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Interview With Carnie Wilson; Pete Townshend Under Suspicion

Aired January 14, 2003 - 20:00   ET


CONNIE CHUNG, HOST: Good evening. I'm Connie Chung.
Tonight: Pete Townshend, once the voice of his generation, is he now guilty of exploiting the youngest generation?

ANNOUNCER: Legendary rocker Pete Townshend arrested.


JOHN CARR, INTERNET CONSULTANT: One thousand five-hundred people have been arrested so far under Operation Ore; 95 percent of them have got no criminal record.


ANNOUNCER: Why is he caught up in a worldwide child porn investigation?

Racial tensions boiling in the Midwest.


REV. VIRGIL OWENS, ALLEN CHAPEL AME CHURCH: When I pulled the postcard out and I read this, "Martin Luther King Jr. is a dead nigger," I said, uh-oh, now we got problems.


ANNOUNCER: Black churches, businesses and the NAACP targets of threatening hate mail. Now the FBI is on the case.

Singer/songwriter Carnie Wilson, her weight was all-consuming.


CARNIE WILSON, SINGER/SONGWRITER: Food was my savior for a long time, but it became my enemy and what was going to kill me if I didn't get control.


ANNOUNCER: So, she went under the knife to lose over 150 pounds.


WILSON: It was a scary thing, because, obviously, I could have died on the table.


ANNOUNCER: The inspirational story: Carnie, "Beating the Odds."

And our "Person of the Day," a tall order.

This is CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT. Live from the CNN Broadcast Center in New York: Connie Chung.

CHUNG: Good evening.

Tonight: 57-year-old Pete Townshend, co-founder of The Who rock group, is back at his London home, but still under suspicion of viewing pornographic pictures of children online. Scotland Yard says Townshend has agreed to report back to police by the end of the month. Authorities held him for five hours last night and questioned him for more than an hour. Townshend has not been charged.

He says he did view child pornography online, but that he's not a pedophile and he considered it to be research for his autobiography. He claims he was abused as a child. Before police took Townshend away, along with his computers and floppy discs, his lawyer said Townshend is cooperating with police.


JOHN COHEN, ATTORNEY FOR PETE TOWNSHEND: We are meeting the police at the house here at 3:00, by appointment, by arrangement with the police.


CHUNG: His arrest stemmed from a child pornography investigation here in the United States. Investigators discovered a list of credit cards used to view child porn online and share the list with international law enforcement. Scotland Yard has been working off that list, leading not just to Townshend, but to hundreds of other Brits, including even police officers and magistrates.


CARR: One thousand five-hundred people have been arrested so far under Operation Ore; 95 percent of them have got no criminal record, no form of any kind with the police or other authority.


CHUNG: Now, Pete Townshend has been an important part of history of rock pop culture. He game famous for his windmill guitar playing. But as the band's writer, he was also seen as one of wrong rock's angry young men, writing such classics the rock opera "Tommy," "My Generation" and "Baba O'Riley," better known as "Teenage Wasteland." You'll meet a longtime friend of Townshend's in just a moment to talk about the accusations against him.

But first, CNN's Anne McDermott, who has more on exactly who Pete Townshend is.


ANNE MCDERMOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In recent years, Pete Townshend's been a solo act mostly, playing new works and classics by The Who. But, occasionally, the 57-year-old would get together with his old band mates, for induction into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame, for example.

PETE TOWNSHEND, MUSICIAN: Thank you. Thank you.

MCDERMOTT: That's John Entwistle, who died last year. Drummer Keith Moon died of an overdose in 1978, but survivors Townshend and Roger Daltrey continue to tour from time to time.

What really made The Who, made music history, was their rock opera "Tommy." That's Daltrey in the 1975 movie featuring Townshend's songs about a deaf, dumb and blind kid who was also abused as a child, songs Townshend wrote in the late '60s, including his signature, "Pinball Wizard."

Townshend has recently suggested he might have been abused as a child, after acknowledging he was the target of a police investigation into Internet child pornography. He reportedly said he was doing research.

At Monday night's American Music Awards, Elton John was asked to comment on his old friend's arrest.

ELTON JOHN, MUSICIAN: I'm a friend of Pete's. I love Pete. And my thoughts are with him.

MCDERMOTT: In recent years, Townshend has demonstrated his interest in computers, as he touted an interactive version of "Tommy" in this promotional video and, at the same time, commented on the young rocker he used to be.

TOWNSHEND: I was a handsome, witty, and exceptionally debonair a young gentleman, as I still am today.

MCDERMOTT: Maybe. But until now, anyway, what he was really best known for being was a rock legend.

Anne McDermott, CNN, Los Angeles.


CHUNG: The Who's lead singer, Roger Daltrey, said about his band mate -- quote -- "My gut instinct is that he is not a pedophile and I know him better than most."

