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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Interview With Scott Thorson

Aired August 12, 2002 - 21:00   ET

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


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, showman Liberace played it straight -- sort of -- on stage, but behind the scenes, a very different story. His gay former lover, Scott Thorson, tells all about the private affair that was not for public consumption, and what it cost him. An intimate, emotional hour is next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Our special guest tonight is Scott Thorson, the former companion of Liberace and the author of an extraordinary book, "Behind the Candelabra: My Life With Liberace." There you see its cover. It's a great pleasure to welcome Scott to LARRY KING LIVE.

SCOTT THORSON, WAS LIBERACE'S GAY LOVER: Thank you.

KING: Why did you finally write this?

THORSON: Well, actually, when I wrote the book, Larry, I believe it was right after Lee's death, and I never got the chance to (UNINTELLIGIBLE). To this day I have never read the book. We had a ghost writer by the name of Alex Thorleifson, and when I was in the middle of the book, I was then removed by the federal marshals, put under the federal witness protection program.

KING: Nothing to do with Liberace, right? Another...

THORSON: No.

KING: We'll get to that in a while.

THORSON: We'll get to that.

KING: So the book wasn't published at the time?

THORSON: Not at that time, no. You know, I was supposed to do the book tour and, you know, everything else.

KING: You went into hiding.

THORSON: I went into hiding, and they were very upset, E.P. Dutton, which now they are bankrupt.

KING: So who has the book out now?

THORSON: Well, I don't think anybody has the book out now. That was done in 1987-'88.

KING: So you're appearing now why? You're not appearing to sell the book that's not out. THORSON: No, no. What I'm basically doing this interview for, Larry, is I'm so sick and tired of Liberace's people getting on national TV and bashing me, saying that I was nothing but a cocaine addict, just smearing my name.

You know, when Lee and I met I was 16-1/2 years old, Larry, 16- 1/2. I was just a child.

KING: How did you meet?

THORSON: We met through a friend of his, his producer, Ray Arnett (ph).

KING: What were the circumstances? Were you just a kid in high school?

THORSON: Basically, what happened was is I went up to Las Vegas and we saw a show. I was introduced to Lee. We went to his house the following day. And Liberace loved animals, dogs, and I was working for a veterinarian at that time -- I was a licensed health technician for -- and I was thinking about becoming a veterinarian. And what happened was that one of Lee's dogs had an infection in their eye, and I think Lee just saw the way I responded toward animals, and from there on.

KING: But didn't you have to go back? Where was home?

THORSON: Home was Los Angeles.

KING: Didn't you have to go back home? You have to go to school?

THORSON: Yes, I did. Yes. Matter of fact, I was living with my foster parents, Rose (ph) and Joe Carahappa (ph).

KING: He kept in touch with you?

THORSON: He kept in touch with me. I actually did not move in with him until I was 17. I'm 41 now.

KING: Did you quit high school?

THORSON: I graduated high school.

KING: And then moved to Las Vegas and moved in with him.

THORSON: Moved.

KING: With the idea of being what?

THORSON: Well, I'm not sure. You know, I was so young, Larry, and, you know, he always told me, he says, "I've always wanted a son." He was going to adopt me. That was all in the works, the whole thing.

KING: Nothing physical implied at that point? THORSON: No. No. And then Lee had a very -- well, the reason why Liberace's dead today is because of his lifestyle, his sexual addiction. He had a tremendous problem with that, with young men.

KING: Did he lure you into that problem?

THORSON: Absolutely. I know three young men now that are dead because of AIDS because of him.

KING: Were you a willing...

THORSON: No. That's one of the biggest problems that I had with Lee, was that. This is when -- OK, we were with Rock Hudson -- or not with Rock Hudson. You remember the early '80s when they came out with Rock Hudson's AIDS?

KING: Sure.

THORSON: And I said to Lee, I said, "Lookit, you know, you've got to be careful. You've got to be careful." And he just had that weakness with young men. And he...

KING: And you were one of the young men.

THORSON: I was one of the young men, yes.

KING: Were you -- to your knowledge, were you gay?

THORSON: I don't think I was gay. I pleased him. He once told me, he said, "Scott," he says, "you have the most important job in my organization," he says, "and that is to keep me happy and please me." OK? Remember, Larry, I was a child.

KING: I know.

THORSON: I was in foster homes. And then all of a sudden, boom, all this wealth, all this fame, you know. So I did whatever I had to do.

KING: Are you heterosexual?

THORSON: Yes.

KING: You live a heterosexual life now.

THORSON: Yes.

KING: Are you married?

THORSON: No. I have a lady friend that I've lived with for 10 years. It's just a very good friend of mine. I live in a very quaint New England town.

KING: Why did you stay, after the AIDS thing broke and you were obviously worried? THORSON: Well, Lee and I had -- we had a great time together. I mean, Lee adored me. He called me his prince. I was the prince, he said, I'm the prince. I mean, we had wonderful times. It wasn't until the plastic surgeon got a hold of me. And this is what really ticks me off, is when these people...

