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Larry King Live

Mir to Return to Earth and Pat Sajak to Return to the Stage

Aired March 22, 2001 - 9:00 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, his syndicated show's rated No. 1 for nearly 17 years. If you want to buy a vowel, he's the man to see: Pat Sajak, Emmy-winning host of "Wheel of Fortune" will join us from Washington taking your calls.

But first, what kind of guy spends $20 million to rocket into space? We'll find out from a guest cosmonaut Dennis Tito; he plans to blast off next month in a Russian spacecraft. NASA has problems with that, though.

And we'll hear later from Captain William Readdy, astronaut and deputy associate administrator in the Office of Space Flight. All next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening. The space station Mir is in the final stages of a 15-year odyssey, gradually being de-orbited by Russian Mission Control. At this hour, Mission Control has fired up the rocket engine on a supply ship attached to Mir for the second of what will be three burns. The purpose is to slow the Mir down, change the shape of its orbit, and position it for reentry.

The final burn is scheduled for about 3 hours from now, and the Mir will then head into Earth's atmosphere if everything works. The pieces that are not incinerated during reentry, will scatter harmlessly over water between New Zealand and Chile. And CNN will be staying atop that scene.

We now welcome a man who wants to go up, while Mir comes down, Dennis Tito. He's an extraordinary, successful businessman: he heads Wilshire Associates, a very successful financial investment corporation. Why do you want to go up?

DENNIS TITO, SPACE TOURIST: Well, it's a dream that I've had since I was a teenager, and, I have always been interested in space, I have degrees in aerospace engineering, I worked at NASA for six years, and, I have always had a love for space.

KING: So, how did it work? Did Russia make an announcement, we will accept money and fly someone?

TITO: Well, 10 years ago, I was on a trip to the Soviet Union, and, at that time, I had discussions about possibly going up, but the country was in disarray, and, you know, there was no purpose in following that but it came up again, about a year ago. And I was approached, because I had expressed interest. And, I followed up on it.

KING: And how did they set the price?

TITO: Well, I can't talk about the price, but arrangements...

KING: Was it arbitrary? Just, OK, this is a good amount?

TITO: Well, you can base it on that the fact that 10 years ago, they were charging $12 million and...

KING: Cost of living. Did you pay them already?

TITO: I'm not going to be able to discuss the exact financial arrangements; that is confidential in my contract.

KING: The United States is trying to prevent you from going up. They are worried about health, the are worried about civilian and the like. Can they stop you?

TITO: I don't believe so. And, as long as I can get back to Russia, I'm home free.

KING: You don't need a special visa to go to Russia, do you?

TITO: I do. I have it.

KING: You have it already.

TITO: Right.

KING: So you are going?

TITO: That is right.

KING: Has any person in Russia wilted under the pressure of the United States?

TITO: I have not seen anything. They have been very solid, consistent, and, indicated to me that they will honor their contract.

KING: You are in good health?

TITO: Excellent.

KING: How old are you?

TITO: Sixty.

KING: How much training did you have over there?

TITO: Well, I have had eight months of training, but I have been a runner for the last 25 years. I've been weight training for five years. So I'm in pretty good shape.

KING: This is scheduled to go off, April 30th.

TITO: Correct.

KING: How many days?

TITO: Eight days total.

KING: No second thoughts?

TITO: Absolutely not.

KING: What training have you undergone yourself? You talked about running every day. But isn't there special astronauts training...

TITO: That is the physical training. I think what we are really interested in is the, you know, the training at Star City and there have been some questions about my abilities as far as, you know, dealing with emergencies, and that is an area that I have been very well trained. In fact, you know, one possible emergency is a fire. And if a fire were to occur, and the rest of the astronauts were disabled, I would know exactly what to do, how to put out the fire, how to locate it, and, you know, how to deal with my own breathing.

KING: Do you understand the United States' concerns? Or not?

TITO: Frankly, I don't. I think the United States, or NASA, is missing a great opportunity. The space program budget has been on a decline, real terms for last 10 years. This is an opportunity to get the general public excited about the space station, shuttle launches are routine, being able to see space through the eyes of an ordinary civilian, It is an intriguing idea. There's been polls that have shown 86 percent of those polled believe I should fly.

And, people can live vicariously through someone, like myself, who can relate that experience.

KING: And certainly, the United States could make money from this.

TITO: Well.

KING: They could charge people and take them on flights.

TITO: That is another step, to fly people on the shuttle. I don't think that is going to happen in the near future.

KING: Dan Goldin said that the priority of space travel isn't for rich guys to have fun. How do you respond?

TITO: Well, I have never met an astronaut that didn't talk about flying in space as fun. You know, that is certainly part of it. And, as far as I'm concerned, when I develop my original interest in space, I did not have money. I grew up in an immigrant family in Queens, New York, and that is when my goals were set. It just so happened that I have been fortunate, a product of a great system, a great country, and, I'm being able to realize my dream, and in five weeks, I'm going to be blasting off.

KING: What was weightlessness like?

TITO: Well, I have done a lot of weightlessness training, and, there have been some photographs of me published in that state, and, I probably had the biggest smile that I have ever...

