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Interview With Dr. Laura Schlessinger

Aired January 16, 2003 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight exclusive, Dr. Laura speaks. The conservative radio host, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, in her first and only interview since her mother's mysterious death.
Her mother, Yolanda Schlessinger's body was found last month apparently murdered. The tabloids had a field day saying Dr. Laura didn't even know her own mother and had been dead for weeks. She'll give us her answers.

Dr. Laura for the hour with your phone calls next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Always a great pleasure to welcome Dr. Laura to these shores, these cameras. She is the syndicated radio host. her web site reporting more than 315 stations. She's a "New York Times" best selling author. Indeed, her latest book "Ten Stupid Things Couples Do To Mess Up Their Relationships" is now out in trade paperback. And there you see its cover.

First thing's first though. Police found the badly decomposed body of Yolanda Schlessinger in her Beverly Hills condo on December 16. Authorities later said she'd been dead for a substantial period of time. Yolanda was an Italian war bride who married Monroe Schlessinger in 1946. They were divorced 31 years later. And the Beverly Hills police told this program that the case is being treated as a homicide.

Tell us what you wish. What happened?

DR. LAURA SCHLESSINGER, SYNDICATED RADIO HOST: Well, one day, as I expected I would hear one day that she passed on. I just didn't quite expect it under these conditions. I get a phone call from Beverly Hills Police Department and the officers were very nice. They wanted to come and talk to me.

KING: Didn't say what it was?

SCHLESSINGER: About what? I don't know. I'm normal with everybody else. I don't like tell me later.

And so I said, well, unless I know what this is about -- I didn't even know if this was a fake call -- unless I know what this is about, I'm not going to make an appointment. Because I didn't even know if it was truly the police department at that point. You don't know when you get calls sometimes. So he said my mother had been found and it was their opinion that it was a homicide. And I said, That can't be possible. That's a leap I could not make, an idea I could not get my brain around. Then the police came and spoke to me in person about it. And she had been dead for months.

KING: How do you explain that?

SCHLESSINGER: When you live in a condo complex with people next door, I don't know how you can be dead for four months without anybody noticing you not coming and going.

KING: Why did they say it was a homicide? What evidence tells them that it was foul play?

SCHLESSINGER: That -- that's something -- that's something I'm not supposed to talk about. And it's also not something they have given me much information. They said where and how her body was found and whatever was happening in that room, it was clear.

KING: Are they investigating, questioning the building people?

SCHLESSINGER: I assume they're doing all of that. I talked to one of the police officers a number of times. And I realized, I can't keep bugging these people. They're trying to do their job.

KING: Are you shocked at the way the news media treated it?

SCHLESSINGER: Well, I think most of the media was fair about it. And the ones who weren't fair, who used it for some other agenda corrected it, most notably "The New York Times" and NBC.

KING: They were unfair at first?

SCHLESSINGER: Yes. I mean, this is -- that my mother and I were estranged is not news to my audience. You and I had discussed that at one time.

KING: Many times.

SCHLESSINGER: So it wasn't news.

In the years that my mother was alive, though, I very much honored her privacy, so I would not discuss what the problems were. I did not want to embarrass her in any way. So, of course...

KING: But it hurt you because you do a show advising people -- you talk about family a lot, togetherness a lot, the structure of the American family.


KING: So it seemed, when you don't explain it, hypocritical.

SCHLESSINGER: Well, you know, I just even find that funny. And I'll tell you why. If I didn't have a good relationship with my mother, for whatever the reasons were, whatever anybody could imagine, that I was espousing that people be kind to their children, committed to each other so they can provide their children with a proper environment to grow and nurture in development.

When I tell adults that the Fifth Commandment obligates them to certain things, that I was not able to have that in my own life was a tragedy. But certainly supporting all of these things is a positive thing.

KING: But it hurts when the minister in the choir girl story -- do as I say not as I do.

SCHLESSINGER: Well, if I wasn't doing, telling other people to do it is still a good thing.

Unfortunately I didn't have the option. My mother -- again, I'm not really wanting to say too much because I'm still honoring her privacy. But my mother's life was pretty much one of disconnection.

Her mother died when she was pretty young. Her sister was a great hero, and joined the underground -- this was in Italy during the war -- and joined the underground to fight Nazi Germany and was set up against a firing squad the day she joined the underground. So she lost her sister.

