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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: sex, celebrities, dangerous secrets. Jackie Collins' best selling novels include them all. And she's here to talk about her latest red hot reads, "Hollywood Wives: The New Generation."
And then: He followed his father Al Haig into the Army and served for 22 years and now Brain Haig has written a military thriller: "Secret Sanction." One critic called it John Grissam in camouflage gear.
Plus, she was married to the mob and survived to write about it. Georgia Durante tells an outstanding life story in "The Company She Keeps."
And finally, CNN senior analyst Jeff Greenfield revisits the strangest presidential election finish in U.S. history in "Oh, Waiter, One Order of Crow." They're all next on LARRY KING WEEKEND.
Four terrific books on tap, way begin with Jackie Collins, best- selling author. She sold hundreds of millions of copies of her novels in more than 40 countries. Her newest, "Hollywood Wives The New Generation," there you see it, and it's already jumping up the best seller lists.
Why -- is there a sequel?
JACKIE COLLINS, AUTHOR: No, it's a completely different look at Hollywood wives, Larry.
KING: But you took the title.
COLLINS: I took the title, yes, because the title was great, and it became part of the language though. "Hollywood Wives" is now used all over the place as part of the language. So I thought, I'm going take the new Hollywood wives because they're so different from the old ones. And the only character I bring forward from the previous book is Montana, who is now bisexual, because women in Hollywood are so fed up with men. All the best men are guy or married.
KING: "Hollywood Wives" then, was what era?
COLLINS: It was 1983 and the women were very much behind the husband they were pushing him forward, they were having these perfect little dinner parties, making the deal, looking after money, turning the other cheek when he was cheating. Now it's the wives that are cheating.
KING: Why that difference in 18 years, what would cause that?
COLLINS: Because women have progressed so much. The men of course are much older, the women are much younger. There's this age discrepancy with them and so they want to be next to the husband. If the husband is a movie star they want to be a movie star. If he's a producer they want to have their own production company.
They don't want to have babies. They want to either adopt from a third world country or they will take their eggs, his sperm, mix them in a blender, surrogate mother, instant baby and they will have baby showers for this baby that they are not having and they will go around saying oh, yeah, we are pregnant.
KING: When you say "they" are you generalizing?
COLLINS: I'm generalizing because there are some great Hollywood wives. Your wife included.
COLLINS: There are some wonderful women out there. There's just some that are little over the top and they're kind of fun to write about, but I also write about a male Hollywood wife, which I think is interesting.
COLLINS: Well, it's a gay couple.
COLLINS: Because you see many gay couples in Hollywood and this guy is kind of the wife of a huge mogul, a mega-mogul.
KING: Since you know all the people you write about, you travel the circuit, will they know who they are when they read you?
COLLINS: The guessing game is always fun. I mean people love the guessing game.
KING: Will they know it, if...
COLLINS: Yes, I think they'll know it. But I won't admit it.
KING: You won't say, this is her.
COLLINS: Exactly, people say to me all the time, I know who it is, so them name -- Catherine Zeta-Jones, or Michael Douglas. They'll say Sharon Stone, this was Madonna, it's this one, it's that one. But I would never say this is one particular person because it's not. It would be boring if I wrote one particular person.
KING: It's all an offshoot of the women's movement, therefore are they a better collection of people, are they stronger? COLLINS: I think they are definitely stronger. They don't put up with so much from the husband. For instance, Lissa Roman, who is this wonderful movie star, her husband is 10 years younger than her, he is very threatened at being married to a powerful Hollywood wife.
So I have the traditional Hollywood wife, the powerful Hollywood wife, the male one, the black one. I mean there's a whole mix going on there, and they're so interesting to write about. I love writing about strong women. I love women to be empowered by my books and to have fun with them, too.
KING: There's almost a strong woman in every book you write, isn't there?
COLLINS: There is and that's why I think I've been lucky enough to be writing so long and being so successful at what I do, because people love the characters. A lot of people say to me, oh, your books are so sexy, they're full of sex. Well, so what.
KING: They are.
COLLINS: But if you don't like the characters what does it matter?
KING: Yeah, still a good read though, right? You like writing steamy.
COLLINS: Sex should be fun, you know. It's got to have humor. Think about sex. It has to have humor and it has to have your mind involved. Otherwise you may as well go and buy one of those girly magazines and read the page that is written by all those guys sitting around in a room, saying, what are we going to write now? You know what I mean? So I think it's going to be fun.
KING: Are you a natural story teller, do you think?
COLLINS: Yes, I'm a born story teller. I've never pretended to be a literary writer. I love telling stories. I love that...
KING: Character development is not your theme. Plot is your theme, but you would not delve deep into psyche.
COLLINS: Well, I do get into my characters much more than I used to. For instance, Michael Scorcini (ph) , in "Hollywood Wives" who I originally wrote about in Hollywood Kids," he's a fabulous character. He's an alcoholic been sober for 10 years, is incredibly good looking, women love him, but he doesn't realize he's so good looking.