KING: Hold it right there.

THORSON: OK.

KING: Because you sound extraordinarily like him, and that must have something to do with this.

THORSON: Well, look me over.

KING: Scott Thorson wrote a book years ago called "Behind the Candelabra: My Life With Liberace." I imagine after this interview it'll be re-released. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Our guest is Scott Thorson, the former companion of Liberace. Extraordinary story, not just involving Liberace. We'll get to other aspects later.

All right, as I said, you do sound like him, and anybody watching this now will notice the inflections. What do you mean plastic surgery?

THORSON: Well, when I first went with Lee, for about the first year, you know, we traveled all over the United States, all over European countries, and we were in France for quite a while. I put on quite a bit of weight. And Lee was not very happy with me. And through his hairdresser, Guy Richards (ph), he was introduced to a man named Jack Startz (ph), which was a plastic surgeon.

As a matter of fact, Priscilla Presley's mother worked for him at the time. And he reconstructed my entire face. As a matter of fact, I just had the implant for my chin taken out.

KING: To make you look what?

THORSON: Well, he brought the surgeons in. I picked him up in my Rolls-Royce. I drove. They were in Las Vegas. I picked him up and brought him to a Las Vegas mansion on Shirley Street. And Lee was introduced to the doctor and he says, "I want you to come with me." And Lee walked him through -- went into the -- you know, into the bedroom and said -- there was a picture of Liberace. Oh, I guess he was probably in his 30s, Larry. He says, "I want you to create Scott to look like me when he was younger; so he looks like my son." He wanted me as his son. But at the same time, he wanted me as his lover.

KING: Bizarro.

THORSON: Bizarro, time. KING: So did they do -- was he slimmer then? Did they reduce your weight? Did they do any, kind of, work on your...

THORSON: Well, what they did...

KING: What did they do?

THORSON: See here's the thing that I really get upset with is, with Jamie James Agency, his publicist...

KING: Was on this show recently.

THORSON: Yeah. They get on TV and they say that I was nothing but a cocaine addict. But they never tell the real story -- what caused this problem.

KING: You did become a coke addict.

THORSON: I -- well, of course. Jack starts to put me on the Hollywood diet, which contains pharmaceutical, cocaine, quaaludes, Biphetamine, demerol.

Matter of fact, when Liberace was having his plastic surgery done, the doctor called me into the surgery room. He had a bottle of vodka -- had taken -- he was drinking during his surgery. And Lee went with this.

KING: And the surgery made you look like what? Did you look like him -- look like his son?

THORSON: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

KING: You even developed the voice inflection too.

THORSON: Well, I think -- I guess, when you live with somebody for so many years, you get their habits or -- he had, kind of, a nasal type... KING: You know, you sound like him.

Did you hate him?

THORSON: At times I did, Larry. At times -- I mean, the beginning it was wonderful, but he ruined my life.

KING: Why didn't you leave?

THORSON: Oh, Larry, because I cared about him. I cared about him. KING: And, selfishly, you had a pretty good life.

THORSON: I had a damn good life.

KING: But you hated him because he forced you to do things you didn't want to do.

THORSON: Exactly.

KING: For example, did you find yourself attracted to girls?

THORSON: I was very much attracted to girls.

KING: How did you deal with that?

THORSON: As a matter of fact, Gladys Luckie -- I think you had her on, too.

KING: She was on.

THORSON: Gladys was my -- Lee called her his black mother, and she's my black mother. She raised me. Gladys will tell you everything. Yes, I had a girlfriend on the side, and Lee was just irate about it. Irate and angry.

KING: So -- but you didn't leave because you felt sorry for him.

THORSON: Well, what happened was that the doctor told Lee, "Let's put him on these drugs. He'll do fine."

And then, after a while -- even Lee -- he saw the difference in my life. I mean, I changed horribly. You know, I was addicted to cocaine, quaaludes, Biphetamine, demerol. He was -- when I wasn't high, he was shooting me up for demerol...

KING: This was the doctor doing this?

THORSON: A doctor.

KING: A regular doctor, an M.D. doctor?

THORSON: He shot himself in the head. He's dead now, because I was going to -- Liberace was going to go after him.

KING: I know, I would imagine he was a little upset.

THORSON: Oh, yes. Well, yes, I was just a kid. And you know, here's a doctor, you know, a physician, and what the hell did I know, Larry?

KING: Liberace was obsessed with appearance, though, wasn't he?

THORSON: Very much so.

KING: How he looked. Had you undergo plastic surgery, you become a drug addict.

THORSON: Become a drug addict because of it.

KING: And how do you break up? What happens?

THORSON: What happened was that, at the same time there was a group called The Young Americans. We were doing -- we were in Tahoe and Las Vegas, at the Las Vegas Hilton... KING: Remember them.

THORSON: And he started fooling around with one of the young men there, which I was just -- I couldn't believe it.

KING: Got mad?

THORSON: Got angry.

KING: Jealous?

