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Interview With Willard Scott

Aired May 21, 2003 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, exclusive: He's here. Willard Scott from NBC's "Today" show opens up for the first time about living with tragedy, about losing a wife of 43 years, about coping with grief after his soulmate was taken away and about getting older. An emotional hour with Willard Scott, and your phone calls, too, next on LARRY KING LIVE.
He's one of the venerable people in the history of this business. He's Willard Scott. He's been reporting on the weather for the "Today" show since March of 1980, regularly appears on the show with his popular 100th birthday salutes, and is author of the new book, "The Older the Fiddle, The Better the Tune: The Joys of Reaching a Certain Age" -- with a great title. "The Older the Fiddle, The Better the Tune." I love that title.

We'll get to lots of things. What prompted this book?

WILLARD SCOTT, NBC'S "TODAY" SHOW: Well, I guess doing the birthday salutes on the "Today" show where, I would salute centenarians -- you know, people who are a 100 or older. And I started that in 1983 as a gag, almost. Somebody sent me a card and say, My uncle will be 100. Would you mention his name on television? Well, nobody else -- Paul Harvey -- hello, Americans! Paul Harvey would...

KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) They've been together for 82 years.

SCOTT: Living together!


SCOTT: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Next year, they're going to get married. Hey, listen. I got to congratulate you at CNN. This place is really hot. I mean, they set sent a big car for me, a Lincoln...

KING: Yes. We treated you that way? Hey!

SCOTT: The last time I was on this show, Ted Turner showed up on a moped and drove me down 66th!


KING: So the book, basically, is what, old people talking about being old?

SCOTT: Yes, and except I don't know, are we old? We're about the same age.

KING: We're the same age. We are -- 69 years old.

SCOTT: So it's exactly. Yes. Do you feel old?

KING: No. I do not.

SCOTT: Well, and you're so -- but you're -- that's part of what this book is about. It's about staying alive and well and keeping a job or doing something and being, you know, gainfully or just as employed in the way of you doing charity work.

KING: You also mention that old is like young. The two best stages are children and old.

SCOTT: You go from Pampers to Depends!


KING: Why is old good?

SCOTT: Well, I think because you slow down. It's nature's tranquilizer as you get -- haven't you noticed that? I mean, you know, the -- when you were young, everything had to happen yesterday. And as you get older, things slow down. You slow down. You physically have to slow down.

KING: How often do you work now?

SCOTT: Two days a week on the "Today" show, and then maybe I get out and hustle. You do a couple of speeches, you know, whenever Bernie calls.

SCOTT: You still do that?

SCOTT: Yes. I like the speeches. They're like Vaudeville. You can keep the same act for 40 years.

KING: White-collar crime.

SCOTT: White-collar crime. It is the most...

KING: Now, Norman Schwarzkopf calls it that, white-collar crime. He had a lot of fun doing it.

SCOTT: He got 75 there, when he was hot there, remember, after the war.

KING: We'll get back to the book and lots of things. But tell us about the loss of Mary.

SCOTT: Well, that's -- you know, I mentioned to Lloyd Grove here at "The Washington Post" the other day -- he did a little plug for the book, and I mentioned to him the fact that Howard Cosell -- and you knew Howard Cosell, I'm sure.

KING: Well.

SCOTT: And what a sweet man he was. You know, he had all -- he could be tough as nails with that voice. But his wife...

KING: Emmie (ph).

SCOTT: ... Emmie, was his everything. She followed him everywhere he went. She'd do the Kentucky Derby. That's where I would see him, more than anything else, down in Louisville. And he was devoted to her and she to him. And after she passed away -- and it's -- I say it's something almost unnatural when the woman goes first.

KING: He was never the same.

SCOTT: Never the same. It's...

KING: That was him. What about you?

SCOTT: You know, I told you, Larry, I get crazy. You know, Baptists and Jews and Greeks cry a lot when they talk about tragedy and...

KING: How long were you married?

SCOTT: How old -- what?

KING: How long were you married?

SCOTT: For 43 years.

KING: Was it sudden?

