CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Interview With Marla Hanson
Aired March 21, 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, her perfect face slashed by thugs hired by her own landlord. Then she's branded a liar and a seductress at their trial. Despair almost drives her to suicide. Model Marla Hanson, 15 years later, on the attack and the awful aftermath and the scars of crime and violence. A compelling conversation next on LARRY KING LIVE.
We're going to have quite a show for you tonight. Marla Hanson returns to LARRY KING LIVE. She was with us some time back. You may remember her. If you don't, we're going to relive the story for you.
Her face was slashed in a vicious assault in 1986, her psyche scarred in an incredible criminal trial. Nearly driven to suicide, suffered from post traumatic stress disorder, ups and downs of an incredible life who at one time was a fast -- you were a model, right.
MARLA HANSON, FORMER MODEL: Yes, I was a model.
KING: A rising model, right?
KING: Doing well?
KING: Twenty-four years old, living alone.
HANSON: That's right.
KING: What happened on June 5, 1986?
HANSON: I was coming home from a late night modeling assignment, and I had arranged to meet my former landlord to pick up my security deposit. And I had moved out of an apartment I rented from him because he kept coming in uninvited, unannounced. And I found it very upsetting. So I moved out and he agreed to meet me and give me back my security deposit. And of course, as you know, instead of the security deposit, he had two guys waiting for me.
KING: What was his reason for this?
HANSON: You know, I don't really know. A lot of people ask that, but... KING: His name was Steve Roth, right?
HANSON: Yes, that's right.
KING: Was he a violent -- had a criminal record?
HANSON: I don't know. I mean, things came out in the trial, but I don't really know myself. I had a little bit of fear about him because he had been very threatening in the apartment when I said I wanted to move.
KING: Did he want to make advances on you, was that the idea?
HANSON: People have said that. I think it's that kind of mind that I -- I mean, I moved out of his sphere of control. I moved out of his apartment. I met him in a restaurant, a public place, which he had arranged, and I suggested the place, which is actually in the bottom floor of the building I lived in. And...
KING: Public restaurant.
HANSON: Public restaurant. Public place...
KING: And he was there early. Did you see him alone?
HANSON: ... where he was sitting at the bar when I walked in. And he seemed very nervous and agitated. And I knew immediately something was up. And they always said that you have premonitions, that if you have an instinct like that, you should follow it. But I didn't.
KING: You should have ran.
HANSON: I should have ran. I didn't do it.
KING: Did he give you your security deposit right back?
HANSON: No, he never gave it back.
KING: Still haven't gotten it back?
HANSON: Insult to injury, never got it back after all that.
KING: So what happened?
HANSON: Well, he said he had my deposit, but he didn't want to give me cash in the restaurant because it might look kind of funny. And I had to go out to go upstairs to my apartment, so he walked out with me. And when I got outside the restaurant, there were two men out there. And the minute I saw them, I knew something was up.
KING: Did he say anything?
HANSON: Nothing. No.
KING: Did they say anything? HANSON: No. There was a look, though, that passed between him and them that made me know that he knew them. Nothing was ever said. It was like this weird silent kind of...
KING: Nobody was on the street?
HANSON: It was right at the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel, so there was a lot of people, a lot of cars, a lot of traffic.
KING: And what did they do to you?
HANSON: They grabbed me and pulled me into -- I started walking down the block towards -- there's a police station there. And I started walking that direction thinking I could outrun them, but they overtook me at the end of the block and pulled me into a parking lot. And, I mean, I didn't know what was going on. I just thought three men and a woman, they're going to try and rape me.
So I thought if they can't rape me, if they can't push me on the ground, so I was fighting to just like stay up, you know, and on my guard. And all this time, there were hands waving in front of my face and I didn't know what was going on until I looked at my clothes and I saw all of the blood. When I put my hands on my face, those waves of panic, you know.
KING: What was Mr. Roth doing while these two guys were -- these two guys were black, right? I bring that up only because it came up later at the trial.
HANSON: Yes, that's right.
KING: Was he saying anything? Was he standing there?
HANSON: Nothing was ever said until -- he was like a lookout, I guess. He was standing on the corner, kind of looking around nervously. And then, all of the sudden, he shouted out, what are you doing to that girl, like he had just come up on the scene and was, you know, discovering this crime. And they ran away at that. And he grabbed me. I don't know what he was trying to do. He grabbed me and tried to pull me into the parking lot further. And I pushed away from him and ran to the police station. No, I ran back to the restaurant.
KING: You were never on the ground?
HANSON: No. No.
KING: Never raped?
HANSON: No. Never raped.
KING: I guess rape wasn't their...
HANSON: I guess not. I mean, you know, just the cutting.
KING: They weren't there to kill you. They were there to harm you. HANSON: Well, I don't think they would have minded if I died. Maybe they were trying to kill me.
KING: But if you're a model and they're working on the face with razor blades, it is to disfigure, right?
KING: What was it like for you? I mean...
HANSON: Well, God, it was like...
KING: The plastic surgery, I understand, was incredible.
HANSON: I had an amazing surgeon, a guy named Dr. Levandosky (ph) who was on call at St. Vincent's and...