And now, as people start to read the book, they say to me, where can I meet Michael? Where is he, does he exist? Well, he does kind of exist in several different people.
KING: You'll put people together too, in a composite character.
COLLINS: Exactly. KING: But basically you're plot driven.
COLLINS: Let me tell you something, Larry, you'll never recognize yourself.
KING: I know I'm in this thing. You are plot driven, though, right? COLLINS: I am plot driven.
KING: And do you plot it all out?
COLLINS: No. I have no idea what is going to happen. My characters take me on a trip.
KING: How do you know where you begin? How does it work?
COLLINS: It's like a jigsaw puzzle. And it all falls into position for me and it's done it for 21 books, and I am so lucky that this happens but I just have the characters name and title of the book. And I have a vague idea of where it's going to go, but I don't know. They take me somewhere different every day. I don't even know when they're going to have sex. That surprises me too -- oh, really another sex scene, how interesting.
KING: Do you have a modus operandi? Will you work five hours a day? COLLINS: Yes.
KING: You're principle that way, and are disciplined?
COLLINS: Oh, you have to be. Because I write in longhand, I still write in longhand, not at a computer. So I not roll out of bed and I go straight to my desk and I write about half an hour and then I'll go and get coffee and stuff and then I'll write for the rest of the day until about 6:00.
KING: Your late husband who was just one of the great people...
KING: Oscar, he used to say, you'd give him those scenes to read, of sex scenes, right? He got a charge out of reading those.
COLLINS: Yes, sometimes I would call him at -- he had a club called Tramp -- and I would call and say, honey, I think you better come home.
KING: You turn yourself on, huh, Jackie?
Jackie's latest novel, already zooming up the best seller list, "Hollywood Wives, The New Generation." Back with more of Jackie Collins right after this.
KING: Dominic Dunne was with us last week and he sensed that people like to just naturally as a reporter, dish to him. They tell him things. You too?
COLLINS: Yeah. I did two interviews this week with press journalists and we sat during the interview and they had their tape recorders on and all they did was tell me stories and I thought they're going to be so surprised when they go back and listen because it's all about them.
KING: What is it about you?
COLLINS: I think I'm one of the boys. If you and I went out for a drink you would be telling me things you really didn't intend to tell me, but you would find yourself drawn to me and you would find yourself feeling very comfortable with me. This is what men tell me, anyway, so I'm one of the boys.
KING: You are a receptacle.
COLLINS: Yes, well, don't quite put it that way.
KING: Well, no, I mean you are a receptacle of news, right?
COLLINS: Exactly, and I love listening to people and I love hearing those stories. And you talked about character development. That's where I get a lot of my character development from is people telling me their stories. And you pick up little things and I wrote 10 hours of prime time for NBC, when I produced my own mini series, "Lucky Chances" and "Lady Boss." And I would sit around on the set all day and the actors would tell me everything.
So you would see this gorgeous actress and she would be saying, you know, when I was growing up my step father abused me and this is what happened then, and then a gorgeous actor would be telling me this and I'm fascinated by famous people because they do have very interesting stories and they become actors because they're so secure and that they want the love they didn't get as kids.
KING: Interesting, because lately I've noticed in reading critics who used to just rip you apart, now "The New York Times" they'll say things like, "Jackie Collins knows how to tell a story and I couldn't put it down and it's very interesting."
How do you account for that? Have you grown on them?
COLLINS: I guess I've grown in them. I guess they realize I'm not going to go away because I've been writing for so long and I've written so many books. But I think that my books -- I think each book gets better. I like to think that.
KING: You should improve.
COLLINS: And I have great passion for what I do.
KING: Ever want to change your genre? Ever want to go off and write a hard boiled detective thriller?
COLLINS: Yes, I want to write it but I want to write it under another name.
KING: Because if it's Jackie Collins, it has to be...
COLLINS: Yes, it has to be a certain kind of, you know, but I do write different genres. I write gangster novels, which is the (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
KING: I'm talking about, you know, just a complete departure, a who done it.
COLLINS: I wrote a short story for "Rolling Stone" once called "The Rock Star and the Life Guard" and that was completely kind of different and a different style and it was fun to do. As a writer you like to stretch what you do.
KING: You don't write about the insurance agent in Des Moines.
COLLINS: I could write about him, and I know what he is doing. He's cheating on his wife, Larry. I can promise you that.
KING: So they're no different?
COLLINS: No they are no different. But to write about Hollywood is more glamorous. The people are more beautiful, there's more money involved. I like writing the rags to riches also. Someone who comes to Hollywood and wants everything.
KING: Why do you think marriages -- Julia Roberts and Benjamin Bratt apparently have split up; Cruise and Kidman; Ryan and Quaid; Willis and Moore...
COLLINS: There's one word: Temptation.
KING: I was there in the 80s, too, and the 70s and 60s. Didn't marriages always break up?
COLLINS: They always broke up, but not as publicly as they're doing so today.
KING: And temptation is greater now, why?
