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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Interview With Barbara Eden

Aired January 1, 2002 - 21:00   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, an exclusive hour with Barbara Eden, loved by millions as TV's Jeannie. Barbara breaks her public silence on the drug-overdose death of her only son. That's next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Happy new year, everybody, and welcome to the start of 2002 on LARRY KING LIVE.

Our first guest of the year is Barbara Eden, the actress best loved, of course, for her starring role in "I Dream of Jeannie," one of the great hits in television history. And we thank her for appearing with us tonight exclusively to discuss -- I don't -- this is not a happy new year for Barbara Eden.

BARBARA EDEN, ACTRESS: No.

KING: It is not. It's -- we're going to help a lot of people here tonight, I hope, by talking about the loss of a loved one, and Barbara lost her 35-year-old son, Matthew, the only son of her and her former husband actor Michael Ansara, who was found dead in his pickup truck at a service station in Monrovia on June 25th. It was determined it was an overdose, right?

EDEN: Yes, it was. At first, they thought it was just a heart attack. Just.

KING: Yeah. Were you shocked by...

EDEN: But...

KING: ... the fact that it was an overdose, or had you thought...

EDEN: I was shocked because he had -- he'd been fighting a good fight, and he had been clean and sober for over a year. So I was -- yes, I was shocked.

KING: How long were you -- go back a little -- aware of the fight? I mean, were you always aware that he had the problem?

EDEN: No, Larry. And I think it's -- that's one of the reasons why I would like to talk about it. I -- it's not easy, but I think that so many people who love their children, so many mothers and fathers, who have what they think is the normal, middle America, perfect home, have no idea what their children are doing.

And a lot of it is because we're not on the streets. We don't recognize drugs. We've never had them in our lives. More people are now. But it's very difficult when you don't know what's -- behavior that isn't normal for a teenager and behavior that is because they're using drugs.

KING: On reflection, are there things you should have known?

EDEN: Oh, lots. Lots of things. Oh, yes.

KING: How -- when did this start?

EDEN: Well, I only know because Matthew told me, and I think it started when he was about 10 years old.

KING: Did he say it was that young?

EDEN: Yes. Because there were kids in the neighborhood...

KING: This was here in Hollywood?

EDEN: Yes. In Sherman Oaks. Whose parents were growing pot in the backyard. I didn't know that. You know, you think your child is playing with the neighbor's children, and they seem like sweet, little kids, and everything's fine.

This isn't a boy who didn't have a mother or father who didn't love him or didn't watch him, you know? He was -- we watched him very carefully. But a lot was going on that I didn't know and wouldn't have recognized.

KING: How old was he when you and your husband broke up?

EDEN: He was 8 years old.

KING: So he was a product -- he -- both parents loved him, though, and he had...

EDEN: Oh, yes.

KING: ... and he had visitations?

EDEN: Oh, yeah. And he went to live with his dad when he was 13 and stayed with him until he had his first year of college, and then he came back to me.

KING: And you -- are you saying that he was using some kind of drug all those years?

EDEN: Oh, yes.

KING: What...

EDEN: That's what he told me. I didn't...

KING: And why would he lie about it?

EDEN: ... know this. Yes.

KING: But, obviously, functioning, right?

EDEN: Yeah. Yes, he was. He got very good grades. He -- this is also a young man who tested in the top 5 percentile in the United States for intelligence. You know, it's -- it's just -- it could boggle your mind. A parent could go crazy with something like this.

KING: And you're always a parent no matter what age they are.

EDEN: Oh, yes. Always.

KING: Even though he was a full adult at...

EDEN: Always. Always.

KING: ... death, they're still your kid.

EDEN: Yes.

KING: He your only child?

EDEN: Yes. When we really knew that -- it was his first year of college, and I want to tell parents out there that this is too late. Once they've gotten to college, it's too late.

KING: Because?

EDEN: Because, first of all, it's an age when they think they can handle anything. You have no control over them once they're over 18. You can't put them in a hospital. You can't tell them to get treatment -- any kind -- physical, mental, whatever.

The time to treat this is when the child is in high school or 12 or 13 years old, and, boy, if you think that they've even had a little drink, a little taste of something, you get them to someone who knows how to handle it right away.

KING: Are you telling parents, if suspicious, act on your suspicion?

EDEN: You bet. You bet.

KING: Trust your instinct?

EDEN: You bet. Right away. Right away. The problem is we don't know, you know? We really don't know.

KING: What college did he go to?

EDEN: He went to City College in the valley.

KING: And how did you find out at that point that he had a problem? How did you find out? EDEN: He was leaving in the morning, and one day, he left his books at home, and I raced out of the house and went down the hill to try to find him.

I walked all over that campus looking for him, to find out where he was, which class he was in, couldn't find him, and I knew then. I knew something was wrong. He wasn't at school. He'd been lying.

KING: That was not like him?

EDEN: He'd been lying.

KING: Oh. He'd been lying?

EDEN: Well, obviously.

KING: About little things?

EDEN: No, no. He'd been lying about going to school, and I realized that right then, and...