THORSON: Jealous, angry, because someone else was stepping in, but because I would not allow myself to have sex with him.

KING: So you had stopped having sex?

THORSON: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

KING: For how long?

THORSON: Quite a while, plus the drugs were really ruining...

KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

THORSON: I mean, you know, the drugs really did a big number.

KING: So then, if you had stopped having sex, why were you upset if he had a new lover?

THORSON: Well, because I knew I was on my way out.

KING: More in a minute with Scott Thorson, an incredible story about a legend. Don't go away.

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Our guest is Scott Thorson. This is LARRY KING LIVE.

Were you forcibly removed from the house?

THORSON: I was beaten up.

KING: By...

THORSON: Matter of fact -- well, I was in Los Angeles at the penthouse on Beverly Boulevard.

KING: Liberace's penthouse?

THORSON: Well, it was both of ours. It was supposed to be mine, too. And we just had it all remodeled. It was a beautiful place.

And Liberace -- George Lanier (ph), the house manager in Palm Springs mansion, called me, and said, "What the hell is going on?" I said, "Well, what do you mean?" He said, "What are these two young guys doing in this house with Lee?" And so I called Lee, and I said, you know, "What's going on here?" And we really had a big falling out.

KING: And?

THORSON: And then the next day, two private detectives, Seymour Heller (ph), which I called. Seymour Heller (ph) was his manager for all of his career. I called Seymour (ph) and Hatchet (ph) and they beat me up. They maced me. They threw me out of the penthouse. And they -- big plastic bags, they threw my clothes over...

KING: Window?

THORSON: Over the window, right down.

KING: What did you do? Where did you go?

THORSON: Well, I didn't have much to do. You know, I stayed with friends until all this came to a head.

KING: Were you a full-fledged addict then?

THORSON: Oh, yes, Larry.

KING: So what did this do to you emotionally?

THORSON: Oh, I was wreck. I was suicidal. You know, I was a wreck. KING: This was way before you got AIDS, right?

THORSON: Yes. I mean, it's like if you had a relationship with somebody for so many years -- I mean, either you would go to the person if they have a drug problem, and say, "Look, we're going to put you in a hospital. We're going to take care of you. You either do it this way or either you're out." You have a choice. But it never was presented that way. They beat me up and they threw me out.

KING: So you go to live with friends. Later he develops -- when he develops AIDS, right, did you get in touch with him at all? Did you find out...

THORSON: Oh, yes.

KING: And what did he say?

THORSON: Liberace and I -- Elias Ghanam (ph) in Las Vegas was his doctor. And through a -- one of his -- I can't say the name, because I don't want to get her in trouble, but she also worked for the Las Vegas Medical Center, and she told me he had AIDS.

Listen, Larry -- I mean, his management, I mean, was horrible. I mean, it was the biggest scandal what happened.

KING: The way they handled it. THORSON: Oh, my goodness.

KING: It was -- how long hadn't you seen him, then, when you learned he had AIDS?

THORSON: I ran into him in New York. It was at the -- in '86.

KING: Four years after you were thrown out.

Were you now leading -- were you still an addict?

THORSON: Yes.

KING: We're you dating girls now?

THORSON: I'm been off drugs now for 10 years.

KING: Did you ever have other homosexual relationships?

THORSON: No.

KING: No. You did not.

THORSON: No.

KING: He was the only one.

THORSON: He was the only one.

KING: When you ran into him in '86, what happened?

THORSON: In '86, you know, there was the rumor all, you know -- you're probably well aware of it, so is America. They said that he was suffering from heart failure.

And I said, "That's nothing but a big bull." I says, "I know Liberace. No. He's healthy. You know, he never had a heart problem." And he developed, and -- you know, I knew right away he had AIDS.

KING: What did you say to him?

THORSON: Well, I was very angry at the time, because I was scared to death myself.

KING: That you had it.

THORSON: Yes. And Elias Ghanam (ph), his doctor, my doctor, lied to me. And I felt that I had a right to know.

KING: Is this the same doctor who gave you the pills?

THORSON: No. It's a different doctor.

KING: He lied to you how? He said what? THORSON: The doctor just said, "No, no. He's on a watermelon diet."

KING: Oh, the doctor lied to you about AIDS.

THORSON: Yes, and they all lied. They all lied.

KING: Did you go get tested?

THORSON: I got tested.

KING: And you're OK.

THORSON: I am. Matter of fact, I just was tested last month, and I'm OK.

KING: Did you ever talk to him about AIDS finally when he was dying? THORSON: Yes.

KING: We'll ask about that in a moment.

Our guest is Scott Thorson. There's other aspects to his life, too. He wrote a book some time ago called, "Behind the Candelabra: My Life With Liberace."

And the reason he's come out now is because a lot of people have taken potshots at him, discussing looking back on Liberace's life, merely dismissing him as some, sort of, drug addict. And he says, of course, it was certainly a lot more than that. We'll be back. Don't go away.

