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Larry King Live

The Unsinkable Kelsey Grammer

Aired March 16, 2001 - 9:00 p.m. ET



KELSEY GRAMMER, ACTOR: In the end, the story they will run is the one with the juice, they want ratings just as much as I do!


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, the unsinkable Kelsey Grammer. The man has suffered family tragedies, addiction troubles, endless tabloid headlines and triumphs as the award-winning star of a smash hit sitcom and a terrific new movie. He's next on "LARRY KING LIVE"!

It's a great pleasure to have as our special guest tonight Kelsey Grammer, a truly extraordinary talent. He stars, of course, in "Frasier," he's -- in fact, there's so many Emmys, they don't -- they've lost count now. Let's just say, multiple Emmy winner -- for years, of course, as well, on "Cheers." He is also a featured star with Robert De Niro and Ed Burns in a terrific new movie "15 minutes," a movie that got rapped in some circles, which I frankly don't understand, because I thought it was a slam-bang thriller.

There's lots to talk about with Kelsey tonight. First, you don't do a lot of moves?


KING: How did this come your way? This kind of character?

GRAMMER: Oh, well, this particular guy, an agent at my agency, UTA, called and said that there was a role, a reporter, kind of a scum bag...

KING: He is that.

GRAMMER: And I thought -- I thought well, OK, I will read it. So, I read the role, and then I found a hook into the role that I thought was appealing -- that he could go either way, that he really thought he was a person that had earned a sense of entitlement because of his viewership -- to pretty much go anywhere he wanted to, in terms of city, and to even -- the lines of ethics have been warped so much, that he could actually justify creating stories, that kind of thing. So that he is pretty much...

KING: He is the news. He makes the news. GRAMMER: He is the dispenser of the 15 minutes.

KING: Did you like the script too, the whole script?

GRAMMER: I loved the script, and I loved...

KING: You didn't ape it after anyone in particular?

GRAMMER: No, I did sort of -- I did a sort of a generic homage to several of our...

KING: Tabloids...

GRAMMER: ... nation's anchormen. You know, and even more mainstream guys. I flattened out the voice a little bit, so that I used mostly the lower notes...

KING: Now, you played a guy that Kelsey Grammer would hate.

GRAMMER: Yes! Yes.

KING: Absolutely hate?

GRAMMER: Absolutely.

KING: Did you find something to like in him?

GRAMMER: Oh, completely. No, I mean, Robert Hawkins is a man that may have lost his way in terms of journalistic integrity, but he is consumed with his work, so I understand that.

KING: You have done two feature movies, right, before this?

GRAMMER: Well, I did "Down Periscope" and I have done a couple other things that I'm glad to say never really got to the screen...

KING: And some television movies, too, didn't you?

GRAMMER: Yeah, a couple of television films, yeah.

KING: Do you like -- is there a difference, by the way, acting: big screen, small screen? Or is acting acting?

GRAMMER: Well, you know, different mediums call for different sizes of performance. It's like John Gielgud said, style is knowing what play you are in. And I have borrowed that a lot, because you just got to figure out what project you are in, what the medium is, and that dictates different requirements, in terms of...

KING: The more -- you have to be aware you're on a larger screen.

GRAMMER: Yeah. Larger screen, speak up, you know, you got a microphone right here, you don't have to worry about it, but if you're standing on, you know, the four-deck of a kitty hawk, you've got to you know, speak up a little bit. KING: And then you also did theater.

GRAMMER: Yes. In "Macbeth," recently -- and two horrible reviews.

KING: You liked -- yeah, how did you react to that?

GRAMMER: Well, you know, it hurt a little, but I thought I had a great evening with my wife, just after we opened in New York and in Boston, too, and I said gosh, you know, I thought they might be, you know, at least nicer than that. And she said, what did you think was going to happen? You are this TV star now, you know, you started out in theater, but you are not one of them anymore.

KING: Why is Shakespeare the best to do?

GRAMMER: Well, I guess just because he remains timeless, he is without -- he is always contemporary, he is always relevant, for some reason his ability with language was so extraordinary that Ralph Waldo Emerson spoke of Shakespeare as a talent that could toss creation about like a bauble, and it is like that.

KING: So, he used the words as a kick.

GRAMMER: Oh, absolutely.

KING: Even if the play is four hours?

GRAMMER: More than any other playwright -- his language is the emotion of the play.

KING: The life and times of Kelsey Grammer. He's with us for the full hour, we've got a lot to talk about with him -- extraordinary talent, figure in television, extraordinary. His life is incredible, and he continues to reign supreme and makes a little money, too. We'll be right back.


ROBERT DE NIRO, ACTOR: Stay behind me, stay behind me. I hope this -- because my knees are killing me. Get back.

GRAMMER: What, are you worried about my safety? I'm touched.

DE NIRO: Just keep them out of my way.


DE NIRO: You're ready?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, Robert, we're ready.

GRAMMER: Are you ready?

DE NIRO: I'm ready. Let's go.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just get out of here!

GRAMMER: Come on, you're going -- camera is rolling -- you're going down!




GRAMMER: Now that we got the pleasantries out of the way, let me take your coat.


GRAMMER: Yowsa! Oh, Lilith, that dress is stunning.

DAVID HYDE PIERCE, ACTOR: Frasier, may I see you in the kitchen?