KING: So how -- what did you do with a confrontation? Did you think drugs at that point, or did you think something else?

EDEN: I thought drugs.

KING: You did?

EDEN: Yeah, I did. I don't know why I did, but I did. I guess it must have been -- yeah, I did, and he admitted it.

KING: And how did you -- as soon as you confronted him?

EDEN: Yeah, he admitted it. I was very angry, and he left, and that...

KING: Left the house?

EDEN: Oh, yes. And that was awful, you know? We didn't know where he was. His father and I looked all over the place, and we got him help, and he did go into a rehab, but he didn't go willingly.

KING: That doesn't work? When you forced him?

EDEN: Anything works. Yes. Forced in is good. I would say force them. Do anything. Get them into rehab. Get them with people who can maybe make some influence. But the thing is it's so much better if you can get them when they're 12, 13 years old, if you know that then.

KING: What -- what, Barbara, was his addiction to? Was it a particular drug?

EDEN: You know, I don't really know. He died of heroin, but I don't really know. I think people who use substances use everything, you know? KING: Because they experiment?

EDEN: Yes. Well, they use what's ever handy, and -- people say, "Why?" I don't know why. I don't think that's -- I think it's beyond all of us to analyze. You can't analyze this.

It is a physical thing. It's a physical thing that has to be taken care of physically and mentally. But, first of all, physically. And you can't ask why. You just have to do something about it.

KING: In fact, of all the people addicted to various things that we've interviewed, none of them knows why.

EDEN: No.

KING: Of course, you would think -- I mean, he has a pretty good life, successful people around him, good upbringing. Why?

EDEN: Smart as a whip. And just the most wonderful, lovely, young man you'd ever want to meet. And I know I'm his mother, but he was. He was...

KING: All right. Was he -- did he get married at all?

EDEN: He got married once and divorced because he was using, and he was going to -- he was engaged to a lovely, lovely girl and was going to get married next year. They were -- and looking forward to it.

That's why it was -- it was such a shock, although it shouldn't be because, once this stuff has their hooks in someone, you know, you -- it's not easy to get rid of. We know that.

KING: I remember Carroll O'Connor talking about how angry he was...

EDEN: Oh, yeah.

KING: ... at the people who sold it, the people who -- are you -- were you angry during this period?

EDEN: Furious. Furious.

KING: With drugs and with him and with everything?

EDEN: No. I was beyond being angry with him because I knew, at this point, he was fighting. He was fighting to stay sober.

KING: Oh, my.

EDEN: He had been for the past 10 years. He was really fighting and succeeding and, at this point, really succeeding well. So, no, I wasn't angry with him. I could rip their guts out, Larry, you know, the people that sell this stuff.

KING: We'll pick it up in a minute with Barbara Eden. There's lots to talk about, and we'll talk about brighter aspects of her life as well. She's here for the full hour.

Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEW ANSARA: I was just dropping my classes, and I was just doing drugs constantly. I mean, it was morning 'til night. I never left the room. I think I turned to drug use because it just numbed me out. You know, I didn't have to feel. I know it killed my mom.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANSARA: My mother never seemed to lose hope in me. She always had belief in me, when I didn't have belief in myself. You know, I mean, I feel like she saved my life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're talking with Barbara Eden who's a cultural icon in her own right, one of the major television stars since the history of that media.

But sadness envelops all of us. It's -- is it doubly worse when everyone knows about it, when you're famous?

EDEN: Oh, I don't think anything could be worse.

KING: It's worse? It's still bad.

EDEN: I don't think it matters. It doesn't matter if people know or don't know. It's horrible.

KING: He did not have a child in the first marriage?

EDEN: No.

KING: So you're not a grandparent?

EDEN: No.

KING: Oh. And you said he was fighting it. Did you think he had beaten it?

EDEN: No. We all knew that it's something you never beat. You always know that you're an addict, and you always -- you're -- it's a constant fight. But he was winning. He was winning, and he liked being sober.

You see that's the big secret. The young kids don't like being sober. They want to be high. But as they get older, they want to be sober, and then it's -- I'm afraid it's too late for most of them.

KING: He was proud that he was doing well?

EDEN: Yes, yes. He was.

KING: Obviously. He got engaged, planned to be married.

EDEN: Oh, yes.

KING: What kind of work was he doing?

EDEN: He was an actor, and...

KING: Did he get roles?

EDEN: Yes, he did. He was just starting and loved it. He was also a bodybuilder. He was very health conscious, which is ironic, isn't it?

KING: That's a contradiction.

EDEN: Isn't it?

KING: Yes.

EDEN: Yes.

KING: So, in other words, he didn't smoke?

EDEN: No.

KING: He didn't drink?

EDEN: No.

KING: He took care of himself. He just took heroin and cocaine and...

EDEN: Yes.

KING: The things people do.

EDEN: Yeah.

KING: Now this may be...

EDEN: It's odd.

KING: How did you learn of it -- his death?

EDEN: Oh, a phone call in the middle of the night.

KING: This is a nervous laugh, by the way.

EDEN: Yeah.

