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Interview With Dear Abby

Aired June 25, 2002 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: exclusive, Dear Abby herself. Advice columnist Jeanne Phillips, she'll talk about the death of her aunt, Ann Landers, for the first time and her decision to call the cops on the letter writer who told her about his kid sex fantasies. He now says he feels betrayed.

Plus, if you have a problem, Dear Abby will take your calls. All next, a LARRY KING LIVE exclusive.

Last week in New York, Jeanne Phillips was with us for one segment. And she did so well and handled herself so well, we invited her back for the full program tonight. In between that, over the weekend, her aunt, who you know as Ann Landers, passed away. And she felt that since she had made the commitment to be on this program, she would appear and she is here tonight. We thank you very much for coming.

JEANNE PHILLIPS, "DEAR ABBY": Thank you for having me.

KING: How did you learn of her death?

PHILLIPS: I had been at the Los Angeles Press Club as a presenter. And when I came...

KING: At a dinner?

PHILLIPS: Yes. Nobody said a word to me when I came back in. My husband said, I better sit down, he had some sad news for me. And then he told me.

KING: Now it was your mother's sister and they were twins.


KING: Your mother was the original Dear Abby. You're the current Dear Abby.


KING: And how did two sisters get to be advice columnists? That's unusual.

PHILLIPS: Well, the way I understand it, my aunt had met a man on a train and impressed him and he worked at the paper and told her that the original Ann Landers, a woman named Ruth Crowley, had died unexpectedly in surgery, and that they were casting about looking for a replacement. And he thought she was pretty sharp, would she like to try out.

KING: So she took the name that was already the name of a columnist?

PHILLIPS: That was owned by the syndicate. And she had had no experience in writing before that, except that she and mother had had a gossip column in college.

KING: They were twins, fraternal twins, right?

PHILLIPS: They were identical twins.

KING: Identical twins.

PHILLIPS: And so she said, would you like to help me? And mom said, well, sure, I'd just love to. And so packets of letters would arrive. And mom would, you know, wail away at her typewriter and send her copy back to Chicago. After about three months, my aunt told her that her syndicate would no longer allow her to have outside help. So mom was left knowing that she could do something and do it well and no place to put it.

KING: So your mother did what?

PHILLIPS: She went to the "San Francisco Chronicle" and offered her services. And they, in order to get rid of her, they handed her some of their current advice columnist's columns with the answers crossed out and said, if you think you can do this, lady, why don't you come back in a week with your answers.

Well, my dad had an office down the street from the paper. So she went to the office and she bumped the secretary from the typewriter and whacked out the answers, brought them back and left them, because they were on deadline, left them for the editor to take a look at.

KING: And that got her the job?

PHILLIPS: It got her the job. The next day, they were calling her. They wanted her back immediately.

KING: The difference in the two columns was your mother used more of a sense of humor, right?


KING: Ann was a little more serious. Abby was a little tongue- in-cheek.


KING: Right? I mean...


KING: And were they friendly rivals or unfriendly rivals?


KING: Because I knew them both, interviewed them both.

PHILLIPS: ... that's quite a question. When mom landed the job, she called Aunt Eppie and she told her about it. And Eppie said, that's just great, as long as you don't get syndicated.

KING: There they are.

PHILLIPS: And three weeks later, a syndicate salesman from New York was passing through San Francisco and saw the column and wanted to sign her immediately. And my mom, of course, went to my dad, as she did for every important decision. And he said to her, you have to be out of your mind not to sign. So she signed.

KING: And did Eppie get mad?

PHILLIPS: Well, she got even.


PHILLIPS: Not talking to mother for 10 years.

KING: Were they friendly at the end of Eppie's life?


KING: Did you know that your aunt was sick?

PHILLIPS: No. Nobody knew.

KING: Did your mother know?

PHILLIPS: No, nobody knew. Mama didn't know. Her oldest sister Helen in Omaha was not told. Nobody knew.

KING: Did you talk to your aunt at all?

PHILLIPS: Interesting, I saw Aunt Eppie last October. And I alluded to that in the letter that I wrote. I spent...

KING: You're going to read that letter?

PHILLIPS: I will read that letter.

KING: The letter you wrote upon her death?

PHILLIPS: When I heard the news, I had to organize my thoughts somehow. What do you do? I'm a writer.

KING: So you saw your aunt in Chicago?

PHILLIPS: I saw my aunt in Chicago.

KING: Did she look all right?

PHILLIPS: She looked wonderful. When we met, we had dinner, we went for a little walk afterwards back to her apartment. It was great. A loving, fabulous evening.

KING: Were you close with her generally?

PHILLIPS: The distance between my mom and my aunt prevented it, just as it did with my cousin.