KING: All you have is that one scar there.
HANSON: Yes, a little thing around my eye here and cuts here.
KING: Can't notice that. This is the only one I really notice.
HANSON: Yes, this one is pretty severe right here.
KING: How bad was it?
HANSON: I mean, it was bad. I was terrified. I really thought I was going to die. I mean, there was that point where you leave your body. But interestingly enough, the worst -- to me, the worst part was what came next, the trials.
KING: Yes, get to that in a minute.
This was a big tabloid story in New York, right? I mean, model, beautiful model, "New York Post", "New York Daily News"...
KING: ... they love it, right? Cut and slashed. There was a black/white incident, et cetera. Did you give the police the whole story? You told on Mr. Roth, you told the two -- you didn't know who they were, right?
HANSON: Right. Well, I mean, I didn't know if anyone would believe me because I had trouble getting my mind around, I mean, what they had done, why they did it. And, I mean, I couldn't quite get my mind around it.
I remember sitting in the police car -- actually, I was on the way back to the restaurant, when I ran away, pushed away from Roth and was trying to escape. I knew the police station was a half block away. I knew the restaurant was a half block away. And I thought, where do I go? And then I thought if I go to the police station, I'm going to have to explain. If I go to the restaurant, they just saw me here with this guy, so I can just, you know, explain there. So that's what I did. And...
KING: The cops get there right away?
HANSON: They were there almost the minute I got there, they were there.
KING: And you told the whole story to them?
HANSON: I didn't say anything in the beginning. I mean, I didn't know what to say. I said to somebody in the restaurant that Roth had cut me, that he had done this. And then I didn't say anything. I think I was going into shock. And the police came, they put me in the back of the police car and Roth jumped in to the back of the police car.
HANSON: That he was my boyfriend, and that he, you know, protected me from these guys or he, you know, saved my life. And, I mean, I was so terrified at that point, because he had already done this and I didn't know if he had a gun or what he was going to try to do. So, I just sat there.
KING: This is quite a guy.
HANSON: And then when we got to the hospital, the policeman said, is that your boyfriend? And I said just look at me and look at him and tell me what you think. And then I thought, look at me, what am I saying. I said, well, don't look at me then because, you know, my face was all messed up. And he started laughing and he said, I didn't think so. And then I told the story.
KING: How long were you hospitalized?
HANSON: Five days, I think.
KING: And they did all of that work? Did they have to do post- surgery, anything after?
HANSON: I did a few years later, a second surgery. And I should really do one more just to...
KING: You, of course, knew your modeling life was over.
HANSON: Well, I had a hard time accepting that right away, but I think what bothered people weren't so much the scars but what they represented, the violence. I think that really bothered people.
KING: You have been a lot involved in this, since the story has just begun folks, this was what happened. What happened after is unbelievable. Marla Hanson is our guest. This is LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HANSON: I think everyone has heard the story, what happened. I'd rather not go through that again, but I'm doing this because I want -- I've had so much support from everyone, all my friends, people I don't know. It's a publicized case. But I'm really feeling terrific and I have got a terrific doctor and I'm real confident that I'll be back to normal real soon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For fashion model Marla Hanson, six months have passed since her face was slashed, resulting in 150 stitches.
While the scolding was going on, Marla Hanson cried. The judge later apologized.
HANSON: It's been a difficult time for me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On Monday, the man accused of arranging the attack, a former landlord, Steven Roth, took the stand in his own defense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back on LARRY KING LIVE with Marla Hanson, her face slashed in a vicious assault in 1986. Did they arrest Steve Roth, right?
HANSON: Yes, they arrested him.
KING: And charged him with what, since he didn't attack you?
KING: Now, was his trial separate from the other two?
HANSON: Yes, they separated the trials.
KING: How did they find out who the other two were?
HANSON: They confessed immediately.
KING: Oh, they did? They were captured somewhere?
HANSON: Yeah, the police caught them -- I mean, they did it a half a block away from the police station. You know?
KING: And they confessed?
HANSON: Yeah. The police caught them. They confessed to having been hired... KING: By Steve Roth.
HANSON: ... to cut me up, to scare me really badly by Steve Roth. So -- but then that was all thrown away in the trial...
KING: I was wondering why were they even put on trial then if they confessed?
HANSON: Because they threw that out in the pre-trial hearing, said that it was coerced by the police, and that I only pointed to them because they were in handcuffs, which was another story.
KING: Back to the Roth trial. What happens there?
HANSON: For me, the worst part of my ordeal and I think the thing that caused the post trauma later on was that prolonged period during the trial where I was blamed for being a victim.
KING: In the Roth trial?
HANSON: Well, no...
KING: More in the second trial.
HANSON: More in the second trial.
KING: The Roth trial, though, he said that he was gay, right?
HANSON: Right, and his gay lover cut me, that's right.
KING: And that he was engaged then, that saying he was engaged to a very pretty girl, the spurned lover attacked you out of jealousy.
HANSON: Right. That was his defense.
KING: Explain all of that.
HANSON: What can I say about that? It was a pretty interesting defense, really, you know, I guess. I was surprised, and I thought he might even get off with that defense. You know.
