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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Interview With Connie Francis

Aired March 11, 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, before Madonna or Britney, there was Connie Francis. But after chart topping triumphs, heartbreaking tragedy, a brutal rape, the loss of her singing voice, years of mental illness, Connie Francis shares her powerful, painful story. It is next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Our special guest tonight for the full hour is an extraordinary lady. You don't see her much in public anymore, doesn't do interviews much. What a star she was on the American scene. Connie Francis is our guest tonight. You know, for seven years in a row, she was accorded "Billboard" magazine's award as the top female singer in the country. She owned the record industry. One lady had a jukebox once with just Connie Francis records and then it all caved in through a terrible series of circumstances, which we'll get into.

Were you always a singer as a kid? Did you sing in high school?

CONNIE FRANCIS, FORMER SINGER: Absolutely, yes. I was three when I was playing the accordion, and at four, I added my voice. At four, I added my voice. And I always was singing.

KING: Where did you begin singing professionally?

FRANCIS: Professionally, on a show called the Startime Kids out of New York.

KING: The Startime Kids.

FRANCIS: The Startime Kids. And they were the most precocious, talented group of young people that I've ever seen. And I was on that show four years, every single week for four years. And I learned a lot. I learned to do all kinds of music.

KING: How many hits did you have?

FRANCIS: There was something like 40 in the top ten. If I had a fan club president here, I...

KING: There still are a Connie Francis fan club?

FRANCIS: Yes.

KING: What was your first big hit?

FRANCIS: "Who's Sorry Now."

KING: That went through the roof.

FRANCIS: Yes. My father picked out that song. I said, daddy, I went to MGM yesterday and I played them this song and they said tell your father to stick to the roofing business. So he said, well -- and I said, besides, it's an old song. It was written in 1923. The kids will laugh me right off "American Bandstand." He said if you don't do this song, sister, the only way you'll get on "American Bandstand" is if you sit on top of the television set. So I did the song.

KING: You were one of "American Bandstand's" biggest stars and Dick Clark's close friend.

FRANCIS: Yes.

KING: Were you and Dick ever...

FRANCIS: No.

KING: Come on, Connie. There was a big story...

FRANCIS: I am going to tell you, Larry. I am going to tell you -- no, I wouldn't be afraid to admit that, but there actually never was. We were really just good friends. And Dorothy Killdown's (ph) column once had Connie Francis will be the next Mrs. Dick Clark and everyone was upset. My fan club president, how could you go with a divorced man. You're Catholic. My father said, you'll lose your entertainer of the year -- Catholic entertainer of the year award. I said, I'll get over it.

KING: But that was not a love affair.

FRANCIS: That wasn't a love affair.

KING: But he was a very good friend to you, wasn't he? When you had problems, you came to him?

FRANCIS: He was there at every crisis in my life. There was always a telegram from Dick. And I'm writing the movie for my screenplay, for my life story and I wrote out this screenplay for my life...

KING: You're doing it now, right?

FRANCIS: Yes. And I realized how Dick was there looking at all the correspondence, how he was there at all crises of my life.

KING: Was the rape the beginning of the turbulence or had it start before that?

FRANCIS: No. I just had a miscarriage that year before I went back to work.

KING: You were married then too? FRANCIS: Yes, I was married then. And my husband said to me, you know, go sing some pretty songs. You're walking around the house. You're mopey. Go sing some pretty songs. You'll feel better.

KING: This was what year?

FRANCIS: This was in 1974. So I got a new act. I got a press agent and I started, and then on the fourth night of the engagement is when the rape occurred.

KING: Where was this?

FRANCIS: This was at the Westbury Music Fair on Long Island.

KING: And how did this happen?

FRANCIS: Well, it is the reason why I finally sued them.

KING: Sued Westbury?

FRANCIS: No, sued the Howard Johnson's motor lodge chain.

KING: Tell me what happened.

FRANCIS: Well, my attorney -- I wouldn't sue because I said how can I go up on the stand and bare the most intimate details of my life? It is out of the question. And then six months later, he came to me and he showed me a report on the Howard Johnson's motor lodge, that there had been 11 previous break-ins.

KING: Now what happened? You went into your room after your show?

FRANCIS: Right. I went into my room.

KING: So it's like 11:30 at night?

FRANCIS: It's later than that because I received a letter that very night about a baby that was available for adoption. And so, I was trying to get my husband or my attorney friend, Dick Frank, on the phone, until 3:00 in the morning. And I was there with a married couple who was my bodyguard and my secretary.

KING: And they were in another room?