KING: Her children?

PHILLIPS: Her child.

KING: She had one child?


KING: Girl or boy?

PHILLIPS: Margo (ph), a girl.

KING: What does she do?

PHILLIPS: She's happily married to a doctor, and she writes an on-line column once a week called "Dear Prudence."

KING: Are you friendly with her?

PHILLIPS: I'm not enemies with her, but we're not close.

KING: Distant cousins?


KING: Yes. You took over your mother's column when?

PHILLIPS: In 1987.

KING: And continue to write it?


KING: The understanding is that Eppie owned the copyright to her column, but there will be a continuance of the column called "Ann's Mailbox," a new advice column. What do you make of it?

PHILLIPS: I don't know what to make of it because it's news to me.

KING: You mean, you're learning it tonight or you heard about it...

PHILLIPS: I heard about it on Sunday. KING: Were you shocked?

PHILLIPS: Yes, I was very surprised.

KING: Because her wish was it not to continue, right?

PHILLIPS: That's right.

KING: She also wanted no funeral, no memorial service, just ashes spread. Is that true?

PHILLIPS: That's right.

KING: And was that complied with?

PHILLIPS: It is being complied with.

KING: There will be no service?


KING: How has your mother taken the death of her sister?

PHILLIPS: She went to bed.

KING: Meaning?

PHILLIPS: That means that it knocked her on her ass. She did not take it well.

KING: Twin sister.

PHILLIPS: Right. Exactly. Wombmates.

KING: Wombmates, even with differences. There's something about twins.

PHILLIPS: Well, you know, intelligent people differ. They have their disagreements. You know, so what?

KING: Ann's last column will run on July 27. You always run it right ahead, right?

PHILLIPS: Two and a half weeks.

KING: So, that's about right, her last column.

PHILLIPS: So on July 4, I have a birthday greeting to both of them.

KING: Already in print?

PHILLIPS: Already gone.

KING: Is that their birthday?

PHILLIPS: Yes, Fourth of July, 1918.

KING: We're going to take a break. And when we come back, we're going to have you read that letter that you wrote in her passing and then lots of other things to talk about with Jeanne Phillips. She is Dear Abby. Her aunt, Ann Landers, has left us but will not soon be forgotten. Don't go away.


KING: A couple of notes: John Walsh, the host of "America's Most Wanted" returns to LARRY KING LIVE tomorrow night. We'll talk about the Smart case and other items in the news.

Abigail Van Buren shares her pen name Dear Abby with her mother Pauline Phillips. She is Jeanne Phillips. And "Dear Abby" is the most widely syndicated column in the world. A daily readership of more than 95 million.

Her aunt, Ann Landers, died this past Saturday.

You once said, on this program, in fact, that Ann and Abby were like Macy's and Gimbels, right?


KING: They don't tell each other. They were rivals and twin sisters.

PHILLIPS: That's true.

KING: An incredible story in American journalism, when you think about it.

PHILLIPS: They were business rivals. They weren't rival-rivals.

KING: Business rivals.


KING: Well put.

And is it also true that you always searched for Ann's approval?

PHILLIPS: I certainly wanted her respect. And I kept that in mind as I was writing.

KING: She liked your column?

PHILLIPS: It's in my letter.

KING: OK this is a letter -- explain this.

PHILLIPS: After I learned of my aunt's death, which was absolute news to me, the next day I sat down. My thoughts were chaotic. And I tried to organize them by writing down what I was feeling.

KING: Did you talk to your mother?

PHILLIPS: Yes. Sure.

Anyway, I'll read it if you wish.

KING: Please.

PHILLIPS: "Dear Aunt Eppie, you slipped away. You swore your daughter and staff to secrecy. Nobody was to know. Your wish was to be remembered as vital and indestructible by your public and your family, and you will be.

"As you directed, there will be no funeral, no memorial, and your ashes will be quietly scattered over your beloved Lake Michigan. A fine plan, but how are the people you left behind to deal with the grief you have left in your wake?

"A woman of courage, integrity and loyalty, you spent your years wisely, speaking the truth as you perceived it. You were one of a kind. You pulled no punches and stuck to your guns. You were willing to look at yourself and those around you without rose-colored glasses. And so you became a role model for everyone who read your column, including me.

"Your profound legacy can be found in the body of work into which you poured your heart. You have left a treasure trove of truth and good sense behind. It's something that those who loved you can hang on to.

"You were not only beautiful, you were caring and generous. When I visited Chicago last October, you treated me to dinner at your favorite spot and invited me to your apartment to see your wonderful collection of memorabilia. Our evening didn't end until nearly 2:00 a.m.