SCOTT: No. She had breast cancer, and it lasted for -- you know, I guess, four-and-a-half years, almost. And she was doing pretty good. It's the old story. The last two weeks were horrible, and -- you know.

KING: How do you cope with -- there are much more widows than widowers.

SCOTT: That's what I say. The woman is not supposed to go first. You see, I say -- I go to the -- it used to be People's Drug Store when I was a kid here in town. And you'd see some old guy sitting at the counter with his Campbell's soup and, you know, maybe cracker crumbs from his lip, always by himself. But women were always together. There would be two or three or one or -- and more -- they didn't -- you know, they had -- I think women can cope with it a lot better than men. I think.

KING: How well are you coping?

SCOTT: Not too hot. I mean, in some...

KING: How long is she gone now? SCOTT: Seven months. And I see people -- it is an incredible fraternity, or sorority, if you prefer, of people who have lost their spouses. There's a look in their eye. Nobody has to stay a word. Hallmark has never made the card yet that can quite, you know...

KING: Something's missing, right?

SCOTT: Yes, something's missing. But it -- the old expression, the -- the -- what is it, the wind under your wings or something like that? And I think with Cosell, that was the -- it's the things you sort of -- I won't say take for granted, but it's the things that are built.

KING: But you are -- Cosell went into kind of a depression. I knew Howard at the end.

SCOTT: Right.

KING: He was a bitter, hard guy to be around at the end. You appear to be the same affable Willard.

SCOTT: Yes. basically. There's a loneliness, though. There's a real -- and in a way, I like my loneliness. I mean, I enjoy being -- I'd rather be -- I like to go to dinner maybe once a week with friends. And I have some wonderful friends at home. We've been in that neighborhood as long as...

SCOTT: You live remote.

SCOTT: Out in the boonies, yes -- 14th and plowed ground, Annie Walker (ph) used to...

KING: Did you think of coming back into town?

SCOTT: No. I'm a country boy. I love the...

KING: So you're out there all by yourself?

SCOTT: Well, in that house I am, but then there's -- I have friends. And believe it or not, in this -- in a nice, lighter way, there are a lot of widows up there, and I'm the casserole king of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) County!

KING: Would you marry again?

SCOTT: I don't think so, at this point, but you never say never. Mary used to say I'd be married in six months because I needed the support of a woman...


KING: You're companion-oriented.

SCOTT: Oh, very much so. I -- we both liked marriage. And we fought like dogs and -- she was a Washington girl, you know. She was a native, and so was i. So we had tremendous roots here. SCOTT: You did fight like dogs?

SCOTT: Oh, my God! In the beginning, are you kidding? But hey, it was -- it was interesting because whenever it got to the point that she knew I was really upset, she backed off. And she was a strong lady, and let me tell you, she didn't...

KING: And she didn't like attention, right?

SCOTT: Oh, she would never allow it.

KING: Did she ever go on camera with you?

SCOTT: Only time I remember was the "Today" show bar mitzvahed me after 50 years. They gave me a show, a party. And she was on that show, yes. But she wouldn't allow camera crews or still photographers to come to the house. Whenever we did publicity shots and they wanted to, you know, Uncle Willard down on the farm, we had to use the state park because Mary wouldn't let them on the property.

KING: What was she like during the struggling days, the early days, when you were kicking around doing radio shows and the like?

SCOTT: Did we ever kick around! I mean, in all honesty...


SCOTT: Yes, what a racket. You said it, a white-collar -- we had the greatest job in the world. And you in radio -- I mean, I never listened to you in Miami...

KING: Beats work.


KING: Beats work.

SCOTT: What?

KING: Beats work.

SCOTT: Oh, beats -- thank you. The hearing is the second thing to go! Even Viagra -- but the -- yes, no. Exactly. You know.

KING: So before we move on to the topics -- coping with it caused you to lead to getting involved in breast cancer research, right?