FRANCIS: They were in a connecting room. And my husband said don't leave her for a minute. I want you to be in that room. But I said, no, it is not necessary, Michael. I said you got all your clothes down at the other end of the hotel. I said, forget about it. I'm fine. About one hour after I fell asleep, a black man with a knife was at my bed, pulling my hair....

KING: You opened your eyes to this?

FRANCIS: I opened my eyes to this. I was lying on my tummy and he just pulled my hair back and said, scream and I'll kill you. And I said I won't even whisper. You know? And I did what really should be done. I never showed fear. I never showed anger. I just tried to negotiate for my life really.

KING: So you talked to him?

FRANCIS: I talked to him and I said, you're a young boy. And I said, well, can't you get a job? Isn't there a job available for you? He said why should I get a job when I can do this for nothing? I said, well I'm not going anywhere in that direction. Let me try this.

KING: Was he after Connie Francis or was it just any woman in a room he could find?

FRANCIS: Any person in a room. Two other men -- men were in the hotel that night that were also robbed.

KING: And did he take jewelry and stuff?

FRANCIS: I didn't have anything. I had a strand of pearls, all my jewelry, and I never carry more than $100, Larry. I had $100 in my pocket, but I didn't have it there. I had given it to my secretary. And he couldn't believe that I didn't have any money. He wouldn't buy that. But there was no money in the room to give him.

KING: So, you think the rape was an afterthought?

FRANCIS: No. As soon as he saw it was a single woman alone with no one there, I think that's when he decided that he was going to do it.

KING: How long was he in the room?

FRANCIS: Two hours. And it was a battle for my life.

KING: Did you think after he raped you he would kill you?

FRANCIS: Yes, I did. He made a mark on my neck with the knife and he said I'm going to count to 20, and if you don't give me your money by the time you get to 20, you're going to be dead. And I said, look, I earn a lot of money. I said maybe you don't like rich white ladies, I really don't know. But I -- I wouldn't give up my life for $100, which is all I ever have with me. And it is down the hall with my secretary and her husband.

KING: The rape had to be horrible for you, right?

FRANCIS: The rape was horrendous for me. I couldn't mention the word rape until I went back to work in 1981 and did the "David Hartman Show." I couldn't even mention the word. And every week, I would receive hundreds and hundreds of letters from rape victims. And I wanted to do something for them and I went on a real crusade.

KING: How long before you worked?

FRANCIS: It was seven years until I worked again.

KING: Seven years until you stood on the stage again?

FRANCIS: Yes. Yes.

KING: How many years before you stayed alone in a room again?

FRANCIS: I never do.

KING: You never stay in a room alone?

FRANCIS: No. I always have to have someone there with me.

KING: My guest is Connie Francis, extraordinary story and we're just scraping the surface. This is LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Connie Francis on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Why didn't he kill you, do you think?

FRANCIS: Because I think he thought, well, she's a -- if she's a famous person, they may look harder for me. I don't know.

KING: He wasn't masked?

FRANCIS: He came in with a towel around his face, but then that dropped and I said, oh, my God. Now he thinks I can recognize him. Now it is all over.

KING: Was he ever caught?

FRANCIS: No. Absolutely -- very few of them are.

KING: The world knew you were raped?

FRANCIS: I know that. I mean, in German, it was in headlines and everywhere. It was a terrible thing.

KING: How long before you could lie down in bed with a man?

FRANCIS: Well, I was married at that time.

KING: Was it difficult to get back...

FRANCIS: I didn't have sex for six months.

KING: How did your husband handle it?

At the beginning, very, very well. But after that -- the trial really tore us a part.

KING: What trial? The trial against Howard Johnson?

FRANCIS: Howard Johnson. Connie has the sex blahs, all kinds of things like that. It will never be the same. He was an Italian man, very proud. And there was something that he was turned off by the whole thing.

KING: He got divorced?

FRANCIS: Yes.

KING: Did the jury rule for you or did they finally just settle?

FRANCIS: No, they ruled for me. The jury of six men, no women, just six men.

KING: And what did they hold Howard Johnson's responsible for, not correct locks on the doors?

FRANCIS: Not correct locks on the door, just The fact that the place was unguarded. There were no patrols, there were no...

KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) motor lodges.

FRANCIS: Right. There were no lights in the parking area. They just did everything wrong.

KING: How do you recover from rape?

FRANCIS: Well, it ain't easy, Larry. Gee, I don't even know. No one has ever asked me that question before. And I don't think you ever really get over it.

KING: You still...

FRANCIS: Oh, yes.