Martin Lewis also knows Townshend better than most. Lewis is a writer/producer who's been friends with Townshend since the early '70s. And David Sinclair has been covering this story for "The London Times."

Thank you both for being with us.

Martin, why are you so sure that your friend is innocent?

MARTIN LEWIS, FRIEND OF TOWNSHEND: Pete Townshend is a man of exemplary character. He's been in the public spotlight for 38 years. It's impossible to be in the spotlight for even 38 minutes in the music industry and have any kind of behavior like this without there being innuendo, without people discussing it.

The very fact is, there was no whisper, never being a whisper of anything like this about Pete Townshend ever before. He's a very straightforward, honest man. He wears his heart on his sleeve. He also wears his demons on his sleeves. When he's had problems with drink or drugs, he's been up front about it. It's been in his music. He's spoken out outwardly in his interviews.

And the answers that he gave on Saturday when he made his statement are absolutely true. He said he had been researching for an autobiography. People have known for years he's been working on this autobiography.

CHUNG: But it seems like such a strange way to research. Good heavens, isn't there another way to do it?

LEWIS: He's simply looking into an aspect of sexual abuse that he believes he experienced as a child.

But another thing that he also referred to and that is absolutely true, for the last two years, he's been running a campaign on his Web site against child pornography, warning people about it. Jerry Hall came out just yesterday to say that he had talked extensively about it and telling her how she could help her children not be exposed to it.

So, when he came out and mentioned that he'd been looking into it as part of that, that's absolutely the case. It's on the record. But a man of exemplary character, over 38 years in the public limelight, you cannot have these kind of indiscretions and them be unnoticed or uncommented on. Impossible.

CHUNG: All right.

David Sinclair, he did say that he was doing research for his autobiography. Doesn't it sound like the Winona Ryder defense which she had at one point claimed, that she was doing research for a movie?

DAVID SINCLAIR, MUSIC CRITIC, "LONDON TIMES": Well, yes. That's right. It does bear certain passing similarities. And I think that defense was laughed out of court, really, wasn't it?

And you have to say that, looked at in that light, Pete Townshend does seem to be putting forward a fairly flimsy defense. Having said that, I think he is one of the good guys. As your other correspondent has said, he's always been one of the more conscientious and more socially responsible pop stars that we've had. But it does look as he's got himself in a bit of a mess here. CHUNG: Martin Lewis made the point that no one has ever heard any rumors or anything like that. In your coverage of the music industry, had you ever heard rumors about Townshend of the like?

SINCLAIR: No, I haven't. And I think it's fairly certain that he hasn't ever been implicated in any sort of sense of child molesting or anything of that nature.

He's obviously come forward very quickly here ask said that, yes, he has admit that he accessed this Web site. Even before the police called on him, he came forward and volunteered that information. Having said that, he has spent a lot of his artistic career probing some of the darker areas of the human psyche. And "Tommy," obviously, was a whole work devoted to that subject of an abused child who eventually became a messiah figure.

It was a theme which surfaced again on his solo album "Psychoderelict" some time after that. So, he's obviously had a lot of trouble in his life.

CHUNG: Yes, obviously.

Martin Lewis, have you spoken to him?

LEWIS: No. I've sent him a message of support, like so many of his friends. In fact, one of the things that has been most disturbing is -- and I can see this very succinctly -- is that, in this gotcha tabloid mental that we have as a society these days, facts get thrown around and everyone is very excited it's a celebrity.

The Associated Press has apologized because they said that Townshend had downloaded images. They've corrected themselves. He had never claimed that. Fox News yesterday claimed that Townshend had been creating or producing images. Wrong. And even CNN earlier today had an analysis of the song from the "Tommy" rock opera and they were doing a scholarly analysis of it, except for one problem. It was a song not written by Pete Townshend, but written by his band mate John Entwistle.

In this frenzied atmosphere, when a man of impeccable reputation has integrity on the line, I think it behooves the entire media to go cautiously and have some sense of respect and some sense of probity about doing this, not just headlong jumping into it for the gotcha mentality.

CHUNG: Just one question and then I'll go back to David Sinclair.

Did you hear back from Pete Townshend after you sent him a message?

SINCLAIR: I've heard back from friends of Pete. Pete knows that he's got the support of friends all around him. We've known him for so many years, including the people that he's helped out, including all the charities, children's charities that he's been a tireless worker and pioneer for. That's one of the things that Pete Townshend is known for throughout the entertainment world.

CHUNG: David Sinclair, do you think the tabloids are going crazy over this?

SINCLAIR: Well, to be honest, I think, actually, the tabloids have been, by their standards, pretty restrained. And the British tabloids, once they get their claws into someone like this, it can be a pretty brutal affair.