COLLINS: The temptation is location. If you go off on a location, for instance if there's a single movie star playing opposite a married movie star, and it's a woman, she wants to validate her sexuality. She sees this gorgeous guy and she thinks she thinks, I am going to get him. I don't care if he's got a wife. I am going to get him,
I mean this sounds cruel but then you're on this location and it's so sexy and...
KING: And he looks at it as what? COLLINS: And he looks at it as probably a location fling. If you look at the Russell Crowe/Meg Ryan affair it seems to me that was a location fling for him and yet it meant everything for her.
KING: Therefore with all you've written, and all the plots and all the plots, does anything still surprise you?
COLLINS: I'm constantly surprised.
KING: You are?
COLLINS: I find the Robert Blake thing surprising, the O.J. scandal, Robert Downey. I think it's very sad. I don't think it surprises me. I just say to myself, what a shame that Robert Downey, who is so talented and so wonderful is such an addictive personality.
Because I was married when I was very young to a guy who was hooked on drugs, and I understand drugs very well and he was so a addictive that he eventually killed himself. It took him four 4 years to do it but when you're that addicted it's almost impossible to get off.
KING: Are you always into your next book?
COLLINS: I always am.
KING: You never take a long period of time off?
COLLINS: I have "Lethal Seduction" out in paperback now, so I'm writing a sequel to that called "Deadly Embrace." And that's going to be a lot of fun.
KING: Isn't it hard, if you're writing "Deadly Embrace" to be talking about "Hollywood Wives" which to you is last year.
COLLINS: Well no because I'm starting it next week.
KING: Oh, you haven't started it. Because if you had started you would go berserk.
COLLINS: I would go berserk because I'd just want to be at home writing. And then I'm going to write another book about Lucky Santangelo, because I have hundreds of letters a month from people saying you have got to write about her again. Then I'm writing "Hollywood Divorces."
KING: Do you have your own Web site? I mean, do people always come up to you and ask about people you write about, even though it's fiction? You are writing fiction.
COLLINS: I'm writing fiction but they know that it's based on fact. They know they're not getting the front page of a tabloid, they're getting the real truth. Because they know that I have been in this town for a long time. I know all the players, I go to all the parties, I watch and I never reveal who the real people are. So people trust me because of that. You trust me, don't you, Larry? KING: Sure, but do you protect friends?
COLLINS: Yes, I protect you very much in this book. No, you're not in it. I'm just joking.
KING: Keep it up, Collins. Keep it up.
COLLINS: Just joking, just f-ing with you.
KING: How is Joan? Do you speak to Joan?
COLLINS: She is great. We had dinner last week in New York. I was in New York doing "The View" where I wore $10 million worth of Harry Winston diamonds which was so much fun. And those girls are great on the show. They're terrific.
KING: You're a special lady, Jackie. It's great to have you as a friend.
COLLINS: Thank you, Larry. It was great.
KING: Jackie Collins. Over hundreds of millions in over 40 countries. The newest is "HOLLYWOOD WIVES, THE NEW GENERATION" already climbing the bestseller list.
Next, someone with a first novel getting rave reviews. He's Alexander Haig's son, Brian. And the book is "Secret Sanction."
Then George Durante joins us to talk about life in and around the Mafia. And then Jeff Greenfield. We'll be right back.
KING: We just talked with Jackie Collins who has written 21 books. Our next guest has written his first novel, he is Brian Haig, the son of the former Secretary of State Alexander Haig. He's a West Point graduate himself, a career officer, military strategist, 22 years in the Army, former assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
And now the author of "Secret Sanction" about a military lawyer assigned to investigate a massacre in Bosnia that may be the work of a United States Special Forces team. Why now, Brian, a little later in life, fiction?
BRIAN HAIG, AUTHOR, "SECRET SANCTION": It's a great story to tell, I think. And if you do it through fiction you can delve into it a lot more in depth and you can carry it in directions that you can't if you are doing non-fiction, Larry.
KING: Were you comfortable with fiction?
HAIG: I did some surveys. I looked around at a lot of the best writers to see how to do it, and I really liked John Grisham, I really liked Nelson Demille, I really liked Tom Clancy and I tried to blend those together. And hopefully I arrived at somewhere in the middle in there.
KING: And what they all are and what everyone is telling me about your book, as I said I've just got a hold of it, although everyone I've talked to who's read it love it, is the ability to move a story, right? That's the secret of the tale.
HAIG: Yes. They call it pacing in New York, and that's what Grisham does so well and Demille and I tried to do the same.
KING: How did this idea come?
HAIG: I actually wrote the book during the bombing campaign two years ago and the issue itself is an issue that's as you know, is as old as the military. What do you do when some of your soldiers seem to fall from grace? And it's a very tough issue for a country. We just revisited it with John Kerry, we will revisit it I think time and time again, so that is the essential part of the book.
KING: You mean Bob Kerrey.
HAIG: Yes, I'm sorry, Bob Kerrey.