NEUWIRTH: It's from a new couture line called "Encore."

GRAMMER: Oh, well, bravo!


KING: The life and times of Kelsey Grammer, actor, director, writer, producer, multiple Emmy winner for "Frasier", who could forget "Cheers," new movie "15 Minutes" -- terrific film. How did you like working with De Niro? Love that crew -- Ed Burns -- not bad cast.

GRAMMER: Absolutely fantastic.

KING: He works, doesn't he, De Niro? He thinks about everything.

GRAMMER: You know what, I really just sat down with him like this, when we would shoot. We had one afternoon over at John's house where we opened a bottle of wine, he had drink of wine, I had a glass of water, but we talked about children, and what's important to us and values, and I really liked him. And he said, you know, you should come up with to the farm some time.

KING: You are doing well. He marinates you a little.

GRAMMER: Yeah, he is terrific, he inhibits it. He really -- he does his homework.

KING: What kind of tie would this guy wear? He thinks about that.

GRAMMER: He does think about that. And he really -- he gets a lot from the technical advisers, for instance, Steve Davis, who was policeman on the New York force for years -- 20 years detective -- was instrumental in helping to stage certain things. Robert would say, how would you do it? He would show him, and then Robert would say, no, no, show me again, what would you do really? And then he would mimic, pretty much, those moves. I was very impressed with Mr. De Niro.

KING: When you look back on your life, do you ever pinch yourself and say wow? How did I come through this?

GRAMMER: Well, you know, I always had this ability, even as a young man, to take delight in the moment. So that no matter what was really going on, I was just as thrilled about my experience as a person, even in hardest days of my life.

KING: You mean, you would take a tragedy...


KING: And use it?

GRAMMER: Well, survive it. You know, I don't know what there is to use in a tragedy, really.

KING: Your father is killed.


KING: You were how old?

GRAMMER: I was 14.

KING: He was shot to death.

GRAMMER: Shot to death.

KING: The guy who shot him gets off.

GRAMMER: Yeah, basically, yeah, he's walking around somewhere in South Carolina.

KING: Now, how does a 14-year-old handle that?

GRAMMER: That is -- I guess what you do is you develop a great sense of the irony of life, because in the moment, life is still going on for you, and then suddenly this element of your history, of your culture, who you are, disappears.

I mean, I didn't know my father personally very well. I had a couple memories from spending a little bit of time with him, but it -- in my situation, whatever set of things I was given as a child, I turned to a sense of faith that was kind of founded in an understanding of the absurdity of what goes on here, but supported by a belief in something bigger than myself.

KING: And you were using this at 14?

GRAMMER: Yes, absolutely. KING: They were divorced, your parents, right?

GRAMMER: Yeah, that's right.

KING: Were you close with your mother?

GRAMMER: Well, close enough.

KING: Did she handled it badly?

GRAMMER: Well, you know, my mom actually was -- they didn't -- hadn't lived together for many, many, years, but I remember the day she told me what had happened. She got the news, we were driving home from school, and she just broke down, uncontrollably, and I realized that there was a great sense loss to her.

KING: When did Kelsey Grammer want to do what he does now? When did he...

GRAMMER: Oh, I figured that out -- actually, when I was 16 years old. I did a play, "The Little Foxes" by Lillian Hellman, and I got a standing ovation that night, and I said, "You know, this is pretty good."

KING: That's it.

Did you also like that you could go into other people?

GRAMMER: I loved discovering the human -- the human experience through fantasies that have been written by other people. I mean, I love fleshing them out, feeling them, breathing life into them. That does turn me on. To create a human being, basically. I read once in some simple history book, it said that all great art is a true lie. And I guess that's -- that is what turns me on.

KING: So it's printed on the page, that's all it is, it says: "Frasier shall...

GRAMMER: Yeah, and we breath life into him.

KING: You have to make Frasier jump off that page.

GRAMMER: Absolutely.

KING: More in a minute with Kelsey Grammer. What a great pleasure to have with him. You see him on screen now in "15 Minutes." That sounded like "He'll be back in 15 minutes." The movie is "15 Minutes," we'll be right back. Don't go away.


GRAMMER: Yeah, yeah, I'm here. Look, it doesn't work that way.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: If you don't want my film, I'll call another show. And they will show it.

GRAMMER: All right, I'll meet you. I need two things from you. I want exclusivity and you will surrender to me.





GRAMMER: Idiots! Children destroy toys! You will be ruined, forgotten, spending eternity rotting in some landfill.

TOM HANKS, ACTOR: Well, Stinky Pete, I think it's time you learned the true meaning of playtime.

Right over there, guys!

GRAMMER: No. No! No!


KING: The incredible -- and I really mean incredible saga of Kelsey Grammer, an extraordinary talent.

Before your father, it was your grandfather's loss. Now, that rocked you, right?

GRAMMER: Gordon, my granddad, was the big...

KING: You were 12.

GRAMMER: Yeah. He was the one. He raised me, basically.

KING: Died of natural causes?

GRAMMER: Cancer. Age 63. Which was pretty young, actually.

KING: How does a 12-year-old -- I was 10 when my father died -- look at death?

GRAMMER: Gosh, I don't know. You know, I -- at first, I guess, well, I guess it's a good device on some ways -- denial. I didn't really deal with it for a long time, and I guess it kind of helped me to get through the summer.