And in Townshend's case, they've given a good deal of spin to his side of the story. They've printed his statements in full. I think there's been a fair amount of sympathy. And, inevitably, though, you have got to feel that there is going to be a bit of a cloud hanging over him with regards to these kind of allegations. It's a very sensitive subject at the moment here, as indeed everywhere.

And I think that Townshend has got himself into a bit of a muddle. I'm entirely in agreement. I think that he's one of the good guys of pop. I don't think that he's a villain. But I think he's taken a wrong turning.

CHUNG: All right, David Sinclair, thank you so much for being with us.

And no one could have a better friend than you, Martin Lewis. Thank you so much for being with us.

As we mentioned, Townshend's name came to the attention of Scotland Yard from a list of credit card users found by U.S. authorities.

CNN justice correspondent Kelli Arena has been tracking that angle of the story for us and joins us now from Washington.

Kelli, I understand this investigation started back in 1999. How did it begin?


It was in September of that year that federal agents raided the Texas home of a couple named Thomas and Janice Reedy. Now, they were running an Internet child porn ring, providing paying customers access to more than 5,000 Internet sites. So, investigators were able to unscramble the file that contained credit card numbers and then were able to track down customers through their credit card accounts.

And that led to 170 arrests here in the United States and now the action that we're seeing over in the U.K.

CHUNG: And what kinds of people are being arrested?

ARENA: Well, the Reedys had about 300,000 customers that spanned 60 countries. And those customers included a medical doctor, teachers, a counselor at a child psychiatric hospital, even some members of the clergy. And officials say that the Reedys overall were bringing in, Connie, $1.4 million a month from their subscribers.

CHUNG: Oh, my gosh.

Does this investigation make a dent into this industry?

ARENA: Well, investigators like to think so. But, overall, the Customs Service estimates that there are 100,000 Web sites worldwide that in some way are linked to child porn. Now, some sites are subscriber-based, like the site that the Reedys ran. But most of the industry is not commercial.

Individuals instead trade pictures and videos over the Internet. They access each other through chat rooms. Now, in the United States and Britain, we have to point out, it is a crime to download child porn. And, in some cases, it's a crime even if you do not download the information on to your computer, but just view the site. That's because it's considered participation in child endangerment.

And, in many cases, Connie, we are talking about very graphic stuff, pictures of children being raped, horrible acts of violence. And agents who work on these investigations day after day say that the demand here seems to be insatiable.

CHUNG: Thank you, Kelli Arena.

Still ahead: A menace from the past returns, threatening black churches as Martin Luther King Day approaches.

Stay with us.

ANNOUNCER: Still ahead: They wouldn't shoot her from the waist down because of her weight.


WILSON: It was hard, because I was fat and they were thin. And it was, like, I remember the guys not looking at me.


ANNOUNCER: The turnaround of Carnie Wilson.


WILSON: It's all about faith.


ANNOUNCER: Beating the odds -- when CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT returns.


CHUNG: Tonight, as Martin Luther King Day approaches, a chilling reminder that the cause he lived and died for has quite a long way to go. Someone -- no one knows who -- is sending messages of hate to blacks in the Kansas City area.

And, as CNN's Gary Tuchman reports, whoever it is has probably done it before.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Allen Chapel AME Church in Kansas City, Kansas, has a proud history. The congregation started in the 1780s, because black people weren't allowed to pray at the altar in their former church. The history makes what's happening now even more painful for the church pastor.

OWENS: When I pulled the postcard out and I read this, "Martin Luther King Jr. is a dead nigger," I said, uh-oh, now we got problems. So, I saw the reverse side and saw it was saying KKK. Now I said, oh, we've got a racial problem here. Someone is sending us hate mail.

TUCHMAN: The Allen Chapel is one of at least 15 black churches, organizations and businesses in the Kansas City area that have received similar hate mail.

JEFF LANZA, FBI: Bad enough that the sentiment is out there, but to put it in the form of writing and to send it to churches and businesses, that's not only disgusting; it is a federal crime, because it's a threat.

TUCHMAN: Across the state line, in Kansas City, Missouri, Reverend Janet Swift's church had a similar mail delivery.

REV. JANET SWIFT, WILLIS CHAPEL AME CHURCH: It really doesn't -- it doesn't terrorize us. It saddens us that, in 2003, we still have people who are so full of hate.

TUCHMAN: And even restaurants have received hate letters. Denise Ward is the owner of Neecee's Restaurant.

DENISE WARD, NEECEE'S RESTAURANT: It just makes you realize that racism in people that have got race issues are still out there after all these years.

TUCHMAN: The FBI says a similar slew of letters was sent before the Martin Luther King holiday two years ago, but then stopped, with nobody ever apprehended. Even as clues are examined, Pastor Virgil Owens says he tells his congregants to pray for their enemies.

OWENS: I quoted 2nd Timothy, the first chapter, the seventh verse, where it says, "For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of sound mind."

TUCHMAN: Gary Tuchman, CNN.