KING: Got to be a hoot, huh?

TITO: It's great. I have had training putting my spacesuit on in weightlessness, I've been able to put my spacesuit on completely in the 25 seconds that you have in a segment, so I feel like I'm ready, I'm well trained...

KING: Are you just an extra passenger or you taking the place of what would be a needed cosmonaut?

TITO: If I did not fly, that seat would be empty. So...

KING: So, you are not replacing someone. You don't have any official duties on this craft?

TITO: I have some duties on the launch vehicle: I will assist the commander, as he instructs me. I have had a lot of systems training; I actually could operate a lot of the systems on the space station itself.

KING: What does the family think?

TITO: Great support; my son is here with me today. They know I'm a man that sets a goal, and goes to achieve it.

KING: When do you head over?

TITO: This weekend.

KING: Are you going to be there all that time getting ready?

TITO: I have two more weeks of training, and, then we have three weeks of ceremonies, and PR, and....

KING: I get that feeling, Dennis, we are going to be seeing a lot of you.

TITO: Well, I'm going to be seeing a lot of this earth.

KING: Do you speak Russian?

TITO: Very little, but my crew mates speak great English; that is not a problem.

KING: Best of luck.

TITO: Thank you very much.

KING: Dennis Tito. We'll have NASA's response when we come back.

And don't forget, still ahead, Pat Sajak with us tonight. Tomorrow night: Jack Klugman and Tony Randall. Our guest has been Dennis Tito. A former astronaut, Bill Readdy, will join us next, don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: I said former; he is still an astronaut. He is Captain William Bill Readdy. Captain Readdy is an astronaut deputy associated administrator for the Office of Space Flight; a veteran of three space flights himself, with us from Washington. What's wrong with Mr. Tito going up?

CAPTAIN WILLIAM READDY, NASA ASTRONAUT: Well, hi, Larry, how are you?

KING: Hi, Bill.

READDY: Well, I'll tell you, first of all, the timing is just really, really wrong for us. The operational tempo on board the international space station right now, as Captain Bill Shepherd and his crew will attest, is just very intense. And, our first priority is safety, and safety comes in a couple different flavors: one is, your preparedness to go fly.

And then the other one is the operational tempo, and operational tempo right now for normal operations is very high, and if there would be anything off nominal, any kind of emergency, the crew up there frankly wouldn't be able to accommodate a nonprofessional.

KING: Is there a little hypocrisy here since Senator Jake Garn went up?

READDY: Well Senator Garn went up before the Challenger. And Senator Garn was an experienced fighter pilot and he had months and months of training on his shuttle flight. So he was very well prepared, but I'll tell you, so would Jake Garn, he had a tough time up there on the space shuttle, and, even though he was experienced fighter pilot.

KING: So, what if we put simply in the old vernacular, is someone from Brooklyn, New York; what's it our business?

READDY: Well, I think, first of all, the American people need to understand, that the European space agency, the Canadian space agency, the Japanese space agency, and NASA, altogether as four of the five partners, and the Russians back in September, said that the operational tempo was too high to have nonprofessionals during the assembly of the space station.

So it is not us versus the Russians. It is just an artifact of Mr. Tito's contract to go to Mir, and now of course, this evening, Mir is de-orbiting; that is causing this problem.

KING: What do you expect to do if he goes? READDY: Well, we are working with the Russians right now, on different alternatives, and...

KING: To try to stop him?

READDY: No. Mr. Thomas Reiter is in Houston training now and he's trained in Star City before. He's an astronaut, very experienced fighter pilot. He flew with the Russians aboard the Mir space station; he's qualified as a Soyuz commander, and he is training with a backup crew right now.

KING: Meaning, he would go with him?

READDY: I think the European's plan on a series of professionals, to go in the taxi flights, and I would have to tell you that anybody that thinks that space flight is routine is sadly mistaken. You know, during a taxi flight, when Jerry Linenger was up there -- just a routine taxi flight -- that is when the fire occurred, and during a routine docking of a progress resupply vehicle that is when the collision occurred, when Mike Foale was aboard.

So there isn't anything routine at all about space flight and you have to be absolutely prepared for danger around the corner.

KING: Is it as much your interest in his health as well as he could be a problem to the rest?

READDY: Well, I wouldn't speculate on what was going on in the Naval inquiry on the Greeneville, but I have to tell you, that in our ops tempo right now, having someone who is not a professional, someone that can't participate in the normal ops.

And for example, this particular increment: they'll have $2 billion Canada arm to check out for the international space station. They will have progresses coming and going; they'll have Soyuzes coming and going; they'll have the shuttle coming and going; they will have space walks in progress, and so, that is just the nominal operation.

KING: You understand why he wants to go, don't you?

READDY: Oh, I wanted to go, too. I had the same dreams he did, I just went about it a little different way, and, I wouldn't presume to tell him about investment banking but, I don't think he is probably a very good judge about what it takes to be qualified to go fly in space.

KING: What are your thoughts about Mir coming down tonight?