KING: Who called? EDEN: It was his cousin in Northern California. He had had -- I guess in his wallet was my phone number, and it said "Mom," and this cousin in Northern California's phone number, and they don't call the mother.

KING: They don't call the mother?

EDEN: No, no. They don't. They call someone else to call the mother. They don't want to, I guess, shock you.

KING: If you were the only name listed, they would have had to, or they would have come to you, right?

EDEN: Yes, yes. But they call them, and in turn...

KING: So the cousin calls you. Male or female?

EDEN: He calls -- it was the husband of his cousin, Michelle (ph), up in San Francisco, and he called, and my husband answered the phone, and I thought...

KING: This is your current husband, his stepfather?

EDEN: Yes, yes. And I thought it was about his parents because they're elderly, and they're the only older people we know, and that's how we found out.

KING: And how does someone say something? Did they tell your husband?

EDEN: They told him, and he told me.

KING: How do -- how do you tell someone like that? I mean, what do you -- what do you say?

EDEN: I don't know. I hope I never have to say it. I'm sorry I had to hear it, but...

KING: What -- what's -- what did you...

EDEN: There's nothing...

KING: This is the worst fear of all parents.

EDEN: Yes.

KING: So what did you -- who did -- what do you do? Is there disbelief? Is there -- what...

EDEN: Of course. You immediately say, "No." Yeah. It's...

KING: Then what? Did you have to go down to the morgue? Did you have to...

EDEN: No, no. No. No, we didn't do any of that.

KING: Did you go into seclusion?

EDEN: To tell you the truth, I don't know what I did, Larry. I -- it isn't...

KING: Did...

EDEN: It's not too clear what we did. Yeah.

KING: Was there a funeral?

EDEN: Oh, yes. Yes.

KING: Big one?

EDEN: Yes, it was.

KING: Forest Lawn.

EDEN: Yes, and -- I was very proud of him because he had a lot of friends.

KING: As I remember...

EDEN: A lot of friends. And they spoke, and they spoke so beautifully about him.

KING: Did you speak?

EDEN: No. God no. I couldn't. I couldn't. You're very lucky I'm talking right this moment.

KING: What do you say to parents who have to face this? And no parent can imagine what it's like? Drugs or whatever. You go on. You're here. You look great.

EDEN: Well, I think you have to. There's no other way to go, is there? I mean, you can't -- certainly can't go backwards, and there's nothing you can do about it. I really don't know, Larry, and I'm still -- I'm still fighting so I don't know.

KING: Fighting the thought of it?

Someone who had lost a child told me -- you can take a napkin if you want. Someone who had lost a child once told me that no matter where -- what happens the rest of your life, there's always a piece of you missing. You can laugh, you can go to parties, you can have fun...

EDEN: Oh, yeah.

KING: ... you can experience good things. but something's always missing.

EDEN: Oh, yes.

KING: We're going to take a break, and we'll come right back with Barbara Eden. There's lots more to talk about away from this as well. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANSARA: The one person in my life that I can always count on is my mother. She's one of the strongest individuals I have ever met. I think my mom is really amazing. She's just one of those people that works hard at her mental outlook. It's really not how much money you make. It's how much you enjoy your life around you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back with Barbara Eden, and we really appreciate her doing this, and we hope that she helps a lot of people, and rather than dwell on the death, we'll dwell on what happens afterwards.

Your son once praised you greatly. He said you were the -- kind of a rock in his life, you were the strong person, and he depended on you a lot. I guess you've heard him say that.

EDEN: Well, yes.

KING: He worked with you, too, right?

EDEN: Yes, he did. He did. Actually, in high school, he did -- he was on one of the "Harper Valley PTA"s, and then...

KING: I remember those.

EDEN: ... and he did the -- a part in "Mother Wore Combat Boots," and he went to the Persian Gulf with me with Bob Hope. And, of course, he was doing very well before he passed away. He was -- he had done two films and a couple of TV shows.

KING: How's his fiancee handled it?

EDEN: Well, I think she's -- she has a lot of courage. She's -- seems to be handling it well. It's -- it's not something you handle, Larry. It's just something you have to get through.

KING: There's no book on this.

EDEN: There's no book on it. There's no book on drugs. There's no book on death. You just get through it.

KING: A lot of people -- a lot of people in this country are facing loss after September 11th.

EDEN: Yes.

KING: And I talked about it with the first lady the other night, and this is the Christmas season. It's got to be your worst Christmas ever, right? Your husband has to be a big help then.

EDEN: He's a huge help. He's a wonderful, wonderful man, and I'm very lucky that he's there. But, no, we're not staying home for Christmas.

KING: You're -- this is playing on New Year's night. What are your plans for the holiday? What -- we taped this right before Christmas. What are your plans for the holiday?

EDEN: Oh, we're leaving. We're going to Tahiti, actually. I've never been there. So we're -- we're going to see what that's all about. It's the least Christmasy place I think you can go.

KING: It's a good place, though, to -- probably to get away from Christmas.

EDEN: Yeah, yeah.

KING: All right.