KING: ... bearing the...

FRANCIS: I mean, I will get up in the middle of the night and I'll be crying and I'll be in hysterics and I still remember bits and pieces of that whole event.

KING: It is more than a sexual act, right?

FRANCIS: It is an act of violence.

KING: Against one...

FRANCIS: It is not a sexual act at all.

KING: It's one person against another and the other is under the fear of the knife. Did you ever think you could get away or something or push?

FRANCIS: Oh, I just said, just let him drop that knife for two seconds and I'll take a chance.

KING: But you weren't going scream or anything?

FRANCIS: No, I wasn't going to scream. I did what the -- the girl from the rape crisis center said that it was as if I had taken a course in what to do in a situation like that.

KING: Now, some people, knowing show business as it is today, could have had this event and have their career catapult. Come see Connie Francis, victim returns. Yours went down.

FRANCIS: Because I didn't do anything. I mean...

KING: You didn't do anything?

FRANCIS: I raised my little boy. I was telling you about Joey.

KING: You wound up adopting him?

FRANCIS: Yes, I wound up adopting him. And he came to my house one month exactly after the rape. It was a cold night and there was a blizzard outside. And I opened the door and there was my friend, Dick Frank, the attorney I was mentioning, and with a bundle -- with a big red ribbon around him and he handed the baby to me. And wow, I mean, that was cosmic.

KING: How old is he now?

FRANCIS: He's 27 now.

KING: What does he do?

FRANCIS: He was teaching school. Now he's going to aviation school. He wants to go to aviation school.

KING: Wants to fly?

FRANCIS: Yes.

KING: Only child?

FRANCIS: Yes.

KING: All right. So you don't work. What did you do all those months? You stopped working, disappeared.

FRANCIS: Read letters, read letters from victims. Nothing, I did nothing with my life. And that's really what destroyed my marriage. I mean, I would just be in bed for days and sometimes three or four weeks at a time.

KING: Lost interest?

FRANCIS: Lost interest in everything.

KING: You had had tragedy before, right? Didn't you have a woman close to you murdered?

FRANCIS: My aunt Rose, yes. My aunt Rose was murdered in her home.

KING: You also, as I remember, lost your voice. FRANCIS: I lost my voice.

KING: When was that?

FRANCIS: That was 1977.

KING: Right after the rape?

FRANCIS: No, '74 was the rape. So this was '77.

KING: Three years after?

FRANCIS: Yes. And I had heard of this new operational procedure that...

KING: You lost it and you couldn't speak at all?

FRANCIS: Oh, I could speak. I just couldn't sing. I would go down to the basement at night when nobody was -- when everybody was asleep and I would try, where the boys are, you know, trying to sing. Nothing happened. I mean, nothing. So I went, found a wonderful doctor in Boston. And I went for three more operations and then finally I was able to sing again.

KING: You could talk, but couldn't sing. What was the problem?

FRANCIS: The -- he had taken a graft from behind my neck to put inside my nose to widen the passages so that I didn't get sick every time I recorded in air-conditioned rooms.

KING: Oh, that's right. You had a problem with air conditioning?

FRANCIS: Right.

KING: Even if the nightclub were air conditioned or...

FRANCIS: Any -- recording studio, nightclub, theater, what have you. If the air conditioning was on, I lost my voice. Within five to ten minutes, I had no voice. So now they -- which was OK in New York in February. But in August in Las Vegas, they didn't go -- it didn't go over too well.

KING: Did you ever think the death of your aunt who you loved, your rape, you lose your voice...

FRANCIS: My brother's murder.

KING: I'll get to that. That God has kind of looked the other way when it came to Connie Francis?

FRANCIS: Well, I've never believed that. I never blamed God for any of this. I blamed Howard Johnson's.

KING: OK. So, just fate of luck and wrong place, wrong time?

FRANCIS: Yes. Wrong place at the wrong time.

KING: Connie Francis, incredible life. We're going to talk about the murder of her brother. You're watching LARRY KING LIVE with one of the great stars of the pop era that has had a string of hits, over 40 hits in the top 10. Connie Francis, we'll be right back.

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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KING: We're with Connie Francis. Now it's seven years after the rape. It is 1981 and your brother George Frank Canaro -- pronouncing -- is gunned down outside his home in North Caldwell, New Jersey, a gangland style killing. Was it a Mafia killing?

FRANCIS: Yes.

KING: Was why was he in trouble with the --

FRANCIS: Because he talked too much. He talked too much to the authorities and they were afraid he was going to talk again. And --

KING: He was -- was in the --

FRANCIS: No, he wasn't in the Mafia. No.