And there was one night, about two months after he had died, when I started to replay the tape of what we had talked about. We were going to move to Florida, we were going to go to ball games, and spring training, and have hot dogs. And he was going to maybe buy a boat and we were going to go fishing. And I realized that none of that was ever going to happen and I broke down and cried. And -- that was the first day I mourned him, really.

KING: But you had a deal with death early.

GRAMMER: Yeah, yeah. KING: Death of a father you weren't close to, a grandfather you were close to. That raised you to be sort of -- fatalist about it?

GRAMMER: No, no, no. I just -- I believe in life so strongly, as a result of it. I found such joy in the world around me. I don't know why I was given that gift, I really don't. But it, in the greatest, deepest moments of despair in my life, something always came to me and said, "Get up, you've got something to do. "

KING: You were quoted once as saying your grandfather taught you the importance of kindness.

GRAMMER: Yeah. I think that's true.

KING: Was that tough to carry through?

GRAMMER: No. If I can't spend my life living that way, then I'm actually kind of disappointed in myself. Now, there are people -- my grandfather also taught me the line, he said, "If you see a bug, step on it or walk around it." So...


KING: Don't think about it.

GRAMMER: Yeah, right. Well, if it bugs you enough then you're going to have to take care of it, and I am willing to do that. But as a rule, kindness is -- is my first goal in life.

KING: Were you affected by, is it true, Julius Caesar early?


KING: You read the play?

GRAMMER: After Gordon died, actually, I read the play in seventh grade, the year of his death, actually, and Mrs. Dow (ph), our English teacher at the time...

KING: This was where?

GRAMMER: This was at Pine Crest in Fort Lauderdale. And Mrs. Dow said that Brutus was a practitioner of the idea of stoicism. And it came to mean to me, I'm not sure if these are the words that she actually expressed it with, but I -- it came to mean to me that you did not have to become a victim of what happened in your life. That you could actually rise above that.

KING: That statement that it's not the fire of the house, it's how you react to the fire of the house...

GRAMMER: There you go, yeah.

KING: ... that counts, right? Well, that's the hardest thing to learn, isn't it, Kelsey? GRAMMER: I -- probably. I think I've been really fortunate in that I -- the early life lessons were ones that were hard lessons, but they became valuable for me to sustain myself through all these other years and subsequent tragedies or challenges.

KING: Now, you lose your half brothers, right? Billy and Steven...

GRAMMER: Billy and Steven.

KING: They were the children of your mother?

GRAMMER: My dad. My dad, actually, and his second wife.

KING: Were you close with them?

GRAMMER: No. No, but I mean, I...

KING: They died in a scuba accident.

GRAMMER: Yes, scuba accident. Shark attack -- it's still unclear.

KING: What sort of view do you start to get of death?

GRAMMER: Well, it was when my grandfather on my father's actually said he thought the family was cursed.

KING: Do you buy that?


KING: You're just incidental.

GRAMMER: There is just -- who knows? Maybe there's something genetic that drives the family to places of danger? I don't know. But I don't think we're cursed, certainly.

KING: You're not a risk taker, are you? Or are you?

GRAMMER: Yes, I am. I have always been a risk taker.

KING: You'll drive fast?

GRAMMER: Well -- oh, I drive fast, and I love to drive fast.

KING: You'll try things...

GRAMMER: But I'm willing to go just slow enough to know how to get out of it. I mean, I always leave myself an out.

KING: You'll try new things, though.

GRAMMER: I've always tried new things.

KING: And do you -- I guess good actors -- Al Pacino told me the good actor takes chances.

GRAMMER: Oh, always. Well, most of the actors, that arrive at any kind of success are risk takers, by definition.

KING: Because they're willing to let it out, right?

GRAMMER: Yeah, it's not a very safe profession to choose.

KING: But for you, it ain't been bad.

Kelsey Grammer's our guest.

This LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be right back.


GRAMMER: Bearing, mark,


GRAMMER: Range, 900.


GRAMMER: I haven't got the time. Have to shoot from the hip. Bearing 263, fire one.


GRAMMER: Bearing, 264. Range, 850. Fire two.




KING: Kelsey and I discovered that when he was -- how old are you now?

GRAMMER: I'm 46.

KING: See, I'm 20 years older. He used to listen to me do Dolphin football when he was a little kid, right? Kind of weird.

GRAMMER: That's right. Well, I wasn't that little, but yes, definitely.

KING: And you're still a Dolphin freak?

GRAMMER: Still a Dolphin fan. It just drives me nuts.

KING: Now, your sister. She gets raped and murdered. How old you were you then?

GRAMMER: Then I was 20. She was 18. KING: You were close with her.

GRAMMER: We were very close, yes, very close.

KING: Where you were at 20? Were you in school?

GRAMMER: Actually I'd just been thrown out of Juilliard.

KING: Thrown out.

GRAMMER: Oh, thrown out. Not bodily, but I was disinvited.

KING: Poor grades?

GRAMMER: No, poor attendance, really. I, the second year of Juilliard, it being a kind of a conservatory experience...

KING: Hard to get into.

GRAMMER: Yes, very hard, and I was fortunate to get in, and I value the experience, but after the first year, where you spend most of the time sort of sitting on the floor and learning how to breath, and vibrate, they start trying to teach you how to act.