CHUNG: Joining me now from Kansas City are FBI Special Agent Jeff Lanza and the Reverend Ellis Robinson, president of the local NAACP, who received two of the notes. Reverend Robinson, thank you so much for being with us, and Agent Lanza.

Reverend Robinson, you received two of these -- they were actually postcards that you received at your church and at the NAACP. What did they say?

REV. ELLIS ROBINSON, PRESIDENT, KANSAS CITY NAACP: Well, they said, basically, the same things that Pastor Owens had said just a few minutes ago, something about very negative about Dr. Martin Luther King, which I don't want to repeat. And then, on the back side, it was signed from the Ku Klux Klan.

And I heard you say earlier there was about 15. Well, actually, the number is closer to 30 or maybe 40, because I've talked to quite a few of the pastors -- our pastor of First Baptist Church in Kansas City, Kansas, the historic church of our city. And, as president of NAACP, the pastors have been sending the letters to our office. And then we have, in turn, turned them over to the FBI.

CHUNG: I see.

Sir, you told our producer that you were surprised at receiving these letters, but you were not disturbed. And I must tell you, Reverend, that that surprised me.


Well, let me clarify that. No. 1, we were reluctant, really, to talk to the media, because this is nothing new. It's happened before. And it will happen again. And the reason for that is because we did not want to draw any attention and give the perpetrator the satisfaction of knowing that they were going to get this kind of press.

And then I hear, at outset of this program, that there's a boiling point. And it makes it sound like there's a racial war going on in Kansas City, when, really, there's not. And I want to add to that that Kansas City is no different than any other city in America. I've pastored four churches. And in every church I've pastored, every city, there is racism.

CHUNG: I understand what you're saying. Do you think that, in some ways, there is a conditioning to racism?

ROBINSON: Well, racism hasn't gone anywhere. I heard the word resurface, as if it went away and now has returned. Racism has always been a part of the American culture.

I hate to have to say that, but racism has been with us. It's with us now. And God does not condone racism. We don't condone racism. And so I don't know if the word conditioning is the right word. But we really need to be reminded, those of us who are older citizens, that racism has been here, is still here. And we need to teach our young people that racism is very much alive.

CHUNG: Yes, sir.

Agent Lanza, we are wondering, do you and the authorities take this seriously?

LANZA: Well, unfortunately, the numbers are changing all the time. And they rise every day. Yes, we take it very seriously. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the local police departments, and the FBI, we're not viewing this as some sort of prank. It's being viewed very seriously.

It is hate and bigotry in its purist form. And these letters contain those types of messages. And it is being viewed, at the very minimum, as harassment, based on such hate. And it may rise to the level later that's covered by our federal civil rights laws.

CHUNG: And, Agent Lanza, this isn't the first time it's happened. It was back in 2001 similar letters came.


CHUNG: Do you think it came from the same individual as the ones you're receiving now?

LANZA: Well, that would be the supposition at this point. The writings were the same. The words were the same. They were sent about the same time of the year two years ago. It certainly would point in that direction, that there's one suspect in this particular case.

CHUNG: Reverend Robinson, sadly, these letters are a reminder of what Martin Luther King worked for.

ROBINSON: Absolutely.

CHUNG: What can you tell those out there who do not really fully appreciate what African-Americans go through, that they fail to understand?

ROBINSON: I could say to them that this is validation and justification for a national holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King, because it's not really representing Dr. King, but it represents what he preached and what he taught.

And Dr. King was not the only martyr. There were white martyrs, black martyrs, Hispanic martyrs, people all across the boards, the color line, people who were Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterian. This is a people issue. And it hits to the core of humanity. And we are God's people. We represent the lord. And we believe that we are standing on right and God will stand with us.

CHUNG: All right, Reverend Robinson, thank you so much for being with us.

Special Agent Lanza, also thanks to you.

LANZA: You're welcome. CHUNG: Before we go to a break, tonight's look at "The World in: 60."


(voice-over): The Bush administration said today that time is running out for Iraq to disarm. Meanwhile, Iraqi officials are denying British reports that President Saddam Hussein was considering going into exile.

A military hearing opened in Louisiana to decide whether two U.S. Air Force pilots should be recommended for court-martial for dropping a bomb in Afghanistan that accidentally killed four Canadian soldiers last April.

President Bush said the U.S. would consider food and energy relief if North Korea abandoned its nuclear weapons program. Meanwhile, China has offered to help peace negotiations. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly arrived in Beijing to continue diplomatic talks there to end the standoff.

Rudolph Giuliani is taking a bite out of crime in Mexico City. Local business leaders are paying the former mayor of New York $4.3 million to help them crack down on violence in the Mexican capital.

It's a long, long way from Turkey and Iran to Kuwait, but flamingos are now making their annual trip. Every winter, these rare and beautiful birds flock to the Persian Gulf nation, looking for warmer weather and better food.