READDY: Well, a little bit sad. Unfortunately, I didn't get to do a long duration flight; I only went up there to get Shannon Lucid in the space shuttle and only had five days docked. But we trained extensively with our Russian crew mates, primary and backup crews in Star City -- I spent a long time in Star City as the ops director and trained with the Russians on their systems, and, it's a little bit sad. Mir definitely had a place to play in the history of space flight. I think it is kind of the bridge between last century and this century. The first step in cooperation.

KING: End of an era.

READDY: Exactly.

KING: Thanks, Bill. Captain Bill Readdy, NASA astronaut; three flights himself, and deputy associate administrator, the Office of Space Flight.

Pat Sajak is next when we come back on LARRY KING LIVE.

Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Always a great pleasure to welcome Pat Sajak to LARRY KING LIVE. He's the host of the top-rated syndicated program in February, according to Nielsen; the next four in order were "Jeopardy," "Entertainment Tonight," "Oprah," and "Judge Judy."

Pat has been the host of that show for 20 years; "Wheel" moved in to syndication in September '83 and was No. 1 by May of '84. He is also going to be pinch-hit hosting this show when we vacation in May; we look forward to that. Before we go anywhere else with anything, Pat, do you think Mr. Tito should be allowed to go to space.

PAT SAJAK, HOST, "WHEEL OF FORTUNE": Who am I to tell someone they should or shouldn't do something? It is -- seems -- with all due respect, it seems a little demeaning, that it is for sale, and, you know, listening to Captain Readdy talk, I think he made some pretty good points.

You know, this is -- sometimes I think we take space travel for granted because we have been doing it a long time, relatively safely, and there is this tendency to think it is, you know, a walk in the park, even the fact we call it a shuttle, it sounds like US Air Ways from Boston to Washington. It's not that at all; it's very tough work. I would -- I would hate to see anyone jeopardize -- hate to see the program jeopardized because of something, which you might want to call a stunt, so there is my feeling.

But you know, I can't blame the man for wanting to go. Believe me, if they needed a game show host in space, I would be there tomorrow.

KING: Would you go?

SAJAK: Yeah, I mean...

KING: They say, we will train; you would go?

SAJAK: I would. I mean, who wouldn't? I mean, what an -- I can't even -- I was talking to Captain Readdy earlier about his experience, and I said, my guess is you can't adequately explain what it likes to be up there and he granted that that was true. It must be extraordinary.

KING: What are you doing in Washington?

SAJAK: Well, as you know, I live in the area so, there you are out in my place, but we spent -- we actually split our time between both coasts, we live in Maryland part of the year, and out where you are the rest of the year, so I have the best of both worlds.

KING: You live in Annapolis; right?

SAJAK: We do. Near -- yeah.

KING: When you work, you come to L.A. and then tape a bunch shows, then go back.

SAJAK: That is it, yeah. We spend some time out there as well, so it is nice. I'm not an L.A. basher. It has been very good to me; I have been out there 25 years, but we like it back here as well. My in-laws are here, the kids get to be near grandma and grandpa and everybody, so it is fun to be able to do both.

KING: Why do you think, Pat, your show remains at the top for so long a period of time? One of the toughest things to do in this business; can you take a step back and make a guess at it?

SAJAK: And you put your finger on it; you've got to take a step back. When you're this close to it, it is hard to figure out, because we go in and do our little -- if I went in and pitched this show to a network today, I would say look guys, we are going to put a giant wheel in a studio, someone will spin it and go, is there an "R"? I will say, no. And then they will spin it again, they would say, excuse me, I've got a meeting with "Survivor 3" here.

But, yet here we are. A couple of things, I think, that don't get talked about often. First of all, we really got big about the time television was changing; it was in the '80s, the pieces of the pie were getting a lot smaller, cable was coming into its own, independent stations were getting stronger, so we are this thousand pound gorilla in there with a big success story while, as I say, the pieces of the whole thing are getting smaller; there is that.

And I do get a lot of mail from some -- anecdotal evidence, but I think there's something to it -- because television has splintered, the audience has splintered. Now, the kids go into their room and watch MTV, you know, the parents are watching the home and garden network, and all that kind of stuff. People say, this is the one half hour a day that we can all watch together, and I hear stories about grandparents playing against the grand kids, and things like that. I think that has helped us.

KING: Doesn't the host, though, get a little tired of it after all this time?

SAJAK: You know... KING: Really.

SAJAK: I'm out of here. You know, it cuts both ways. Look, there is nothing more boring than hearing some quasi-celebrity droning on about how he is trapped in this success, you know and he can't get out of it. I'm very happy doing what I'm doing. Certainly, on a creative level, on a day-to-day creative level, my basic skill is knowing the alphabet and knowing what clockwise is, in terms of spinning the wheel.

But, on a serious note, when you have done 52 or 5,300 shows, or whatever it has been -- why I'm collecting the money now I think is that I'm able to go out there in Show 5,300, and have fun, and make it feel as though it is show No. 6 or 7. That's what you owe to the people who pay the money, that's what you owe to the players, and that is what you owe to the audience.

KING: And you attempt -- you did depart -- you didn't depart from the show, but you took on a CBS nighttime show; any regrets over that?

SAJAK: I regret that Letterman has my show.

KING: As you look back, what went wrong? You were funny, you were bright, you had good guests.