"With love in your eyes, you told me I was talented and that I was doing a wonderful job with my column. You said I was a good daughter, and you knew my mother was proud of me. I felt like I had just been handed the Oscar. What a loving and generous thing for you to say.

"I will treasure that memory until the day I join you in the hereafter.

"Aunt Eppie, I love you. I know it's time to say goodbye, but the words are impossible to say because you will always live in my heart and in the hearts of the rest of your extended family.

"God bless you and keep you forever, your loving niece, Jeanne Phillips, aka, Dear Abby."

KING: Beautiful. Well said.

PHILLIPS: Thank you.

KING: Are they going to do any kind of service at all? PHILLIPS: No, no.

KING: Nothing at all?

PHILLIPS: She dictated that she didn't want a funeral.

KING: Do you know why? As you know her, why would she say, forget about it?

Why do you think she kept her illness a secret?

PHILLIPS: Life is for the living, and she wanted people to remember her as strong and vital and tough, and didn't want anybody to see any weakness.

KING: You have to give advice to people who write to you about many things. And I would imagine over the years some of those questions have dealt with death -- How do I deal with death?

Do you take your own advice well?

PHILLIPS: We'll see.

KING: It is the most difficult thing to deal with, is it not?

PHILLIPS: Yes. Maybe you have to remind yourself that there's nothing you can do about it, and that death is a natural part of life. And you can't jump into the coffin with the person who's gone. You have to go on.

KING: How is your mother's health?

PHILLIPS: My mom was hit very hard by this, but her physical health is good.

KING: Do you think it might be really badly hurt by this? I mean...

PHILLIPS: I sure hope not.

KING: Do you have some physical concerns for her? You know, twins have ties.

PHILLIPS: Phooey. Phooey.

KING: Ties we still learn about now, right?

PHILLIPS: Well, she's all right, knock...

KING: Knock wood. Whatever's wood around here.


PHILLIPS: She's a great girl, your mom, by the way.

PHILLIPS: Oh, yes. KING: So was your aunt.


KING: They were a pair.

The Paul Wiser matter. We discussed this last week. I'll ask you to briefly tell it over again.

But one thing: You got the letter from this guy who tells you that he's -- well, what happened? Just, quickly, what happened?

PHILLIPS: I got an e-mail from a young man -- 28-year-old man in Milwaukee who gave me his phone number, his address, his zip code and his e-mail address and didn't say, don't publish.

He told me that he was in love with a 10-year-old girl and had been attracted to young girls for as long as he could remember. He said he had been to four doctors, and nobody thought that he had a problem, even though he had confided his problem.

He said that when the little girl put her arm around his neck and threw her leg across his, that he became aroused and he didn't know how much longer he could control himself.

KING: Signed his name?

PHILLIPS: He signed his name.

KING: You call the police.

PHILLIPS: Well, after debating what to do -- you know, should I call him? Should I write him? Should I put this in the paper? I kept coming to the conclusion that no matter what I did, that he could ignore the advice and something terrible would happen. That he would -- you know, it would be the end of his life and the destruction of a child.

So I picked up the phone, I called the police, I spoke to a wonderful detective in the sex crimes division and I said, you are in the position -- I am Dear Abby. I got a very troubling -- the guy's laughing, oh, sure you are. And I got a very troubling e-mail.

I really am Dear Abby, and I want to run it by you very quickly, and you're in a position to do a very quiet intervention and prevent a real tragedy. After I read him the e-mail, he concluded that it was worth investigating and said he'd get back to me.

And when they investigated, they found a young man who welcomed them at the house and wanted to show them the computer on which he said that he'd had some child pornography, but he'd erased it.

And they have programs with the police where they can bring that stuff back. And they, indeed, found child porn on the computer.

KING: And what was he charged with? PHILLIPS: He was charged with possession of child pornography.

KING: He had never harmed anyone, though?

PHILLIPS: He had never harmed anyone.

KING: And so he got a probational sentence, right? He'll do no jail time.

He has to be confined to home for a while?

PHILLIPS: He is going to be electronically monitored for -- let me think -- for one year. He got eight years of probation. He has to pay the court costs, and has to get intensive therapy.

KING: Paul Weiser appeared last night on "CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT," and had a response to all of this.

We'll air that for you when we come back, and get Jeanne's response to what he had to say. And we'll be talking a lot of calls for Dear Abby, too.

Don't go away.


KING: Paul Weiser appeared last night on the inaugural show of "CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT." We congratulate Connie, welcome her aboard, by the way. And here's what Mr. Weiser had to say about what we just heard from Dear Abby.


PAUL WEISER, WROTE OF FANTASIES TO DEAR ABBY: I looked at her as her confidentiality as the same as with a priest, a doctor or a lawyer, that whatever you tell them is confidential.