KING: What did he get?
HANSON: Five to 15.
KING: Still serving?
HANSON: No. He's out now. He's served 15. The maximum.
KING: Did you ever see him?
HANSON: No, no.
KING: Is he in New York? Do you have any idea -- do you have any fear?
HANSON: Yeah. I have to admit that I have a little fear.
HANSON: I think it's logical. I think if he would do this, you know, you don't know what he might do. I mean, hopefully, he's not going to come back after me. I certainly haven't done anything to him. But there is a fear. You know, I have a family now, and I have to worry about their safety and mine.
KING: You have a husband and a little girl. Four years old, right?
KING: What was it like to be -- before we get to the trial of the two men who actually did the attack, to sit in court for the first time?
KING: Face someone like that?
HANSON: Absolutely terrifying. It's not just facing that, it's facing the jury, who are judging you, facing the public, who were judging you. And when you are a victim, you're never really a victim. You know, you're always somehow to blame.
KING: Because the defense tries to put you on trial.
HANSON: They do put you on trial.
KING: Like you did something to cause this.
HANSON: Right. What did you do to this guy to make him cut you? And that's what everybody asked you constantly. What were you doing out that night? You know, blah, blah, blah. You know, just constant questions about...
KING: Really? What you were wearing?
HANSON: What were you wearing. In fact, that became a big issue at the trial that I was wearing a miniskirt. You know, God forbid.
KING: How long was the trial of Steve Roth?
HANSON: I don't remember. I think it came up pretty quickly, and maybe a few months.
KING: Did he testify in his own trial?
HANSON: I wasn't there for that part. You know, as a victim, you're not allowed to be there.
KING: That's right. Yeah. You had to leave.
HANSON: I don't remember... KING: How did you learn he was found guilty?
HANSON: Through my lawyer, through the press.
KING: You were happy?
HANSON: You know, didn't matter to me in the end, because -- the fact that these...
KING: No feeling of getting even?
HANSON: No, because I thought that these guys when they were convicted were done so at my expense, that in order to prove their guilt, I had to prove my innocence first.
KING: How long after Roth was the trial of Darren Norman and Steven Bowman, the two attackers?
HANSON: That came up pretty quickly, I mean, because this was such a big public case. You know, a big case in the press.
KING: What were they charged with?
KING: Same as he was.
HANSON: First degree assault, right.
KING: And they were defended by Aten Maddocks (ph), and Maddocks (ph) said in his opening statement: "I will tell you about a woman named Marla Hanson, who was after every man in this city, a woman who preyed on men and their relationships with women."
HANSON: Yes. See? That's what I had to deal with. And to me, their words were meant to cut, they were meant to destroy, they were meant to hurt my credibility.
KING: Put the victim on trial.
HANSON: Yeah, to put me on trial. And that was much more vicious in a way than the physical cuts. It was much more of a violation, especially that it happens in the protected atmosphere of a courtroom. You know, in your mind, when you're going through a trial, you're put at the mercy of the courts. And they're like your parents, you know.
KING: Now, these two guys had admitted to it, but later they got it thrown out because saying that the cops pressured them, so there had to be a full trial.
HANSON: That's right.
KING: And you got to testify there.
HANSON: That's right. KING: What was that like?
HANSON: It was terrifying.
KING: First seeing -- looking at two people who cut you up.
HANSON: Terrifying. Yeah, it was the controlled atmosphere of the courtroom, but, you know, I had to listen to that kind of stuff.
KING: You were questioned about your sex life, right?
KING: And why did the judge allow that in?
HANSON: I don't know. I mean, he said that I -- that I brought on my own suffering.
KING: Was their defense that they didn't do it, or that they somehow were attracted to you, and you?
HANSON: They said that I was a case of mistaken identity, that because they were black and I was white, I just pointed to the first black people that walked down the street, and that they didn't have anything to do with it.
KING: So, why, then, should your sex life come up at all, if on one case the guy said he was your friend and in the other case they said they didn't do it?
HANSON: They were just grabbing, I guess, at anything, because I'm a woman, you know. It's either you're crazy or you're a slut.
KING: So they tried to portray you as a racist as well?
KING: Were they handcuffed when you identified them?
HANSON: I don't remember that.
HANSON: In retrospect, I found out that they were, but I mean, what I remember was the guys on the ground, and I jumped out of the police car -- and the police were about to say, you know, do you -- do you recognize these men, but I didn't even wait for that. I jumped out of the car and I ran up to them, and I -- I think I kicked somebody, I'm not really sure, but I think I said, "why did you do this to me, why did you do this to me?" And I mean, I knew that those were the men. I didn't have to see anything.
KING: The judge, Judge Atlas (ph) most -- mostly on your side, felt was unfair. He called your alleged flirting with other women's men as "improper" and "low." He allowed the defense attorney much leeway in questioning your credibility. At sentencing, Judge Atlas (ph) unbraided Hanson from the bench, saying: "Don't make a mockery of this courtroom; there is a constitution in this country, don't make a public criticism of this courtroom." You broke down in tears, right?
HANSON: Yeah. (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
KING: He was yelling at you.