SCOTT: Well, obviously being a part of her, you know, sickness -- and you learn an awful lot when you talk to the doctors and when you talk to so many people. You'd see them in that office. They'd come in -- you know, 15 or 20 would be taking the chemo treatments, and you got -- these -- it was an incredible bond, a fellowship, where you talk to these people from all walks of life.

KING: So you donate proceeds from the book? SCOTT: All of this, yes, all of my money. I have to say that because I said on the "Today" show all the money. Well, all the money doesn't go -- you know, publishers, they don't give theirs up, you know. But my fee -- what do you call it, royalties?

KING: Royalties.

SCOTT: All the royalties that I'll make on this book will go to breast cancer research. And I think it's something -- after 50 it's -- it's almost an epidemic. It's like three or four out of ten.

KING: Did she die well or bitter or...

SCOTT: It was -- the last week was horrible.

KING: Pain?

SCOTT: Yes. The only thing you can say -- thank God for morphine because that's the only thing they've got. I mean, you know, with the -- that's one of the really saddest things of all with breast cancer. They really aren't that much closer to finding out what causes it. In fact, if anything, more and more breast cancer seems to be occurring. And they really don't have too many ways to treat it. I mean, they say they have five, six different programs, and she was on two of them. And she did well for four-and-a-half years. She had one day of sickness, never lost her hair. And we would go do things. She didn't much care to go to parties, and she was a party animal. When we'd go to -- I wanted to stay home and eat the pot roast. If the party was from 6:00 to 9:00 or 10:00, she'd be there at 6:00 and she left at 10:30. And I'd bring my own car.

KING: But she was only sick a few days the whole time?

SCOTT: She was only sick one day a week -- sick -- stomach sick...

KING: From chemotherapy.

SCOTT: From chemo. And then towards the end, she was just the last two weeks it was bad, you know. It was bad.

KING: Our guest is Willard Scott. His book is "The Older the Fiddle, the Better the Tune." I love that title.

SCOTT: You may need new strings for your fiddle, Larry.

KING: "The Joys of Reaching a Certain Age." We'll be including a lot of phone calls for Willard Scott tonight, and we'll be right back.


SCOTT: This is going to be a $1,000 kiss?


SCOTT: OK. (SINGING) You must remember this, a kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh. Are you ready? I love you. I love you.


SCOTT: That was terrific! Probably going to change my entire career. Thank you, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Get my lip back. Anyway, we just made $1,000 (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

KATIE COURIC, CO-HOST: That's what Mary does when you kiss her, too, right, Willard?

SCOTT: It took me two years to catch Mary. I'm doing better with this one.




KING: We're back with Willard Scott. We'll be taking your calls later, of course, for one of the great figures in the history of American broadcasting. He was a great radio figure in Washington in the early days, of course, television in Washington and his career at the "Today" show.

A little bit more about Mary. How are the children handling it?

SCOTT: Well, you know, I was kind of selfish in the beginning because we -- I had my own -- and I was terrible for the first couple of months. I couldn't even speak her name. I'd go into -- I'd cry and roll on the floor, you know? And I can't help it. It's one of those things. I went to accept an award that they gave to Mary, and I couldn't even say her name. But I'm better. But I may -- I was reluctant to even talk to you about it tonight, as I told you, because I didn't want to -- she wouldn't like that. She didn't like any kind of emotions.

KING: How about your daughters?

SCOTT: I didn't think about them as -- they -- they were calling me at home and everything else...

KING: They handled it well?

SCOTT: No. And that's what I didn't understand because I said to somebody, you know, and they said, Well, their mother died. And I said, Yes, that's right. And I hadn't...

KING: They only had one.

SCOTT: Yes. So...

KING: Grandchildren, too?


KING: And you visited the grave on New Year's Eve?

SCOTT: Oh, that's incredible.

KING: Why? To talk to her?

SCOTT: Well, we had some friends...

KING: George Burns used to do that with Gracie.

SCOTT: Yes, well, I go there all the time and have lunch.

KING: You do?