I felt betrayed. You know, I turned to her for confidential advice, help me go in the right direction. And instead, I got something that I definitely did not want.


KING: How does that make you feel?

PHILLIPS: He asked for an aspirin, I gave him the whole bottle. I'm sorry that he feels betrayed. I wrote to him after...

KING: He said that.

PHILLIPS: After this, and I gave him the name of a qualified therapist, somebody who wouldn't, you know, dreidel around with the strudel in his head and could give him some qualified advice which I think is terribly important. Then I went and I gave it to the detective I had spoken to to give to the DA to make sure that the judge had it. And I don't know what else I could have done. KING: You also told him you were sorry for the media mess.

PHILLIPS: Oh, yes.

KING: You had no idea this would be publicly attended to.

PHILLIPS: I didn't do it. The police chief did.

KING: Did you watch him last night?

PHILLIPS: I watched -- I watched the 8:00 version. I saw a shortened version, I think, of that interview.

KING: That's right. When they repeat Connie on the West Coast, it's a half-hour of the hour show. What did you feel? Had you seen him before?

PHILLIPS: I saw a picture of him that was flashed on the screen at the time of his arrest. I was perplexed that at the end of that show that Connie Chung said she wasn't sure if I'd done the right thing or not, in light of the fact that there had been terrible tragedies involving pedophiles and children. I think I did him a favor.

KING: That was her opinion.

PHILLIPS: Which she is entitled to it, but it puzzles me.

KING: It bothered you?


KING: The other side is he had never harmed anyone. He never, still to this minute, has never touched anyone.

PHILLIPS: Yes, but if he had been let go and was still wrestling with this, he probably would have.

KING: What have you heard from people?

PHILLIPS: Oh, golly. I have a stack of mail like this from people, from people who were molested as children saying I wish that you had been there for me, to protect me. I've gotten mail from parents of little girls saying, you did the right thing, don't ever doubt it for a minute. Thank you for standing up and doing the right thing.

I got a short stack from men who were very angry with me for what I did, and an e-mail that was half a page of, "you bitch, you bitch, you bitch, you bitch."

KING: From?


KING: What did your mother say? PHILLIPS: Good for you, Jeanne, you did the right thing. I'm proud of you.

KING: What do you think your aunt would have done?

PHILLIPS: I think she would have done the exact same thing I did.

KING: Your spunky aunt would have done it. Your mother would have done it too?

PHILLIPS: Sure, but she didn't get the letter.

KING: I know, but you're positive in your mind that your aunt and your mother would have done the same thing (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

PHILLIPS: Absolutely. Absolutely.

KING: And you have no regrets over what you did.


KING: Because I guess the other side is when someone writes, they feel...

PHILLIPS: You know what? I don't know where he got the idea that I'm a priest or a doctor or anything else. I'm an advice columnist. But if I had been a doctor, a lawyer or a social worker, I would have been required by law to report that or I would have been subject to a humongous fine.

KING: Just that he felt the need to do this, you would have been required to report, not that he had done anything wrong?

PHILLIPS: I think. I don't know. I don't know. I just wanted to be sure that he didn't act out.

KING: Do you think now people will be hesitant to write to you?

PHILLIPS: They sure haven't been. Since this has happened, my mail is up.



KING: Have any of the newspapers complained to you that carry you?

PHILLIPS: No. Everybody backed me up. My syndicate backed me up. Everybody backed me up.

KING: So no one said to you, Jeanne, you shouldn't have done this, people write in confidentiality and in a sense they should expect confidentiality?


KING: Your advice -- and we're going to be taking calls in just a couple minutes. And if you have any questions, we'll be glad to afford you the advice of Dear Abby. You can also offer your thoughts on the death of her aunt and any questions about Mr. Weiser and what happened to him in Milwaukee. We'll entertain those calls as well.

Where do you -- since you're not a professional...

PHILLIPS: I am a professional.

KING: Writer.

PHILLIPS: Yes. I'm a professional advice giver, too.

KING: But anyone could be. You don't need a license to be an advice giver. It's the back of the fence, right? Aunt Matilda, what do I do?

PHILLIPS: You have to have people who are willing to take the advice and consider you to be credible.

KING: What makes a good advice person?

PHILLIPS: Empathy. Empathy and the determination to get the best possible opinion that you can for somebody, to research it.

KING: Why do people write to advice columnists?

PHILLIPS: There's a crying need for it. My mail indicates that this country needs people who are willing to sit down and give straight from the shoulder advice.

KING: That they can't get from a doctor or a professional or...

PHILLIPS: Because a lot of people don't have the money to do that. A lot of them are embarrassed about having a problem. They think it's a sign of weakness. They don't want their families to know. They just find it an embarrassment.