HANSON: He yelled at me. That was -- it certainly seemed like he was out to get me. He didn't like me.
KING: What did the defendants get?
HANSON: They got five to 15.
KING: Same thing?
KING: Are they out now?
HANSON: One of them, I heard died in prison. I don't know how. The other two, Roth and the other one are out.
KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) judge?
HANSON: I think that's a fair assessment, yes.
KING: Is he still a judge?
HANSON: I think so, yes.
KING: You talk about the pornography of suffering and the muckraking media. What did the media do to you?
HANSON: They didn't do anything, really. It was the invasion. You know, this was a moment when, you know, I had to go through all this suffering and I had to do it in public, and it was just very invasive. It's almost like a rape, you know. People are digging in your private life and making judgments about you, and moralizing about you, and, you know, what did you do to make this guy cut you.
You know, and I was already in a very fragile state, and to have to be judged that way. I mean, first in the jury, and that was terrifying enough, and then to judge me because I didn't react the way people I should. They thought I acted cold.
KING: Were you -- you were a good witness, then?
HANSON: I thought I was a good witness. I was terrified. I thought I was absolutely terrified. It's hard to keep your composure on the stand when you know you are being judged, you know what's at stake. I mean, I had a real fear of -- I felt like I was being blamed.
KING: Was the trial telecast?
HANSON: No, God. Thank God.
KING: You wouldn't have wanted it telecast?
HANSON: Oh, no, I'm really against that sort of thing.
KING: We'll be back with more of Marla Hanson. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what about Ms. Hanson's future?
HANSON: I'm taking a break and I'm trying to concentrate on an acting career, which will of course take some training and some time, and I'm going to give myself the time to do that.
You know, when time goes on, you start -- reality sets in, but I'm trying to keep my attitude and keep on top of things, and still optimistic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HANSON: I'm trying to keep my attitude and keep on top of things and I am still optimistic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Marla Hanson. Now the treatment. What happens after the trial? Usually it now becomes yesterday's story. They're convicted.
HANSON: The public knows all of that.
KING: The press stops coming.
HANSON: The press stops coming. This is the story that everybody knows. They don't know...
KING: They go off to prison. What does Marla do?
HANSON: That's the real struggle for Marla.
KING: Marla's scarred.
HANSON: Both emotionally and physically. And then the real battle starts.
KING: Get your life together.
HANSON: Yes, and it was easier said than done. People say it's over, get over it, get on with your life. I had that year-and-a-half period where I couldn't get on. There's a prolonged state of mourning and -- for myself, for everything that I lost.
KING: Was the scarring worse than it is now?
HANSON: It was redder, a little bit more pronounced. It's faded a lot, I think.
KING: Did men ask you out?
HANSON: I had no problem with that area.
KING: You dated. You had no problems with that.
HANSON: No. Men -- it didn't bother men. You know.
KING: You weren't raped I mean, one could say, like I'm the defense attorney. You weren't raped.
KING: Some men slashed you, that's a terrible thing. You got insurance I assume that...
HANSON: I didn't have insurance.
KING: You had to pay for all this yourself?
HANSON: A lot of models -- I didn't have to pay for it. You Know Millton Petri (ph) gave me...
HANSON: A wonderful man named Millton Petri gave me a trust fund.
KING: Because of this?
HANSON: Yes. He gave me $20,000 a year for my whole life. And I was able to pay my medical expenses, go back to college, study film making at NYU.
KING: All right. You had the Petri, you had that plus. You weren't raped.
KING: The people who did it, the perpetrators, are in jail.
KING: Why weren't you able to bounce back?
HANSON: You see, you think I would be.
KING: That's why I ask.
HANSON: That's the nature of post trauma. A trauma like that happens. I never got the help that I -- I should have gotten. There was definite psychic wounds inflicted, not only by the crime, but then by the trials that followed, the stuff in the press, the defense lawyers' statements, and I found myself more and more isolated, and I felt like people didn't understand. They kept saying get over it, get on with it, you should be happy. Why are you focusing on this? I was really driven to speak out for the rights of victims in the courtrooms.
KING: Which you did. You came on this show.
HANSON: I came on the show. I was on the board of the National Center for Victims of Crime and began to lobby for changes in legislation.
KING: You became a spokesperson.
HANSON: I did.
KING: That should have helped you.
HANSON: It did help, it helped a lot. I never got the medical intervention that I needed.
KING: Do you have family?
HANSON: Yes, I do.
KING: Were they involved in this? Were they in court with you?
HANSON: They don't live in New York. They weren't able to come to the trials. They did come to visit, but I was pretty much on my own.
KING: Did anyone say to you, you have to get some psychiatric help here?
KING: No one said that.
KING: Not even the doctor?
HANSON: In fact when I asked for it, immediately afterwards in the courts they said that's just going to be used against you, so I didn't go for a year and a half. By the time that I did go, which was, you know, two years later, you know, I was like, sleeping all day, couldn't get out of bed. I was having flashbacks of the crime. I couldn't sleep properly at night, couldn't concentrate during the day, I felt like my life was unraveling.
KING: Did the trial cause you a feeling of vindication?
KING: None at all.