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIBERACE: The longer I stay in the business, the more I realize how little I've done. There are so many new worlds to conquer, and I just hope my energy and good health prevail so that I can do some of the things that I've never done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back with Scott Thorson.

All right, tell me about the meeting when he knew he had AIDS. You met with him -- he died -- you met with him in Palm Springs, right?

THORSON: Well, what was going is we had -- I hired an attorney, which was a big mistake.

KING: To sue him? THORSON: He was a horrible attorney, and he's been disbarred. Today, he's no longer an attorney. His name was Michael Rosenthal (ph).

KING: You've met some bad professional people.

THORSON: Horrible people, and what they did was basically took advantage of me, Larry, because I had all of this money, I was young, I was...

KING: Liberace gave you a lot of money?

THORSON: Tons of money.

KING: Did you have a lot of money when you were thrown out?

THORSON: Yes.

KING: You did. So you weren't penniless.

THORSON: No. But when I was thrown out, what happened was that there was -- Joel Strote, his attorney, said, "OK, well, you're going to sign this contract." In other words, they were holding all my Rolls-Royces and my Auburns, all the bank accounts. And they said, "Sign on this dotted line."

KING: What did it say?

THORSON: Well, basically, it said, you know, well, number one -- I'm jumping ahead of myself right now. Rosenthal (ph) filed the lawsuit and called it palimoney -- $112 million palimoney.

KING: You suing Liberace?

THORSON: Right. He did that mainly for a publicity stunt.

KING: You didn't want to sue?

THORSON: Well, I didn't -- number one, he was a cocaine addict, and I was -- and he was supplying me with cocaine.

KING: The lawyer?

THORSON: Yes, and he's disbarred now. He doesn't...

KING: Did you want to sue for palimoney?

THORSON: No, I didn't know what palimoney was.

KING: What did you want in seeking a lawyer?

THORSON: Well, eventually, I brought in another attorney by the name of Ernst Lipshewitz (ph), and he took a look at the agreement that I originally signed with Lee to keep -- you know, staying...

KING: Secret... THORSON: ... secret...

KING: Confidentiality.

THORSON: ... you get so much money, and he found a way to break it. Basically, he went into court. You see, Liberace said, "Oh, he won the lawsuit." There was only one cause of action that was thrown out in court, and that was the palimoney but not the recision of property. I settled that right before Lee's death in January of '87. February 4, he was dead. KING: So you got your property.

THORSON: I got everything back.

KING: How soon before he died were you with him?

THORSON: I probably saw Lee a couple months before he died.

KING: Did he know he was dying?

THORSON: Oh, sure he did, Larry.

KING: What was that like?

THORSON: It was horrible.

KING: I mean, what was the meeting like?

THORSON: I think, it was very sad. I think, one of Lee's last appearances was "The Oprah Winfrey Show," and Lee basically said, "You know, hey, all the wealth, the fame, but if you don't have your health, what good is it?"

KING: What did you say to him about the possibility of you having AIDS?

THORSON: I was very upset. I expressed my -- he was so sick, Larry. He was in and out of comas.

KING: You weren't yelling at him?

THORSON: Oh, no. The reason why I settled the lawsuit -- my lawsuit, which they claimed that they won -- they didn't -- was because he was so sick. And I said, "This has gone on too far." And this is a man that I really loved, that I thought very highly of -- father figure. Everybody that gets on national TV -- if it's Debbie Reynolds, Phyllis Diller...

KING: They were all here. Robert Goulet.

THORSON: ... Robert Goulet, they all say, "Oh, how wonderful he was. Oh, he was my best friend." Lee didn't associate with anybody in show business. The only close people in show business were actually my friends, which was Michael Jackson, Tony Orlando and Charo.

KING: Charo.

THORSON: And Englebert Humperdink.

KING: That was his friends. But they told the parties he would throw at his house, invite them over, give them gifts.

THORSON: Larry, I was with Lee almost 10 years, and I think, Debbie Reynolds was over once. Diller was never over. They're all lying. I mean, Diller...

KING: Why would they lie?

THORSON: Well, I'm telling you what I know.

KING: So you never saw them?

THORSON: Never. I mean, Lee -- like Lee said, when he was off, he didn't -- I mean, he had 15 pianos in his home; he never touched them. He didn't want anything to do with show business. What he wanted to do was take care of the dogs, and he loved to decorate.

KING: But he was like a plain guy off stage?

THORSON: Plain guy.

KING: Flamboyant on stage, not off stage?

THORSON: He was picking up dog doo-doos around the yard.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Our guest is Scott Thorson. What a story. We'll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIBERACE: You know, I think it's too much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, it's beautiful. Is it new?

LIBERACE: Well, I'll say one thing: You'll never find one like this at (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

It's quite new; I've only worn it once before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where?

LIBERACE: Well, I was invited to one of those fabulous dinners in Washington, and it was attended by President and Ladybird Johnson, so I figured, you know, since it's such an important occasion, I better give them the works, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did they notice you?