EDEN: But I had a wonderful Christmas last year because Matthew was there, and I'm grateful for that.

KING: Why do you think the rehabs didn't work?

EDEN: Oh, I'm not sure that they didn't work. He wanted to be sober. He was fighting it. It's just an ongoing battle, Larry. Addiction. It's not something that you say, "Oh, I have a quick fix." You have it the rest of your life.

Once you allow this -- well, anyone who smokes knows that, you know. I would just say that mothers and fathers who really love their children should find out as much as possible about drug behavior because you won't recognize it if you haven't had it in your family. You won't recognize it if you haven't been around it.

KING: All right. Give us some -- now in retrospect -- a lot of this would be retrospect. Give us some signs that -- "Gee, I should have known."

EDEN: They're sleepy. They're sleepy a lot. Sleeping late. Not getting up. Not getting out with the other kids. Also --

It's interesting because a very dear friend of mine was a physician, and we were at home one evening, and I had a phone call from a man, and he said, "Your son is up here on Mulholland Drive, and -- come up and get him because he can't drive."

So we got in the car, and we went up to Mulholland, and there was a gentleman there, thank God, and he's -- he happened to have been a plainclothesman, and he was off duty, and he said -- he said, "Lady," he said, "Watch your son. He shouldn't be driving in this condition."

But he didn't tell me it was drugs, and I was with a physician who should have recognized it. He didn't recognize...

KING: What did you think it was? Alcohol or...

EDEN: Alcohol. I thought here's a 19-year-old who had too many -- too many drinks. He was out with the guys and should know better. I was mad at him.

KING: What did he say to you?

EDEN: Nothing. "I'm sorry, Mom. I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Mom."

KING: and Mom forgave or forgot?

EDEN: Of course. Of course because I thought it was a one-time thing. But things like that don't happen one time. And if they do happen one time, it's not just, "That's OK." You know, you find out why they do it.

KING: So that school incident that day really was the straw, right?

EDEN: Yeah, yeah.

KING: Something had triggered...

EDEN: It was after that...

KING: ... in Barbara before that, right?

EDEN: Yes, yes. Yes.

KING: All right. So spot things. And when you spot them, you're saying intervene?

EDEN: Yes. Oh, yes. Intervene. But I don't think people will spot things unless they read some books or go to some seminars and learn what this is all about. It's -- it's an insidious thing, and it's sneaky.

And we have a tendency to say, "Not my child." You know, "Oh, well, they all act like that. They all act angry when they're teenagers." Well, they do, but there's -- there's a way to act angry and a way to be sleepy. You just -- it's sneaky.

KING: Do you think this is more -- think this is more of a problem among celebrities and children of celebrities and lifestyle?

EDEN: No. No, I don't.

KING: You don't. You think an accountant's son in Medford, Michigan...

EDEN: You...

KING: ... could just as well get it?

EDEN: ... betcha. Kansas City. In Topeka. You betcha.

KING: All right. So what starts it? The seller? Peer group? This is...

EDEN: I think peer group, but, of course, the seller makes it available. But I think it's the peer group, and -- and for so long, you know, our music and our whole culture was -- it was hip. It was hip to be high. It was, "Come on, baby. Light my fire."

Do you know I sang that song in my nightclub act? I had no idea what it meant until my son explained it to me years later, you know? I -- that's just a very small example, but it's important to be aware. It's very important.

KING: Boy, I -- other parents who've lost kids to drugs have become crusaders. Carroll O'Connor I mentioned. Do you intend to get up front now that time has passed a little?

EDEN: I would certainly do whatever I could to help. I don't know what I can do. I can only speak subjectively and from my own experience. I do think -- you know, we talk about education for kids.

It's important. It's important that they know how bad drugs are and how insidious they are, but it's, I think, extremely important for parents. We know less than the kids.

KING: Yeah, our knowledge is limited.

EDEN: Yes. About this particular thing. You never expect your child to be one. Never.

KING: Barbara Eden is our guest. More after this. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Barbara Eden.

What then, after this kind of year, was the effect of September 11th on you?

EDEN: Oh, I -- it was as bad as it was for everyone else. It's certainly -- I wasn't inured by any means. It was horrible. It was just horrible.

KING: And were you able to put yourself at all in the place of -- when you started seeing all these people who were -- while it was different...

EDEN: Oh, yeah.

KING: They all have one thing you have in common, loss.

EDEN: Sure, sure. It's -- I watched television to be knowledgeable and know what happened, but then I turned it off. I couldn't watch any longer. I couldn't watch the families. I just couldn't do it.

KING: It's hard to give advice to people about loss, but do you have any?

EDEN: At this point in my life, I don't because I'm not through it yet. I don't -- I can tell you a year from now. I'll tell you whether I was successful or not. Right now, I don't know.

KING: You haven't lost your sense of humor, though, have you?

EDEN: I hope not.

KING: No, that goes with -- you can laugh.

EDEN: I hope so.

KING: Do you have faith? Are you a believing person?

EDEN: Yes.

KING: That help you through this?

EDEN: Yes.

KING: No blaming of higher powers or...