And this is in Italy. And the Italian family, the sons are like everything. And so there was doting on her brother and she felt from a very early age that she wasn't very important.

She came to this country marrying my dad as a war bride. My father's family was by and large pretty cruel to her and because she wasn't a nice Jewish girl from Brooklyn. And they were pretty cruel to her. And she didn't have anybody else here.

KING: Are you an only child?

SCHLESSINGER: No. I have a sister 11 years younger with whom my mother was also estranged. Throughout our whole lives she did not make friends. She did not engage...

KING: She was an angry person?

SCHLESSINGER: I wouldn't say angry. She was just very contained within herself.

KING: Is it an event that caused her to be estranged from you?

SCHLESSINGER: Well, the actual event was quite astonishing to me. After my parents divorced, I felt very responsible for taking care of her. So I had her -- you know, I have not discussed this in public. So I find myself getting a little upset.

So I had her working in my office answering phones, my counseling clinic, and paid her. To take care of her. I just felt compelled.

And after a couple of years I started to grow in the things that I was doing and I needed somebody to type. I asked her, I said, I'll pay for a typing course, would you be willing to take a typing course? And she said she wasn't. And I said, I really need you to type. And she said, Well then you'll have to get somebody else. Took her stuff and left.

And wouldn't have anything to do with me any more. And I got married and I had a child and...

KING: Didn't know her grandson.

SCHLESSINGER: Didn't care to know her grandson.

KING: What broke away from your sister?

SCHLESSINGER: My sister is not a public person, so I don't think it's right to discuss her. But...

KING: You and your sister get along?

SCHLESSINGER: As I said, I am leaving my sister completely -- we have an agreement. We don't talk.

But, you know, my mother didn't have friends and she didn't make connections...

KING: Sad.

SCHLESSINGER: Yes. But, you know, I'm thinking, I don't know that she was sad. I think she was -- I'd be sad.

KING: Bitter?

SCHLESSINGER: About -- she said choices to...

KING: I mean her sister faced a firing squad. Her mother's -- husband's family doesn't accept her.

SCHLESSINGER: Yes, and I think having the difficulties that I have had with family and parents, I think that is one of the important things that my audience respects. Because they've seen that I have come from a very difficult family circumstance, with abandonment and rejection and all of that and more chaos that's not to be, and I have built a good life.

I am married. I am a mom. I'm not cynical. I'm not crass about it. I'm positive about it. I'm happy. I'm so grateful that I have the family and the friends and...

KING: Let's do something in a minute.

SCHLESSINGER: Good. Do you have a tissue while we do it?

KING: Yes, let me give you a tissue.

What we're going to do is, if you called into your show in your dilemma is dealing with the grief over this, what would you say? We'll come right back with Dr. Laura Schlessinger. Don't go away.


KING: By the way, we will be taking phone calls. Today is Dr. Schlessinger's birthday. Very happy birthday to you.


KING: And tomorrow night, Dan Rather will be with us. We're going to tape the program tomorrow morning. Dan is in Iraq. We'll play it tomorrow night. And we head tomorrow to Palm Springs to emcee the dinner honoring the 20th anniversary of Betty Ford Center. All the first ladies will be there.


KING: It should be something.

All right, Dr. Schlessinger the phone call comes in and it's a lady named Laura, and she's dealing with grief over the fact that her mother has just been killed. Headlines are written about this. She was estranged. How does she deal with this?

SCHLESSINGER: Well what's her question exactly?

KING: How do I deal with grief? And is it -- what kind of grief is it? I don't even know what my own grief is it.

SCHLESSINGER: That's the important question. My grief was two decades ago. I lost my mother two decades ago. This added an element of horror that's unbelievable to think that somebody -- I can't even use the words -- would kill her.

KING: Kill your mother. All right, so you're having a tough time.

All right. I'm Dr. Laura. So you're having a tough time dealing with this. What would you do?

SCHLESSINGER: But what I tell people -- I have been dealing with this kind of question for years. And I have felt eminently qualified to help people with it, because what I tell them is that there are two opportunities you have, that God gives us, to have a good parent-child relationship.

The first time is as a child. And we don't have a lot of control over that.

The second time is as an adult, when we create our own lives, our own families and our own children. And if we feel an entitlement to do wrong or to, you know, suck people dry because of what we didn't have, then we're not using our experience well. And I try to remind people that as much pain as they're going through, they have the opportunity to build joy and something loving and tender and wonderful with the families they create and honor and nurture today.