CHUNG: Speaking of food, stay with us to find out how Carnie Wilson beat the odds to go from a 300-pound pop music heavyweight to, well, just look at her now.

We'll be right back.


CHUNG: One thing we saw as we put together our series "Beating the Odds" was that some of the biggest challenges people face are internal challenges.

Carnie Wilson, as part of the hit singing group Wilson Phillips, may have gone to No. 1 on the charts, but the 5 foot, 3 inches singer also went up to 300 on the scale. She was so heavy, her life was in danger. Three-and-a-half years ago, she did something about it, something that worked.

And when I met her, I was blown away by her transformation. And I found out exactly how she got her life back and beat the odds.


CARNIE WILSON, SINGER: I was on a mission for sugar. I just had to have sugar. I wanted sugar. It was the one thing that made me feel good.

CHUNG (voice-over): Carnie Wilson then.

WILSON: I can have two bites of something I love and enjoy it and savor every minute of it and say, you know what? I'm done. And the fact that I can do that is the most empowering thing.

CHUNG: Carnie Wilson now, a weight loss warrior winning the battle against food. Over the past 3 1/2 years, we've watched her transform. Her husband, Rob, likens it to a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. The before-and-after pictures tell it all, a victory in a war that started when she was young, really young.

WILSON: I can remember kindergarten. I remember a little boy, Brandon (ph). And he was really mean. He was on my case a lot. And I thought, well, gosh, I know that I'm a little bigger than the other kids, but I didn't feel different.

CHUNG (on camera): Was there anyone else in your family who was fat?

WILSON: Yes. I have a lot of members of my family. Both my grandmothers were overweight. My father has been overweight and battles it. My mother battles 30, 40 pounds. And I was taught to clean my plate, eat it all, eat more, more and more, eating more is great, and eat out of emotion.

Food was my savior for a long time, but it became my enemy and what was going to kill me if I didn't get control.

CHUNG (voice-over): Since the day she was born, Carnie was close to her father, Brian Wilson, of the Beach Boys. But his life on the road had a profound impact on Carnie. In a family where food was love, eating became a way to fill the void. By third grade, Carnie weighed 110 pounds.

(on camera): You tried several times, didn't you, to lose weight?

WILSON: I've been dieting since I was 6.


WILSON: Six years old. I was at Weight Watchers camps. I was doing Lindora. I was doing the Beverly Hills diet, Dexatrim, and high-protein, low-protein, and high-fat, low-fat, everything. And it was constant failure.

And I think what happens is, when you get locked into that diet routine, your spirit just crumbles, because you are constantly failing. I was in denial about it, because, at one point, I thought, OK, you know what? I give up. I'm meant to be this way.

CHUNG: Right. Well, what's wrong with that?

WILSON: Well, my body started to fall apart. CHUNG: Literally?

WILSON: Literally.

CHUNG: What happened?

WILSON: Well, I was 31. And I started to choke in my sleep. I couldn't breathe anymore. The fat is closing your airways. You can't breathe.

I would wake up choking and my heart was racing. And I knew something was very wrong. I had never -- I always was a good sleeper, eight hours, you know, on my belly, sleeping away. And, all of the sudden, I would wake up and I would cough and my heart was racing. And this raises your blood pressure.

CHUNG: Sure.

WILSON: And you're deprived of oxygen. You are tired during the day. It's horrible.

That was the main thing that scared the daylights out of me. And, also, my cholesterol was going up. My blood pressure was high. I think I would have been diabetic within a couple of months.

CHUNG (voice-over): Yet Wilson's career was at an all-time high. The group she had formed with her sister Wendy and childhood friend Chynna Phillips was a hit. On stage, a brave face; behind the scenes, a painful life.

(on camera): You called the three of you two sticks and a fat girl. I mean, I can't imagine your actually saying that.

WILSON: It was hard back then. It was hard, because I was fat and they were thin. And it was like, I remember the guys not looking at me. The guys looked at them. And that made me sad.

CHUNG: When you were making those videos, they actually tried to hide you, didn't they, put you behind pianos?

WILSON: It was always: How do we hide Carnie? Chynna, you stand here. Wendy, you stand here. Right, I'm in front. Carnie, you stand behind them. Turn to the side. Turn one-eighth degree this way. OK, there, stop. OK, perfect. Can't see the chins.

It was really...

CHUNG: That had to be debilitating.

WILSON: Oh, it was horrible. It was horrible. It was like torture. And, mentally, I just -- I didn't know -- I just felt very lost.

CHUNG: How did you deal with it?

WILSON: I would be the first one to poke fun before you would. But I would also eat. And I would smoke marijuana. And I would numb out.

CHUNG (voice-over): The pounds piled on. Pop stardom was hard for all the girls to deal with. After their second album, Wilson Phillips broke up.