KING: Well, how did he know so much?

FRANCIS: How did he know so much?

KING: Yes. To be killed?

FRANCIS: Because he was used in the worst possible way, Larry. I can't go into the intricacies, unless I want to find myself in the Hudson River with a Nickelodeon around my neck.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Good way to put it, Connie. The direct Italian way. Bam, bam, bam. Still -- Eventhough it is 1981, you reveal something here tonight they're still going to get to you.

FRANCIS: Good bye, Charlie.

KING: How did you react to that? Were you close to your brother?

FRANCIS: Very, very close to him.

KING: How old was he? FRANCIS: He was 39, 40 at the time. And he had the greatest sense of humor in the world. When he heard that I was getting married for the third time. He said let me ask you a question, he said, don't you think it would be a good idea if you bought a drip dry wedding dress. I said don't get cute Georgie. Then he said is Anita going to be my best friend? Is Anita going to be your matron of honor again? I said, yes. He said it is a nice thing you keep doing for Anita, everybody needs a steady job.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: You reacted poorly to his death, though --

FRANCIS: Oh, God, Larry.

KING: Did you know who did it, and did you get angry? And did you ever confront them? Or did --

FRANCIS: Well, two hit men from out of town somewhere. I knew who was behind it, I knew everything. But I wasn't about to discuss it.

KING: Was the mob ever involved in your career?

FRANCIS: No. Thanks to my father when I was 14-years-old my father received a phone call that the boys wanted to see him at Port Newark. He went there and they said we just heard Connie's demos, and we think she's the greatest singer ever and we want to sign her up. And my father said, look, if she doesn't make it, if she -- we can live with that. But if she does make it she's going to make it on her own with no bosses.

KING: So they backed off?

FRANCIS: Yes. That was it. And I never had any problems with the underworld. My brother had the problems.

KING: You did, though, in the '80s and '90s and one would understand this completely -- have psychiatric problems, right?

FRANCIS: Oh, I was a lunatic.

KING: You were hospitalized?

FRANCIS: Eleven times. Once by Dick Clark.

KING: He --

FRANCIS: Yes.

KING: What would you do? What kind of things would you do? What was happening to you?

FRANCIS: One day I bought three stretch limos. The next day I spent $178,000 in two days on clothes, no furs, no jewelry -- just clothes. I mean I was hiring people, I was involved in so many projects at the same time. Record promotion, writing -- doing my life story, fighting for victims of crime, all of these things and --

KING: You even called me during this period of time.

FRANCIS: Did I?

KING: Yes, and you were like talking --

FRANCIS: High.

KING: High at a rate of speed, I got this, Larry, I should go on -- because I got this. This is a very good idea. If you think you can use it but if you can't use it, I'll understand if you can't use it. I remember saying to friends, is Connie, OK? Because you really sounded out of it.

FRANCIS: I was out of it.

KING: What was the diagnosis?

FRANCIS: Manic depression. So now I take my lithium every day like a good girl.

KING: You still have the disease?

FRANCIS: Yes, and they say it is hereditary but there was no one in my family who ever had mental illness.

KING: Don't you think it was the result all the things in your life?

FRANCIS: Of all those things that happened? No.

KING: No?

FRANCIS: At one point, I thought I was the Virgin Mary.

KING: What finally put you in balance?

FRANCIS: My best friend, Terry Hall, she was a fan. She's here with me today. And she has been my rock of Gibraltar. She has been the best friend that anyone could be to anyone else. She was there every day when I was in the hospital, with her son and she absolutely pulled me through. She's the best, Terry.

KING: You take lithium?

FRANCIS: Yes.

KING: You take it the rest of your life?

FRANCIS: Yes, if I want to be sane.

KING: It keeps you in balance?

FRANCIS: Yes.

KING: Are there days you ever feel erratic?

FRANCIS: Yes, absolutely.

KING: What do you do?

FRANCIS: Take another lithium.

KING: You tried to kill yourself?

FRANCIS: Yes.

KING: Like, by doing what?

FRANCIS: I took -- I don't know how many, 60 Secanol, I took. Maybe all of them, I don't know. I never closed the door to my bedroom, but I -- because if Joey wanted to come in, I always wanted to have the door open --

KING: Joey is your --

FRANCIS: My son. I didn't leave a note, nothing. I couldn't write a note. What could I say? It was no attempt at -- an attempt at killing myself. I was going to kill myself. There was no doubt about it. There was no way I could stay alive with this. But my housekeeper came in and said, Joey needs Connie. Joey needs a pass to go on a camping trip today. Connie, Connie -- she said, Joey, go outside, I'll sign the note. And I was rushed to the hospital.