LIBERACE: Oh, they sure did. In fact, let me tell you, I was the only one there with one like it. (END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Scott Thorson and his lawyer appeared in Superior Court to file the suit, which claims the young man had a contract to serve as Liberace's chauffeur, compagnion and lover. According to attorney Michael Rosenthal (ph), the 63-year-old entertainer hired Thorson to perform those functions in 1976, when his client was just 17.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: As you look back, Scott Thorson, who wrote the book "Behind the Candelabra," wrote it some time back, where did you go wrong? I mean, you were only 16-1/2 when you started with him. There had to be a point in here where you could have exited and...

THORSON: Well, I think I had a lot of horrible things happen to me. I mean, I had members of my family, my half-brothers and sisters, took me for a lot of money, and they stole jewelry. And after the breakup so much happened to me, and every time I trusted somebody -- because I was so heavily into drugs back then, I said, "Take these." We're talking about $1 million, $100,000 worth of jewelry at times. I said, "Take these, hold on to them." I said, "I can't trust myself." What would happen is they would sell the jewelry; they'd rip me off.

KING: Was Liberace an addict?

THORSON: No. He loved his cocktails after the show. He said he never played during the show because he'd play in the cracks.

KING: He never drank during the show.

THORSON: No.

KING: But he was not into cocaine...

THORSON: No. He was into amylnitrate. I don't know if you know what that is, but basically it's a popper. You use it for sex.

KING: Yes.

THORSON: Yes. Very heavily into that. And basically that's what killed Liberace was his lifestyle.

KING: Was he warm and attentive?

THORSON: Absolutely. You know, I don't want to come on your program and slam this man. I mean, he was a wonderful...

KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

THORSON: Yes, he was wonderful...

KING: Good and bad.

THORSON: Good and bad. If anybody knows him, I did. I mean, the only other person that knows him probably as well as I do is Gladys Luckie. KING: Who was on this show, too.

THORSON: And matter of fact, Gladys Luckie was stuck in Hollywood at the Herald Way (ph), and I'm the one that took Gladys out of retirement and said, "Lee, let's bring her into the Las Vegas," because it was such a gay scene in there. The houseman. I'm mean, we're talking about young men walking around the house with no shirts on. And I says, "This can't go on." So I brought Gladys back in. And Gladys will tell you.

KING: But at the height of all this, what did you make of yourself, Scott? You're not a gay person, but you're in this gay relationship. He's showering you with gifts. He's changed the way you look. He's made you into his son.

THORSON: Yes.

KING: You're an addict.

THORSON: Yes. I was messed up, Larry.

KING: Boy.

THORSON: I was big time.

KING: How did you finally beat this? How did you stop...

THORSON: Ten years ago -- I'm free 10 years now.

KING: What did it?

THORSON: My mother was -- my mother, Ann (ph) Thorson, she was bipolar for many years and went on -- I mean, we had a horrible life as children. And because of the genes are passed down, they discovered that I was bipolar. The minute they put me on the drugs, I stopped.

KING: The drugs to treat...

THORSON: Yes. They put me on the antidepressants.

KING: Zoloft or...

THORSON: I'm on Ramron (ph), and I was on, what is it, the big guy... KING: Prozac.

THORSON: Prozac. And so I was suffering from mental illness, too.

KING: But taking those drugs stopped you from...

THORSON: Yes. Yes. Straightened me right up.

KING: So you didn't go to any institution or anything?

THORSON: I mean, my family, my sister Annette (ph), my brother Jimmy (ph), they tried to do everything to stop me.

KING: Did Liberace try to help you?

THORSON: No.

KING: What do you make of that? Why wouldn't he...

THORSON: I don't know. I'm very hurt to this day. I don't understand why. You know, obviously, if you're in a relationship or if you love someone like he claims he loved me for so many years, almost 10 years, Larry, as his son, you know, normally -- I mean, if your wife, Larry, if you had a wife that was on drugs and you have your children, "Hey, we got to do this and do this," you know.

KING: Of course.

THORSON: "You're going to have to go into a hospital." But instead he left it up to his management. And, unfortunately, his management also took care of when he was passing away. You know, it was a big scandal. They should have came out and they should have admitted it. I mean, everybody in Hollywood knew he was gay.

KING: He never said it, did he?

THORSON: Well, because, you know, the reason why was because of that big lawsuit that he won in London, where that...

KING: Oh, I didn't know. Someone had accused him and he won a...

THORSON: Called him a homosexual, and he won it.

KING: How did he win it?

THORSON: He won it. I don't know. But, you see, what you've got to realize, too, when he started off back in the '40s, '50s, when he was on television, that would have ruined his career.

KING: Oh, absolutely.

THORSON: Lee came from the old school, you know.

KING: You didn't admit anything.

THORSON: Didn't admit anything, I mean. And I'm telling you, but he was fantastic, I love Lee. I hate him at times, but he was a wonderful human being. I mean...

KING: He's obviously the most potent, important figure in your life. THORSON: Oh, absolutely.

KING: Did you know George well?