And I didn't like my acting teacher that much. He seemed a lot more interested in the girls and, you know, I don't know what was going on, so I quit, yes. Quit, and, you know, they said, "You've got to go."

KING: So, when she, when this tragedy happened to her, you were where? Were you in Fort Lauderdale?

GRAMMER: I was in Fort Lauderdale, right.

KING: Back home.

GRAMMER: Yes, right, I was back home.

KING: How did you learn of this?

GRAMMER: Well, I had spoken to Karen.

KING: She was 18.

GRAMMER: She was 18 at the time, she was about to turn 19.

KING: Were you like a big brother to her?

GRAMMER: Yes, oh definitely.

KING: She was close to her grandfather too?

GRAMMER: Well, ever since -- yes, ever since Gordon died I kind of took over, so she was in Colorado Springs. And we spoke on the phone. Her birthday was coming up July 15, we spoke on July 1.

She said she was going to be coming home probably around the 12th.

KING: Going to school there?

GRAMMER: Nope, she had actually taken a year off of school. She had gone to Barry College a year early, actually, because she graduated a year early, and she had done well, but then thought she wanted to take some time for herself, so she went up to Colorado Springs and was working, and holding down a job, and kind of had a boyfriend.

But July 1 came around. Fourth of July, I tried to call her to say happy Forth of July, it was always a big holiday in our family because we're kind of, you know, flag waving Americans. And I couldn't reach her. And around the 7th, after trying for the next several days to get in touch with her, I finally called the police department there, and about three or four hours later a couple detectives from the Pompano Beach police department came and knocked on the door and asked if there was anybody sick in the house.

I thought, "Well, that's kind of interesting." Because frankly, at first, I thought they were there to arrest me because I had been driving without a license for like, two years. But then they said, "Would you mind stepping outside." Because my grandmother was there, and she'd had some health trouble. And they took me to the car, opened up a book on the hood of the car, and I saw Karen Alicia Grammer written there, and they said, "We have a Jane Doe that we believe is your sister in Colorado Springs."

KING: You had to fly out there?

GRAMMER: Flew out, and identified her. It was a tough day, and -- it's funny.

KING: How do you get through that?

GRAMMER: It was hard. It was hard. You just do, you know, you put one foot in front of the other.

KING: Did they find that person?

GRAMMER: They found the three of them, actually. There was three boys that, one was a little older, but they were, you know, teens, and they had killed seven people. Karen had been the sixth person. They got them and got the death penalty. I don't think they were ever executed.

KING: You would have any excuse, at this point, to go nuts.

GRAMMER: Yes, sure.

KING: What did you do?

GRAMMER: I went, well, I did go nuts in my own way. I got, I was, I guess probably clinically depressed the following year. I went back to New York, and started trying to get a job as an actor, and did do some waiting tables. And I spent a lot of time watching old movies, and on occasion, I would get up, because I was very poor at the time, I'd walk to the refrigerator door and open it up, and look inside. Of course there was nothing, but then I'd realize, when I closed the door, that I had been standing there for about an hour. I was not happy.

KING: What got you out of it?

GRAMMER: I just, well, like I said, I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, and...

KING: Did you get a job, finally?

GRAMMER: I kept auditioning. I finally got a job.

KING: What was your first?

GRAMMER: My first acting job was at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego. And that's when I got on my motorcycle, I flew down from, I called my Grandmother and I said, "Gam, I need 60 bucks." At that point, at that time, I think it was "Easter In The Wings Of Man," you know, "The Yellow Bird," or whatever, and you get on those little 727s and fly down -- the Whisper Jet, that's it -- fly down to Fort Lauderdale. I tuned up my motorcycle and then I got on it and took off for San Diego.

KING: You motorcycled from Fort Lauderdale to San Diego?

GRAMMER: ... to San Diego, four days. Good trip, fast trip.

KING: Yes, not much of a risk-taker.


KING: We'll be back. How do you handle bayous? We'll be back with more of Kelsey Grammer right after this.



GRAMMER: I see an engaging and fiery young woman, who on a number of occasions, has shown a regal command equal to any royal in the world, and I have known my share of royalty. You see, my dear, I was a member of the Imperial court.


KING: Our guest is Kelsey Grammer of "Frasier" fame, and he's one of the stars of the motion picture "15 Minutes" with Robert De Niro and Ed Burns. What was that first job, the Old Globe?

GRAMMER: Oh, Shakespeare, yeah. I did a summer season there as an apprentice, and what did we do -- "As You Like It," "Othello" and "Troilus and Cressida."

KING: Were you the classic struggling young actor, working...

GRAMMER: I suppose, yeah.

KING: What was your break?

GRAMMER: Well, that was certainly one of them. I mean, that was my first acting job. I made 65 bucks a week and I slept in the park. Finally, stayed through the whole winter, actually, after that, and stayed in the second home of the creative director there, Craig Noel was his name -- is his name, he is still around.

And they very generously kind of took me under their wing, and I got to play several roles in several different styles of plays for the next two years there, and kind of completed my education there.

KING: And what was your first break where the people in the public would say, we recognize this person? Was it "Cheers"?

GRAMMER: Actually, well, my first public recognition came in San Diego when I did George Bernard Shaw's "Arms and the Man."