I was in a coma for three days. My parents were told I would probably have brain damage when I got out of the coma.

KING: Were you not critical of mental institutions?

FRANCIS: Very critical.

KING: Because?

FRANCIS: Firstly, they do nothing initially but sedate you. So you see a room filled with zombies, people who can't -- how can a psychiatrist get them to talk about their problems if they are under the influence of the kinds of medications that they -- that they -- they give out. And I refused to take everything including lithium, which is the only thing that could have helped me. And I remember one night -- one day, Dick Clark flying from Palm Springs to Palm Beach to the hospital there. To plead with me to take my lithium. And I said, Dick, please, I have no time for that.

This is a script I've just written called "Where the Men Are," let's produce it. And Dick said, Connie, calm down. He said just, for me, take this medication and see what happens. But I didn't. I didn't for a long time.

KING: So you kept going back in, though, even though you thought they -- didn't think much of them? So you were involuntary --

FRANCIS: What? You think I was in -- you think I went there for a nice restful weekend? No.

KING: You were involuntarily --.

FRANCIS: I was involuntarily placed. But two times I did go voluntarily. I went for shock treatments in 1989, right before I went back to work.

KING: You had shock treatments?

FRANCIS: Yes. I had shock treatments. And I had shock treatments after the -- after the attempted suicide. And it works, at least it worked for me.

KING: Painful?

FRANCIS: No. You just lie down in a bed, doctor gives you a needle, and counts -- 100 backwards, 100 99, 98, 97 -- you're out. You're totally unaware of what is going on. Then they wake you up, I don't know how many minutes or -- later or hours later, but they wake you up. They have orange juice and a piece of cake and you have that and that's it.

KING: You don't --

FRANCIS: You don't know a thing.

KING: Our guest is Connie Francis, singer, actress, great star. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC)

KING: We're back with Connie Francis. Have you also been critical of psychiatrists?

FRANCIS: Yes.

KING: Because?

FRANCIS: Well, most of them sit in their impoverished little offices. You know, their offices -- I have never met a psychiatrist who had a really beautiful office.

KING: You've met many of them?

FRANCIS: I've met many of them, sure.

KING: And none of them helped?

FRANCIS: No, not until I met Dr. Ann Marie Nuchi (ph) from New Jersey.

KING: And what does she do that they didn't?

FRANCIS: Well, I feel now she's my friend more than my -- just my psychiatrist. And she told me I was taking entirely too many pills and I should wind down on all of the pills. I was overdosed on lithium. And she -- she was just -- everybody should find...

KING: Is she still around?

FRANCIS: Yes. Yes.

KING: You still go to her?

FRANCIS: Yes. I talk to her at least once a week.

KING: Now, when you started singing again, what effect did this illness, this manic depressive have on your act or your work?

FRANCIS: It was such a high, Larry, to go back to work again. I didn't need anything else. It was the most incredible feeling in the world to know that you've been a cocoon for seven years and that the people still love you and that they embrace you.

KING: Where was the first place you went back on stage?

FRANCIS: Westbury Music Fair.

KING: You're kidding?

FRANCIS: I wanted to put all my demons to rest.

KING: You didn't stay at the Howard Johnson's, though?

FRANCIS: No. I went home every night.

KING: OK. When they introduced you, what was that...

FRANCIS: They didn't introduce me.

KING: Tell me what happened.

FRANCIS: That's not the way it works with me. The orchestra plays an overture, a medley of my hits, and then I walk in from the back of the audience and I just walk right down the aisle...

KING: Singing while walking?

FRANCIS: No, just walking to "Who's Sorry Now", which is playing at that point, and getting on stage and just that was it.

KING: What was that like for you to walk down?

FRANCIS: It was cosmic. I mean, I couldn't believe people still remembered me.

KING: Big crowd?

FRANCIS: It was packed. All the cities, it was packed.

KING: Did you have an easy time getting through it?

FRANCIS: The first show, I forgot all the words. I was fumfering (ph). I was, you know, I was just like -- real bad. But the newspapers were very kind to me, you know by saying I was...

KING: Didn't you always get pretty good press?

FRANCIS: I always had good press, Larry, except, of course, in a couple of magazines. Oh, this was unbelievable. In "Globe" magazine, about three or four months ago, they had a picture of me -- they said I weighed 180 pounds, that I was so fat that I went to a Red Cross dinner ball and I was the guest of honor that night. And that I had to be carried in on a wheelchair because I was too fat to walk was implied. And they had a picture of me -- I don't know. It wasn't of me. It was just distorted, you know, with the five chins distorted. And I put that picture on the refrigerator and I went on a diet. That was a shocker.