HANSON: None at all.
KING: Did you have trouble going out at night.
HANSON: Yes. I was fearful, I would walk in the middle of the street if I ever had to be out. I didn't like being alone. I was very startled by people walking up behind me because that is what those men -- I still have that reaction. If someone walks up behind me it just...
KING: Did you do any work to make money?
HANSON: Not in a while. I think that's what finally drove me to therapy, that I was sleeping all the time, and I couldn't get myself together. I finally thought I can't -- I'm not going to be able to pay my rent if I keep this up.
KING: Was celebrity tough? Did that affect you at all?
HANSON: I felt it was invasive, but on the other hand it gave me a platform to speak about things.
KING: There were two sides to the coin.
KING: You were in fact a story. Beautiful model is knifed-up by orders of a guy...
HANSON: Yes. That's a story.
KING: The next ten years, the story doesn't end here. You get involved and get ahead of your problems.
HANSON: I just outran them. I did. I went back to school and studied film making at NYU. I worked with a director and sold a couple of scripts. I was doing well.
KING: For ten years.
HANSON: Ten years late, boom.
KING: You had not married yet, right?
KING: You're still single.
HANSON: Single was dating. I broke up with the guy I was dating, the writer. And I just -- and I was -- I worked for a director for a while. I think when I quit working for him and I had the time to be by myself, I was going to write my big script, I just couldn't outrun it anymore. I mean all of the depressive symptoms and things that were there all along, overwhelmed me completely.
KING: So what happened?
HANSON: The flashbacks came back, the nightmares came back.
KING: Did you know what it was?
HANSON: No. So much time had passed, I had accomplished so much. I had been through therapy. I thought that I recovered. The recovery is an abstract thing that is supposed to happen to you. I had no idea there were practical things that I was supposed to do. Nobody talked about post-trauma. Bam, it hit me, I couldn't get out of bed. It became very physical for me.
KING: Reverting back to...
HANSON: It started to slow things, the nightmares, the intrusive thoughts during the day, I couldn't concentrate, I couldn't sleep properly. I couldn't -- my whole life started to unravel. I couldn't keep things together. Then I became overwhelmed really easily, irritated, very irritable. I had angry outbursts, confrontations with cab drivers...
KING: All the common occurrences of Vietnam victims of this.
HANSON: And they were slowly coming on. I didn't recognize it but I did recognize that I wasn't recognizing myself, who I used to be. I was this person...
HANSON: Did you ever contemplate harming yourself?
HANSON: I became so depressed that I sold everything that I owned. I moved into the Chelsea Hotel, where I literally just wanted to die. I mean, I didn't want to live. I don't know if I wanted to kill myself as much as I didn't want to live.
KING: Did you ever say I am going to take pills?
HANSON: I started my research. I was at the library doing the...
KING: You were researching how you would kill yourself.
HANSON: Yes, and then funny enough that gave me some sense of relief because it gave me control back. I didn't have to accept that I was inadequate or that I was whatever I was, helpless and vulnerable.
KING: Did you ever say I am going to do it tomorrow?
HANSON: Never got that far. I was thinking about it, trying to figure out, you know, you go through the whole thing, like I didn't want anything messy and I wasn't into guns and that kind of violence. I had had enough of that. And then I kept thinking of the headlines. You know what they would print on the front page of the "Post" if I did that.
I was more into like slipping off quietly. I was either going to drown myself or pop some pills or something.
KING: Not intent at racial profiling, but do you have a particular fear of black men?
HANSON: No. I mean, I grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. Half my friends were black.
KING: So a black man on the street at night is the same as a white man on the street at night.
HANSON: Well, unless they're looking scary, you know.
KING: And that would have been true of a white man who...
HANSON: Yes. Yes.
KING: Marla Hanson is the guest. This is LARRY KING LIVE. Still more to go. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HANSON: Hi. I'm Marla Hanson with a few tips on how to keep you and your family safe. Did you know there are approximately 750,000 children reported missing last year? So, please, take precautions. Have your child fingerprinted and have recent photos available and always keep identification on them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "CATHERINE CRIER LIVE")
CATHERINE CRIER, HOST: Marla, I don't think anyone could ever forget your story. You know, the gorgeous face, and I remember the pictures of the stitches. Recount for us what happened?
HANSON: Well, I was living in an apartment. My landlord used to come in on his own with his own set of keys. And that disturbed me, so I moved out. And I guess he was angry over me leaving his sphere of control. And out of revenge, he hired two men to attack me and destroy my career.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Marla Hanson. Before I continue, one of our producers asked me to ask you about the Chelsea Hotel, which means zero to me.
KING: What is special about that place? HANSON: Well, that's where Sid killed Nancy. Sid Vicious killed Nancy. And I actually had the room right down the hall from where that happened. And that was definitely in my mind when I picked that place. It's very dark. It's all brown.
KING: You were really whacko.
HANSON: Well, I mean...
KING: Well, I mean, let's pick a place where a guy killed someone, right?
HANSON: Well, it was the perfect place. It was dark and moody and artsy. And I thought, well, what a place to contemplate life or death.
KING: Now something happens that changes it all around.