KING: Have we had that in all our wars? You are a historian, you are from West Point. Have we always had people killing innocent people?
HAIG: I think there's always some legal issues that come up, Larry. Whether it's people killing supposedly innocent people or fratricide or other issues. And when you get this blending of two different cultures with two very strong ethical basis, one being the legal culture of lawyers and the second being of course the military culture, which is so well known for duty and honor and country. And when you put those two together in a book it's a fairly good plot I think.
KING: Your expertise, Brian, was military strategy, right? Are you an attorney?
HAIG: No, I was an infantry officer and a strategist, was my alternate so I wrote war plans.
KING: So who helped you with the legal aspects? And as I understand it, military legalistics are very different from civil and courtroom criminal legalistics.
HAIG: Unfortunately, I didn't go anybody for help and maybe I should have. But as an officer back in the 70s you learned an awful lot about the law. You had to. The army was a different organism then.
KING: Your hero, and he writes in the first person, right, is Shawn Drommomd.
KING: Give me the outline. He's a lawyer for whom? HAIG: He's is an Army attorney, a JAG officer and he is sent into Kosovo to investigate a massacre supposedly done by an Army Special Forces team. And what he's doing, Larry is he's performing the military equivalent of a grand jury investigation. It's called an Article 32 where he's supposed to determine whether there are sufficient grounds for a court-marital against these nine men.
KING: How did you come up with the title?
HAIG: With some help.
KING: Because everyone agrees it's a great title.
HAIG: Yeah, it works well because sanctions, as you know, are authorized murders and secret sanctions are authorized murders done in the dark.
KING: And if you have, is it always wrong if you do something that you know is going to bring harm to just citizens, not military?
HAIG: I think that that's a tougher issue also. You run into what they call the gray area where you have sort of peripheral damage. In other words, but more or less what the military thinks is as long as you're aiming at a military target and you're attempting to keep it discretely in that military target then you're in good, safe hands.
KING: Our guest is Brian Haig. This book is the getting enormous advances, and a lot of people paying attention to it and we imagine it's going to be a major film as well. The book is "Secret Sanction." Back with more Brian Haig after this.
KING: We are back with Brian Haig, author of "Secret Sanction." Is it tough being the son of Alexander Haig?
HAIG: No, it's wonderful, Larry. As you know, the only real yard stick is do you have a great father? And I think I do.
KING: But you had a name to live up to, too, did you not? You were Haig's boy?
HAIG: Not within the family.
KING: I mean he had some pretty big strong jobs.
HAIG: Yes, yeah, he did. Really what we had was an example to live up to more than a career path. And I think all of us children have tried do that, just simply to lead a very honorable an responsible life.
KING: In an article in "Details" magazine you wrote somewhat critically of the current state of the Army. What is your overall look at it?
HAIG: Yeah, think the Army which is certainly the service that I know the best is in fairly difficult condition. And what I tried to point out this that article is that it is probably too small for everything it's being asked to do today.
And there was no discussion during the campaign about making the Army larger, but it probably is too small and so a very small number of people are being flown around the world into a lot of places and they are under a lot of pressure.
KING: Is one of the problems when the public sees no imminent threat of a World War III that things like Army get put on back burners?
HAIG: What I've always felt and felt it for 22 years in uniform is that the American people love their people in uniform probably more than any other nation that I'm aware of. I view it more as a political issue, balanced budget issue and if the American people were more aware of where it needed stitching, where it needed a little bit of money that they would support that.
KING: Are we going to see more Shawn Drummond works?
HAIG: Indeed we are. We have another one coming out in April and there are four more now lined up behind it.
KING: Wow, you are going to be Jackie Collins all over again. Is that your field now? Are you now a full-time writer?
HAIG: Yes, I am. Yes, I am. And let me add, it's very difficult to have to follow Jackie, Larry.
KING: Is this going to be a film?
HAIG: There are discussions about it in Hollywood right now. We have a number of offers that we are looking at, yeah.
KING: How did your father like the book?
HAIG: He loved it. He's particularly proud to see that his son will make a living on his own and not have to borrow money from him.
KING: Do you plot everything out before you start, Brian?
HAIG: I have an ending, and then I sort of try to dance to that ending.
KING: So you know where it's going to wind up, but how you get there, you don't know?
KING: Does your main character have faults of his own? HAIG: He's a very imperfect guy. He's really more of a typical male. He chases the girl and doesn't get her. He's impulsive, he's quick, he's funny, he's witty I hope. But he's not a perfect guy.
KING: Most first novels at autobiographical. Is this?
HAIG: No, I wish I could be like my central character.
KING: You're not like Shawn Drummond?
HAIG: No, I don't think so. I was much more polite, much less abusive, much less nose in the door sort of guy.
KING: In putting it together and then working with editors, did you have a good time with that, because editors as you know, will say, in chapter six here, Brian, I don't quite get this?
HAIG: I had a wonderful time. I fell into a great agent, Lou Janklow (ph) , who took me to Warner...