I didn't have the opportunity to share a lot of things an adult woman would like to share with her mom, but I'm sure going to be available to my daughter-in-law.

KING: So how does that make...

SCHLESSINGER: When I get one -- she's only 17.

KING: How does that make you feel?


KING: Yes.

SCHLESSINGER: There's a finality to the fact that I can never now for sure -- I mean, there was always, you know, maybe she'll come around. Maybe she'll open up her world. There's no more opportunity.

KING: Did you ever think any guilt at all involved that maybe you could have opened the world? Maybe you could have gone over there?

SCHLESSINGER: I made those -- I made those attempts.

KING: You did?

SCHLESSINGER: I made those attempts. The last one was somebody who knew her when she first came to this country with my dad had sent me wonderful photographs. Well, you know, she was divorced and everything. But they were photographs of her with my dad, and really pretty photographs.

And I communicated that I had these, did you want them? No contact. I don't want the pictures. I have no guilt.

KING: Is your dad living?

SCHLESSINGER: He died eight years ago.

KING: Were you close to him?


KING: So how would you describe what you're going through? Is it grief? Is it that anger at the way some of the tabloids treated it? Is it all of the above?

SCHLESSINGER: I had the grief.

KING: Twenty years ago.

SCHLESSINGER: I already had the grief. I know that sounds odd. But she was gone ,as though she were not here.

When I had the services for her last Friday... KING: You did have the services?

SCHLESSINGER: ...I got a Catholic priest to officiate. Now, my mother had been born Italian Catholic but in the 57 years she was in this country, she did not practice Catholicism, but somehow I thought that was the right thing to do. And it was for me because the priest was so wonderful.

He did some stuff in Latin. He did some stuff in Italian. And I didn't follow any of that. And then he knew something of what had happened. And he said, You know, we don't always know what happens in the heart of a person that tightens parts of them that should be open. And we suffer from when that happens to somebody we want to be close to. And he said, But, you need to forgive your mother because she gave birth to you and look at all the things you're trying to do with your life. We need to honor her for that creation to give you the opportunity to do the things...

Well, I was -- I was moved beyond repair and very grateful that he found a context that helped me heal something.

KING: You're a strong supporter of the Ten Commandments. Talk about it on this show. One of those Commandments is honor thy mother and thy father.

Is this the way you honor your mother?

SCHLESSINGER: Well, I got letters from fans -- I got my own stash here, who have been very loving and supportive. I've got tons of mail going, Oh my gosh, I have experienced the same thing. I want to be close to my mother. I want to be close to my dad. They won't have it. And, you know, learning something from me of how to deal with that kind of loss and still have a very good life.

Loss does not mean the rest of your life is lost. That's up to you. But, you know, that said, that the good that you do is the honor you give your mother even though she could not be a part of it and she could not enjoy it.

KING: Did you go on the air right away?

SCHLESSINGER: I waited until that Friday.

KING: The death was on a when? I mean, when were you informed?

SCHLESSINGER: Four months before I was informed. I think it was about five days. I wanted to get through the week. I did not want my program -- you know, I'm very committed to what I do. And I didn't want to use my program for my benefit. I wanted to be as helpful as I could to the audience. And on Friday, at the last few minutes, of the show I made the statement. I made the announcement. I said something about what had happened. I...

KING: Wasn't it tough to do the show?

SCHLESSINGER: ...Oh, and then the show was over and then it was Friday and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and I took a week and a half because I knew I couldn't work.

KING: Now about the reaction of the tabloids, who had a fierce day with you.

How did that hit you in the midst of all of this and did you say as some do, this goes with the territory?

SCHLESSINGER: I think to some extent it goes with the territory. I think to another extent it was viciously, vilely cruel and ugly to use the occasion of somebody's mother being murdered to try to make them look bad; to further an agenda. I just think that's pretty disgusting.

But by and large that was not what the media did. The media was reasonably responsible, I thought. There was a flurry -- the police department said you cannot have her body for burial until you get a call from the coroner's office or our office. I said, OK. Well, you call me. Because they were doing extensive work and then they decided to do chemical work on top of that. I don't know all that they were doing.

And so I waited, waited, waited. And then, one morning ,I get a call from the police detective in charge who says, I'm watching television and I'm watching NBC and I heard that you're an uncaring daughter because you haven't collected your mother's body. He goes, What is that? And I said, Welcome to my world.