EDEN: Oh, no. No, no, no.

KING: No denial of faith?

EDEN: No. No, no, no. Not at all. Not at all. This was manmade. This was not -- this is a different kind of thing than September 11th, you know. I might have been furious at that. I think I would have screamed and yelled at God about that.

KING: If you had lost someone?

EDEN: Yes, yes. But, no, this was -- this is different. This was a deep illness that had been there for awhile. The shock was that we thought that he was winning. And he wasn't.

KING: Maybe you think something just happened that day?

EDEN: Who knows? You don't know. You don't know about this. They do say that people who are addicted have a genetic disposition for it. That may be.

KING: The chemistry, the body chemistry needs it.

EDEN: Yes.

KING: And it came from somewhere.

EDEN: But a lot of people are able to get through it. And usually in their 30s, they beat it. But they always know that they have to be on watch. It's like having this big ugly thing over your shoulder constantly.

KING: How about the therapy of work?

EDEN: I have wondered about this. I've talked about it with my husband, that I'm not avoiding things by working so much, but it seems to serve me well. KING: So you've been doing what?

EDEN: Well, I have been on tour with the female version of "The Odd Couple." And I will go back out again the end of January. And I appeared on two "Sabrinas."

KING: You did?

EDEN: Yes, yes. Oh, that was so much fun. So much fun.

KING: And the female "Odd Couple," are you Oscar or Felix?

EDEN: I'm Felix, of course.

KING: That's a better part.

EDEN: No.

KING: Some would say Felix, you could do more with Felix.

EDEN: Oscar, really, for the woman. This is the female version. And when you turn it around, the tough Oscar is really funny when it's a woman. You expect a woman to be fussy and neurotic and...

KING: Yes, that's a good point. Yes, Felix was like a woman in that regard.

EDEN: Yes, yes. So...

KING: Who do you play it with?

EDEN: My girlfriend, Rita Mackenzie. And she's wonderful.

KING: And you also -- did you just open a big thing in Las Vegas? And didn't they do a "Dream of Jeannie" thing?

EDEN: Oh, they have the slot machines, the "Dream of Jeannie" slot machines. Yes, yes. I was up there and did that. And in fact, a friend of mine said they had to drop some toys off at the Indian casino near Palm Springs. And he said we had no intentions of gambling at all. We walked in and here's a whole row of Jeannies staring at me and Barbara's voice coming out of the slot machines. So he put 20 bucks full of nickels.

KING: Let's look at that career. Before "Jeannie," what were you doing?

EDEN: I was under contract to Fox.

KING: Did movies?

EDEN: Yes, I did movies. Oh, well, there was a period there where I was working at Columbia and Universal and MGM.

KING: You did a movie with Presley, didn't you?

EDEN: Yes, I did. Yes.

KING: Were you the love interest?

EDEN: No. This was the only movie he ever made where he got good reviews. He didn't sing and he didn't get the girl and it didn't make a penny. It was a wonderful film.

KING: "Flaming Star."

EDEN: Yes, yes. He played a half-breed Indian. He died.

KING: No kidding?

EDEN: And he was good. He was good.

KING: I also hear he was a terrific person.

EDEN: Yes, he was.

KING: You got along with him?

EDEN: Very. Oh my goodness, yes.

KING: But you were in "From the Terrace" with Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea," "The Interns." You did a lot of regular work?

EDEN: "Five Weeks in a Balloon."

KING: How did "Jeannie" come along?

EDEN: Well, I'm not sure. We'd have to ask Sydney Sheldon, really.

KING: The creator?

EDEN: Yes.

KING: But you got a call from someone, right?

EDEN: I got a call from him. But this was after I had read in "Variety" and on "The Reporter" constantly they were testing girls for "I Dream of Jeannie." And they were all Ms. Israel, Ms. Syria. They had all these gorgeous tall brunettes. So I didn't ever think that I would be thought of for the part at all.

And then I was sent the script. And I read it. I called my agent. And I said, "Are you sure that this -- they want me for this?" He said, "Yes." I said, "Great, it's a wonderful part." He said, "Well, read it and you'll have a meeting."

And then two days later, Sydney Sheldon called me at home. And his first words were, "Well, I hear you're my Jeannie." Is that cute? And I went down and had tea with him at the Beverly Hills Hotel. And that's how I got the part.

KING: And more about that, one of the great stories in American television history, right after this with Barbara Eden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "I DREAM OF JEANNIE")

JEANNIE: Bardumaveshramgard.

(LAUGHTER)

Oh.

TONY NELSON: I must have gone further into orbit than I thought.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "I DREAM OF JEANNIE")

JEANNIE: Good morning, master.

NELSON: Good morning, Jeannie.

JEANNIE: Oh, my, you look handsome this morning.

NELSON: Thank you. I'd like to ask a favor of you.

JEANNIE: Oh, thank, master.

NELSON: You haven't heard what it is yet.

JEANNIE: You never give me a chance to do anything for you.

NELSON: Well, this is not exactly for me. It's for Roger. He's got a birthday coming up next week and I want to give him a surprise party.