KING: Got good reviews?

GRAMMER: Great reviews, and it was a good performance, and you know, I would be pumping gas, and they said, hey, I saw you in that play. So, that was my first taste of it.

KING: What was your first television?

GRAMMER: Television was the -- pilot of "Kate and Ally" was my first television job. And my first -- I had a SAG card, I had the whole thing. I had never done a commercial before that, and it was a delightful experience. And then I got more into doing film work, I did a couple of television movies then, did the miniseries "Kennedy," then I did the miniseries "Washington," I did -- my year of the presidents.

KING: You did voice-overs, too, in your life?

GRAMMER: I've only started doing voice-overs since "Frasier", actually. I had hoped to get some, when I was younger...

KING: When did the problem with alcohol come in?

GRAMMER: Oh, "Cheers".

KING: While doing "Cheers"?

GRAMMER: Yeah, pretty much.

KING: You had not had a problem before?

GRAMMER: Well, you know, I would drink sometimes when I was younger, but I really couldn't afford it. So, money has a lot to do with that, I guess.

KING: How did you get the job in "Cheers"?

GRAMMER: "Cheers" was in the middle of the rehearsal period for "Sunday in the Park With George."

KING: Oh, you were in that?

GRAMMER: Yeah, I was in the workshop production, Playwright's Horizons, and Mandy Patinkin and I kind of hit it off; Mandy had gone to Juilliard, I -- we knew each other when I've been there.

KING: What a talent he is.

GRAMMER: Oh, huge talent. And a kind man, delightful man.

KING: Great singer, too.

GRAMMER: Yeah. And Gretchen Renell, the casting director of Paramount, the Gulf and Western building then, which is now Trump Hotel whatever -- at Columbus Circle -- had lunch with Mandy and asked him if he knew anybody that was kind of like of funny leading man type, and he said, oh, Kelsey Grammer, you should see him. So, I went...

KING: So, he helped Gretchen?

GRAMMER: Yeah, actually.

KING: And did you like that right away? Was "Cheers" -- in what year when you came into it?

GRAMMER: It was in its -- it was going into its third season, 1984.

KING: And how many years did you do it?

GRAMMER: Nine years.

KING: Nine years?


KING: Do you know why? Well, I guess it's impossible to answer -- Richard Dreyfuss -- why you drank?

GRAMMER: Oh, gosh, well, there's the clinical answer, and there is the real one.

KING: How do you explain...

GRAMMER: The real answer is, I liked it. I liked the way it made me feel. Maybe it was because I was running away from the feelings that weren't, you know, as comfortable as I wanted them to do be, and maybe I do have a self-destructive part of me.

I mean I -- I have always established challenges for myself that, you know, to prove to me that I'm tough. So if I can drink my... KING: Proved that?

GRAMMER: I think so, actually.

KING: Did it affect your work?

GRAMMER: You know, probably toward the end of "Cheers," it started to. And then, I did do -- go into rehab, actually, I think it was in the year of 1990.

KING: Betty Ford?

GRAMMER: No, it was -- hospital here in -- a 10-day program.

KING: Did it help?

GRAMMER: Well, it kind of introduced me to the idea of the fact that addiction was something you could actually, you know, deal with, rather than, you know, control. But I had made up my mind, I wanted to quit at the time, I thought, you know, I will dry out here a little bit, and get back on track.

I got to take -- I did a physical for the first time in years, and found out that, you know, maybe I should start working out a little bit, so I -- it helped me sort of -- sort of a point along the way, to at least track the idea that I had to kind of take care of myself.

But the minute I got out, I went home and did a lot of cocaine, and then...

KING: Why cocaine too?

KING: Cocaine -- it jacks you up. Turns you on.

KING: Something must be good about it, because somebody must like it. What did it do for you?

GRAMMER: I think just -- it took me to the place where I felt like I was at the edge. And I like living there, and that's the place where I like to be.

KING: Did you ever work while drunk or on a high?

GRAMMER: I did do a stage -- I was on stage once drunk, with Christopher Plummer doing "Othello," where -- it was really very funny, I had a couple of extra drinks, I went to my high school reunion that year, because I happened to be in Fort Lauderdale...

KING: Were you on "Cheers" at the time?

GRAMMER: No, no, no, this was before, this was before. We were at the Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale...

KING: Know it well. GRAMMER: We were on the road, and I go to my reunion, I have a couple of Mai Tais, or whatever, and I head over to the theater. And I get on stage and I think, I'm a little tipsy here.

KING: How did you handle it?

GRAMMER: Well, I kind of got through it, but I slurred a word or two, and Christopher comes over to me, and he stinks of booze himself, so you know, I thought, all right, this is great. And he said, are you OK? I said, I don't know, how are you?

But, you know, a part of the romance of that is you hear these stories all the time, you think I'm drunk, wait until you see the King of England, it is part of, I guess, the mystique or the legend...

KING: How long have you been -- dry as the say.

GRAMMER: I've been dry for five years.

KING: We'll be right back with more of Kelsey Grammer. He stars in "15 Minutes", a movie with Robert De Niro and Eddie Burns that's terrific. Don't go away.


KIM CATTRALL, ACTRESS: Every lobbyist, mom and politician is screaming about violence in prime time. We've got to broaden the format.