KING: What happened?
HANSON: One of my better weekends, I decided to pop up to Newport, Rhode Island to see a friend of mine. And in Newport, you take the train, but then you take a bus from Providence to Newport. And I never get on a Greyhound bus. But I got on a Greyhound bus, went over to Newport.
And I sat next to a Vietnam vet on the bus and he recognized me from the papers. And he said, aren't you that girl, that model? And I got that all the time. And I just thought, oh. And then he started talking about post-traumatic stress disorder, and said you must have post-trauma really bad.
KING: Had he had it?
HANSON: Well, he started describing these symptoms of, you know, hand to hand combat with your moods, and these flashes of irritability and anger and mindfields of anger, I think that's how he put it. It was all so familiar, and frighteningly familiar. And I just felt for the first time in 10 years that somebody understood exactly what I had been through and where I was going. And I would never compare myself to a vet. I mean, I had not been through a war.
KING: But did he have it too? Had he been a victim?
HANSON: Oh, yes, definitely. And, I mean, just start talking about it so compassionately and so, you know, articulately. I just kept saying, yes, yes, yes.
But then as he was speaking, I realized, I'm not inadequate. I'm not crazy. This is a medical condition. And it was such a great moment, I mean, one of those light bulb moments where I was just jumping out of my seat with joy.
KING: Do we know why it kicks in late, why the vet can be home for three years or you can be out of it and getting better and then comes back in?
HANSON: Well, I asked my therapist that and he said that's why they call it post-traumatic stress disorder. I mean, mine in 10 years, I kept saying, 10 years is a long time. But then, when we looked back, there were those symptoms.
KING: Vietnam vets have it 20 years later.
HANSON: I mean, there are things that triggers, a sound, a smell, a certain situation, a feeling of helplessness.
KING: Therefore, could it come back to you now?
HANSON: It can still come back.
KING: Do you fear it?
HANSON: I have to say I don't fear it. I admire it. It's there. I know it's there. I manage it. I manage it.
KING: And it was treated with psychiatric help?
HANSON: Yes. When I finally realized what it was, I ran and did my research on post-traumatic stress disorder this time.
KING: You researched everything, right?
HANSON: I was really into research. Well, I was studying film, so I was into research. And I ran to the library, pulled up everything. The Internet was just coming up those days. But people didn't have home computers, so I was at the library pulling up all the stuff.
I went back to my old therapist who diagnosed me with post-trauma and immediately described an anti-depressant. In my case, he prescribed Paxil and suggested that I -- the first time around, I asked for drugs and he said, no. I don't think you need those. But this time, he's the one that said you really need -- I mean your whole brain chemistry has changed and you really need a jump start. So he gave me Paxil.
And I, within a couple of weeks, was back on my feet. I was feeling incredible. I couldn't believe, I mean, if anybody told me...
HANSON: ... a few months ago that I would feel like that again, I would have never believed them. I mean, my therapist said, you can't come to therapy unless you get out of bed. So, you need to get out of bed and that was one of the steps we took to help me. And, I mean, it really just saved my life.
And I then, you know, went through therapy. We set little goals. I had to learn to take control all over again because it's all about helplessness and control issues. It was a long, slow road back. I mean, it wasn't that slow when I finally had it diagnosed. KING: And that's when you met your -- then your husband?
HANSON: Yes. Very quickly after that, I met my husband in Cuba, on a plane to Cuba.
KING: What were you doing there?
HANSON: I was just down there to look around. I couldn't go.
KING: A little research.
HANSON: Yes, a little research. And I met him on a plane to Cuba and it was love at first sight.
KING: How do you like being a mother?
HANSON: I love being a mother. It's really fun. It was interesting because I was just getting my identity back, you know, after this whole bout with depression and post-trauma. And, you know, then in the end, it became about this kind of -- my therapist said you don't need me anymore, you're better, but you need -- your angst is of a spiritual nature. You need to go find those answers in church or the synagogue or something, because I had a lot of existential questions.
KING: We'll get to that. Do you blame your attackers still?
HANSON: Hmm. I don't think I blame -- I think I have let go of all of the anger and blame that way. I think probably the bitterness...
KING: If you saw them on the street, you wouldn't feel...
KING: Have you been back to the restaurant? Is it still there?
HANSON: I did do that trek. I did the journey. And in that parking lot, I went back to have, like, my big moment of confrontation with the place, and there's -- there's a building in the parking lot. And I thought, that's perfect. Things change. They go on.
KING: A lot of Vietnam vets have gone back to Vietnam and have been helped by just going back.
HANSON: Right. To the place, it's not so scary anymore.
KING: This is not uncommon disease, is it?
HANSON: No. It's actually very common, especially among women and children.
KING: Do you know why?
HANSON: Well, I think women and children -- I mean, we're a violent culture and women and children live with a lot of violence. There's domestic violence. I mean, you think of war, terrorism, obviously, plane crashes, car wrecks.
KING: So, anything could happen to three or four-year-old, that may not seem like it did anything, but could have major...
HANSON: Well, that's when their little brains are developing. So I think that's the most traumatic when it happens to a child.
KING: OK. The doctor says find your spiritual end. Did you find it?