KING: Is that Milt's son?
HAIG: Exactly, Mort's son, who is a wonderful agent on his own and he took me to a fantastic editor, Warner, and we've really had a good time with it.
KING: Now, are you out and about with it? I saw a full page color add in "The New York Times." I would bet not many first novelists get that.
I was very appreciative to Warner, yes. And they have brought me around a little bit and it's been a lot of fun because you get a chance to talk to people who are reading the book and see how they feel about it.
KING: So you're already into writing the second?
HAIG: The third and the fourth, Actually.
KING: The second's done.
HAIG: It's done. It's just waiting to go to the presses.
KING: Best of luck with it, Brian. I look forward to reading it. As I said, I just got a copy. Everyone's telling me about it. Thank you so much for being with us.
HAIG: Larry, thank you. It's really been a pleasure.
KING: Say hello to dad.
HAIG: I definitely will.
KING: The book is "Secret Sanction," the author is Brian Haig.
Georgia Durante is next: Model, former Mafia wife, mother, stunt driver, what a life. Her autobiography, what a title, "The Company She Keeps." Don't go away.
KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. We now welcome Georgia Durante to this program. She has written an extraordinary book. It's been out a while. It comes out on taped version this fall as well. It's an autobiography called "The Company She Keeps," and what a life, and what company she kept. Reads like a movie script. You were -- were you in the mafia? Were you a mafia person?
GEORGIA DURANTE, AUTHOR, "THE COMPANY SHE KEEPS": Women are not in the mob.
KING: No women are in the mob?
DURANTE: No, no.
KING: What happened to you?
DURANTE: Well, I started -- when I was 13 years old, I met a guy who turned out to be the godfather of upstate New York.
DURANTE: Rochester, New York. And we became very good friends, and I was -- I grew up around those guys. To me, they weren't anything different. And I moved to New York City, and I got a job in an after-hour club where I witnessed a guy being shot, and they threw me the keys and I ran and got the car, and I drove this guy to Bellevue Hospital where we dumped his body on the sidewalk, beeped the horn and took off. And all they talked about was how I drove the car.
KING: They liked the way you drove.
DURANTE: Yeah, I guess they did.
KING: So, you became mob driver?
DURANTE: Well, it didn't -- it didn't -- it didn't happen just like that. A couple of months later, I was asked to deliver a message -- and who I turned out delivering that message to was Carlo Gambino. And I had no idea who he even was, but he remembered this incident -- incident, because they had talked about it so much, and it started kind of innocently.
You know, I would pick up packages for them and I would drop them off at JFK Airport. I later found out there were millions of dollars in these packages. And then it kind of graduated. They would ask me then to take them to what they called pickups, and I assumed what they were doing was collecting the big, but what they were really doing was robbing these places. And I had no idea that's what they were doing, until one day they came out with their guns out and started charging...
KING: ... and you were a young girl at this point, right?
DURANTE: I was 18 years old -- 18, 19 years old.
KING: Did you think, why am I in this and should I get out?
DURANTE: Well, when I realized what was going on, that's when I knew that I had to start pulling away from it, but prior to that it was really exciting. And not really knowing what they were doing was even more exciting, you know, the intrigue, the power of that world.
I was very drawn to that as a kid. You know, I was 12 years old, I hopped a freight train and ran away from home, not because I wanted to run away, but because I wanted to see what was out there, I wanted to see where the action was.
KING: So, you were adventuresome? So you paid a price for that?
KING: Did you get involved romantically with any mob figures?
DURANTE: I did. I married a guy, and he turned out to be the prince of darkness.
DURANTE: That's what I call him. And that gets into a whole other...
KING: You write about all this, though, right?
DURANTE: Absolutely. This was a very abusive relationship.
KING: You had a daughter with him?
DURANTE: Well, he raised my daughter. I was married once before him, but he raised her from the time she was a year old.
KING: Was he a good father?
DURANTE: Well, let's put it this way: he was playing with her one day and she was climbing up on the kitchen counter and jumping into his arms. He would catch her and she would climb up again. This happened three or four times. The fifth time she went to jump in his arms, he pulled away and let her fall to the floor, and said, "there, that will teach you never to trust anybody." So you tell me, was he a good father?
KING: Did you feel trapped in that relationship?
DURANTE: Yeah. I spent a lot of time trying to get away from that relationship. We ended up running from the mob. We came to California, in hiding.
KING: You and your daughter? DURANTE: Well, all of us. He was already out there. And when I got out there, he was extremely abusive. And there was nowhere for me to run. I couldn't tell anybody who we were, where we were from.
KING: How did you get out?
DURANTE: I just -- I didn't even think about it. I didn't plan it, I just did it on the spur of the moment, got in my car and started driving with my daughter. We drove to L.A. I remember seeing the Hollywood sign and the smog. And I looked around, I didn't know where I was going, I didn't know anyone there. I ended up sleeping in the car. I ended up stealing food at convenience stores. It's really a pretty amazing story how I got from there to where I am today.
