER: Groups like Team Challenge have the highest success rate in drugs, 80, 90 percent, where the government's programs not even 2 or 3 percent. So these...

KING: You support the idea?

J. BAKKER: I do. I believe it ought to be Jewish. I believe it ought to be Catholic, ought to be Protestant. It ought to be all people's working together to help people.

KING: Back to the book, Tammy Faye, was she against this marriage at the start?


L. BAKKER: You tell that story.


J. BAKKER: She wrote about it in the book, so but it -- I called -- I called -- I had to call Tammy Faye's house, because my daughter was there. And Tammy Faye got on the phone and was angry. She said, "I hear you're getting married." She said, "You better not be marrying some young thing that..." -- you know. And she started lecturing me about -- you know, I thought, hey, this woman has already remarried. Why is she telling me I can't get married?

And -- but now, we're all good friends. But the meeting of Tammy Faye is one of the funniest stories, I think.

L. BAKKER: It really is.

KING: Why? L. BAKKER: Oh, it's just a great story, because -- well, Jim, actually should tell his point of view of the story. Tell it real quick, honey.

J. BAKKER: Well, I was baptizing my two grand boys in water in a Baptist church there. And I look up -- in the balcony is sitting Tammy Faye and Lori -- at that time, Graham -- just before we were to get married.

Two women, sitting there, and I think the funny thing is, you two, what you talked about.

L. BAKKER: We've talked about our hormones, and how we both on estrogen pills, and how we have hot flashes -- then it kind of just broke the ice. And it was just wonderful.

KING: I would say, yeah, that's a good way to break the ice.

L. BAKKER: Then we sang out of hymnal together, too, and so, she leaned over to me and she said, "Honey, this picture would be worth a lot of money." And we both laughed.

KING: And as we know from this program, you all get along.

L. BAKKER: Yeah. Oh, sure.

J. BAKKER: Well, you sort of brought us together.

L. BAKKER: You brought us together. You were the first one to bring us all together.


KING: ... but you remain forces in each others' lives, you realize that? I mean, you share children. I guess your biggest sadness is you can't have children.

L. BAKKER: That is. That is our biggest sadness, and that is why I'm minister to women who have been through abortion, because I know the loss and I know what it is like, and I have ministered, Larry, to hundreds of women over the years who have been through abortion, and that's a minister we have called "Warning to Joy."

We actually hold reconciliation memorials for these women who have been through abortion to grieve that loss. Again, whenever there is a loss in your life, you've got to grieve it. And it was a wrong choice.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with Jim Bakker and Lori Graham Bakker. Her book is "More Than I Could Ever Ask."

This is LARRY KING LIVE. Kelsey Grammer on Friday night, don't go away.


KING: We are back with our remaining moments with Jim Bakker and Lori Graham Bakker.

Has life settled now or are you still -- are you two going to do a TV show together? Although it seems a pretty good guess.

J. BAKKER: We have had people offer as a lot of free airtime. And I don't want to get into these big budgets again, but we want to train young people, we want to get some young kids involved with religious television, a whole new dimension -- like my son -- and all these other kids.

And I was a part of developing one of the first satellite networks, CNN was there, and I started the network, PTL Television Network, back -- and so, we would like to try some new things. Let these kids dream, let them dream.

My dream died, but I want to help other young people dream, and dream again.

KING: There is a kind of a negative connotation to the term religious television.

L. BAKKER: Oh, absolutely.

KING: It is images: send in the dollar.

L. BAKKER: That's right. I agree. I was one of the ones who used to make fun of it all the time, Larry, so I -- I'm sorry...

KING: It's bad to lump, because you can't lump...

L. BAKKER: No, you can't lump, but I was one that used to sit there and get high and make fun of them too, and I apologized to the Lord -- but I'll tell you, though, we want to do something new and creative, and something that young people will want to watch. And that is our heart, it's really pouring to young people.

KING: Do you watch Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye?

L. BAKKER: Never watched it. Never saw the show.

KING: Never saw the show?

L. BAKKER: I have seen more clips on your show than I have ever seen.

KING: Are there days, being honest, that you miss it?

J. BAKKER: No. No. Only when I meet somebody that is so fabulous, that I want to put them on television. I want to present them. I want to give them a stage. That is when I miss it.

KING: Would come back to host a TV show together, if offered?

J. BAKKER: Yes. Yes, and I know I will be criticized for saying that -- as long as the budgets aren't crazy, that I have to raise all the money. I love television! You reach more people -- we do your show, I'm reaching more people every time I come on your show than I did in all my career put together.

L. BAKKER: True.

KING: So, you'd welcome it, but you wouldn't want to show where you, you know, send in $25 for gold-laced Bible?

J. BAKKER: No. I don't want to have to do that again. I don't want to have to do that. I just don't. But I want to help people. I want to tell people there is a second chance.

KING: You write about being battered.


KING: And I guess, the puzzlement most people think is, why did you stay?

L. BAKKER: Why do you stay? You know why -- and so many women are going to understand this, they call it the battered wife syndrome, where you get beat up the night before, and you are left, you know, in a horrible situation, you're bruised, sometimes black eyes, whatever the case may be, but they come to you and they say, oh, baby it is going to be OK, I will never do this to you again, and you want to believe it.

You don't just want to walk away from a marriage, you want to try to make it work no matter what it takes. But there comes a point. I believe God doesn't want anybody to stay in a marriage that is being beaten to death.

KING: How did you get out?

L. BAKKER: I finally just had enough. He didn't come home one night too many. After a 10-year marriage of being beaten, battered, broken, bruised. I gave up my five children for this man -- and one night, it just was enough, enough was enough, and turned away.

KING: And you had some fear, I guess, physical fear that he would follow you?

L. BAKKER: Oh, absolutely. You do have that fear, you have the fear that they are going to follow you, and that you are never going to see the light of day again, or that they are going to stalk you, or that you are never going to have another man again. I mean, I know sounds crazy.

J. BAKKER: She tells all these stories about how being left dead almost out in middle of street by her husband! That is no place for a man who loves you to leave you.

KING: Thank you so you much, Bakkers,

L. BAKKER: Thank you.

KING: It was good seeing you.

L. BAKKER: Good to see you, Larry.

KING: Jim Bakker, Lori Graham Bakker, her book "More Than I Could Ever Ask." They minister Camp Hope, and the subtitle is, "The Story of a Woman Broken and Defeated Who Found That Dreams Really Do Come True."

By the way, tune in tomorrow night. From the wrestling ring to the governor's mansion -- the versatile and always controversial Jesse Ventura.

For more information you won't see anywhere else on Minnesota's world famous governor, visit table talk on my Web site at

We thank the Bakkers, we thank the Downeys, we wish you a pleasant evening. Stay tuned for "CNN TONIGHT." See you tomorrow with Governor Jesse. Good night.



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