And in the morning I called the coroner's office and said, Hello? I've been waiting for the call. And we had a discussion about talking to the media and all of that. And I said, You know, you were able to talk to "People" magazine and not me?

KING: When did they release the body?

SCHLESSINGER: Then -- that afternoon I had the body taken to Forest Lawn. As soon as I -- to use that -- I just -- I don't understand how small some people can be and actually get paid for doing it.

KING: Didn't check with you?

SCHLESSINGER: Of course not.

KING: Dr. Laura Schlessinger's the guest. We'll be right back. We're going to include your phone calls. Don't go away.


KING: We're back with Dr. Laura Schlesinger. By the way, her book, which was a best seller in hard cover, is now in trade paper back. "Ten Stupid Things Couples Do To Mess Up Their Relationships."

We are going to include your calls. That's part of Dr. Laura?

Tacoma, Washington, on right here. Go. Hello.


KING: Tacoma, go ahead.

CALLER: Thank you.

Dr. Laura, how did you explain the estrangement to your son?

SCHLESSINGER: I told him the truth. More than, of course, I'm revealing here because, as I said, I'm doing best to respect the realities of -- I'm doing the best to speak about the realities while still being respectful of my mother. Inside my home, I laid out the truth. When I talk on the air about how parents should deal with their children about difficult grandmas or grandpas or uncles or cousins or whoever, I always tell them within the context of what's age appropriate. You need to tell them the truth. I didn't want my boy to think, quote, he was being rejected, you know.

KING: Highpoint, North Carolina, hello.

CALLER: Hello there, doctor.


CALLER: Wanted to ask you a question about how you balance your home life and at the same time balancing your career.

SCHLESSINGER: I don't balance. I make really intense choices. I work on the air from noon to 3:00. And my family has always been my first and foremost obligation, responsibility, joy and love. So I don't balance. I will not do career things in order to do family things. I have always been that way. My son, I think, has flourished because as far as he knows, I'm just his mom around all the time nagging him. It's not like he has to watch Larry King to only see his mother.

KING: Alta Toma, California, hello.

CALLER: Alta Loma?

KING: Yes. Go ahead.

CALLER: Hi, Dr. Laura. My question is, I lost my father when I was 23 years old. And my heart goes out to you, because my mother gives so much love to me and my children, it's just incredible. I'm so lucky to have her. And my question is, the rest of my family, they have pretty much rejected my husband. And it really hurts me. I'm not sure how to go on.

SCHLESSINGER: Why have they rejected your husband? What's that about?

CALLER: Why have they rejected him? They've been very judgmental on the background he came from. And it's just very, very hard for me. I don't know how to go on sometimes.

SCHLESSINGER: Has your mother done that? CALLER: No. My mother love mess and she accepts him.

SCHLESSINGER: There's the oasis. What I always say is, don't be eating the sand. Stay put in the oasis and drink from that. Because there's always going to be negative, ugly, back-biting, jealous selfish, people, oh my gosh with their own problems. And if you try to embrace that more tightly than you embrace the oasis, you're going to be parched. My recommendation in these cases is, you know, you've got to push aside that which is going to be destructive or dangerous to your family and bless you that you have a wonderful mother.

KING: Windsor, Missouri, hello.

CALLER: Yes, for Dr. Laura, I'd like to ask her how she's dealing with her grief with her mother. And also since I lost my wife almost two years ago, and I was wondering through her experience with other people on her radio show how she -- what has she heard how long it takes to go through this grief period.

KING: I guess that's the hardest thing. There's no...

SCHLESSINGER: There's no time period.

KING: No book on it.

SCHLESSINGER: There's always a hole in your heart for the person you loved and missed. And I call that a bittersweet experience. Think about it. It's a horrible thing to have the pain of missing and longing and grief for somebody. On the other hand, how wonderful it is that you loved her so much that the loss of her causes this pain. So I try to have people remember what was so wonderful and also I suggest to them that they be finding ways and places to give out love. There's nothing that fills you up more than giving love.

KING: Grief is selfish, isn't it? I mean, you're unhappy for yourself. That person is in a better place supposedly, right?

SCHLESSINGER: I wouldn't call it selfish. But it is meaning that...

KING: That person...