JEANNIE: What is it you want me to do, master?

NELSON: I was wondering if you could come up with an idea for the party.

JEANNIE: Oh, yes. I remember a party that Nero gave.

NELSON: No, I don't want anything quite that extravagant.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: "I Dream of Jeannie" was only on five years?

EDEN: Yes.

KING: I think of it like eternity.

EDEN: It's never been off the air.

KING: And tapes, kids -- my daughter when she was a little kid -- teenager, teenage girls loved it, right?

EDEN: Yes, yes. KING: Did you and Hagman work right away?

EDEN: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. I've never worked with anyone with whom I have had such -- what would you call it? We just meshed. Our timing was the same. It was a joy to work with Larry.

KING: Why did that show work?

EDEN: I think it was -- well, Sydney Sheldon, of course, and his imagination. But then he had a marvelous cast. But he cast it. And we all worked well together. I think that's why. And I think it lasted because it's a theme that transcends ages. Very rarely are we in street clothes, so it's not as dated as most shows. So I think that's why it's lasted.

KING: And it was deliberate to make him an Air Force officer right?

EDEN: Yes, yes..

KING: So he can play off military stuff.

EDEN: And Nasa. We had great cooperation from Nasa and the space program.

KING: That's right. How much technical stuff was involved in producing "Jeannie?"

EDEN: Well, we'd shoot three days a week. We'd film. One camera film show. And then I'd spend a couple of weeks by myself doing -- and so would Larry, doing the special effects, you know, against a blue screen.

KING: Was it a hit right away?

EDEN: Yes, I think it was. I have to think back. I think it was.

KING: Do you still get residuals?

EDEN: No, Larry, no, no. Gone.

KING: When?

EDEN: A long time ago.

KING: Well, how did you react to now incredible stardom? I mean, you were well known that first year.

EDEN: I didn't realize it. You mean the first year of "Jeannie?"

KING: Yes.

EDEN: I didn't realize it. In fact, I don't think I really realized it until I guess about five years ago. KING: You mean..

EDEN: Yes.

KING: An after the fact thing?

EDEN: I had no idea that the show had that impact on people. Also, Larry, my son was small. And my life was at home. I do my job and I do the publicity, but then I'd go home. I wasn't out a lot.

KING: If they were doing that show today, would there be sexual implications of Jeannie and...

EDEN: Well, I don't think so. Because the funny part about the show was the fact that she thought she was human and she wasn't. And she wanted to marry him. And he knew she wasn't human. So there's your comedy. She's a fish out of water. You can't have anything really happen between the two of them because she's smoke, but she doesn't think so. You know?

KING: And so, she ain't there?

EDEN: No. Yes.

KING: And the idea of bringing in her mother, right?

EDEN: Yes, I played her. I loved it.

KING: I know. Jeannie and Jeannie's mother.

EDEN: Yes, yes.

KING: Did it hurt you, in some ways, that when you get so established in a role, when the series went off, other roles don't come?

EDEN: I don't think it hurt me, but I don't know, Larry.

KING: because you sure had to be typed as "that's Jeannie."

EDEN: I'm not sure.

KING: But you wouldn't know if jobs weren't offered to you.

EDEN: No, you wouldn't know. And then I started producing my own television movies. And none of them were Jeannie. And then I did another series "Harper Valley PTA." And certainly, she wasn't Jeannie. So it's hard for me to know. Would I have been a big feature film star? I don't know.

KING: You -- "Harper Valley" was all based on a song.

EDEN: Yes, yes.

KING: I love that song.

EDEN: And we did a feature. I love that song, too.

KING: You mention your son was in that.

EDEN: Yes, he was in the series.

KING: Yes, as a regular?

EDEN: No, no. He did a one-time thing. He was 16.

KING: What was the belly button issue?

EDEN: Oh, well, that was -- George Slaughter wanted to premiere --

KING: My man George.

EDEN: Yes. He wanted to premiere my naval on "Laugh-In." And I don't think NBC was even aware that I had a belly button until George brought to it their attention. He told me he'd never seen so many suits sitting around a big conference table talking about someone's navel in his life. He said, "Seriously." You know how George talks.

KING: Oh, suits.

EDEN: Seriously. They're sitting there talking about your navel. But they turned him down. And of course, that just started it. That was it then, you know?

KING: That made the press?

EDEN: Oh, yes. Well, there had been press before, because people would come on the set and say, "I don't believe you have one." And I'd sneak a peek, you know, and hide it and everything. Every time we had a script, for instance, we did three shows in Hawaii. Every girl on that beach was in a bikini except moi. I had a tank suit up to here. And I just laughed. It was so funny. I mean, they all had bikinis on.

KING: Why did it go off?

EDEN: I don't really know. I don't know. It's network and money and it's always money, isn't it? I think they can strip a show after five years.

KING: Oh, that's right, they can syndicate it out.

EDEN: Yes, yes.

KING: Were you down when it was canceled?

EDEN: Yes, yes. It was very depressing. Oh, you mean were we not shooting?

KING: Depressed, yes, when they said the show's off.