KING: And now, you have a relationship with a man who was a mob prosecutor, right?
DURANTE: Yeah, he was the chief of the strike force for organized crime. Now the guys in the mob think I'm sleeping with the enemy.
KING: Did he meet you through investigating you?
DURANTE: No, he did not. It was way after the fact, and it was actually when I was writing the book.
KING: Oh, really?
DURANTE: Yes, and he came to pick me up, and where we went on our first date was to see "Donnie Brasco."
KING: Great movie.
DURANTE: It was. And we were both watching it -- and he was kind of involved in that whole sting operation -- and I'm watching it from my perspective, he's watching it from his. When the move was over, we just looked at each other -- it was so weird the way it happened, I just said, "Jim, I don't know if this is going to work."
KING: But it does.
DURANTE: But it has.
KING: By the way, if you want more information on the book or about Georgia, she has her own Web site, www.performance2.com. The book is "The Company She Keeps." We will be right back with the incredible story of Georgia Durante and then Jeff Greenfield. Don't go away.
KING: By the way, Georgia Durante was once called the Kodak girl, right? As one of the most photographed girls around. Photographed for what, modeling?
DURANTE: Yes. I was the Kodak Summer Girl back in 1968-'69. It was the life-size cutout in the blue and white polka dot bikini.
KING: Wow! And they didn't know then that you -- of your other associations?
DURANTE: That was my day job, Larry. At night I was driving the getaway car.
KING: Now, you also told me that a woman read your book and didn't commit suicide?
DURANTE: Yeah. I got an e-mail a couple months ago. I get several e-mails of women who have changed their entire lives after reading the book, but this one really got to me. This girl wrote me and said that she was going to kill herself that weekend. And she worked at a radio station, and I had done a show there. She hadn't heard the show, but the book was lying around there.
So she took the book home and started reading it, and she said: "If I had not read this book" -- she said -- "I wouldn't be here to be writing you today." She said: "You made me see that I was worth something, and if you can do it with what you were up against, I can do it." And then she signed her name, Nicole, with a small n, which -- I e-mailed her back and I said: "The first thing you got to do is capitalize your name, and then you're going to get some self-esteem."
KING: That's a great story.
DURANTE: Yes, it is. It is. You know, to know that it's actually saved someone's life.
KING: What do you think as you know of the way the mafia is portrayed, like "The Sopranos"?
DURANTE: Well, I don't understand -- I don't understand what the Italian Americans are so upset about. These are the way those -- at least the guys in that -- in the mafia end of things, that's the way they act.
KING: Are you an Italian American?
KING: So you are not offended by the show?
DURANTE: I'm not offended at all.
KING: That's the way they in that line or work are.
DURANTE: They way they are. You know, I mean, that to me...
KING: They're not Marconi.
DURANTE: They're very, very, very realistic in how the show portrays them.
KING: And the way the women are portrayed. DURANTE: Yeah, exactly.
KING: It must be awfully difficult being attached to someone in the mob -- whether you're driving the car or not -- just part of that life. I mean, you're not brought into any of the secrets.
DURANTE: Well, you know, keep them barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen, that's the way most women in that world are treated. I was treated a little differently, but when I was actually married to someone in that world, then I became his possession.
As soon as I married him, everything changed. He started limiting my time with my family, with my friends. If I worked, I could only work so many miles outside of town. You know, Buffalo was considered out of town. Rochester is only 60 miles from Buffalo.
KING: Why did you take that?
DURANTE: Because, Larry I -- I blame all this on my rape. I was raped when I was 17. And it was almost like he was the victim, not me, in how...
KING: You mean at the trial?
DURANTE: Yeah, and what that did to me psychologically -- and here I am appearing on covers of magazines -- I had no self-esteem. It just tore me apart. And my husband was 15 years older than I was, and knowing, you know, instead of trying to pull me out of that black hole that I was in, he kept me there because he was insecure, which I realized after writing my book -- the wise of all this, I had never questioned what had happened to me in my life.
KING: Is he still living?
DURANTE: No, he's dead.
KING: What do you do now with your experimental nature? Or did that change? Are you still a risk-taker?
DURANTE: Oh, yes, I am. I have to have that in my life.
KING: So you have to have drama.
DURANTE: Yeah. I am -- I am actually getting away from that a little bit. I find that I love writing, and I will, you know...
KING: It's cathartic, right? Are you going to do another book?
DURANTE: I am doing another book. I am doing a book about Morton Downey Jr.'s life.
KING: You were friends with him.
DURANTE: Yes, yeah. KING: And his wife.
KING: Just saw his wife last week.
KING: She still can't get over it.
DURANTE: No, no, she's having a tough time. I mean, I worked with Morton right up until the last stay in the hospital when he was too sick to really work, but he was such a wonderful man and so many people don't know that about him.
KING: Oh -- and the book will be in his own words?
DURANTE: Oh, yeah. I have about 60 hours of tape on him and Laurie is filling in the blanks.