SCHLESSINGER: There's a big hole in me now that isn't taken up with that person. But the way I know to fill that hole is two part. And one part is to dwell on what was lovely, not on that I don't have it. But on what was lovely. And, two, to find an outlet for loving, whether it's taking -- doing charity work and taking care of kids or working in an old age home, whatever it is. When you put yourself out to love, that helps you with the love you're missing.

KING: Back with more of Dr. Laura Schlessinger and more of your phone calls, right after this.


KING: We're back with Dr. Laura. Her book "Ten Stupid Things Couples Do To Mess Up Their Relationships" is now out in trade paperback. She's, of course, the nationally syndicated radio host.

Before we get back to the calls, we were discussing something during the break as dealing with grief, that the toughest loss has to be the loss of a child. And I asked you why so many couples after they lose a child seem to break up.

SCHLESSINGER: I think there are a lot of reasons. When I was in private practice as a marriage and family therapist I, sadly, had counseled a lot of people for whom this had been the case. And one thing I can tell you is they never get over it. It's not the order of things. And a parent is too protective...


KING: ... it could be 50 years later (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

SCHLESSINGER: Yes, yes, it's always with you. I mean you lose a parent, it's the order of things. When you lose a child it's completely disruptive.

And I think sometimes the reason they separate is every time they look at each other, they're confronted with the pain. The other person's pain, the memories. And some people can't handle that and they leave.

Other people, pain is so great and they want the other person to fix it. When they can't, they take out their grief on the other person and get destructive about the marriage. It's just so horrible.

And without a lot of therapy and, I think, spiritual counseling from religious priest, a minister, a rabbi, it's hard for a lot of people to get through that. They want to blame each other because they have no place else. What are you going to do, yell at God?

KING: Laura, do you think your pain is greater because it was a murder? Does that make it different than if she had died naturally?

SCHLESSINGER: My pain is like this vegetable soup. There's so much stuff in there. I have done...

KING: But to know the end was horrible.

SCHLESSINGER: I have done without a mother. That's a tremendous lot of pain. To have her be alive and -- but to do without a mother.

The horror and the unimaginable horror that something like this could happen and nobody has a clue because there was nobody in her life. Nobody has any ideas about anything is just, to me, awful.

KING: Atlantic City...

SCHLESSINGER: I don't even know how to say it. There are no words.

KING: Atlantic City, New Jersey, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Dr. Laura. Happy birthday.


CALLER: And I'm so sorry for your loss. I lost my dad in 1996. We had a difficult relationship all of my life. Sometimes I think it's harder to lose a parent that you really don't get along with because you feel like you'll never have another chance. But I know I'll have another chance because I do believe in God and I just wanted to ask, I respect your belief in god and that you always stand up for your Jewish faith.

KING: What's the question?

CALLER: My question is, do you feel that the fact that this country has declined so much in terms of taking care of their children and alleviating the responsibility to other people, do you think that's in direct proportion to the country's falling away from God and the spiritual beliefs?

SCHLESSINGER: I think you're right on. I'll tell you why. When you look -- Larry mentioned the Ten Commandments. When you look at the Ten Commandments the first four have to do, if I could be so bold, relationship between the person and God.

The fifth one is about the parents. After that it's about how everybody relates to each other. And think about that. Why are the parents thing stuck in the middle of that?

And the reason for that is that when a child is born, it is a three-part act, actually. The husband, the wife and God. And when the child is grown and nurtured the awareness and bonding and relationship with God comes through the relationship and authority with the parents. When that's healthy and positive and good, children easily move on to the authority of God and godliness and righteousness.

And I think when parents are not around day cares, nannies and baby sitters are not going to do this as well as Mommy and Daddy all praying together. So I think you have one of the keys there. I would agree.

KING: What do you make of the Osbornes? Dan Quayle kind of complimented them in a back handed way when they said they're an intact family and Ozzy may be an anti-drug message.

SCHLESSINGER: You're not going to believe me, but I have to tell you I'm totally ignorant. I've never seen the show.

KING: Never seen the show. But you know about them, right?

SCHLESSINGER: Barely. They look weird, act weird. Yes. And use a lot of bad words. That's all I know.

KING: Can't you look weird, act weird, use a lot of bad words and still be a happy family? Is that a requirement that you have to... SCHLESSINGER: I have no idea.

KING: Do you think you can?

SCHLESSINGER: I guess so, yes.

KING: Las Vegas, Nevada. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Dr. Laura. My condolences for your loss.