SAJAK: Yeah, I don't know. It is very difficult to analyze that sort of thing and it is very easy to second-guess everything. Putting aside whether I was any good or the show was any good, whether I was a good enough interview or whether I was a good enough host. When we went on, the conventional wisdom was Johnny Carson was leaving that season, so we intentionally went on to do kind of a "Tonight Show" clone, frankly, so that people would get comfortable with me in that role, Johnny would go off into the sunset, I would be there doing the kind of show that people were longing for, and there we were.

Well, Johnny just screwed us all up and stuck around for a couple more years, and then on top of that, as you recall, a gentleman named Arsenio Hall came along and did a very youth-oriented show: a lot of barking in the audience, and that kind of -- bringing young people to late night.

So, on the one hand, you had us looking like a clone of one show, not being as hip as another, I think we were kind of lost in the middle, and it just -- I don't think we ever got our traction. I regret that. I wish I had done better for the network; certainly for the people who worked on the show.

But, having said that, it was a wonderful experience; we did it for a year and a half. I mean, how often do you get to throw straight lines to George Burns? It was a great time.

KING: Pat Sajak is our guest, the host of "Wheel of Fortune." Three- time Emmy winner, very successful in business, we'll talk about that too. A Republican in a world of Democrats in L.A. and in Washington, and, we'll also talk about Vanna White, that show hosting this program, and we will take your phone calls.

Pat Sajak is our guest the rest of the way; don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Pat Sajak when he pinch-hit host during Christmas week. Was that fun?

SAJAK: I enjoyed that a lot. We were talking about talk shows earlier, and I still like doing that. But I like -- I like filling in. I sit in for Regis every now and then, he has been kind enough to let me borrow your microphone occasionally and will coming up soon. That's I think enough for me; I don't know that I have the fire in my belly to try to launch another one and go through the whole thing that happens when you do that. So, I do just enough of it to kind of keep my hands in.

KING: Innocent, intelligent, unassailable Pat Sajak makes the front cover of "National Examiner" this week. Here it is: "Vanna and Pat's Secret Romance."

SAJAK: Well, now it's not a secret, Larry! You have mess -- oh, my gosh. Actually, it's funny; I got an e-mail this afternoon...

KING: Tell us about it, Pat.

SAJAK: You want all the sordid details.

KING: Let it out, Pat.

SAJAK: Vanna e-mailed me and said, did you know we are having a secret romance? She said, I saw -- I hadn't seen this -- in fact, first I've seen it in your paper, but apparently we meet in the Poconos, according to this story. She said, have you ever been to the Poconos? I said, I have, but I don't think it has been with you, but...

KING: What do you make of all this? Is it natural fodder, since you have been together so long? It's just...

SAJAK: I guess, you know, it is funny. On the one hand, it is funny, a hoot. On the other hand, you know, it is sometimes a little annoying. We all -- we both have families; we have to deal with kids who go to school, and their schoolmates say, hey, what's going on there? You know, so, it is -- there is a serious side to it, but that is just kind of silly stuff.

It is -- could you do a favor for me, Larry? I hate to ask you this on the air and put you on the spot, but yesterday, as you may know -- I know you know -- I was in Morton's here in Washington in your booth with your picture glaring over me as I was biting into my burger, and there was a little confusion as I was leaving, because I was taking a few pictures and signing a few autographs, and I hung on to my coat check ticket. This is No. 17 from Morton's, so if I leave this with your staff, when you go back, will you take this back to them, and give the gal five bucks? Would you do that?

KING: OK, Pat, I'm shocked to hear that. But I will be there next week and I will take care of that for you.

SAJAK: I don't want to be accused -- this is genuine plastic, so I'm going to leave this here and I expect her to get the entire $5, Larry.

KING: She will get it and you are lucky enough to sit at my table; Leroy Neiman drew that picture

SAJAK: It's a very nice table. Now, that -- was that the former Duke Zeiberts, was it not?

KING: That is right. That's the same place. Speaking of that, we'll talk about Pat Sajak and Washington and we will take your phone calls, when we come back. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WHITE: We have the same blood type.

SAJAK: That is true.

WHITE: Which is unusual, because we have.

SAJAK: AB positive.

WHITE: And we drive the same cars.

SAJAK: Yeah, I mean different -- actually different cars.

WHITE: Same color, too. Did you know that?

SAJAK: Yeah.

WHITE: This wasn't planned.

SAJAK: I know very strange. .

In a professional sense, we share attorneys and accountants.

WHITE: Yes.

SAJAK: You I was married on New Year's Eve.

WHITE: And ways married New Year's Eve.

SAJAK: I should point out we have two children.

WHITE: Yes, older boy.

SAJAK: Younger girl. I should point out I did all this first, you pretty much copied my thing.

(LAUGHTER)

You just want to be me, I think.

WHITE: Maybe I do; maybe I am you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAJAK: Well, you know, it's quite an event. It's my first inaugural. And I don't care what party affiliation you are, what your politics are, you can't help but get swept up in the significance of it within our history, and, you know, people have talked about the peaceful transition of power, it is a pretty amazing thing to see.