THORSON: George, I knew George, Angie (ph)...

KING: His brother. How did George treat you?

THORSON: George loved me. George and...

KING: George was not gay?

THORSON: George wasn't gay, no. His wife Dora (ph) just passed away a couple years ago, and then his sister Angie (ph) just died back about two or three years ago.

KING: Do you still miss Liberace at times?

THORSON: Tremendously.

KING: We'll ask in a minute what he misses, and we'll talk about other aspects of his life, because there's more.

Scott Thorson is the guest. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIBERACE: You know what it is? Virgin mink. Oh, took forever to get the pallets.

Well, I'm glad you like the coat, but do me a favor, take a fast look at it, because I'm taking it off. It's hotter than hell.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC)

KING: What do you miss the most, Scott, about Liberace?

THORSON: His kindness and his fellowship.

KING: Despite the fact that he could also be cruel in not helping you.

THORSON: He can be cruel when -- well, Gladys, I think -- they did a biography, she said it when she did the biography story on him. When Lee felt that someone turned against him, I mean, he cut them right off. But it was his management. They were very -- number one, they were very, very jealous of me, Larry. You see, my job was to keep him happy. I didn't have to answer to Seymour Heller (ph), Joel Strote, Lucille Cunningham (ph), his business manager. I took care of Lee. They had to come through me to get to him. And the more years we were together, they were jealous of that.

KING: You were like his wife.

THORSON: I took care of the man. I did everything for him for many, many years.

KING: Now, you got involved other aspects of your life. What were you doing in the witness protection program?

THORSON: Through Liberace, there was a man called Chris Cox (ph) that introduced me to Adel Nasrallah, which is Eddie Nash -- big trial coming up -- was called -- I don't know if you remember -- the Wonderland killings up on...

KING: Laurel Canyon.

THORSON: Laurel Canyon, right.

KING: Who was murdered?

THORSON: There were four people murdered and one attempted murder. So we're talking about four counts of first degree murder, one count of attempted murder.

KING: Someone's coming up on trial for this?

THORSON: Well, we went to trial, finally after -- I don't know how many years.

KING: Did you testify?

THORSON: I went and I testified. I said, "If you want me to testify, put me in the witness protection program."

KING: You testified against whom?

THORSON: I testified against Ed Nash, which...

KING: Who was on trial for murder.

THORSON: Right, on the Wonderland killings. And also he owned the Starwood nightclubs. He was the -- big strip joints down at the Kit Kat. KING: So what happened in the trial?

THORSON: Well, 11 people found him -- 11 members of the jury found him guilty, one girl didn't. And now they have him on trial, because now they found out that they have enough evidence.

KING: Jury tampering.

THORSON: Jury tampering. They had him on the RICO...

KING: So you're going to testify again.

THORSON: No. I had a big blowout with the federal government. I said, I don't -- my life is going so well right now, you know. I was watching you the other night with Pat Boone when I was shot. And... KING: You were shot.

THORSON: I was shot five times. At first they thought it was three times...

KING: When?

THORSON: I was shot back in 1990.

KING: By whom?

THORSON: Two drug addicts.

KING: So you're watching Pat Boone.

THORSON: I was watching Pat Boone, and -- exactly what they say -- the doctors to this day, they say, "We don't know why, Scott, you're alive. You're a living proof of a miracle." And (UNINTELLIGIBLE) it's right. I mean, I never had religion in my life.

KING: Do you have it now?

THORSON: I have it now, yes. I was in -- when I was in the federal witness protection program I went off of it. I went into a rescue mission for five years, and then I became its director. And I became an evangelist.

KING: Is that what you're doing now?

THORSON: No. No, I'm not doing that now.

KING: What are you doing?

THORSON: I'm just living a quiet...

KING: Do you work?

THORSON: No, I'm disabled.

KING: But you have income.

THORSON: Yes.

KING: Now, you came out of the witness protection program, is your life still in jeopardy?

THORSON: Well, I don't know.

KING: Aren't you worried? You're on television.

THORSON: No.

KING: Why aren't you worried?

THORSON: Because I leave it in the Lord's hands. I believe that God is -- there's a reason why I survived what I survived.

KING: Why were you shot?

THORSON: I was shot because of a robbery.

KING: They were robbing drugs from you.

THORSON: In Jacksonville, Florida -- it was -- this was the robbery. They broke into the hotel room, shot me.

KING: What was the witness protection program like, by the way?

THORSON: Horrible.

KING: Where did they send you?

THORSON: They sent me everywhere. I mean, you name it. Alaska -- I mean...

KING: Give you new identities.

THORSON: Oh, yes. Let's see, you know, you're not allowed to have any contact...

KING: With former people. You couldn't come to...

THORSON: Or family. But I was still involved in drugs.

KING: Was it your fear that Nash or someone associated with Nash would kill you?

THORSON: Yes. Absolutely.

KING: Nash is still living.

THORSON: Yes. And there was a contract placed on my life.

KING: How do you know it's not still out there?