SCOTT: She -- you know, I -- she liked to watch me eat because I'm a slob, you know? She -- that made her feel superior. Yes, we spent New Year's Eve there at the gravesite, which was -- that's a story that I -- it would take too long to tell and it wouldn't have that much significance here, but it did to us at the time. And it was beautiful. We had candles around, and we turned on WCBS radio and listened to the ball drop and...

KING: Wasn't it cold?

SCOTT: It wasn't a bad night. And it stopped raining just for us. That's one of the other minor miracles. And then we got in the car at 10 after midnight. It started to rain, and we went home.


SCOTT: ... bottle of champagne.

KING: How much, if anything, has your faith helped, or are you not much into that?

SCOTT: Oh, 1,000 percent, Larry. I mean, I'm a -- for all of the other stuff -- and she was, too. Mary's a very strong believer. In fact, that's -- her big thing was a little church, Emanuel Church in Delaplane (ph) was her -- she's just took to it like a duck to water, so to speak. In fact, the strawberry festival's coming up this weekend. You've heard of the famous strawberry festival. Yahya (ph), the wonder llama, will be there, and he will kiss you and won't spit on you.

KING: No, thanks.


SCOTT: But anyway, that's -- no, she was very...

KING: So you believe she is somewhere.

SCOTT: Oh, absolutely. There's no question. And I've talked to I spoke to -- one time, and I haven't seen her in any dreams. The girls have had that. A very dear friend of mine in Florida -- I won't mention the name because I don't want to -- maybe they don't want me to. But the -- I was telling you the story that happened to me, which was just a brief instant -- really brief, and it wasn't a physical thing, where I saw her walking around, you know, smoking a cigar or anything. It was just a spiritual experience. And I told my friend in Florida, and she said she had the same experience with her daughter, and that these have been sort of verified and written down, documented. And they're called visitations. You will, at some point...

KING: Well, then that must help you a great deal.

SCOTT: Yes, that was -- that was at a time when it really was a tremendous help and...

SCOTT: How much does broadcasting help?

SCOTT: Oh, being on helps a lot, and having a job. That's part of this book. But part of the thing with grief I think is terrific from the standpoint of taking your mind -- I don't know if it takes your mind completely off it, but yes, it does help an awful -- a job is God's greatest gift, outside of your health. There's no two ways about it.

KING: So you would never retire.

SCOTT: Have to shoot me. Have to come in with the FBI and drag me out of the studio.

KING: Would you like to go back to five days a week?

SCOTT: Never! Would you like to go back to radio for six hours a night?

KING: No, could not do it again.

SCOTT: And that was the best thing -- may I say this? God love the show here. Fake microphone. I do this every show. That thing is not -- you don't hear a thing, right?


SCOTT: But it -- Edward Berle used...

KING: It's a prop.

SCOTT: The best -- 77 -- best -- very expensive now.

KING: Yes.

SCOTT: What was the question?

KING: You were going to say...

SCOTT: Oh, I was going to say the best thing you ever did was radio. You were...

KING: The king!

SCOTT: You were -- hey, that's a good name for the -- have you ever thought -- is that your real name, King?


SCOTT: But that was a great radio show you used...

KING: Willard used to come on for five hours a night. Those were great days.

SCOTT: How could we stand that, stay up all night and then go to a little tavern, eat hamburgers.

KING: And all those calls.

SCOTT: Belch for three weeks.


KING: The closeness of the "Today" show family -- have they helped?

SCOTT: Oh, they've been very sweet. Al especially, who's a dear friend.


SCOTT: You know, Al was here in Washington, worked for channel 5. I think it was Metromedia in those days.

KING: Yes.

SCOTT: And Mr. Kluge (ph) -- was that Metromedia? that was -- he was...

KING: Don Kluge.

SCOTT: What a nice man he is, by the way.

KING: He's still going.

SCOTT: He's 90 or something, isn't he?

KING: Yes.

SCOTT: Yes, he's terrific. Yes, no, that -- the team up there -- and Matt did a wonderful tribute to Mary that was just absolutely superb.

KING: I was on that show this morning.

SCOTT: I heard you were.

KING: They are great family.