Carnie hit rock bottom, as her weight peaked at 300 pounds. She was now morbidly obese, a life-threatening medical condition. She could barely walk, had developed asthma. And half her face was paralyzed from Bell's palsy.

WILSON: I think that was a way of God saying: Stop. Freeze frame, literally, and look at your life. Look at what you're doing to yourself. Look at what you're denying yourself.

CHUNG (on camera): A life.


CHUNG (voice-over): Carnie made the drastic decision to have gastric-bypass surgery. Doctors stapled her stomach down to the size of her thumb. It would stretch to the size of a lemon. She had lived her life publicly and decided the surgery wouldn't be the exception. It was televised live on the Internet. An estimated 2.5 million people watched.

WILSON: It was a scary thing. It was a scary thing, because, obviously, I could have died on the table. I mean, I took a risk.

CHUNG (on camera): And the risks were great, weren't they?

WILSON: The risks of being morbidly obese are way worse than the risks of surgery. There was a possible risk for infection, a leakage, a bowel leakage. But I had the best surgeon. I knew that I was in good hands.

CHUNG: Did you realize that you were going to have to alter your entire way of eating and your lifestyle?

WILSON: Absolutely.

When people stop me on the street and they say, oh, God I want to do that surgery, too, the first thing I ask them is, are you ready to change your lifestyle? And they go, well, what do you mean? I'm going to have the surgery and it is going to be great. I'm going to have a small stomach and I'm going to eat less and I'm going to lose weight and it is going to be great.

And I say, well, yes, that will happen. But are you willing to commit to your health? Because you have to take vitamins every day. And you have to drink more water. And you have to keep up your exercise. And you can't snack.

CHUNG: When I read about what you have to do, I feel as if you're really depriving yourself.

WILSON: I have never felt deprived. I eat everything. I focus on protein. When I sit down to have breakfast -- like today, the hotel, I was going to do this interview with you. I said I'm going to have a nice healthy breakfast. I ordered an omelet with American cheese and mushrooms. I ate half the omelet and three bites of fruit, two cups of coffee, two little cups of coffee.

I was full and satisfied, totally full and satisfied.

CHUNG (voice-over): It's not just how she eats, but what she eats. Too much sugar or fried food and Carnie feels rotten.

WILSON: You feel awful. You lay down. Your nose is running. Your heart is beating. You're nauseous. You feel anxious, like you have the flu. You're tired. You might fall asleep for a half-hour. This is called dumping. And this is something I prayed for. I prayed for it to happen, because this is the way that I don't eat bad food.

CHUNG: She's lost 155 pounds and still wants to lose 15 more. But, with her war against food under control, just this summer, Carnie faced some new enemies, believe it or not, her new body.

WILSON: I would say about 50 percent of gastric-bypass patients have excess skin removed. You're losing weight very quickly. So, chances are you are going to have some hanging skin.

CHUNG (on camera): You literally mean hanging skin.

WILSON: Hanging. Hanging. Oh, yes, like lay in the bathtub and watch it float to the top and play with it, like you're playing with Jello.

CHUNG: Oh, no.

WILSON: Oh, yes. It was intense. Actually, It was vile. It was vile. That was so weird to me, it was -- it was like a mental thing, like, this was filled once and now it's wrinkly. And it made me feel old. I would look in the mirror and I would be like, my stomach looks like a 90-year-old woman.

I had a tummy tuck, yes, and a breast lift. And it was the best thing I ever did. It was like shedding the skin, you know? It was like just emerging out of that old skin.

CHUNG (voice-over): With Carnie throughout it all, her husband of 2 1/2 years, musician Rob Bonfiglio. They met five months before her surgery, when Carnie's weight was at an all-time high.

(on camera): Some people say husbands become more insecure when their wives are looking really good and other men are staring at them. Did this happen to your husband?

WILSON: I don't think it did. I kind of like it when he notices a man looking at me, because he kind of grabs my hand a little tighter. I kind of like that.

CHUNG: Is there anything about the new Carnie Wilson that, actually, you don't like? WILSON: Yes. I still have issues with self-esteem and being self-critical, still. And it's weird, because, sometimes, if I'm looking in the mirror getting dressed, I still think, wow, I really look so different. I must be different. I must be something else now. But I'm not.

CHUNG (voice-over): She's the same Carnie, but with more energy. She's thinking about having children, while, at the same time, recording a new album with Wilson Phillips and writing a book and lecturing across the country.

WILSON: What I've learned is that you're not going to get anywhere unless you put the effort into it. Whatever you give, you'll get. And I was thinking, there are people that work really hard and don't get that promotion. And they work really hard to get pregnant and they can't get pregnant.

But you're going to fill yourself up in other ways. There's always ways -- there are ways to help yourself. And you've got to be positive in life, you know?