KING: Do people who write to you and letters don't get printed, do they get answered?

PHILLIPS: Many do. Yes, if people include a stamped, self- addressed envelope, they get an answer.

KING: So there will be an answer reported. How many of a staff do you have to have?

PHILLIPS: I have a very qualified staff, but I don't discuss the workings of the office, Larry. I never did. My mother never did.

KING: Every letter is your thought, though, that I see printed. It is not written by someone else with their opinion? It's the thoughts of Jeanne Phillips as Dear Abby?

PHILLIPS: Absolutely.

KING: You still like the tongue-in-cheek aspect too?

PHILLIPS: Yes, I do. But I express the tongue-in-cheek aspect, you know, usually in the form of terrible puns and sometimes some really bad poetry. But funny.

KING: Do children write to you?

PHILLIPS: Oh, yes.

KING: What age group?

PHILLIPS: My mail comes from teens, 20s, 30s, 40s. Ninety percent of my mail really comes from people who are under 50.

Because -- yes, and you know why, it's because those are the years when the problems kick in.

KING: What problem has -- what -- in the years you've been doing it, you've been doing it now...

PHILLIPS: Fifteen.

KING: Fifteen years. Has a certain kind of problem increased of late that wasn't there 15 years ago or was limited there 15 years ago?

PHILLIPS: The problems that -- well, yes.

KING: I mean, relationships would always be the No. 1 thing.

PHILLIPS: Yes, but you know, but things have changed a bit in the last 15 or 20 years.

KING: That's what I meant by the question.

PHILLIPS: And this business of couples living together and having -- before, it was just living together. They get married, you know, the shot -- remember shotgun wedding.

KING: Yes. It's history.

PHILLIPS: OK. They don't bother with that anymore. And I get mail from women saying, you know, I have a couple of children from previous relationships and Tom and I have a kid together. And he likes to go out and drink with his friends and he doesn't pay enough attention to me. And she's got three or four kids to support.

KING: And they're not married?

PHILLIPS: Oh, no. She's got nothing.

KING: We'll be right back. We'll be including your phone calls for Jeanne Phillips. You know her as Dear Abby, the world's most read syndicated columnist. Tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE, the host of "America's Most Wanted," John Walsh returns to this program. We'll be right back with your calls.


KING: We're back with Jeanne Phillips, who shares the pen name Abigail Van Buren, Dear Abby, with her mother, Pauline Phillips. She's been writing the column for 15 years. Her late aunt passed away on Saturday. That was Ann Landers. Dear Abby is the most widely syndicated columnist in the world, daily readership of more than 95 million.

We're ready to go to your phone calls. San Francisco, hello.

CALLER: Hello?


CALLER: Yes, I have a question. I have six children and only two talk to me. When their father died, that didn't bring them around. Can you advise me? Thank you.

KING: Can you tell me the ages?

CALLER: Yes. They're 50, 40, 39, 35, and the youngest is 37.

KING: And who doesn't talk to you?

CALLER: Pardon me?

KING: Which ones don't talk to you?

CALLER: The older ones.

PHILLIPS: Do you have any idea why?

KING: Ma'am?


KING: Do you know why they don't talk to you.


KING: Which is?

CALLER: It's just that, I can't solve what's happened in the past. I have to go on with my life.

KING: They're angry over something in the past?



CALLER: OK? Thank you.

KING: Wouldn't be more explicit. What, generally, can you tell her?

PHILLIPS: It may not be possible to salvage the relationship with her older children.

KING: Because of the age?

PHILLIPS: Because once people are adults, you can't force them to do anything. It would be wonderful if they could practice some forgiveness. But if whatever happened was so painful for the children that they can't, maybe the smartest thing for this lady to do would be to do some volunteer work with young people and establish some new relationships.

KING: She mentioned her husband passing away. That might have had something to do with conflict and the children.

PHILLIPS: It might, but we don't know.

KING: Philadelphia, hello.

CALLER: Good evening, Larry. Good evening, Jeanne. Jeanne, very great program. I need to ask your advice.

I've been having a problem with my brother. We really haven't talked to one another in, oh, gosh, about three years. I know it is driving my mother crazy. What would you suggest to get both of us back together, talking again? I've made the efforts. More importantly, how would you get...

KING: I don't know who he was referring to.

PHILLIPS: I don't understand what that means.

KING: Brother split-ups are common?

PHILLIPS: Sibling split-ups are common.

KING: Any usual reasons for this?

PHILLIPS: Unfinished business in childhood. That's usually -- there's usually some stuff that happened way back when that was never resolved.

KING: And can go on right through -- way into adulthood, right?

PHILLIPS: Sure can.