KING: Pat Sajak, part of the inaugural coverage, that's when he appeared on our show. He also worked, he did (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Did you enjoy that? Did you like doing it?

SAJAK: I did. A few of us quasi-celebrities were asked to participate in this way: We were deposited at various points along the parade route, and over a PA system we would announce to the assembled throng what parade units, you know, what horses were coming by and that sort of thing -- what horses and what Senators -- and that is what we did.

So, and I had a nice position. I was right across from the presidential reviewing stand, but getting there was difficult because there were a lot of protesters in town. Security was extraordinarily high, so we were being marched through these folks who were not terribly happy about the way things had turned out, and so there was a little concern, we had a lot of security with us, but because of all the tight security we could not get through some areas we thought we could have. The guards couldn't even get us through.

So we had to, I will never forget my friend Ben Stein being hoisted over about a four foot barrier with his little umbrella, like the main course at luau. It was actually kind of, kind of fun to see. So we were all schlepping...

KING: I can picture it.

SAJAK: Yes, it was a funny moment. But it turned out great, and you know, it is, I don't care what you think about, as I said in that clip, about politics, it's hard not to be impressed by this nation, and its system, and its traditions, and to be part of something that has happened so, still a relatively small number of times in our history, that being an inauguration, it was a great thrill.

KING: Did you get any bad feelings from your company involved in the production, because people know you're a Republican, that you voted for the president?

SAJAK: You say, you say that as if I have some communicable disease.

KING: No, sometimes they'll say, as a game-show host...

SAJAK: This is a two-party system. No, I...

KING: Don't come out for somebody, you know what I mean.

SAJAK: I understand, but I have always tried, I have never been a fan of celebrities who use their whatever forum we have to espouse views. When I go to someone's concert I want to hear them sing, I don't want to be lectured to about what to drive, or who to vote for, or what food to eat, you know, do the song, let me buy the album and get out of here.

Same thing for me, yes, I'm politically active, and tend to be conservative, but I do it, I do it in a political context. If I'm at a political event I feel real comfortable doing that. I'm not a, I don't like bait-and-switch, where you tune in a talk show, or tune in a game show, and someone, in their not-so-thinly-veiled words, is telling what you to do.

KING: So in other words, if you are in Academy awards you don't want to see someone make a political speech, accepting an Oscar?

SAJAK: Well, look, this is America and they're entitled to do it. I don't think it's the right thing to do. We have, celebrities, or whatever we are, we live in this little bubble, and we think we're a lot more important than we are, and people treat you importantly.

If you are important to the production of a movie, to the health of a network, or a syndication company, people are very nice to you, they send you cars and they go, "yes, sir, oh you're the most brilliant person. We love you. You are this, you are that." And you tend to believe this stuff, and you then tend to believe that your views are more important than anyone else's.

I don't even do, I've been approached to do "get out the vote," you know, real nonpartisan stuff. I don't even do that, because I figure if a game show hosts has to convince to you vote, your vote is probably not worth that much, anyway. So I think, shut up, perform, and if you want to do other stuff, do it in context, that's all.

KING: Any thoughts on the possibility of Arnold Schwarzenegger running for governor?

SAJAK: Well, I don't know Mr. Schwarzenegger very well, nor can I spell his name, but so, but, it's interesting. I mean, the whole notion, California has a history of occasionally electing a performer into very high office. It's happened a few times. And I think he is saying now he's not going to do that immediately, and I'm sure there's a sigh of relief up in Sacramento that he's not going to do it.

I'm sure he would be strong candidate. In a state like California certainly where media buys are so expensive, name recognition is a huge part of equation so obviously he would go with a big leg up, and he has a big leg to put up.

KING: Now, is this right, next month you're going to recite Casey at-the-bat with the Dallas Symphony? And in September you are going to do the odd couple? We've got Klugman and Randall on tomorrow night.

SAJAK: I know, that...

KING: You're going to do it with who?

SAJAK: That's great to be compared to. I will do it with neither of those. Actually, I'm doing it in Hawaii. We're doing a benefit at the Hawaii theater in Honolulu. It's a beautiful theater downtown Honolulu, for benefit of the Minoa Valley theater, a smaller theater in Hawaii. We're doing it for the last week of September.

It's, a dear friend of mine named Joe Moore, who does the news out there, and has been there for a long time. He and I were in Vietnam together, and he's a performer as well as a broadcaster, and he does a lot of work out there. We talked about doing something together, and we just got together over a couple of beers and said, "What about 'The Odd Couple.'"

It's funny, I sent, when we sort of agreed we would try to go forward with this, I thought, you know, I haven't seen this play in a long time. And you tend to think of -- in your mind's eye -- you think of Klugman of course, and Tony Randall who are fabulous. But I wondered if the play, itself, without them, really held up. But to get it and to read it, it is still very, very funny, and plays...

KING: Some think the best comedy ever -- best pure comedy ever written.

SAJAK: Oh, I think so. There's a little side piece that Neil Simon wrote to the play, and he said,"I don't know if this play has persevered because people want to see it, or because actors want to play it." Because the roles are wonderful, and I think it's a little bit of both. So, yes, I'm doing that.