CHUNG (on camera): Oh, yes.

WILSON: You just have to.

CHUNG: You are so right.

WILSON: You have to believe.

CHUNG: All I have to do is call you up.


WILSON: A little pep talk.

CHUNG: And you'll give me the positive answer, won't you?


CHUNG: I can tell.

WILSON: It's all about faith. I think success is faith.


CHUNG: Of course, having money to afford the surgery helps. Gastric bypasses tend to cost at least $10,000.

We should tell you that Carnie Wilson is a spokesperson for and is paid to talk about her own gastric-bypass surgery. The Web site is sponsored by several health-related companies.

And with millions of Americans dangerously obese, the waiting list for gastric-bypass surgery is growing. Now, just how big is the demand? Well, we'll find out from a doctor performing one hottest operations in the country in just a moment.

Tomorrow: She lost her hearing as a child. Now you'll meet Heather Whitestone, Miss America 1995, and hear how she beat the odds so she could hear the sounds of her sons' voices.

ANNOUNCER: Next, Carnie Wilson did it. Al Roker did, too. What about you? Would you be willing to go under the knife to lose weight? You are not alone. We'll meet a doctor who performs the surgery -- when CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT continues.


CHUNG: Carnie Wilson is hardly the only American to fight the battle of the bulge by going under the knife. Wilson isn't even the only celebrity to do so. She says she got the idea after Roseanne did it. And television weatherman Al Roker has had the operation as well.

From 2000 to 2001, the number of operations almost doubled to 62,000. And that means the only thing growing faster than American waistlines is the line of people waiting to have the surgery.

Dr. Michael Tarnoff of Tufts New England Medical Center performs the operation and joins us tonight from Boston.

Dr. Tarnoff, thank you for joining us.


CHUNG: Who qualifies for this surgery?

TARNOFF: In 1991, the National Institutes of Health determined that patients be a minimum of about 100 pounds above their ideal body weight before they qualify for obesity surgery of any kind.

CHUNG: Now, as I understand it, there is such a great demand at your hospital that you actually had to close down your program for six months to catch up. Why do you think it's so popular?

TARNOFF: Well, obesity is growing at epidemic proportions and probably is one of the No. 1 health issues facing the country and really the world.

The reasons for that are numerous. Clearly, there are genetic components that occur in select patients. There are environmental factors, if you just look around, the fast-food industry marketing, the fact that, as you go through your neighborhood grocery store, it's more cost-effective to eat unhealthy food than to eat healthy.

CHUNG: But don't you think it's because all these celebrities are getting the operation and so people seem to think that it's an easy way to lose weight?

TARNOFF: Well, I think that's done a lot to increase public awareness and clearly has raised the demand. But probably equally important is the fact that not only has the health community embraced this, but the public has begun to realize that the risks associated with obesity, both in terms of poor quality of life, as well as poor health and even an early death really outweigh any of the risks associated with surgery, although those risks are also significant.

CHUNG: Well, in talking to Carnie Wilson, I must tell you that I was surprised at what she had to do with her life after she had the operation. And I'm not sure everyone fully appreciates that.

TARNOFF: No, I think that's an excellent point and probably a very important thing for people to understand.

This is clearly not the easy way out. And that's a very common criticism that my patients receive. This requires lifestyle change. It's far from being as simple as showing up and having an operation. Without proper control over diet and behavioral issues, de-emphasizing the importance of food in one's daily existence, the best technical operation in the world is doomed to fail.

And about 25 percent of patients will regain weight to some extent in the long term if they're not managed in appropriate programs, with good follow-up, and if they don't make and take responsibility for themselves to really make this work. Gastric bypass is a tool. And it's really something that, in fact, levels the playing field for lot of these patients to help them not only lose weight, but maintain durable weight loss.

CHUNG: So, people can actually regain the weight that they lost?

TARNOFF: Yes. That's a very significant factor and also something that many people don't realize.

CHUNG: But that's shocking, because isn't the stomach shrunk to the size of an egg or whatever?

TARNOFF: Yes. Yes.

CHUNG: I can't imagine that they could actually regain hundreds of pounds.


It's surprising and it's a little-known fact. But it's actually very significant and very true. And we make a huge point in our program and in the people that we train to go out and do this operation to really provide good long-term follow-up and form a lifelong relationship with these patients, because it is possible, through overeating and overindulgence, to literally stretch the pouch of the small stomach that we make and allow it to accommodate a more normal-sized meal, which really can then lead to recurrent issues with weight problems.

CHUNG: Dr. Tarnoff, I also know that there aren't any standards and we all have to be very careful about who we would go to.

Thank you so much for being with us. We appreciate it.

TARNOFF: Thank you.

CHUNG: Coming up next: an even more impressive operation with more dramatic results. The Guatemalan twins are back home, five months after surgery to separate them.