CALLER: I listen every day, but I'm probably your worst nightmare because I'm divorced twice and both of my children are from different fathers. One father is very involved. The other father's totally out of the picture. And now my little one has an imaginary friend who's a dad. I am never going to date until my children are grown so I don't know how to tell her she's never going to have a dad. I don't have any male influences. My father is deceased. I don't know where to go with this or what to tell her.

KING: Can I ask one question before Laura responds? Why are you never going to date?

CALLER: Because I listen to Dr. Laura every day...

KING: And Laura says don't date.

CALLER: ... I'm never doing the step-family thing again.

KING: So you're a zombie. What Laura says, you do.


CALLER: Now I do.

SCHLESSINGER: Let me ask you something about your first husband. He's a nice man. How come you divorced him if he's a nice man, takes care of his kid?

CALLER: My little one's listening right now, but it's one of the three reasons why you say we can...

SCHLESSINGER: Got it. I'll tell you later.

CALLER: But he's a good father.

SCHLESSINGER: But he's a good father?

CALLER: Yes, excellent father.

SCHLESSINGER: You know what? I would be tempted, were I you, to sit with him and go, I have this problem. Would you be willing to help?

CALLER: Right. And I think he would. SCHLESSINGER: Well then we got a good male role model and loving, quote, "surrogate father". The siblings will be together dealing with this one guy. Frankly, I think that would be a godsend.

CALLER: OK. Thank you very much.

SCHLESSINGER: You're welcome.

KING: Why do you like all day, or most of your three hours of your day, listening to problems?

SCHLESSINGER: Because these are people searching to make their own worlds, their lives, better. And I respect that. So I see it as a very positive thing, not as a negative thing.

KING: What do you think of Dr. Phil?

SCHLESSINGER: You asked me that before. I don't watch daytime television.

KING: When did I ask you about that?

SCHLESSINGER: Last time I was here. I still don't watch daytime TV. Sorry.

KING: Toronto, hello.

CALLER: Hello, Larry and Dr. Laura.


CALLER: Hi. I just love and respect you and your work and you know doesn't matter what your critics say, I still love you and love your work.


CALLER: Now, Dr. Laura, I have almost a similar case like you had with your mother, with my sister, who lives in Philadelphia. And I have tried to reach out to her but no -- to no avail.

And I don't know -- what do you think? Do you think it's a write off or what? Because she's just with her family. I have no brothers. She's my only sister. And she just will not answer or -- I phone her and no matter what I do, no response, nothing.

SCHLESSINGER: I think you have to come to the point of realizing -- you asked about writing her off. She's written you off. And you need to make a life that has bonding and connection and joy and positiveness and beauty in spite of that.

See, that's the hook. Life gives us a tremendous number of challenges, some uglier than others, some easier than others. And it's the people who have good lives are not the people for whom that doesn't happen. It's the people who decide that in spite of these impediments, I have something to do, be and give. And if you stay focused on that, you will stop pounding on a wall hoping it turns into a door. If you let her know that your door is open should she change your her mind, then you've done your part.

KING: All you can do is all you can do.


KING: By the way, in the book "Ten Stupid Things Couples Do To Mess Up Their Relationships" now in trade paperback, the ten of them are stupid secrets, stupid egotism, stupid pettiness, stupid power, stupid priorities, stupid happiness, stupid excuses, stupid liaisons, stupid mismatch and stupid breakups.

Are we dumb? We'll be right back with more of Dr. Laura right after this. Don't go away.


KING: With Dr. Laura Schlesinger. Some people...

SCHLESSINGER: Before you go on, can I say something about you?


SCHLESSINGER: It's your show. I have to ask your permission.


SCHLESSINGER: People watch you and, you know, you seem like a nice man. But it's television, so who knows?

I want people to know what kind of a human being you are. When the news broke about my mother's death, you were just about the first person on the phone to give condolences. Not to ask to come on your show, but to give condolences. And I talked about this on my radio show. We got 50 million calls to be on 50 million TV shows. You just called to say you cared and felt bad. And, it meant a lot to my family. It meant a lot to everybody in my office. And I just want to say thank you. You're a decent -- you're a mench.

KING: Thank you.

People commenting, some people have called in, some people in Atlanta are saying that you appear calmer than usual and...

SCHLESSINGER: I'm just older now. It's my birthday.

KING: Has this changed you?

SCHLESSINGER: Has this changed me? Yes, it has, as a matter of fact. The week and a half that I took off, I was out of town and my son and husband would come back and forth, because it's very close by though. Because I needed time...