KING: Sisters and brothers. Durham, North Carolina. Hello.

CALLER: Hello.

KING: Hi. CALLER: I sometimes see people taking the tips that are left on the table for the waitress, and I wonder what you would advise me to do.

PHILLIPS: I would advise you to get there faster.

KING: Do people -- are you a waitress, ma'am?

CALLER: This is one of the people eating there, and I just feel like it's terrible that this is happening.

PHILLIPS: It's thievery. It's terrible. It's disgusting.

KING: I've never seen that done.

PHILLIPS: I haven't seen it done either. But obviously it's being done, and I have gotten letters about it. There's really nothing that the people can do, except that when they see the money down on the table...

KING: Would you report it? You're at the next table, someone grabs a tip.

PHILLIPS: Would I tell? Damn straight, I sure would.

KING: You would. You would be -- did you tell in school? Did you say that Herbie is cheating?

PHILLIPS: No, I didn't do that, but I did do something.

KING: OK. Don't do that to me. What did you do?

PHILLIPS: Oh, some girls -- there was a really, a nasty teacher. A very upright, self-righteous lady, and pretty, too. And so the girls started calling her house and implying that they had had something going with her husband.

And I thought that -- I thought if they wanted to put glue on the chair and ruin her favorite skirt, do something on campus, that was OK. But I thought that what they were doing was really dirty pool, and so I told a counselor about it.

KING: What do you do when you get letters -- Weiser is an example -- but letters with really deep problems, psychiatric kind of problems.

PHILLIPS: What do I do? I'm very fortunate to have been made an honorary member of the Group for Advancement of Psychiatry, which is kind of an elite group of psychoanalysts. And I can take those kinds of problems there.

KING: You can?

PHILLIPS: Yes, I can.

KING: So you can -- you have someone you refer to if the problem is deep?

PHILLIPS: Yes. All the time. Doctors and lawyers and you name it. Nobody refuses to talk to Dear Abby, once they believe it's Abby.

KING: Do people not believe it's Abby?


KING: Because a lot of wackos out there who like to pretend they're someone else.

PHILLIPS: I guess there are. But I don't know how many want to pretend that they're Dear Abby.

KING: I wonder what kind of kick people get out of that. It would be kind of weird.

We're going to take a break and come back with more phone calls for Jeanne Phillips, known as Dear Abby.

You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


KING: That clip, when we went to break, was your mom getting her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


KING: I have one on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And that's a big thrill, that day.

PHILLIPS: It was actually mom and me getting it. We both got it jointly.

KING: Ain't that a hoot?

PHILLIPS: It's a kick.

KING: To know that people are walking along, stepping all over you.

PHILLIPS: Well, I hope they sweep it occasionally.

KING: Newburgh, Indiana. Hello.

CALLER: Hi. Good evening. My question is my mother-in-law keeps giving my son squirt guns and guns and I've asked her to stop. And she even knows I don't want it to have happen. And I was wondering if you have any advice on how to deal with this.

KING: Good question. What do you do?

PHILLIPS: I think maybe if she keeps disregarding what you say, that your son has to get -- that your husband has to get involved and put his foot down. And otherwise, there's nothing -- you know, she's a grown-up lady and there's nothing you can do except maybe give him a little nicer gift that you trade for that darn gun.

KING: Ellijay, Georgia. Hello.

CALLER: Yes. Wonderful program. What is your recipe for success and happiness, please?

PHILLIPS: Success and happiness? Oh, you know what? I would say this: Do the best that you can every day, pick something that you -- pick something that you enjoy doing. Give it your best shot and don't second-guess yourself. And for happiness, try to do something nice for somebody else that you won't get credit for. And you'll be a happy person.

KING: Right out of the Talmud.

PHILLIPS: Is it really?

KING: Oh, yes. In the true Jewish faith, all gifts are anonymous. That's the highest form of giving.

To Hurst, Texas. Hello.

CALLER: Hello.


CALLER: I have just a little thing to say first. First of all, I feel really sorry that your aunt has passed away. But, you know, God has a place for all of us.

And the question I want to ask you is I really think your column is great. But do you really think questions can be answered through a two-paragraph column?

PHILLIPS: That's a good question. I don't claim to have all the answers. And what I really want people to do is to start -- is to give them an answer that will start them thinking on their own. OK? I want to give them a shove in the right direction.

Sometimes, people need to hear a very brief answer just to start them thinking for themselves along those lines. And it isn't that I expect people to, you know, take the paragraph or two and it will be necessarily the resolution to the problem. But I want them to -- I very often refer people to social services in their local area or counseling in their local area so they can follow up and get more if they need it.

KING: A lot of it is common sense, right?