KING: Are you going to do Casey-at-the-bat? The outlook wasn't too bright for the Mudville nine that day, the scores stood 2 to 4,with (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

SAJAK: One inning. That's right, you know, and Cooney died at second.

KING: I think the writer wrote 2 to 4, even though it should have said 4 to 2.

SAJAK: There are a lot of versions...

KING: The writer wrote 2 to 4.

SAJAK: There are a lot variations floating around. The Dallas Symphony, April 13th and 14th. Again, a friendship situation, Richard Kaufman, who's the conductor of the symphony -- their "superpop" series -- and I were talking about the fact that we had never worked together professionally, and we decided to do this. So they -- the symphony was great. They commissioned a new score to go with it, and it's going to be fun. I, it's, you know, one of the things that the, being a part of a long-running show gets you is entry into stuff like this, and it's fun to do from time to time. It's not like, you know, going up into space with the Russians, but it's OK.

KING: We'll be right back and take your calls for Pat Sajak on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VANNA WHITE, CO-HOST, WHEEL OF FORTUNE: I think Pat's still rehearsing.

SAJAK: Yes, there are three R's -- Yes, there are three R's. No, no L's. So where're you from?

What do you say, you and me, this weekend, body piercing, Hollywood. What do you think?

I'm just in the mood. I don't know. Call me whacky.

(SINGING)

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) Zorro, makes the sign of the "Z"

It's so goosey.

I think it's only that we all...

So how long have you been waiting to be a contestant on "Wheel"?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAJAK: You want to talk about zippers tonight?

WHITE: What would you like to talk about zippers?

SAJAK: I made an interesting discovery and I've...

WHITE: Tell me.

SAJAK: I've never noticed this. I was putting on a jacket and I zipped it up. Did you know zippers make a different noise zipping up than they do zipping down? Did you know this?

WHITE: I never really noticed.

SAJAK: Try this at home, folks. It just, they make a different sound.

WHITE: Try. Just kidding! just kidding! It is a joke!

SAJAK: We've got to go, I've got work to do. Bye.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Pat Sajak having a good time. Before we take our first call, what do you make of the swing now to reality television? Beat up your wife, leave your girlfriend, survive on an island.

SAJAK: It's funny, you hear the term "reality," and I'm not sure that that's exactly what it is. The notion that you are going stick a camera in front of people they are going to act real, I mean, just the phrase "act real" is an oxymoron. You can't do that, if you're acting you're not being real.

I hope it's just a phase where, television has always been, you talk about the golden age of drama and the golden age of comedy, television has always been 80 percent junk. And I don't mean, I mean junk food, maybe is a better way to put it. I don't mean terrible stuff, just innocuous stuff, something to keep you entertained.

What's different now is there's is more of it because there's more outlets on the air, and it just seems, even when it was silly and even when it was bad, even when there were no redeeming social values, the purpose of it was not, it seemed to me, to demean and embarrass people, to see how far we can go, to see how much horror we can inflict on someone, to laugh at a crash or a fire, or someone falling off something.

You know, and I don't mean to sound like an old fuddy duddy, but I just fear that we are raising a desensitized generation. We see all this, this horror and it's often with a laugh track, and it's not -- most of the stuff that we find -- my problem with Jerry Springer is not that they throw chairs, it's that these people allow themselves to be demeaned, and we all kind of laugh at it, and poke each other, and, that's just an odd form of entertainment.

KING: Hartford, Connecticut, as we go to some calls for Pat Sajak, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: How you doing, Pat?

SAJAK: I'm well, how are you?

CALLER: I just have a quick question for you. I was just wondering what type of pressures are you under, being the number one guy on TV, you know, as far as game shows and all that type of stuff? You know, I know there is a lot of pressure doing that, you know, it looks easy, but I'm sure there is a lot of pressure. I was just curious, what type of pressure are you personally under?

SAJAK: Well, I try, we've been very lucky. Most often when you have a show, the first thing do you next day is you run to the ratings book or next week, and you see -- we're very spoiled, we have been number one forever, so I tend not to have to do that. So that helps.

There is, pressure's not even the, it is a good pressure to have. I would rather have the pressure of trying to stay number one than become number one, or to avoid being canceled. All of television has, the most popular shows don't do the numbers now that they did 10 years ago, again, just because...

KING: Impossible.

SAJAK: You can't. But you can hold your own, in relative terms. And we've done that. So, in that respect, to me, the two pressures are, you know, trying to maintain that, trying to keep the show fresh while remembering that people like the game and we don't fool with it too much.

If you think about it, Larry, it's actually very funny. With all the technology we have, and all the cool things we could do, we have this big clunky wheel that makes noises on the spikes and everything, but people like that and we don't do way with that.

If you watched a tape from 10 years ago, and then watched a show tonight, you would see they're vastly different in terms of look, style, and pacing and the way we do things, but changes have been gradual. And that's the trick with a long-running show, to keep it fresh without alienating longtime viewers.

KING: I remember once a general manager in Washington say, "The show won't make it. It has a tremendous flaw. When they spin the wheel and the letter isn't there, nothing has happened."