KING: Did the tabloids have a lot of photo roll about you, so to speak in the '80s and '90s?

FRANCIS: When I went back to work. But after '74, after a while, they just stopped calling because there was nothing to tell. I forgot to tell you, when they said I was in a wheelchair, I was because I had broken my ankle three days before and I didn't want not to appear at this function that I had promised. So I was really loaded for bear with "Globe" but I wanted to thank them now for that lousy picture.

KING: Are you still working?

FRANCIS: Still working.

KING: Where do you work now?

FRANCIS: On April, I'll be at Resorts International in Atlanta City, February 5th, 6th, 7th. And Dupont (ph)...

KING: April 5th, 6th, 7th or February?

FRANCIS: April 5th, 6th and 7th, right.

KING: You still do concerts?

FRANCIS: I still do concerts all over the country. And I love it. I want to die on that stage when I'm 90.

KING: You were a natural, right? You were born on a stage, right?

FRANCIS: I was a ham, yes.

KING: You did movies, too, didn't you?

FRANCIS: Yes. If you could call them that.

KING: Yes, I know. What were they, those...

FRANCIS: "Where the Boys Are", you know...

KING: "Beach Blanket Bingo", you and Annette Funicello, right?

FRANCIS: Right. But I was stupid because I had a contract that allowed me to choose the script, the director, anything that was -- I was co-producer of my pictures after "Where the Boys Are" and I just didn't care about movies. I didn't care about making movies. I didn't take it seriously, which was dumb.

KING: Did you save all your money?

FRANCIS: No, I lost a great deal of my money. But I have all the money I need right now.

KING: So now you live alone?

FRANCIS: No, I live with a housekeeper, Giovanna (ph), who has been with me for two years.

KING: No man in your life?

FRANCIS: No man in my life. Anybody interesting you want to talk about?

KING: You've been married a few times.

FRANCIS: Four times.

KING: One of them was torturous, right?

FRANCIS: Well, three of them were torturous. My first husband, yes, abused me.

KING: Let me get back to that in a minute. My guest is Connie Francis and we'll be right back. Don't go away.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "PERRY COMO'S MUSIC KRAFT MUSIC HALL")

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KING: We're back with Connie Francis, who is -- I'll tell you she's guts and determination and she keeps on doing her thing. Still lots more to talk about like your father, perceived by many as tough and tyrannical. Was he? FRANCIS: He was absolutely great. And as Bobby Daryn (ph) says, quote, the greatest tyrant of modern times.

KING: Greatest tyrant?

FRANCIS: Tyrant of modern times. He would -- I'll give you an example. I would never get a big head in my house, that's for sure. My new 8 x 10 glossies came in the mail, and my father was peering at them over my shoulder. So I turned to the first one and I said, I really don't think this one does me justice, daddy. I think I better get another photographer. He said, you know what your problem is, sister? You think you're better looking than you really are.

KING: Didn't give you a lot of love?

FRANCIS: No. Gave me a lot of direction. He gave me a lot of great ways to make money and remain a star for many years.

KING: And he wasn't in show business, right?

FRANCIS: He was a poor roofer.

KING: How did he know all this?

FRANCIS: He just had a common -- a feel for the people. I mean, he pleaded with me to record in foreign languages. He said go and record an Italian album. Well, this is America, daddy. Record an Italian album. There are 35 million Italians in the country, the largest single ethnic group in the country. Record it. You are going to Britain next week, record it. Record a Jewish album. The Jewish people like you. They want -- they want these songs back.

KING: You're doing that now, right?

FRANCIS: I always do that. I always do.

KING: This was all your father? You had double feelings for him?

FRANCIS: Absolutely love/hate relationship.

KING: How about your mother?

FRANCIS: My mother was a typical Italian wife. She relinquished...

KING: Cooked on Sunday and relinquished power?

FRANCIS: All thoughts to a single idea in her head, like most Italian wives.

KING: Your father tough on your brother?

FRANCIS: My father largely ignored my brother. I think my brother has been a casualty of my success.

KING: Really?

FRANCIS: Yes, I think if I had been a secretary or gone to -- I received a scholarship to NYU. If I stayed at NYU, I think my brother would be alive today. I don't blame him -- I don't blame myself for it, but I do think that it is a fact.

KING: Your father lived to what year?

FRANCIS: Until four years ago.