PHILLIPS: Absolutely.

KING: Have you heard if people since September 11 writing about September 11?

PHILLIPS: I got a lot of mail, and I kept all of it because I think it has historic value. I got a lot of mail from people who were upset about September 11. And what I found most striking was I got an incredible amount of poetry from people.

You know how I said that I tried to work through the pain and the trauma of the sudden loss of my aunt by sitting down and writing? Well, that's exactly what a lot of other people did in the form of poetry. They wrote -- funny, I...

KING: People who had people there or people who just...

PHILLIPS: Just people -- patriotic Americans who were deeply wounded.

KING: What were you going to say, funny?

PHILLIPS: I said -- what I was going to say was it was striking to me that people who wrote poetry professionally seemed to be at a loss for words. But people who, just plain folks, it spurred them creatively.

KING: Where were you that day?

PHILLIPS: Where was I? You know what? I was in bed when it happened. And I got up, you know, you pad around in your bare feet and the terry cloth robe making coffee. And I flipped on the TV set and I saw America under attack. And I was half asleep. And I went -- and I changed channels. America under attack.

Switched channels. The United States under attack. I'm going, oh my God, the United States is under attack. And I went and woke my husband. Honey, the U.S. is under attack. Now what should we do? I was stunned.

KING: The days like immediately after that?

PHILLIPS: A fog. I went to my office later that day. I didn't know anything else to do. I wanted to just throw myself into work. I couldn't watch that on TV again. It was...

KING: Did you write anything in breaking with that two weeks ahead of time to get something in sooner?

PHILLIPS: No, and I made a conscious decision not to do it.

KING: Really?

PHILLIPS: There was so much all over television, there was so much on the radio, there was so much being written that I wanted that column to be a refuge for people who had had it and just needed a break.

KING: And you're glad you did that in retrospect?

PHILLIPS: Well, yes, I am, sure.

KING: Did you eventually start to print letters about September 11? PHILLIPS: I've kept it to a minimum. I've had a lot of impassioned mail about how people feel about it. But I have an advice column. And that's what I try to do.

KING: Roswell, New Mexico. Hello?


KING: Hi. Go ahead.

CALLER: Hi. I was wondering, she and her mother have helped so many people. I was just wondering does she have any problems that anybody can help her with?

PHILLIPS: Do I have problems? Of course, I have problems.

KING: Now, what do you do with yours?

PHILLIPS: I talk to my friends. I talk to people I trust. I talk to my husband. I do the same thing...

KING: I mean, some day, you know, you can be a...

PHILLIPS: Everybody has problems.

KING: You can be a great cardiologist and have heart problems. A psychiatrist can have problems and still help others.

PHILLIPS: They talk to each other.

KING: A gossip columnist can have gossipy problems. Do advice columnists have problems? Of course you do.

PHILLIPS: I would think that just the family problems that everybody knows about in my family would indicate that everybody has problems.

KING: There's your mother -- your aunt advising people for years and yet keeping an illness a secret.

PHILLIPS: Isn't that a tragedy?

KING: Why do you think?

PHILLIPS: I think she had an image she wanted to keep up, and she was afraid that it would leak if she told the family.

KING: Back with our remaining moments with Dear Abby on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


KING: We're back on LARRY KING LIVE.

We're going to take another call for Dear Abby.

PHILLIPS: Before we do that, I want you to give me your palm.

KING: My what?

PHILLIPS: Your paw. Give me your hand.

KING: Paw?

PHILLIPS: Your paw.

KING: What's this?

PHILLIPS: I want to tell you something.

KING: You're going to read my palm?

PHILLIPS: No -- well, turn it over. OK.

When your people called me last Thursday to invite me back on this show after that wonderful conversation that we had on Wednesday, I want you to know, I was blown away. And I cannot thank you enough. And when you and Dominick Dunne said the kind things that you did, my heart sang.

And I can't thank you enough. You are a sweet man, and I do appreciate it.

KING: Oh, thank you.

Dominick Dunne flipped over you, by the way. He loved what you did with the case in Milwaukee. I might report that just as reportage.

Dallas, Texas for Jeanne Phillips -- thank you for that -- hello.

CALLER: Yes. I would like to ask if anyone was with your aunt when she passed away?

PHILLIPS: I don't know the answer to that. I'm sorry.

KING: Men versus women in writing to the column?


KING: What's the percentages?

PHILLIPS: I don't know what the percentages are. But I hear from a lot of men.

KING: Much more women, I would imagine.

PHILLIPS: More women, but I do hear from men.

KING: Youngest person that ever wrote to you?

PHILLIPS: Maybe 6, approximately. It was this little black handwriting and the mother, you know, addressed the envelope. (CROSSTALK)


KING: Oldest?