EDEN: Oh, yes, very depressed, because it's like your family, you know.

KING: Over the years have you watched yourself?

EDEN: I do now. I didn't then. Now I can watch it and I enjoy it.

KING: Barbara Eden's our special guest for the entire hour tonight to break in the New Year, sad and up-tempo as well. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "I DREAM OF JEANNIE")

JEANNIE: He, he's the blue Gin. He's who put me in my bottle 2,000 years ago. He's the most powerful one of us all.

NELSON: Well, it's certainly a pleasure to meet you, sir.

BLUE GIN: I have searched for you everywhere.

JEANNIE: Leave me alone.

NELSON: You heard her. Leave her alone.

BLUE GIN: I have been thinking about this for 1500 years.

NELSON: Take your hands off her. You hear me!

JEANNIE: Master! Please, help me, master.

NELSON: You bet I'll help you. To tell you the truth, fellow, I don't take kindly to people burying me in the sand.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: By the way, if you are a little down on New Year's, and some people might be, don't miss tomorrow night's show. Deepak Chopra, Dr. Andrew Weil and Tony Robbins will all be here tomorrow night for the full hour. You had a rough childhood, didn't you?

EDEN: Oh, I don't know.

KING: Parents, didn't you, depression and...

EDEN: I don't know that I had a rough childhood. My parents were children of the Depression. I had a poor childhood. We didn't have a lot of money. But I had a wonderful childhood. I had a family that was very warm and loving.

KING: Were you very pretty as a kid? Be honest?

EDEN: I didn't think I was. I didn't think I was at all. Actually, no, I don't think I was. I wore glasses. I still wear glasses. But I had to wear them when I was very young, four years old. And I also wore a black patch over one eye. And then my aunt and my mother, who loved me dearly, but they thought it was really cute to put my hair in pigtails that looked like they had wires in them, they were so tight, you know. So I'd have these pigtails sticking out like this, the glass with the patch. It was terrible. And then I never gained weight. Please, God, I wish that would happen now.

KING: You've always been slim?

EDEN: No. I was then, though. I was then.

KING: You're still slim. You've never been overweight.

EDEN: Well, after I had Matthew, I was very heavy.

KING: Were you homecoming queen?

EDEN: No.

KING: Were you pregnant when "Dream of Jeannie" started?

EDEN: Yes, first 13 shows.

KING: How did they deal with that?

EDEN: Well, they said they hid it, but I saw it when I looked at the programs, you know. KING: You knew?

EDEN: Oh, sure. I didn't care. I was so happy.

KING: When "Jeannie" goes off, then what? You do successful TV movies. You do "Harper Valley PTA." You do shows in Vegas.

EDEN: Well, I was doing shows in Vegas when I was doing "Jeannie." I was appearing in Vegas in between seasons.

KING: And I remember Leggs pantyhose.

EDEN: Yes.

KING: That was you.

EDEN: Yes.

KING: I remember that campaign. Very successful.

EDEN: Yes.

KING: Was that fun for you to do that?

EDEN: It was fun.

KING: Commercials. Stars tended not to do commercials.

EDEN: No, that was -- they were well done. They had a woman producer who really knew what she was doing. And it was nice. It was -- I hate the word, but I'm gonna say it, classy.

KING: In our last segment coming up, we'll recap on Matthew and talk about his legacy. But what are you doing now? You go to Tahiti. What are your plans in 2002?

EDEN: Well, I'm going to -- until May, I will be on tour with "The Odd Couple." And then I don't know. I don't know what we're going to do. We're thinking about taking another trip, going somewhere.

KING: Now we mentioned performing as possibly an antidote for you. Do you feel better when you're on stage?

EDEN: Oh, sure, because you don't think about anything else but what you're doing. That's your world. It's afterwards that's bad.

KING: Is it tough to see mothers and kids?

EDEN: Yes.

KING: I mean, do you have to go through I'll show you a little picture of my little boys? Right? You had a little boy. I don't mean to get you going again.

EDEN: Yes. I'm sorry.

KING: But I mean, that's got to be the roughest part. So when you're working, though, you can overcome that?

EDEN: Yes.

KING: Because on stage you don't think of it?

EDEN: No.

KING: You don't let you think of it.

EDEN: Well, you can't do your job if you think of it.

KING: Yes.

EDEN: You're just doing that world, you know.

KING: So you're disciplined.

EDEN: Yes.

KING: Steve and Edy told me that. They can go on and do anything...

EDEN: Yes.

KING: ...for an hour and a half. Sing -- when they get off -- they lost a son, as you know.

EDEN: That's right. KING: And then it never leaves when you get off stage. So you want to be on stage more?

EDEN: Yes.

KING: Would you do TV again?

EDEN: Oh, yes.

KING: On a regular basis?

EDEN: Oh, yes. I like TV. I like to work. I had a wonderful experience with both my shows. And I like that feeling of family and working with a unit who -- everyone knows what they're doing and why they're doing it. And your character is fully thought out. I like that.

KING: So you like, though, did you like being the same person for five years, being Jeannie?