KING: So he knew of the rape?

FRANCIS: Oh, yes.

KING: How he did handle it?

FRANCIS: He came to pick me up at the police station with my Aunt Marie.

KING: How did he handle all that?

FRANCIS: He said, quote, tell her, Marie to my aunt -- I was on the back of the -- I was on the back of the car sitting on the floor from the -- after the rape and after leaving the police station. And I was rocking back and forth you know, like praying and just thinking of what had happened and he said to my Aunt Marie, Marie, tell her it is not that bad. She's lucky she's married to a guy like Joe. In other words, Joe was more urbane, more modern, he would be able to accept this thing, something that my father could never accept but Joe could accept.

KING: So your reaction when he died was what?

FRANCIS: We became very close in the last few years of his life. I took him from doctor to doctor to hospital to hospital for operations and I did everything I possibly could to help him.

KING: How did your father react to the murder of your brother?

FRANCIS: He was very shaken by it, really. What we knew -- we knew it was coming. It was just a matter when.

KING: Did you have a weight problem as a child?

FRANCIS: Oh, yes.

KING: You always went one way or the other?

FRANCIS: Yes, because I love food. Food is love. I love food.

KING: Still do?

FRANCIS: Yes, yes.

KING: So, you gotta watch...

FRANCIS: I have to watch, yes.

KING: Now your love life?

FRANCIS: Oh (UNINTELLIGIBLE) !

KING: Was Bobby Daryn one of the great loves?

FRANCIS: He was absolutely the love of my life.

KING: One of the great people I've ever known.

FRANCIS: Isn't he? Wasn't he marvelous?

KING: The best. Was he married when you were involved with him?

FRANCIS: No, I was 17 and he was 18.

KING: When he had "Splish Splash?"

FRANCIS: No, before that in the lean days, before "Splish Splash."

KING: In queens?

FRANCIS: No, he lived in the Bronx.

KING: You lived where?

FRANCIS: In New Jersey.

KING: How did you meet?

FRANCIS: In George Scheck's (ph) office. George Scheck was my manager for 13 years and one day he came into the office and said -- I didn't know who he was and he said, I'm Bobby Daron and I have a hit song for you.

I said there is nothing like confidence, that's great. He said I'm dying for a hit song. So said he said, I dig -- I said, you do, for what company? That's how square I was. I was so square. And he was so hip that it was really funny.

KING: He was hip before there was hip.

FRANCIS: Oh, yes. Like one time a guy came up to him for an autograph and he mentioned "Splish Splash" and mentioned a show that Bobby did and he said, you're coming back from before I want to remember. He would come out with lines...

KING: He was so much more than "Splish Splash." What a mind he had.

FRANCIS: An incredible mind, right Larry?

KING: Why didn't you get married? FRANCIS: My father took a gun one day, came to the studio, the "Jackie Gleason Show," where Bobby and I were sitting in the audience holding hands at rehearsal and he came in brandishing a gun, intent on shooting Bobby. It took four men to restrain him.

KING: Why he did want to shoot Bobby?

FRANCIS: He hated bobby.

KING: Why did he hate Bobby?

FRANCIS: He hated Bobby because Bobby was the only threat that existed in his life as far as my feelings and my affection.

KING: Was he your first love?

FRANCIS: Yes.

KING: So your father feared so much that you would marry Bobby and be out of his realm that he was going to kill Bobby?

FRANCIS: That's right.

KING: This, I would imagine, brought some fear into Bobby?

FRANCIS: It effectively ended our relationship. He wisely reconsidered.

KING: Did you remain friends?

FRANCIS: Yes, we did. Of course.

KING: And he tragically died so young.

FRANCIS: Oh, it was -- he would be alive today. They just didn't have the kind of expertise that they have now.

KING: He was born with a rheumatic heart, right?

FRANCIS: Yes. On his 14th birthday he asked his mother, Polly, who turned out to be his grandmother, long story...

KING: I know.

FRANCIS: He asked her how long -- he wanted to know the absolute truth. He wanted to know how long the doctors said that he had to live. And she said until about 25, Bobby. So he came out with a statement once to the press that, I've gotta be a legend before I'm 25.

KING: And made it to 35.

FRANCIS: 37.

KING: And "Mac The Knife" may be the best single recording ever made. FRANCIS: Absolutely. I agree with you.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with Connie Francis on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Gotta admit this, it ain't been dull. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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FRANCIS: I'd like to do some songs that are lucky charms to me.