SAJAK: Well, our show should not work. It really shouldn't. Look at -- boy I'm going to be, how am I going to go back to work tomorrow? -- but look at a show like, these days, you know, the cameras are always moving, there's got to be action, something, there's got to be a laugh every two seconds in a sitcom. He's right.

There are times when not much happens, and if you think about it, we have five or six puzzles over the course of a half hour. They sit up there for a long time not and it's not as if we're jumping around from one thing to another.

It's in a strange way, it's almost throwback television, and yet I think people like the pace, the fact that they can sit there and not, I mean, "Jeopardy" is a wonderful show, but it's a different mindset when you're watching. It's boom, boom. I've got to try to keep up with these people. Here, when you are at home watching, you almost always beat them to the punch, because, if you think about it, the object on our show not necessarily to solve puzzle first, it's to solve the puzzle an amass money.

So, you might know it and keep spinning, where at home, you're sitting there, you've figured it out four spins ago, and you're a pretty superior kind of guy, but I have had people look at our game and say, "This game shouldn't work." And you know what? KING: The guy was right

SAJAK: Well, he was right in a wrong sort of way.

KING: We'll be back with more and more phone calls for Pat Sajak. He's going host this show again first week in May, don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAJAK: Actually, home where is you hang your pants.

Here, take this.

Charlie, put down that Spice Girls calendar.

Coca Puffs.

Don King.

Chia pet.

Toenail clippers.

Dennis Rodman.

Beauty tips book.

Viagra espresso, it's time for our jackpot round.

The last time I go shopping with Barry Manilow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, we proudly welcome, to the Hollywood walk of fame, Pat Sajak.

There it is, Pat.

KING: Are our stars near each other, Pat?

Are you humble enough to admit that? Where are you?

SAJAK: This is terrible, but that was few years ago. I haven't been back there, and at the time they did mine, they were putting, they were doing some subway building, and so they had to remove it and put it in, you know, the star vault, or wherever they put stars, and they put it back, but I don't know where they put it. And I haven't looked, I should go clean it off, but where are you, Larry?

KING: I'm -- where am I? I'm a little, I think, off (UNINTELLIGIBLE). SAJAK: You're telling me.

KING: I'm near Arthur Godfrey.

SAJAK: Oh, all right, I'm near Jack, I'm near Jack Paar, so look for Jack and you'll find me. We're in good company.

KING: Kermin, California, hello.

CALLER: Good evening, gentlemen. How're you doing tonight?

KING: Hi.

CALLER: Pat, I have a question of curiosity for you.

SAJAK: Sure.

CALLER: When I was growing up, I grew up in the 60s and 70s and there was a lot of game shows on. Now, today, you hardly ever see any, I mean, there's a couple in the evening, you, and "Jeopardy", and basically, I mean, that's about all I see today.

KING: Good question. What happened to them?

SAJAK: Well, part of what happened was the daytime network television almost went away. The bulk of them, that's what was on in the morning on through the early afternoon, oftentimes. But if you recall, NBC had, for years, had this, we were part of that daytime lineup, and most of the networks did daytime shows.

The audience changed, the daytime women joined the work force, all that kind of stuff went on, and so that, we lost a big part of it then. In prime time, it's interesting, when Millionaire came on the air everyone talked about this rebirth of game shows, and I said, "Hold on here, I don't see a rebirth yet, what I see is four or five shows coming on trying to rip off Millionaire," which they did not succeed in doing.

As a result, that's the only show left in prime time, all others have gone away. So I don't know, I don't know exactly why they would, but television tends to be cyclical, but we have, there are not many on the air. It was a funny, years ago, I won an Emmy as outstanding game show host. The next year, there were literally three game shows on the air. There was "Price Is Right," "Jeopardy," and us. That's it.

They nominated two hosts. They nominated Alex Trebek and Bob Barker. So now...

(LAUGHTER)

... if you're -- if you're not nominated as a sitcom star, you can always say, well, there are a hundred sitcoms on the air. I was actually told by the TV academy not only are you not the best one: You're the worst.

(LAUGHTER)

So I have that on -- this was the year after I won, so...

KING: After winning.

SAJAK: Go figure.

KING: Milton -- Milton, Florida, hello. That's a great story. Hello.

CALLER: Good morning. Sorry, good evening, Larry.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: Good evening, Pat. How are you doing?

SAJAK: Hi. Very well.

CALLER: The question I got, sir, is being in the entertainment industry, have you ever been criticized for your Republican views?

SAJAK: No. Look, whenever you're -- criticism or any problems you might have are always minimized when you're part of a successful project, so maybe it's not fair for me to comment.

Again, I don't -- I do -- whatever political activism I might engage in or activism of any kind, charitable or otherwise, I try to do it when I'm not performing, when I'm not, you know, playing the game show host role. I do it in context.

So it's not as if I come on "Wheel of Fortune," which I don't think would be fair, and come and start espousing a lot of political views. So I think that minimizes the amount of heat.

I don't care whether you're left or right or whatever, if you use the wrong forum to espouse your views, I don't think you're being fair to the stations that bought your show, I don't think you're being fair to your audience. So it's been fairly minimal.