KING: Thanks, Georgia.
KING: Georgia Durante. What a life! "The Company She Keeps" is the book. The Web site is www.performance2.com.
Jeff Greenfield, my buddy is next. Don't go away.
KING: We close tonight's program with one of my favorite people, who has written an extraordinary book. Jeff Greenfield, I had the honor of reading this book I guess in galley form -- what a title: "Oh, Waiter! One Order of Crow: Inside the Strangest Presidential Election Finish in American History." And Jeff, you were right in the middle of it all. Did you know pretty early on -- I mean after the events of that November day, book?
JEFF GREENFIELD, AUTHOR, "OH, WAITER! ONE ORDER OF CROW!" Well, you know what? It's funny -- funny may not be the right word, tragically funny that we knew the afternoon of election day that we were in for an incredibly close race, because the early exit polls -- which most times tell you definitively who won and who lost -- were showing a dead heat.
Flash forward about 13 hours after this incredible night when we miscalled Florida for Gore, then we prematurely called Florida and the presidency for Bush, and I think most of us thought it would be a couple of days before this thing got sorted out. If you had told us that it would be 37 days and two Supreme Court opinions and countless hanging chads later, I think we would have said, "no, I mean, you've got to be smoking something illegal."
KING: I must say the book is brilliantly written. It's written in almost staccato diary fashion. What inside you was that night like for you? Especially when you knew we -- and the collective we, that's everyone -- goofed?
GREENFIELD: Well, it was -- it was two feelings at once. As soon as we pulled Florida back from Gore -- which is where the title of this book comes from, I had just finished saying, admitting to Mary Matalin sometimes we in the media have to eat crow, but usually these predictions are right, Bernie Shaw came in and said, "we are taking Florida back," and I uttered the only thing that occurred to me, "waiter, one order of crow."
So we knew from about 9:00 Eastern time through about 2:30 that simultaneously we were in the most exciting presidential election night at least since 1976, maybe until '68 and '60, we didn't know what was going to happen -- a dozen states were hanging in the balance -- and at the same time, in the back of your mind, you realize, "boy, we screwed up pretty badly back there."
Now, what we didn't know was that at 2:15 in the morning, we would screw up yet a second time. So you are simultaneously exhilarated, you're fascinated and you're a little bit embarrassed.
KING: Have we now prevented crow from being eaten as you know it in the future? Has whatever occurred that night been corrected?
GREENFIELD: No, because there were many, many, many orders of crow being eaten that might. I think we're flogging this title to death, so let me -- what the I mean by that is, look, we are going -- we meaning the media -- I think are going to be more restrained in the calls. We will I'm sure never call a state where any portion of the polls are open, because some people believe that the early call in Florida for Gore may have affected the vote in the Western part of the state.
I'm not sure that's true, but it's a big enough problem that we won't do that, but there's nothing to prevent the loss of probability from happening again where we think we have a formula for projecting a call, and it turns out that the numbers are screwed up. Remember, the second call, the one that called the presidency for Bush, wasn't based on exit polls, it was based on real votes. It's just that the computers and human beings made mistakes, and so what you're asking really is can we even sure the human error won't happen.
KING: All right. In reverse, if Gore won on the total tally as some think, were you right the first time?
GREENFIELD: No. I think this is an important point that you raise, because every time I go out and speak, Gore supporters say, "your exit polls were right, it's just that they didn't count as votes." If you believe -- if the exit polls were right, Gore should have carried Florida by a couple of hundred thousand votes, and no one can argue seriously that he lost that many votes.
I believe that one of the Miami newspapers was correct in saying that the messed-up ballots in Palm Beach and Duval counties cost Gore probably about 20,000 votes. That would have been enough to turn out the outcome, but it wouldn't have been enough to make the exit polls right. So, the exit polls were based on flawed information, flawed assumptions, and we -- because we had never -- we meaning the media -- had never been wrong before, we've never gotten a presidential call wrong, we were too arrogant. We were too confident that the system couldn't fail.
KING: Did you trust your memory or go back over all the tapes of that night?
GREENFIELD: Oh, no, trusted my memory? I don't know where my car keys are.
No, I read all the transcripts -- which makes for some pretty interesting reading -- played some of the tapes and then went and interviewed a few dozen people in the Gore and Bush camps because I wanted to confirm or rebut certain a assumptions that I had had. For instance, the Gore people were prepared to lose the popular vote and win the electoral. They had strategized that out to the last detail. It never occurred to anyone in the Gore campaign a least according to my sources that thought we would win the popular vote and lose the electoral vote. So I learned a lot.
KING: My guest is Jeff Greenfield. This is a terrific book, "Oh, Waiter, One Order of Crow." Back with some more moments with our top analyst at CNN and host of "GREENFIELD AT LARGE," seen every night a half hour half after this program ends. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GREENFIELD: You should have listened to me.