CHUNG: After seven months away from home, the twins are back in Guatemala.

The little Marias, as the Alvarez girls are called, returned to Guatemala last night, after the successful surgery separated them. They had been born conjoined at the head. The 17-month-old girls will stay in a Guatemalan hospital for a few days before moving into a new home built for them by a private pediatric foundation.

Traveling with the twins to Guatemala City to help with the transition are Dr. Jorge Lazareff, the lead surgeon from last year's operation at UCLA's Mattel Children's Hospital and nurse Clarice Marsh.

Thank you both for being with us.

Nurse Marsh, how are the girls doing?

CLARICE MARSH, PEDIATRIC NURSE: Oh, they're doing great. They're making their transition home really smoothly.

CHUNG: It must have been so emotional at the airport.

MARSH: Oh, absolutely. The whole trip has been very emotional for everybody involved.

I have to say, the family was so happy to see their family back here and see their grandchildren, after not seeing them for seven months. It was a very, very wonderful experience.

CHUNG: Dr. Lazareff, the last time we talked, I remember one twin was a little bit behind the other twin. Are they moving at the same speed now?

DR. JORGE LAZAREFF, PEDIATRIC NEUROSURGEON: They are improving, certainly, but roughly, more or less, at the same speed.

Those two girls were actually accustomed to roll along their axis for 12 months. So, their brains have to relearn a set of sensory inputs that are daily acquired by them by being able now to sit down and look straight to the direction. So this relearning process is going to be a lengthy one, but every day, we will see signs that she certainly will, actually. It makes them feel very, very hopeful.

CHUNG: Nurse Marsh, before, when they were conjoined, they obviously couldn't see each other. But now they can. Do you see them relating to one another?

MARSH: Yes. Definitely. Maria Theresa and Maria de Jesus, as much as possible, they love to be together, is the best way to put it. And they play with each other.

CHUNG: Are they eating normal solid food? Are they back to normal the way any child might be at a year and a half?

MARSH: They're still taking some formula. And, yes, they are taking some table food.

CHUNG: Dr. Lazareff, what kind of guidance have you given the doctors there in Guatemala?

LAZAREFF: The more important guidance for them was to just let them be themselves, that they shouldn't have a set standard of expectations. By not having expectations, they actually will be gratified daily by their daily progress. We never expected them to be so well as they are now. And that's why we are actually -- so, my main guidance for them is just enjoy and to rejoice of the things that you'll be seeing daily, as well as they're doing.

CHUNG: All right, Dr. Lazareff and Clarice Marsh, I thank you so much for being with us. And I know you are going to miss them when you have to leave Guatemala.

Right now, tonight's "Snapshot" begins with bad news for thousands of Kmart shoppers and even worse news for thousands of Kmart workers.


(voice-over): Kmart is shutting down 326 stores. More than 30,000 employees in 44 states will lose their jobs. It's the biggest round of closings since the retail chain went bankrupt almost most a year ago. But Kmart says it will emerge from bankruptcy by April 30.

The next "Survivor" series will feature two firsts. In "Survivor: The Amazon," premiering next month on CBS, an all-male tribe competes against an all-female tribe. And one of the female players is deaf.

Sixty-seven-year-old opera maestro Luciano Pavarotti and his 33- year-old companion have a new baby girl. But hospital officials in Italy say the girl's twin brother died in the womb.

Some Texans are sporting a lot more permanent body art. A weekend tattoo convention in Austin drew artists from as far away as Japan.

And more kudos for the King. A panel of music journalists commissioned by Britain's "Q" magazine has voted Elvis Presley's 1954 recording "That's All Right" the song that did most to change the world.


ANNOUNCER: Still ahead: our "Person of the Day," a tall order -- when CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT returns.


CHUNG: We're not alone in our choice tonight. Anywhere up to a billion people might well agree with our choice for tonight's "Person of the Day.": 7 foot, 6 inch Yao Ming plays center for the NBA's Houston Rockets. It's his first year of pro basketball in the states, after getting permission to leave his league in China.

Fans are now choosing the players for the upcoming NBA All-Star Game by voting on the Internet. And Chinese voters have been logging on to to vote for Yao as the starting center. Yao is leading Los Angeles Lakers superstar Shaquille O'Neal by a margin of 4-3. Oh, Shaq.

None of that is enough is enough to make Yao our "Person of the Day," though. But "The New York Times" reports that U.S. voters are favoring Yao just as much as the Chinese voters are. So, that makes the U.S. fans admirably open-minded. And it makes Yao Ming our "Person of the Day."

Tomorrow, meet the author who says there's a new crisis of infidelity and it's on the job. Oh, my goodness. Here?

Coming up next on "LARRY KING LIVE": "60 Minutes" correspondents Ed Bradley and Steve Kroft.

Thank you for joining us. And for all of us at CNN, good night and see you tomorrow.



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