But I do get -- I do get that interesting thing that Larry kind of did. "Now, you're a Republican, aren't you?" And there's sort of a hushed whisper. And I understand what you're saying, because in my business...

KING: Well, in Hollywood circles you're in the minority.

SAJAK: Oh, absolutely. And I've never quite figured that out. A lot of people think it goes back to blacklist days, just the traditions of Hollywood. Some think it's -- some think it's guilt that there are people here not working all that hard, making lots of money, and so they want to look like populists.

I do -- I do think it's funny that a lot of these very wealth Hollywood types will be out campaigning for, you know, they don't want to a tax cut. In the meantime, their accountant, of course, is taking every -- every step he can to make sure they -- I want to tell them is, remember -- and I say this to anyone who thinks that their taxes aren't high enough: that the tax rates that the federal government lays out are just legal minimums. You can send them all you want. You can send them your whole...

KING: True.

SAJAK: ... check, right, and they'll deposit it...

KING: Yeah, right. They will happily accept it.

SAJAK: Feel free.

KING: You can get -- I think you can get a thank you note.

SAJAK: That's so nice.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with Pat Sajak right after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VANNA WHITE, "WHEEL OF FORTUNE": Oh, what the heck.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAJAK: This (UNINTELLIGIBLE) won't leave me alone.

WHITE: Very good.

SAJAK: For (UNINTELLIGIBLE) thousand miles I rode.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WHITE: See you on Monday.

(LAUGHTER)

SAJAK: Here I come to save the day.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WHITE: Pat, you better not.

SAJAK: Vanna, you've got to trust me. I'm just going to do a little bit here.

WHITE: He's really going to cut my hair, isn't he?

Ooooh!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAJAK: We're going to switch. I want to give my voice a rest. Vanna has agreed to host the bonus. Do you sort of have the idea?

WHITE: I think so. The letters will light up and you'll turn them over. It's that easy.

SAJAK: All right, I can do that.

WHITE: OK. We are looking for a thing. Very nice, Pat.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: One more quick call for Pat Sajak. Honolulu, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Mr. Sajak. I'm really looking forward to seeing you in "The Odd Couple" when you do it here. I saw you in a play here seven or eight years ago. You played a lawyer, and I thought you were very good in that, about Billy Mitchell. Have you done much acting since then?

SAJAK: Not a whole lot. I don't do a great deal of it, but I had a very small part and I did that as -- just for a friend and had a good time with it.

But I do -- there's something about this -- you know, everyone wants to do what they don't do, right? Actors want to dance and singers want to direct. But I think the most -- whenever I'm in an audience at a play and I see the actors up there taking their bows, to me that seems like almost the purist form of show business. So I'm thrilled to get a chance to do it and I hope that the caller will come see it.

KING: You own a radio station, right?

SAJAK: I do, right here in this area, in Annapolis, WNAV. And it's...

KING: Oh, that's a famous station.

SAJAK: It's been around a long time. We do the Navy football games and carry the Bowie Baysox, the Orioles' minor league team, and do lots of community service kind of stuff. And we -- we deal with servicing Annapolis. It kind of falls in the cracks sometimes between Washington and Baltimore.

KING: You mean you're not part of any conglomerate ownership?

SAJAK: No. I'm...

KING: You're the one!

SAJAK: There are very, very few anymore. There are companies that own six or seven stations in the same market.

But yeah, Sajak Broadcasting consists of that station, and it shows no sign of any expansion any time soon.

KING: What about our Orioles this year?

SAJAK: I don't know. Boy, it's a tough call. It looks like, you know, the horrible word that fans hate to hear, but "rebuilding." It kind of looks like a rebuilding year, but I think they need to do that. And they could surprise, but it would be a big surprise if it were hugely successful this year. But it's a great ball park, isn't it?

KING: Oh, beautiful. And Pat, any more -- are you going to buy any more stations? I mean, are you looking to expand?

SAJAK: I don't think so. On the way home, I think I'll buy a sandwich. That's about all the purchasing I'm going to do anytime soon.

I don't think so. I am, unlike Merv -- my mentor and the guy who got me started in games -- I don't -- I'm not quite a -- I'm a mogulette. I'm not quite a mogul yet.

(LAUGHTER)

But maybe down the road.

KING: Good guy, Merv. You could...

SAJAK: He's the best.

KING: ... do a lot worse than Merv Grifin.

SAJAK: He's a great guy to work for, he really is

KING: Thanks, Pat.

SAJAK: Always a pleasure, Larry.

KING: And we'll be seeing you in this chair in May.

SAJAK: Thank you very much for letting me borrow it. I appreciate it.

KING: Pat Sajak. Tomorrow night, it's an "Odd Couple" reunion. The guests are Tony Randall and Jack Klugman. If you'd like to log on to our Web site, it's cnn.com/larryking. And if you have questions for Tony and Jack, send them in early. It should be a fun hour and we do not want you to miss it. We're following the down to earth of Mir tonight for the rest of the evening on CNN, along with all the other news, and we invite you to stay tuned for that coverage along with CNN tonight.

I'm Larry King. See you with Klugman and Randall tomorrow. Thanks to Pat Sajak and the other guests. Good night.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com 8

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