KING: What was their problem?


KING: The nursing home served late. A little joke.

PHILLIPS: Very cute. I don't recall. I can't -- I've just blanked. I don't know.

KING: What's your day like? How do you work? In other words, letters come -- how does it work?

PHILLIPS: Most of my day is spent reading. Reading, sifting, looking for nuggets, something that will be different, something that will be interesting, something that will be educational. Most of my day.

I get real creative later in the day. I don't start writing until later in the day, which I think is a lot like my aunt was. I know she was a night person.

KING: The method that -- yes, she was. The methodology of picking the letter that goes into print?


KING: All gut.

PHILLIPS: Gut. You just know.

KING: Did you think of printing the Milwaukee letter?

PHILLIPS: I did, but then I didn't see anything to be gained. I thought it would be sensational. But I thought it had to be dealt with quickly, and so that's why I picked up the phone.

KING: Had you ever received anything like that before?

PHILLIPS: Not like that, no. Not -- no.

KING: So that letter frightened you, in a sense. You were frightened for children in Milwaukee.

PHILLIPS: It scared the heck out of me, sure. I had a physical reaction, reading that letter. It scared me.

KING: There are some who would have said, print it, boy, that's sensational. That's fodder. PHILLIPS: But the object was to protect the child and to give this man the help he needed. And I didn't -- I thought that if it appeared in print, it would just be -- instead of calling him, no, it had to be...

KING: Or even both?

Vancouver, hello.

CALLER: Hello Larry. Hello Jeanne.



CALLER: Jeanne, you're beautiful. I know you must have a lot of stress on you with all of the people that write and really need your help. How do you keep from taking that stress home with you? How do you stay in control of your life?

KING: Excellent question, because you read sad things all day, mostly.

PHILLIPS: Exercise helps. You're laughing. I do -- I work out on a treadmill. Not often enough, but I do cardiovascular exercise. And I find that after 35 or 40 minutes of that, that I can't worry about anything.

KING: But isn't it depressing, letter after letter, that you know when you opened it is problemo. This is a problem. It ain't going to be: "Hi, I'm having a great day."

PHILLIPS: No, I don't find it depressing. I don't find it depressing. This is what I do. This is what I've done most of my life. I don't find it depressing.

KING: You grew up watching your mother do it.


KING: Did that help somewhat...

PHILLIPS: Certainly.

KING: Transition-wise...

PHILLIPS: Very upbeat lady.

KING: What does she do these days, before the, of course, going to bat over the death of her sister.

PHILLIPS: She has a blast with my dad. They have so many laughs together. She's taking some time to smell the flowers. She's having fun with...

KING: Where do they live? PHILLIPS: They -- interesting. They just moved into a very nice, very fine hotel here. They're going to be moving back to Minnesota at the end of the summer.

KING: Really? Cold weather?

PHILLIPS: Well, they're not going to go back when it's cold. But the grandchildren and great-grandchildren are there, and she wants to spend some time with them.

KING: Does she miss writing?

PHILLIPS: Not that I know of, she doesn't. She reviews things, you know.

KING: The decision to turn it over to you, do you remember that day?


KING: Did she, what, call you in?

PHILLIPS: She called me in.

KING: No, how did she do it?

PHILLIPS: It was a discussion that was had with mom and with dad. And it was face-to-face.

KING: And was there some notice, or did you start writing it right away?

PHILLIPS: Well, my writing began gradually. And it was -- and I just began doing more and more. It wasn't, you know, one day it was this way and one day it was that.


KING: It was transitionary?

PHILLIPS: Certainly. And you know, that column was, is, very important to mom, and she wanted to be sure I could handle the responsibility.

KING: How do you like being the most read person in the world?

PHILLIPS: I love it.

KING: Any other answer would have been a lie.

PHILLIPS: I won't lie.

KING: Thank you, darling.

PHILLIPS: Thank you.

KING: Our guest has been Jeanne Phillips. This is her first appearance since the death of her aunt.

And again, if you missed it, at the beginning of the program, she had agreed to appear last Thursday after she was with us on Wednesday. And she felt it necessary to fulfill that commitment, even though her aunt passed away.

When we come back, we'll tell you about tomorrow night on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE, so don't go away. We'll be right back.


KING: Tomorrow night: the host of "America's Most Wanted," John Walsh returns to LARRY KING LIVE. Lots to talk about including, of course, that tragedy case still unsolved, still apparently going nowhere -- the Smart case in Salt Lake City.

John Walsh tomorrow night.

Meanwhile, with Aaron Brown still on vacation, Anderson Cooper sitting in on "NEWSNIGHT" from New York.

Anderson, once again, it's in your ball park.




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