GRAMMER: OK! You broaden the format! In the end, the story they will run is the one with the juice. They want ratings just as much as I do! If it bleeds, it leads!




DAN CASTELLANETA, ACTOR: It's my old TV sidekick Sideshow Bob! Why, I haven't seen you in years. What you been doing with yourself, Bob?

GRAMMER: Well, Krusty, as you may remember, after I tried to frame you for armed robbery, I tried to murder Selma Bouvier. Let's see, I rigged the mayoral elections, I tried to blow up Springfield with a nuclear device, and I tried to kill you.

CASTELLANETA: Oh yeah, yeah.

GRAMMER: And whenever I could find a spare moment, I have tried to murder Bart Simpson.


KING: We are back with Kelsey Grammer. Did you ever -- you never did a "Cheers" drunk or high, did you?

GRAMMER: Well, there was one.

KING: Does it ever show?

GRAMMER: No. I don't think so. You know, it is -- but that is the opinion of an alcoholic, so I can't really...

KING: I mean, have you seen the version you were playing?

GRAMMER: Oh yeah, no, it was fine.

KING: There was no way you could tell?


KING: Did the cast know it?

GRAMMER: Yes. Yes...

KING: Have they tried...

GRAMMER: ... on one occasion, yeah. But they tried to help me. After -- it was probably next year, actually, with -- obviously, the excessive drinking and the lack of sleep and the partying, was you know, taking its toll on me.

KING: It affected your relationships with women, too, right?

GRAMMER: Well, yeah, they were pretty stormy.

KING: Your life has been pretty stormy.

GRAMMER: Pretty stormy, yeah.

KING: Yet you retain a jovial aspect about it?

GRAMMER: Absolutely, a sense of joy. Yeah. No, I really...

KING: You have that?

GRAMMER: Yes, I certainly do. You know, it's funny, I had the good fortune to bump into this poet that I always tout as my favorite poet, W.H. Auden...

KING: Not a bad...

GRAMMER: 1973: It was the year of his death, but it was also my first year at Juilliard, and the teacher there, Dr. Lullyvelt (ph) was her name, introduced me to his writing, and I just went crazy for it. And a lot of his language...

KING: So you use it?

GRAMMER: Always. I mean, it was as if I'd bumped into the poet of my imagination, and there he was. But a lot of it talks about how through the absurdity of the world we live in, there is reason to rejoice. There's a line. It says, that through this tohu bohu comes an absurd command -- Rejoice.

KING: So you -- it's really the glass is half full?

GRAMMER: Always.

KING: Well, did you ever hit the lowest depths?

GRAMMER: The lowest depths of my life was the death of my sister.

KING: Much lower than cocaine or drugs or alcohol?

GRAMMER: Absolutely. No question. No question.

KING: The last episode of "Cheers" -- was that tough to do?

GRAMMER: No, because I had the promise of "Frasier."

KING: Oh, you knew it was coming.

GRAMMER: Yeah, so it was -- it was a great sense of closure for me, but I had the excitement of "I'm jumping off the ledge into a new world."

KING: Now, were you drinking at the time?

GRAMMER: Actually, no. At the time of "Cheers," it was after I had cleaned up. At least for the first time.

KING: So you were approaching "Frasier"...

GRAMMER: The last two years on "Cheers," I was in, actually, pretty good shape.

KING: Why did "Cheers" work?

GRAMMER: Over there was great writing, there was a good director, Jimmy Burrows. Glen Charles, the guys that actually ended up being the producers, the creators of "Frasier" were there writing. We had an incredible chemistry and an irreverence...

KING: Was it sad that last night?

GRAMMER: Oh, certainly, but it was bittersweet. I was definitely excited, and I think even the other cast members would say the same thing, that it was, you know, the right time to say good-bye. And that it was, let's see what we can do now.

KING: Was that the show where Jay Leno went and did it live with you?


KING: Embarrassing? GRAMMER: You know, I wasn't -- I was not cognizant of that. It didn't register for me.

KING: You were not drinking then?

GRAMMER: I wasn't drinking that night.

KING: You mean the one guy not drinking was you.

GRAMMER: Yeah, right.

KING: Everyone else was plastered.

GRAMMER: It was very funny, I know.

KING: "Frasier" then becomes...

GRAMMER: You know what they were doing to them? This was what's funny. People said that, right, and I heard -- what I got from it was a sense of drunkenness from everyone that was -- letting off steam, it was a playfulness. They hadn't actually been drinking that much. They were enjoying the idea that maybe they were being crazy, and that they were saying good-bye in a rowdy way. I mean, I thought it was a delightful evening.

KING: Did you have any idea that "Frasier" would become the most successful spinoff in television history?


KING: You did think that?

GRAMMER: Yes, absolutely.

KING: And that faith was based on?

GRAMMER: Well, I had a healthy sense of, you know, that the leading man was going to be OK. And all the writers that were involved, I knew were brilliant, and we had an extraordinary cast that was put together, and...

KING: The luck you need is time scheduling, where they put you...

GRAMMER: Well, you need that, you need that. But really, on the foundation of every good show is a great cast, and a group of great talents, and the material, and the work itself. You know, they can try to -- they can certainly try to kill a show, and arguably they have tried to kill my show. But, we survived.