THORSON: Tom Lang, the one that's handled -- Tom Lang... KING: The detective.

THORSON: The detective that handled O.J...

KING: Simpson.

THORSON: ... was the top detective. And he's the one that requested -- put me on -- a material witness.

KING: So you're not afraid now?

THORSON: No.

KING: Nash is going to be tried again.

THORSON: Well, I would not walk the streets of Hollywood right now. KING: You're in the streets of Hollywood.

THORSON: Well, I'm -- but your people have taken care of me.

KING: We have done well by you.

THORSON: Yes.

KING: OK. But what I mean is, you still have fear, but the witness protection program wasn't worth it.

THORSON: No, no. Horrible, horrible. It's a big...

KING: Why? They set you up with a life. They give you a new identify.

THORSON: It was horrible, Larry. They didn't help me. They knew I had a drug problem. They didn't take off the drug problems, and then I was still doing drugs. They terminated me. They left me in the middle of Florida. And that's why I went into the federal witness -- or I went into the rescue mission. And then that's where I found God and got changed. KING: You have had one heck of a life.

THORSON: One hell of a life.

KING: We'll be back with more of Scott Thorson on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Scott Thorson.

Just for time reference, the Wonderland murders occurred -- Liberace was still alive, right, 1981?

THORSON: Oh, yes, yes. 1980, '81.

KING: But you had broken up with him, right? Or were you still...

THORSON: No, no, I was still with him.

KING: That was before. Yes, they threw you out in '82.

THORSON: Matter of fact, I'll tell you what happened. I was in Tahoe, at the Sahara Tahoe, Lee was performing, and my foster mother, Rose Carahappa (ph), died, which I was very fond of her: a tremendous woman, a great woman. And I flew back, but at this time the doctors stopped giving me the drugs, so I was having to fly in and out of Los Angeles all the time, all over the world, you know, I'd hire a Learjet and pick up the drugs.

KING: You had that much money?

THORSON: Oh, yes. I mean, Lee -- I mean, it was...

KING: He gave you whatever you wanted?

THORSON: Whatever I wanted.

KING: So what happened? You hopped back to L.A...

THORSON: I hopped back to L.A...

KING: (OFF-MIKE) murders occurred.

THORSON: ... and I was picking up some drugs from Eddie Nash, and he told me that I would have to -- he says, "Have a seat." He says, "I was just robbed." And involved John Holmes, you know, the porno star.

KING: How was he involved?

THORSON: Well, John Holmes was addicted to cocaine, and John Holmes set up the robbery.

KING: Because he needed the drugs.

THORSON: Right.

KING: Was Nash made at you?

THORSON: No, Nash wasn't mad at me. But I was in the, I guess...

KING: Wrong place...

THORSON: Wrong place, wrong time. And when his bodyguard -- Ed Nash's bodyguard brought John Holmes through the door and they beat the living -- I mean, it was horrible. And I was just right there.

KING: What did you testify to?

THORSON: I testified to what I heard.

KING: Which was?

THORSON: Which they beat up John and they forced John to tell them who committed the robbery.

KING: Why wasn't Nash very mad at you? When you went into witness protection you thought he was going to kill you?

THORSON: Well, Nash -- not for a long time. I mean, this was back in '80. I didn't testify until, what, '87, '88 -- '88 or '89. So Nash and I were still good friends.

KING: So you turned on him.

THORSON: But he did say this to me. He said, "I'll kill you and every member of your family if you ever mention a word of this."

KING: Why did you testify against him?

THORSON: Because Ed Nash -- drugs. I mean, Ed Nash took my Rolls-Royce, he took everything from me.

KING: What did they offer you in return for your testimony?

THORSON: Other than to keep me alive?

KING: That's all they offered...

THORSON: And also I was in some trouble back then, too. I got involved with the wrong people, and I made a deal with a district attorney. KING: There was a quid pro quo; you got something.

THORSON: Yes. I got something from it, too, you know.

KING: Before all of this, before you got religion and before these last few years, you ever have a happy day?

THORSON: Oh, yes, yes.

KING: Because you seemed to be in so much trouble all the time, despite having everything.

THORSON: Yes. I think my...

KING: Well, it was happy, I guess, when you had all the money.

THORSON: Oh, yes. But, I mean, religion, God has helped me quite a bit...

KING: When Lee was on stage, would you watch him work?

THORSON: Yes. Well, I would open the show with him.

KING: What do you mean?

THORSON: I would drive him out.

KING: Oh, you were the driver of the Rolls-Royce.

THORSON: Rolls-Royce, and all the costumes and all that. Oh, yes. Lee had me with him at all times. All times I was with him.

KING: Was it weird being in a physical relationship with him? Was that difficult for you or easy?

THORSON: Yes, because I was a kid, I wasn't really sure, you know, Larry, you know, I was confused. You know, at one time he said, "You know, I want you as my son," you know. Matter of fact, they were drawing up the adoption agreement and all that, and I would have been adopted by him if it wasn't for the drugs until the very end. But, you know, he was quite a man.