SCOTT: It's the best thing -- it's the best team. And then I love Jane Pauley and Tom Brokaw and I'm going to say Gene Shalit -- this is sucking up to you, so to speak, but you've already got me on the show, so I can't get on the show, right? But you and Gene Shalit I think do the two best interviews.

KING: Oh, thank you.

SCOTT: I was thinking of that coming in the car. You listen to people.

KING: You brought it up now. I was going to bring it up later. What about Jane Pauley?

SCOTT: Oh...

KING: What's she like?

SCOTT: Unbelievable!

KING: What do you make of her leaving?

SCOTT: The sweetest -- just what you see. I've always -- I did a little tribute to her on the show when they did the special, you know? And I didn't want people to think -- it might sound sexist, or in this day and age, you got to be politically correct. But people said, Why -- what people liked about Jane, they liked Jane because she was the girl next door. She was a lovely, warm, pleasant person. She was a journalist. She did her thing, but an absolute -- just what you saw is what you got.

KING: What do you make of her bowing out?

SCOTT: Oh, the best -- smartest thing in the world. Kenny Rogers -- know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away. And she's not going to bow out. You're going to see her on the Discovery Channel or Learning Channel or NBC doing specials. You know we -- nobody -- Judy Garland -- remember? She retired 40 times.

KING: Nobody leaves (UNINTELLIGIBLE) do they.

SCOTT: They take you out with a hook, remember? That's (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

KING: When are you going to retire? To what?

SCOTT: That's what the question is, to what?

KING: Our guest is Willard Scott. We're going to talk about the book, and then we'll be taking your calls. The book is "The Older the Fiddle, The Better The Tune: The Joys of Reaching a Certain Age." And we'll talk about -- what -- what is old, according to Willard's definition, when we come back.


JANE PAULEY, CO-HOST: Willard, why don't you and I blow this...

SCOTT: Would you like to blow this out?


PAULEY: ... before we call the fire department!


SCOTT: It set off the smoke detector. Are we ready? Happy birthday to you...



SCOTT: (SINGING) If you listen to the critics, you'd think this whole thing was just a hype. They way that we are fighting, we are fighting for our very life. Let me just remind you, folks, that lying is a sin. And come next fall, with the help of you all, we're going to be number one again. The critics? Please! The critic (UNINTELLIGIBLE) How come you never see any of them on TV? Right, right, right? What a crazy hat!


KING: Willard Scott as Carmen Miranda in a historic television moment.

SCOTT: You know, after that, I wore dresses all the time. I really...


SCOTT: I like to wear dresses.

KING: All right, what are the -- what are -- what -- by the way, what -- I mean, you -- when someone says old, you think what age?

SCOTT: I don't know really think any age is old anymore because -- I mean, we go back to Metropolitan mortality. My dad was an agent for Met Life. In the '50s, I remember the mortality rate was something like -- you had -- 58 was the average age. Then it was moved up to 62, and then 65, 68. This is what -- I get all fired up about aging in America because I think the average age now is about 78 years old when someone -- you know...

KING: When someone dies at 74 now, people say, A young man.

SCOTT: A young man, yes. And people -- this is one of those -- I do my speeches. I'll give you part for free. But this is dipping into the future, but there's no question, figuring from 1950 to the present time, when the average age of death was 58, now it's almost 80, just do the math. In the next 50 to 75 years, people will be living to be 130 and 140. They'll be working until they're a hundred.

KING: And there's going to be problems. Too many in the population.

SCOTT: It's incredible. And there's not as many young people coming along. No, it offers tremendous challenges.

SCOTT: Phyllis Diller in the book says people -- greatest things about getting older -- Phyllis Diller says, People tell you you look great no matter how you look.


KING: Novelist John Updike -- "For me, one of the joys of being over 65 is people stop trying to sell you life insurance."


SCOTT: I think that's great.

KING: Yogi Berra -- "You don't have to take any guff from anyone." Leon Uris...

SCOTT: Read the rest of Yogi's. Yogi said you don't take guff from anyone.

KING: Yes, that's what I said.

SCOTT: But -- no, but there's more.

KING: Oh. What...