HANSON: I was on the road. I don't know if I have quite gotten there yet.
KING: You're not a believer?
HANSON: I am a believer. I am a believer. I had my crisis of faith. It was Christmas Eve. I was in the depths of my despair and I was sitting around the Chelsea Hotel, and I decided to go to St. John the divine, it's a church, midnight mass. And I remember the sermon that year was despair being the greatest sin, and I was devastated. I was hoping to go there and all I felt was condemnation. And I thought, oh, my God, even God has turned his back on me now.
I went home and I watched "Touched by an Angel," which was the wrong thing to do. Because all I saw was that God was helping all these people and not me. And that was like a really dark hour.
KING: But you turned it around?
HANSON: I turned it around. It was amazing when you find out it's an illness and that there's help.
KING: So -- are you a believer person? I mean, do you pray, do you --
HANSON: I do. I do, I'm a believer. I am finding my way back. It's a long road back to finding yourself.
KING: Marla Hanson's our guest. More to come. Don't go away.
KING: We're back with Marla Hanson. Where you were on September 11.
HANSON: I was taking my daughter to school. That's one of those moments you don't forget. I remember sitting in the car and I was listening to some radio station, like Howard Stern or something crazy. And they brought it up. I thought they were joking, because it was that kind of a show where they're always playing jokes. I thought, that's a weird thing to joke about. And they just said a plane crashed into the building.
I didn't think much about it, more started to come, and they said a second plane crashed, and I rolled my window down I leaned out to the woman in front of me, I said a plane just crashed into the World Trade Center. And she said oh, my God, my husband works in that building. And she took off out of there like lightning. And I felt horrible about that for weeks, because I...
KING: Does that reawaken anxiety, vulnerability -- or does --
HANSON: Yes. I felt very fragile after that. All of those feelings of vulnerability coming back. You know, it was devastating to watch that on TV like that.
KING: Now, it's estimated. I know that you are involved in this a lot, that PTSD symptoms typically begin within three months of the traumatic event, right?
KING: And they may not manifest again until years later, as we discussed. But there is more than 5 million Americans that will apparently have it, 30 percent men, 70 percent women and children. It can develop at any rage, right?
HANSON: Right. Usually it's a six-month point where they think that they can start to classify it as post-trauma. Before that, it's more of a trauma stress and those are normal reactions to a trauma.
KING: Do we know why we have these flashback episodes, and unwanted memories that's been described as a nightmare, frightening thoughts.
HANSON: I think it all centers around the helplessness. You know, that kind of severs the base, the sort of baseline of safety that we live with. And when that's shattered, when you have no base for your life, you become very vulnerable. We need the social interactions. In my case, where it was a personalized violence, that shattered all of that, trust in other people, trust that your world is safe. I mean, we need that in order to live.
KING: You go to symposiums a lot. You are in L.A. for a symposium.
HANSON: In New York, we are doing one on Tuesday.
KING: Tuesday you do a symposium.
HANSON: That's right.
KING: Do you have contact, then, with a lot of people who are victims of this?
HANSON: Yes, I do.
KING: What do you tell them?
HANSON: I tell them that it's -- they're not alone. That they're not inadequate, they're not crazy. It's a medical condition, a disorder. And that there's help available.
KING: And certainly, medication is part of this help?
HANSON: It was great help for me. It was a great help for me.
KING: The legacy of the trial.
KING: Do you think for women?
KING: What? What do you think it leaves? Do you think it leaves any messages, people learn anything from that?
HANSON: My trial process? I mean, the sad thing is that in treating me the way they did and allowing that kind of behavior, it doesn't inspire confidence in other people coming forward.
KING: Right. If you are going to be racked around rather than --
HANSON: Right. I just did it out of blind faith.
KING: Maybe if you had to do it over, you might not.
HANSON: If I had a choice, if I had a choice, I'm not sure I would, knowing what I do now. It wouldn't even matter. I mean, that trial was so hurtful and damaging to me, that I --
KING: So in retrospect, you might have just let it go.
HANSON: I don't know. I can't say for sure, I might.
KING: You moved away?
HANSON: Maybe I might have. You know, but then you have the guilt that you didn't stop them from hurting somebody else. So I don't know, I was proud of myself for doing that, and standing up for myself and going through that process, but it came at a big price.
KING: Did you ever think it would come to that?
KING: Did you ever think that the trial would do that?
HANSON: I was blind sided by that. I had no idea. I thought the guy has confessed, it's cut and dry. We're going to be in and out, no problem. And the pretrial hearing was just -- it blew me away.
KING: Was it tough for you -- you came home five days from the hospital -- was it tough to look in the mirror?
HANSON: And I think actually, in an odd way, modeling helped me with that. Because you...
HANSON: ... realize that beauty like that beauty like that is all kind of superficial. And you also know that they use lights and makeup and touch ups and things and nobody is perfect. You see a lot of the models they are not nearly sometimes as beautiful in person.
KING: You're not kidding.
HANSON: And I thought, oh, everybody has their imperfections. At that point, even, I was so happy just to be alive. You know, that I had survived this thing, that the cuts were, to me --
KING: But pretty people aren't used to looking at themselves -- maybe they look themselves as pretty as others do, but they're looking at something, their comfortable with not seeing scars.