(singing): Where the boys are someone waits for me a smiling face a warm embrace.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was fabulous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Connie Francis is just great. That's all I have to say.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back with our remaining moments with the great Connie Francis. What a star. What was instant success -- "Who's Sorry Now," you were how old?

FRANCIS: Just turned 20.

KING: Too much too soon?

FRANCIS: Too much too soon.

KING: What did it do to you?

FRANCIS: You don't know how to handle it. You don't appreciated it. I mean, ever since I had all of these disasters that occurred to me, some of my own making, some of which were my own making, I think that you learn a lot more from success than you do from failure -- a lot less, rather, from success than you do from failure. You learn a lot from failure.

KING: Don't learn anything from success.

FRANCIS: You don't learn anything from success and that's the truth. And when they say, you know, youth is wasted on the young, for sure. And I never -- now I never laughed so hard, I never cried so hard, I never felt this much -- I never had the kind of empathy, I always was, you know, like little dogs and children and older people and babies and stuff like that. But I never had the kind of empathy for people's problems, especially victims of crime and psychiatric problems that I had after...

KING: We already talked about Dick Clark. Are there other show business friends that are still friends?

FRANCIS: I could mention a few people like Tony Orlando is a sweetheart, Frankie Avalon, we speak once in a while. I never really had any friends in show business, with the exception of Dick.

KING: Tony Orlando is another lithium spokesperson, right?

FRANCIS: Yes, yes.

KING: Lithium saved his life. As it did Joshua Logan, the director.

FRANCIS: Yes.

KING: What changed it for you? Did the Beatles change music for you?

FRANCIS: The Beatles changed music for everybody making records in America including Elvis who couldn't get a hit during that period of time -- a decent hit during that period of time. And they absolutely wiped us right off the charts. That was it. In '64, it was all over for American singers.

KING: As you look back, were they deserving of that success? the Beatles? How do you regard them?

FRANCIS: I don't really especially turned on by Beatles music.

KING: No?

FRANCIS: No. There was nobody that could compare with Bobby as far as I was concerned.

KING: Bobby was more than rock. Bobby was another Sinatra, don't you think?

FRANCIS: Absolutely. He would have taken Frank's place today.

KING: You sing "God Bless America" a lot, right?

FRANCIS: I sing it -- I have sung it for every show. And I'll tell you a story about that, Larry. I was in Vietnam in '67, a few weeks before Christmas time. One night I was going to be doing -- before my show -- a famous general asked me what songs I would be singing that night and I told him.

And then I said -- then I always end my shows with "God Bless America," I recorded that when I was 22 years old. And the general said, please don't do that song here, Connie. He said these men are beaten, they're broken, they're bitter and they actually hate their country. And I said, well, they may hate the government that got us into this mess, as I do and millions of other Americans do, but I don't think that they've forgotten their country. And without a single word, no introduction of any kind, no music of any kind, I just walked up to the microphone, I sang the first four lines of "God Bless America" before one lone soldier stood up, put his hand over his heart and with tears streaming down his face began singing along with me. Then there was 100, then 1,000. People through the years have always asked me, what was the greatest, ultimate -- the greatest moment of your life in show business? And I never fail to mention it because it was.

KING: Now at this stage, do you ever wonder about the man who raped you, where he is, what happened to him?

FRANCIS: No.

KING: Never think about it. Do you have any bitterness?

FRANCIS: No.

KING: Are you optimistic?

FRANCIS: I have unquenchable optimism.

KING: What did September 11 do to you?

FRANCIS: It made me realize what famous statesmen -- I believe it was Patrick Henry but don't hold me to it -- said, the price of freedom is constant vigilance. And we forgot all about that for ten years. It was a party. While people like Osama bin Laden were planning to destroy us. And I think that sometimes we have to -- as a citizen, sometimes we have to defend ourselves against our government.

KING: Where were you that morning?

FRANCIS: I was waiting to go out, go shopping, just happy as a lark and then I saw -- I saw the TV and I said this is it. It is World War III all over.

KING: You're an amazing girl, Connie. You survived pain, you've come through it. You are -- they named a television show "The Survivors." They could run your picture. You are a survivor.

FRANCIS: Thank you, Larry.

KING: You stand up and go to the hunt.

FRANCIS: Thank you. You're a doll.

KING: I'm honored knowing you.

FRANCIS: Thank you.

KING: Connie Francis who keeps on keeping on. We hope you enjoyed tonight's edition of LARRY KING LIVE. NEWSNIGHT with Aaron Brown is next in New York. I'm Larry King and for Connie Francis and the whole crew in Los Angeles, thanks for joining us and good night.

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