KING: Alone. SCHLESSINGER: think. I needed time alone. My family is wonderful. I love -- I talk to them. Ah, do I talk them.

But I just needed some time alone to put everything -- what was happening in the press, what had happened with my mother, my whole history, my childhood, things that I packed away and now were right here. I had to deal with them. I had to deal with them alone. So I'd spend time walking along the beach, little sailboat, just out there, you know, with the sea lions and thinking.

And I did make some decisions.

KING: Like?

SCHLESSINGER: And one of the decisions -- well, I'm hard on myself. That probably comes from my dad. I'm really a tough taskmaster and I drive myself. And I mean -- I work hard at whatever I do and I have pride that I do that and that I give everything when I make a commitment to do something.

But I also decided that I have got to just break loose, make more time for friends, make more time to do things that just sort of expand my soul and spirit. I have to make more time for the living part, not just the working and caretaking of the family, but the living part. And so if I seem changed, I'm pleased to hear that. Especially that direction.

KING: Martinez, Georgia, hello.

CALLER: Dr. Schlessinger, happy birthday to you.


CALLER: I want to tell you I come from neopolitan mother. After six kids, didn't have any coping skills -- war bride. I know the void that you have felt. I'm sorry that you had to feel it. I adore you and your philosophy on the family. A life -- it needs to continue to go, continue.

My question for you is, your son isn't going to be young forever.

SCHLESSINGER: Actually, he's hardly young any more.

CALLER: He's going to fly the coop pretty soon.

SCHLESSINGER: In August actually.

CALLER: And you would be a wonderful vice president or even president of the United States. I wonder if you are inspired to run for office.

KING: Did you ever think of politics?

SCHLESSINGER: Well, I have been asked.

KING: You have been? SCHLESSINGER: No, I have been asked. But I think I'm unsuited.

KING: Emotionally.

SCHLESSINGER: No. I'm just real blunt. I don't think I play chess well enough. I think to be good at these things, you have to be a chess player. I am more a shoot from the hip kind of gal.

KING: Attleboro, Massachusetts, hello.

CALLER: Hi. Dr. Laura, I'm terribly sorry for your loss. I recently lost my son in April.

KING: How old?

CALLER: He was 31. My only son. And I'm divorced.

SCHLESSINGER: Was he your only child or only son?

CALLER: My only child. And my family has not been there for me at all. I have lost everybody in my family. They don't bother with me since my son passed away. And I don't know why.

All I ever hear is that I live too far away and I'm only 25 miles from them. I have nobody left in my family.

KING: How did he die?

CALLER: An overdose.

KING: Do they blame you?

CALLER: No, they don't.

KING: Then why aren't they close to you?

CALLER: I don't know. I have no clue. We're getting in arguments. I don't know what to do. I mean, his death I'm taking very, very bad. I am all alone. I haven't anybody.

SCHLESSINGER: Do you have a religious persuasion?

CALLER: No, not really. I'm in counseling.

SCHLESSINGER: Well, you know, the reason I suggested the religious is because if you are part of a church, there is a community and there is a family there. And in churches, people -- you have the same people. They're mostly nice and there are always some whatevers. But you have a source, a well to tap from.

So if you have a religious heritage, I would suggest to you start there. Because you can surround yourself by people who care. I worry about you at some point getting so hurt and angry about being abandoned that you start rejecting. That's why I'd like you very much -- an the counseling is still this isolated thing of an hour a week. So I'd really like you to think about joining back into a church community. I think it will help you in the short run. In the long run, there might be some things about relating in family that might help you reconnect.

KING: We'll take a break and be back with our remaining moments with Dr. Laura. Dan Rather tomorrow. Don't go away.


KING: Back with Dr. Laura.

Virginia Beach, hello.

CALLER: Yes. I'd like to ask Dr. Laura a question about my mother. I have -- I'm so glad I got to see you after listening to you for a long time. I really think you have -- I have been praying for a new door to open since this crisis in your life. But I have all had a prefuneral for my parents that divorced after years of marriage. And my mother has a whole other perspective on things that are really not a true reality. How does one deal with a parent that has a whole other perspective, and doesn't feel like they've abandoned you?

SCHLESSINGER: Well, people's defensiveness doesn't change the truth. I feel like you're a sister, sorry. You can't. People hold on tightly to what they want to believe is the truth to...