HANSON: Right, but you know what, I lived through that, and I didn't think I would. And so for me, the scars were like -- and the guy did such a great job. I mean, you know, nice little lines, and I mean, I had a whole night to imagine what I would look like. And when I finally saw myself, I was so relieved that it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. And I was so happy to be alive. And You know, I didn't even -- the scars have never really bothered me that much.
KING: We have our remaining moments with Marla Hanson, right after this.
KING: We're back in our remaining moments with Marla Hanson. What a story. She's very involved in this ongoing saga in her life, even though she raises a child and is happily married. The National Mental Health Association can help. They are at www.nmha.org. The National Center for PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome is www.ncptsd.org and the National Center for victims of crime; www.ncvc.org.
You are also on a state board in New York?
HANSON: Right, the crime victims advisory board in the New York state attorney general's office.
KING: What do they do?
HANSON: They advise the attorney general on issues relating to crime and victims. They have been a big source of information on the September 11th.
KING: You're an activist.
HANSON: Yes, I guess I am. Yes. KING: Did you lose any friends over this?
HANSON: I lost a lot of friends.
HANSON: During the depression. I think I burned a lot of bridges. It's hard to be around somebody who's suicidal, who's really depressed. I think I have a lot of making up to do.
KING: How about the modeling fraternity?
HANSON: That ended pretty quickly. They branded me quickly.
KING: Really. They jumped ship?
KING: Why do you think?
HANSON: I think the press had something to do with it. I think the press kept saying, you know, they don't want to just say "model," so they say New York's top model. And a lot of models took issue with that, because I wasn't. You know, frankly. And there was a lot of anger and jealousy, and also...
HANSON: On the press attention.
KING: OK, why couldn't this have happened to me?
HANSON: People kept saying, you did this for the publicity.
KING: You're kidding.
HANSON: No, you wouldn't believe what people said.
KING: That you got...
HANSON: That I did it as a publicity stunt, that I had a PR person helping me orchestrate all of this, or I would get my face cut for $20,000 or for all of that attention. You say, OK, be my guest.
KING: Well, who is your agency?
HANSON: Petite. It was a division of Elite.
KING: Were they good to you?
HANSON: They were OK. They weren't great. They didn't know what to do with me. They really didn't know what to do.
KING: Did they come to your verbal support before the trial?
HANSON: They were pretty supportive. KING: Who would not be supportive?
HANSON: Well, you would be surprised
KING: What did you do wrong?
HANSON: I was a victim. That's what I did wrong. When you are vulnerable. A lot of people victim means weak, damaged. It means vulnerable. These are tough issues for people to deal with. I mean, you have scars on your face. It's like walking around with a mirror and you make people confront their own vulnerability their own mortality, their own -- all sorts of stuff that they have going on.
KING: The culpability of the victim. What part did the victim play. If you didn't get your security deposit back that night, nothing would have happened.
KING: You went there facing danger.
HANSON: Right. You were out in New York in night past midnight.
KING: You were wearing a mini skirt.
HANSON: What are you doing living in New York.
KING: You have no right to be attacked.
HANSON: That's what they say.
KING: There's thinking like that that occurs.
HANSON: Even if people don't want to, they secretly do think those things.
KING: Is there still anger in Marla?
HANSON: I'm sure. I have a fair amount of anger I still have to work out.
KING: Do you follow other trials?
HANSON: I try to stay away from that. That brings back -- I'm not there yet. I did -- I did go to Jennifer Levin's trial. Her mother contacted me and asked that I come and give a voice to her daughter who was gone. I did go.
KING: He's still in prison, right?
HANSON: I think is he, right.
KING: For some time, right. That was a real tragedy.
HANSON: That was awful. What a lovely woman, Ellen Levin.
KING: Did you have thoughts of leaving New York?
HANSON: Yes, I did. I wanted to run away in the beginning. I needed to stay here for the trial. Then when the trials ended, I talked at length with my therapist about leaving, but I wanted to -- he thought I needed to stay and confront certain things. I wanted to go to school and I really wanted to go to NYU film school, that, of course, is in New York, so I stayed.
KING: What are you doing -- you still want to work professionally?
HANSON: Yes. Write. Yes. I have at lot of writing projects.
KING: Still be a mother and raise a child.
HANSON: Right. I took four years off to raise my child. Now I'm starting to get back into the writing. I'm actually working on a book this time.
HANSON: A memoir about myself and the post trauma, I think.
KING: One wonders why you didn't write it sooner.
HANSON: I didn't have enough perspective. I think now I was actually starting to work on this last June, I started to think about it, and put pen to paper, and then September happened, I sort of stopped, I thought, oh, I don't know. But now a lot of people have been asking.
KING: Good seeing you again, Marla. Wish you well and take care of yourself.
HANSON: Thank you.
KING: Brave girl.
HANSON: Thank you.
KING: Marla Hanson on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Thank you very much for joining us. We'll see you again tomorrow night and NEWSNIGHT WITH AARON brown is next. Don't go away.
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