EDEN: Oh, but she wasn't. Jeannie was so many different things. That was fun.

KING: Who was the guy who was Hagman's boss like?

EDEN: Hayden Rourke. You're talking about Hayden Rourke?

KING: Yes.

EDEN: Oh, yes, the psychiatrist.

KING: He was...

EDEN: Wonderful. He was wonderful, yes.

KING: Perfectly cast...

EDEN: Yes.

KING: ...in that role, too. Perfectly cast. Did you ever turn down something you regretted?

EDEN: No, I don't think I have. Maybe I've never been in the position to turn something down that I would regret. But I -- no, no, I don't think so.

KING: No television show offered to you that you didn't do and then somebody else did it and you were sorry, or a movie or?

EDEN: Well, I've had people try to get me for certain things. And it's been impossible. And I have been deeply disappointed because I couldn't do it. But nothing that I said no to.

KING: Something you would have liked to have done.

EDEN: Yes, I don't say no very often. I like to work. Never mind. I like to work.

KING: Not a good sound.

EDEN: No.

KING: I know what you mean.

EDEN: Yes, I like to work. And I generally do it.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with Barbara Eden after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "I DREAM OF JEANNIE")

JEANNIE: Oh, are you enjoy the cold weather?

NELSON: Yes, yes. I must say some of the happiest days of my life were spent in the snow and the cold in Wisconsin.

JEANNIE: Like that, master?

NELSON: That's wonderful, Jeannie. Dr. Bellows.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: You once were quoted as saying that if gentlemen prefer blondes, then I'm a blonde that prefers gentlemen. Not a bad quote. Also, did you say "I don't know what I'm doing from one moment to the next? I like that not knowing because it's always a surprise, like opening a present." Are you very off the wall?

EDEN: No, I think that was taken out of context. Someone asked me if I liked being an actor because of the insecurity and the not knowing where the next job was coming from. And I really do like that. I don't mind that.

KING: You like...

EDEN: I like the surprise.

KING: The edge, too?

EDEN: Uh-huh, yes. And I like to know that around the corner there will be something better. And there usually is.

KING: Legacy is a word I don't even know how to deal with it because sometimes I don't even know what it means. What do you think Matthew's is?

EDEN: I don't know.

KING: What did his friends say at the funeral?

EDEN: I think he touched many people's lives in a positive way. He helped a lot of people in the program.

KING: People who were addicts?

EDEN: Yes.

KING: He help odder this addicts?

EDEN: Yes, he did.

KING: Even though he couldn't?

EDEN: Yes. They do that, though. They help one another. Those who are trying to be free of it, you know, they do. He -- I think everyone whose life was touched by Matthew was truly enriched by it because he was such a warm, wonderful guy. He was -- some of his friends called him the gentle giant.

You know, he was 6'4". He was a huge guy. And just as sweet and kind and funny, funny He could do comedy and it was hysterical. But he was warm and empathetic to other people.

One time, he stopped. He had a job driving a truck. And he saw a woman, an older woman, grandmother, sitting on the curb with this little child, who was running back and forth crying, trying to get the grandmother up. And he stopped his truck, and it wasn't a very good part of town either, and got out and helped the grandmother. And she'd some kind of an attack.

And the -- she was baby-sitting the little girl, because the little girl's mother and dad were working. And he got the hospital there for her. Now I don't know many people who would stop, especially in South Central.

KING: So his friends then, obviously miss him?

EDEN: Yes, they do.

KING: Do you see them?

EDEN: No.

KING: You don't see his friends?

EDEN: No, I don't.

KING: How about his father?

EDEN: Michael?

KING: Yes. How's he handled it?

EDEN: I can only imagine. I haven't seen Michael. But...

KING: He was at the funeral, wasn't he?

EDEN: Oh, sure. He was out there. KING: They were close?

EDEN: Yes. Yes, they were close. Matthew was close to both of us. He loved his family, you know. I don't think Mike is handling it well at all, if I know Mike. I think he's devastated.

KING: So even though Matthew was a product of divorce, he had bonded with both?

EDEN: Yes.

KING: Right? And therefore, that didn't have obviously a strangulating effect on him?

EDEN: Oh, it had to have.

KING: You both handled it well. It had to have some effect.

EDEN: It had to have hurt him. Oh, sure. It had to have. I mean, there's no way that divorce doesn't hurt a child. You know, I -- but all I can say is that he was a very loving, warm child. He loved both of us. And we loved him. And he knew we loved him. But he always knew we loved him, you see?

Love isn't enough when it comes to drugs. You have to have knowledge, too. You have to know about drugs. Love is important, but you have to know what's going on.

KING: Thank you for doing this.

EDEN: Oh, thank you for having me on. I hope I could be some help.

KING: Thank you, Barbara. I just kissed smoke.

Barbara Eden, "I Dream of Jeannie." We can only, for her, dream of better things. Thanks for joining us. Tomorrow night Deepak Chopra, Dr. Andrew Weil and Tony Robbins will be with us as we start 2002.

I'm Larry King, for Barbara Eden and our whole staff, happy New Year and good night.

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