KING: Their perception is their reality.

SCHLESSINGER: Yes, As I have said many times on the air when a parent is annoying you have to deal with it, that's the 5th commandment. When a parent is evil you got to duck. When a parent is just not going to be a parent in any way, then you suffer and get on with your life.

KING: Norfolk, Virginia, hello.

CALLER: Hi. Dr. Laura, I have a mother-in-law who's tried to create a lot of problems in my marriage with my husband and I. So we've kind of cut her out of our lives. But I'm having a hard time because she won't accept that. She keeps coming back and mailing us letters and cards and trying to call us. And we don't want her in our lives. I really don't know how to cope with that.

KING: Well, your husband agrees to shut his mother out of his life?


SCHLESSINGER: Well, that must have had a history way before your marriage then. Two things. First one is more optimistic. When I was in private practice as a marriage and family therapist, I would bring families together, and try to get everybody to talk, and figure out what was going on, and try to take the barriers out of the way, and get everybody to give and take. Sometime that will work.

So, if she keeps making con tack then some part of her wants this to be OK. If she's destructive then some part of her is unhealthy. But if she's got the will, I like to work with the will. If you've got the will you're ahead of where I was. So I would find a good family dynamics therapist to do that. And ultimately if it doesn't work then you just simply have to tolerate getting letters now and then.

KING: Kirkland, Quebec.

CALLER: Yes. Good evening, Larry.

I'm a fan of yours and so is Dr. Laura. I am very sorry, Dr. Laura, for your loss. I have been listening to you and I read you for years. When you had your TV program during the day. I need your advice. When I heard that your mother was found two weeks after, all evening I have been trying to call.

I have three children and sometimes it could be months that I don't get a call or visit because they're always busy. They're out of town. And I often thought before tonight, I could be dead on the floor, because I did slip down the stairs because I have arthritis, and I'm 65 years old. And I was so sad when I heard about your mother, that she was found.

KING: What's your question?

CALLER: But my question is, how -- if I don't want the same thing to happen that happened to your mother, what's your advice with my three kids? Do I tell them to call me? But I can't ask them that.

SCHLESSINGER: Why can't you ask them that? You know, I tell people on air all the time. Fifth commandment requires you to make the darn call. To take time out of your busy life. I worry sometimes that people's families have been structured in such a way that the children have not been brought up with respect for respect and care taking parents.

And it's one thing I warn -- I can't really speak to her situation directly because I don't know enough about it. But one thing I warn parents about, when they're doing the nannies, day cares, baby-sitters and they're working and traveling and they are not spending that time to build the bond, later on their kids, cat's cradle that song. Later dad. The kids haven't learned that there's any value in that connection and they've learned to be self-centered. And so to some extend we teach our children to be self-centered by what we role modeled for them and what little we demand of them.

KING: We started about your mother. We have a little over a minute left.

We'll end with, do you keep in touch with the police to see how the investigation is going?

SCHLESSINGER: Well, the last time I spoke to the police I said, you know what, I won't keep bugging you. If there's something you need for me or need to tell me, you'll call me. They have a lot of work to do. I don't want to be a nuisance. I -- They believe that they have the resources to resolve this and I hope they're right. Because I'm very big on justice.

KING: It's got to bug you.

SCHLESSINGER: I am perplexed.

KING: It's not closure.

SCHLESSINGER: I am just perplexed because without having had relationships one wonders how somebody could be in such the mode to want to do such harm. To me, this is a mystery on top of a mystery.

KING: Thank you, Dr. Laura.

SCHLESSINGER: And a terrible sadness.

KING: Thank you for coming forward. Thank you for coming tonight. I know it wasn't easy.

SCHLESSINGER: No, it wasn't.

KING: Dr. Laura Schlesinger. Her book is "10 Stupid Things Couples Do To Mess Up Their Relationships." That book is now out in trade paperback.

And when we come back we'll tell you all about tomorrow night. Very interesting program.

We thank Dr. Schlessinger. We'll return right after this. Don't go away.


KING: Tomorrow night the guest is Dan Rather. Dan is in Iraq. We are going to tape it tomorrow morning, because we head to palm springs tomorrow night, and see the big dinner honoring Betty Fords anniversary. The 20th anniversary of the Betty Ford Center. The first ladies will be there. It's my honor to emcee it.

But we will tape Dan Rather in the morning and we'll play it tomorrow night. Dan Rather from Iraq.


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