KING: When you needed money, like, he would give you anything you want?

THORSON: Anything. He'd say, "What do you want, Scott?" Anything I wanted, you know, anything.

I would have to be very careful. I mean, one day I said, "Oh, I love that gold Rolls-Royce." You know, it was my 21st birthday, it was in a big box, he had a big box and a ribbon. And then I had to go, then there was another box, and then another box, and then another box. And then there was this tiny little box with the Rolls-Royce keys, and I'd walk outside, and it was a big box with a ribbon over it. And so my gold Rolls-Royce he gave me.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with Scott Thorson right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Just for the record, when Mr. Nash is tried next month; you have nothing to do with that trial.

THORSON: No.

KING: You were not asked to testify.

THORSON: No.

KING: All right, so the reason you're public now coming on, let's sum this up, is you want to clear it up for the record.

THORSON: I want to clear it up, I'm tired...

KING: The people naysaying you, saying you were just some drug addict in Lee's life; they don't admit to your relationship with him.

THORSON: They called me a pathological liar, a disgruntled employee. But since when does a disgruntled employee walk around with plastic surgery, $1 million worth of gold and diamonds dripping off his hands, and about 25 cars, Rolls-Royces, Jaguars, Ferraris? You name it, I had it.

KING: Do you know why? Do you think it was just jealously, they didn't admit to what you were?

THORSON: I don't know, Larry. I mean, I think they did everything to protect his name. I mean, Lee...

KING: Did they fear you would go forward?

THORSON: Oh, yes.

KING: They did.

THORSON: Yes.

KING: When you heard about AIDS, though, there had to be a lot of moments you thought you had it.

THORSON: Yes. Yes.

KING: So when you took those tests, that had to be scary waiting for the results.

THORSON: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. But it was more scary when I had all my blood transfusions back in 1990. I was operated on...

KING: After the shooting?

THORSON: After the shooting. They didn't screen the bloods that well, so this is my 10th year anniversary, November, so I just had my AIDS test done, HIV, and came up perfect.

KING: How bad did he look at the end?

THORSON: Horrible. You're talking about a man that was probably -- Lee was -- I mean, I don't know if you've ever met... KING: I never met him.

THORSON: But he's a big, barrel-chested man, big, thick arms, legs. Probably about 200, 225 pounds. And when he died he was about 80 pounds. Horrible.

KING: Eighty pounds?

THORSON: Eighty pounds.

KING: Did he die angry?

THORSON: I think he died scared. I think he was very frightful. He did "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and he says, you know, "What good is all the fame and money if you don't have your health?" He never went into that he was dying, you know. But you see, again, his management was horrible, horrible, horrible. They denied it right up to his death. The doctor forged the death certificate, they took the body out of Riverside County into L.A. County. That was a big no-no, they broke the law there. The coroner resumed the body, they tested him for AIDS. He had AIDS. They said it was the Hollywood -- they said it was the watermelon diet. Come on.

KING: And he always, always was image aware, right?

THORSON: Oh, yes.

KING: It would kill him to know...

THORSON: Kill him.

KING: ... that we were talking about him like this.

THORSON: Oh, yes. But I think it would kill him more how his people handled.

KING: To learn what his management did.

THORSON: Oh, yes. The management, horrible, horrible. They made the biggest mistake. They should have just said, "Yes, he does have HIV, yes, he is gay." I mean, most of the world, I mean especially here in Hollywood...

KING: Come on, who didn't know?

THORSON: Yes. I mean, he was, I guess, the Midwestern ladies...

KING: I don't think they cared.

THORSON: I don't think they cared. It didn't hurt him.

KING: They loved him.

THORSON: Yes.

KING: It probably -- this is in retrospect -- if he had come out in the '50s, would have been all right, with Lee, because he never came on as a romantic. The women, sort of, babied him, right?

THORSON: Yes. Oh, yes.

KING: I mean, I don't think any woman said, "Boy, I want to sleep with him." They more like coddled, wanted to coddle him, right?

THORSON: Oh, yes. Well, you know, he had, you know, with his mother that relationship, you know -- America's, you know -- I mean, he just paid so much attention to his mother. And all the older ladies and gentlemen, they just loved that, I mean.

KING: Do you miss the high life?

THORSON: Well, of course.

KING: Miss Vegas?

THORSON: At times. At times.

KING: Rolls-Royces, Learjets.

THORSON: At times. Oh, yes, it helps.

KING: How you going to keep them down on the farm after they've seen Paris, right?

THORSON: That's right.

KING: Are you bitter?

THORSON: I'm only bitter when his people come out and attack me. Actually this is the first interview that I've probably done. I've done two others in 10 years. And I said, "Well, Larry's a pretty straight shooter. I'm going to go on his show and tell my story."

KING: You sure have. Thank you, Scott.

THORSON: OK.

KING: Scott Thorson. The story, and what a story it is. Thanks very much for joining us on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

We thank you for joining us, too. Good night.

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