KING: How many years now?

GRAMMER: We're finishing our 8th season this year.

KING: And just get this big new deal, huh?

GRAMMER: Yeah, well, three years. We're going to extend for three years to 11 years, like we did "Cheers," and...

KING: Now, Warner Brothers owns the show?

GRAMMER: No, Paramount.

KING: Paramount owns the show, and NBC shows the show.

GRAMMER: NBC does the licensing deal with it.

KING: And they were going to have a whole big conflict, and we almost went to another network.


KING: We'll, back with Kelsey Grammer. If someone should do the Kelsey Grammer story, who would play you?

GRAMMER: I have no idea.


KING: We'll be right back, don't go away.


GRAMMER: If you're so cold, there is a scarf in the glove compartment.

DAVID HYDE PIERCE, ACTOR: Oh, really? I thought that's where you kept the butter and the eggs.

GRAMMER: Well, now it's burning up in here.

PIERCE: Are you insane?


PIERCE: Well, at leanest wait until we've stopped. You're going to get us killed. Stop it.

GRAMMER: Take the wheel.

PIERCE: I'll take the wheel, but just -- Frasier, stop, stop.

GRAMMER: No, it's almost gone.

PIERCE: No, I mean brake. Brake!




KING: We're back with Kelsey Grammer. Do you feel a kind of camaraderie when you hear stories about Robert Downey Jr. and the like?

GRAMMER: Oh, well you know, I -- there is a little phrase in the Alcoholics Anonymous, you know, you say a prayer for the alcoholic who's still suffering. And a lot of guys say there but for the grace of God, you know, go -- I've been through my time. I can never get so confident that I think I just defeated the beast, or whatever. But the truth is I've ripened to a place in my life where I no longer need that, and I don't want it. And that the "natural," as they say, is the greatest high.

To those who still go out, you know, I hope they work it out for themselves, but I really have no position in their addiction.

KING: Do you feel that jail is wrong?

GRAMMER: As a rule, yeah. Yeah, yes, I do. I guess there is something to be said for the impact of losing your freedom. But...

KING: How did you finally beat it?

GRAMMER: Well, as I said, the readiness is all -- I got to a place where it no longer worked for me. My life was crumbling around me. All the things that they talk about, did happen. But...

KING: Kept on doing the show, though.

GRAMMER: Yes, I kept on doing the show. And the realization that you are powerless over alcohol or drugs is probably the first integer, and the desire to change it. And I wanted to change it.

KING: And that affected your life a great deal. You met a woman that is now your...

GRAMMER: I met an extraordinary woman, Camille, in New York...

KING: You have a child.

GRAMMER: Well, we don't have a child together but we're -- we're working on it.


GRAMMER: I have a terrific 17-year-old daughter that actually, as a result -- by virtue of the fact that I've been clean now for so many years, there is a closeness there, sort of a reclamation of a relationship that I didn't really have.

KING: You're so open, Kelsey, so it can be asked. Do you ever fear going back?

GRAMMER: Going back? No. But what I do -- what I like doing is recognizing once in a while, you know, the Kelsey that says: "Boy, it'd be great do a line right now."

KING: You really...

GRAMMER: Oh, sure, once in a while. There's a really bad day or a tough, tough situation.

KING: And what stops you?

GRAMMER: Well, just the knowledge that it's not going to do me any good. That it will make me less capable to deal with it.

KING: What is it like...

GRAMMER: Basically, you know, what happens in drug addiction, is basically, you forestall having to deal with all the things you've been handed.

KING: You put it off.

GRAMMER: Yeah. And it's a convenient way of shutting down, dealing with life.

KING: What's success been like for you?

GRAMMER: Success has been terrific ride.

KING: Financially...

GRAMMER: Financially...

KING: Got no worries?

GRAMMER: Well, you know...

KING: This latest deal, you're set forever.

GRAMMER: I always worry.

KING: But this latest deal -- you can't blow that.

GRAMMER: Well, arguably, I should be all right.

KING: What do you -- you worry about money?

GRAMMER: Of course. You know, my granddad, depression kid, you know. Whatever, it translated, or, it carried over to me. I was infected by the same thing. You always got to be able to pay cash for things, you always got to be, you know...

KING: So that's still with you.


KING: It's interesting. In the movie, you play a, at times, horrid example of a tabloid figure.


KING: And you've been a victim of tabloids. In "Cheers" you play a guy in a bar.

GRAMMER: Yeah, right. Well...

KING: That's crazy. And you play a psychiatrist. Boy, you have been typecast.

Do you analyze yourself?

GRAMMER: All the time.

KING: A lot of you in "Frasier"?

GRAMMER: There must be, There is a guy that I am, I suppose, that sort of gives him reality, that makes him believable.

KING: Had to come from you.

GRAMMER: Yes. Absolutely.

KING: Do you get angry at tabloids when they -- why do they feature you so much?

GRAMMER: At first did -- you know, well, gosh, I think the real reason that I was featured so much was because the character I play is so opposite to the human that I am. And the story of my life as a person and the story of my character's life were so disparate that it didn't seem to compute for people that I could be this straight-laced, uptight retentive twit, and also be this wild debauched drunken madman.

KING: Because there's nothing of you...


GRAMMER: Right. So, you know, so it is -- but there was something about that -- it was romance of that as well, and I think they were drawn to that.