BERNIE WILLIAMS, CNN ANCHOR: Stand by, stand by, CNN is moving our earlier declaration of Florida back to the too close to call column. Twenty-five very big electoral votes, and the home state of the governor's brother, Jeb Bush are hanging in the balance. This no longer is a victory for Vice President Gore. We are moving it back.
GREENFIELD: Oh, waiter, one order of crow please.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Funny, Jeff on the way here today a bumper strip I saw said in 2004 reelect Al Gore.
GREENFIELD: Yes. Look...
KING: Has that had an effect on this presidency?
GREENFIELD: Well, I do think that the circumstances of Bush's election had an effect. And I think you're seeing it as this first several months have played out. Bush came in I think politically wisely acting as if he had a mandate, as if he had won 55 percent of the vote and 400 electoral votes. Because to do otherwise would have been to weaken himself before he began.
But as we saw in the spring when the switch of one Senate vote turned the Senate into Democratic hands, when you actually don't have a mandate, it's much harder to keep people in line. And contrast Bush with Reagan in 1981. He was able to say to Congress, do what I'm asking you to do, the people have chosen. And most new presidents come in with that kind of argument.
In Bush's case everybody realizes that basically that election was a tie, and Gore would have had the same problem. There was no mandate and so Bush was deprived of that argument. And I think it has had an effect on his ability to drive his agenda through.
KING: What do you make of the ever-remaining McCain factor? He was a factor on election night, a factor certainly preelection and he's still a factor.
GREENFIELD: I think there is always a hunger in American politics for someone who isn't the normal political player. I think it happened with your old buddy, Ross Perot. I think it happened to an extent with John Anderson. We kind of are attracted to mavericks. And in John McCain's case the circumstances of his life made him probably the most unusual person ever to step forward for president, a man who had been tortured for five and a half years in North Vietnam.
So he retains a pull on a lot of American voters independent of the fact that he's a Senator from one state and may never get a chance to run for president. The other thing I have to believe and I'm basing this frankly on how I would be, I think he still harbors enough anger at some of the people around Bush for the conduct of the primary that if he can cause any member of the Bush White House to reach for the anti-acid, it is a good day for him.
KING: Is Gore still going to be around?
GREENFIELD: I'm sorry.
KING: Gore. Still going to be around?
GREENFIELD: Well you know he certainly has a viable argument. It's not everybody who says, you know I did win the popular vote, and if history is a guide, it may not be, when Grover Cleveland lost this White House in 1888 after winning the popular vote, he came back and took it in four years.
Andrew Jackson did the same about 160 years ago. So you have a balance. Gore has an argument to say, I really did win last time, and a lot of Democrats are saying, but with that economy there's no way you should have lost.
KING: What's been the effect, Jeff, of this, your book, and writing it, on the media? Is our standing lower? GREENFIELD: I think that what happened election night has produced within the media a rare burst of humility. Usually those two words don't go together. Humility -- media. But the fact that on the most important state in the closest election in 25 years, we botched it twice within the space of five and a half hours.
I think has led us to realize, I hope, that even given the idea that we won't call a state with the polls open, we've got to be more careful. Now, what it hasn't done, Larry, is to stop, what I regard, as this absolute insanity of polling for the 2004 election before they put the inaugural bunting away. I think this is an example of, let's look around the next mountain and try to figure out what's going happen 3 years from now. I don't understand it.
KING: Why, why do they do it?
GREENFIELD: I believe it's a journalistic version of Terret's Syndrome. I believe we can help it and there ought to be a cure for this. I have no defense for it at all, none. I think it's silly.
KING: Where goest Bill Clinton?
GREENFIELD: Well, you know, this book is amazing, how he just doesn't go away. When I started really thinking about this book, I realize in my view, Bill Clinton had played an enormous role in the outcome. There are those who say if Gore had used him he would have won. There are a lot of people who say if it hadn't been for Clinton's behavior Gore would have won in a walk.
I think the Republican intensity in the post-election fight was based on the fact that they felt they had been out done by Clinton for eight years. I think basically he enjoys himself for the rest of his life. He still has a lot of people who are willing to pay him a $100 thousand dollars to hear him talk. I think he's making big money for the first time in his life, and god knows with those legal bills he needs it.
I don't think he will ever run for office again. I think he enjoys playing with that, but the idea of Clinton for mayor -- I just don't see that. But I think he's going to be a kind of person like Nixon who hovers over the political landscape as long as he is around. His enemies dislike him with an intensity that Nixon's did. His friends think he was one of the great presidents ever, and he's just a larger than life figure.
KING: And by the way, congratulations on "GREENFIELD AT LARGE" a welcome edition to the television scene.
GREENFIELD: Well as you know, it's kind of fun to have a television show of your own, Larry. I kind of like it.
KING: Thanks, Jeff.
GREENFIELD: Thank you.
KING: Jeff Greenfield, the book "Oh, Waiter, One Order of Crow: Inside The Strangest Presidential Election Finish In American History."
Thanks for joining us on this edition of LARRY KING WEEKEND. Have a great rest of the weekend. Good night.
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