KING: Did you mind it?

GRAMMER: Do I mind it? I did mind it, but it takes a certain level of sophistication, and I guess time helps, I guess that new contract, but you start to recognize...

KING: Does it come by where you could by a newsstand and say, yeah.

GRAMMER: You recognize finally as that's the price you pay for fame. You do lose your right to privacy. It's gone. The First Amendment is a hiding place for basically lurid bullies to, you know, act out their obsession with the worst part of humanity, and there it is, I have no power over that.

KING: We'll have our remaining moments with Kelsey Grammer right after these words. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: We're back with Kelsey Grammer, the star of "Frasier." What's it like now -- wait a minute, everything is good! The contract, you are not drinking, you're happily married.


KING: Now to a risk taker...

GRAMMER: I know, these are the bad signs, right.

KING: This is all bad.

GRAMMER: Better screw something up quick.

KING: What's next?

GRAMMER: What's next? Just an ongoing devotion to the work. What I have done to kind of compensate for my addictive personality is I always present -- give myself challenges that are just a bit beyond my abilities.

KING: So, what's it going to be...

GRAMMER: So, well, when I direct the show and I'm heavy in the show at same time, I thrive on the challenge that it is just a little bit above my head, just a little bit out of my depth, and so I choose tasks...

KING: It's also why you did "Macbeth."

GRAMMER: Yes. Absolutely.

KING: Would you do theater again?

GRAMMER: Absolutely. I will probably do "Macbeth" again.

KING: Or do another movie?

GRAMMER: I will certainly do another film. And I want to direct films.

KING: Why does "Frasier" work?

GRAMMER: "Frasier" works because we stay focused on the idea that -- how he continues to grow. It is not that you are really -- the mission is not to try to keep him fresh, the idea is if you naturally put a character in a situation that demands growth of him, then he will remain fresh.

KING: And it is perfectly cast, is it not?

GRAMMER: It is a miracle of casting, yeah.

KING: And everyone...

GRAMMER: John Mahoney -- I mean, he's just a breathtaking human being, and a brilliant actor. And David Hyde Pierce, certainly, and Jane, Peri, and you know...

KING: Do you dislike the dog?

GRAMMER: No, actually, I have a great affinity for the dog. I dislike his performance.

KING: He doesn't get it sometimes.

GRAMMER: Well, frankly, we...

KING: You must have hysterical things happening.

GRAMMER: He has a shutdown once in a while, where it's as though every trick he's ever performed like kind of comes back, and he just takes off around the room.

KING: He's a dog!

GRAMMER: He's a dog, for Christ's sake! He's not an actor, but it's fun to realize -- it is such a charming value for the show to personify this dog, and he is a lot of fun, actually.

KING: Do you ever think ball players get this all the time, I'm not worth what they are paying me?

GRAMMER: No, I'm entirely worth what they are paying me, no question.

KING: Because athletes get this all the time. The public gets mad at athletes, they don't get mad at actors.

GRAMMER: No, not really, no. You know what, I have always said I'm working for free, I'm getting paid for all the other crap I got to deal with.

KING: The show is for free.

GRAMMER: The show is for free, that's gratis.

KING: It's dealing with the suits, right?

GRAMMER: Yeah. Absolutely.

KING: How long will "Frasier" last?

GRAMMER: We will last for 11 years, I'm sure, and I mean, I won't close the door on the 12th year, but I think that would certainly be the limit.

KING: Well, the writing is the hardest, isn't it?

GRAMMER: Absolutely.

KING: To keep up consistency of script.

GRAMMER: The best -- what's great, though, is that, you know, there are good writers out there, and we will be able to staff the show. The essential integer for keeping it fresh, keeping it alive is to discover an arc that demands the character's growth.

KING: Do you think, Kelsey, after all the things that have happened to you and that you have done to yourself and seen around you, you have built up a shield that almost whatever happens, you can handle?

GRAMMER: Well, you know, it's funny, I do have an abiding faith that I don't categorize or characterize as any particular religion.

KING: Believe in a god?

GRAMMER: Yes, I do. And I believe that god doesn't ask us to do things we can't handle, so.

KING: So, do you have that -- that shield is him?


KING: Lord's prayer, rocking the fortress?

GRAMMER: Yeah, all that. I do -- just, I mean, just the real standard corny maxims of our lives, I hold them true.

KING: Guardian angel?

GRAMMER: I believe I do, yes.

KING: Someone hanging around you?

GRAMMER: Yeah, absolutely.

KING: You are a good guy, Kelsey, and a heck of a talent.

GRAMMER: Thanks. Likewise.

KING: Hope you do a lot more movies too.

GRAMMER: Thanks.

KING: He is brilliant in "15 Minutes."

Kelsey Grammer, actor, director, writer, producer. "Frasier" will be with us, thank heavens, for another three years, and you can see "15 Minutes" at a theater near you, and you'll thank me for recommending it. A little violent, but all that you see could happen. We thank Kelsey Grammer.

"LARRY KING WEEKEND" is ahead this weekend, and Sunday night, we'll have eight nominees for Academy Awards -- and tomorrow night, a major show on heart disease.

Thanks for joining us. For Kelsey Grammer, yours truly, Larry King in Los Angeles, good night.



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