SCOTT: He says unless it's your wife. And if she tells you to do something, you do it.


KING: You have Art Linkletter in the book. He's been a guest on this show.

SCOTT: Oh, God! He did one. He did, like, a top 10 list. Let me read that. I'll just read you one of them. I'm not going to read you the whole 10. But I thought this was a good one. He does the bit about -- don't go away. "The things you buy now will never wear out." I think that's...


SCOTT: And this one. "In case you're taken hostage by kidnappers in a plane, you will be among the first to be released."


SCOTT: Let the old folks out! I don't know if I can find Conrad's. I love him -- the actor. You -- talk or do something while I try to find this thing.

KING: We're talking with Willard Scott.

SCOTT: Oh, here it is. I found it.

KING: He found it. SCOTT: This is Robert Conrad, you know, great actor.

KING: Hit it off my -- knock this off.


SCOTT: Well, he says, "The only good thing about being over 65 that I particularly embrace is Viagra. It puts us a level playing field with the 30-year-olds. And they should hold their wives and girlfriends close because we are armed and dangerous."


SCOTT: There's good stuff. Helen Gurley Brown has one of the most beautiful little pages in this book, where she and her husband talk about...

SCOTT: David.

SCOTT: Yes, David -- talk about aging, and in a very philosophical -- there's a lot of really good, practical stuff in here.

KING: What's the bad thing about -- what -- every good has some bad.

SCOTT: Well, I've got to tell you, I mean, we're talking about kind of ideal statistics. My big thing -- I got a -- the trinity of aging in America is, one, good health, good health, good health, like location, location. That's the most important thing. The second thing, I think, is a sense of humor. Almost everybody that lives to be 100 that I've known has a tremendous sense of humor.

I mean, I just -- I knew this old guy. He just passed away up in Columbus, Ohio. He was the oldest licensed pilot in the United States. He was a 100 years old, built his own airplane. And I asked him in an interview one day, I said, Do you take any medicine? He said, Hell, no. He said, It interferes with my sex life.


SCOTT: But -- and the other thing is some money. Don't ever -- you hit on that a minute ago. That's one of the biggest -- two really big problems, aging -- a lot of people lose their friends, they predecease them, and even some of their children. But the other thing is definitely -- and this is -- is this -- I'm elitist to say it, but we have to have some money. I mean, you need some money. And that will worry you to death if you don't have a few bucks.

KING: No income.

SCOTT: No income. And then not really as much of a potential after you get older to make it as you did when you...

KING: How about seeing -- Frank Sinatra once said to me, Everybody I know is dead. SCOTT: Yes. Well, see, that's what I'm saying. They're pre -- they're -- and they get lonely.

KING: That's hard.

SCOTT: Yes. They get lonely, and -- but you see, with more and more people living to a ripe old age -- you know.

KING: Look at Linkletter. He's a classic.

SCOTT: What is he -- 91 or something.

KING: He's 91, and he runs around the block.

SCOTT: Unbelievable! Does he -- remember on this show -- I think it was the last time I was on with you was Angie Dickinson and Bob Dole and Linkletter. And he told how every morning he went to the bathroom, he did the elephant walk from his bed. What is the elephant walk?

KING: Where you get down and you -- you...


SCOTT: Do you do the elephant walk?

KING: No. By the way, I wanted to ask you...

SCOTT: Do you use the bathroom lots of times at night?

KING: You found me out!


SCOTT: Well, everybody over 65, you know?

KING: Yes.

KING: It's automatic.

SCOTT: But I got a doctor gave me a pill that takes care of that. But then I also had trouble...

KING: You don't go to the bathroom?

SCOTT: No! I go to the bathroom, but not as often. But he also gave me a pill that makes me go, and I said -- yes, take both pills. It's like the thermos, you know? How does it know? I mean, how does it know...


KING: How does it know when it's hot, and how does it know when it's cold?

SCOTT: Right! KING: You worked with Jim Henson, didn't you.

SCOTT: I sure did.

KING: A guy who started in this town. We were talking about people who started in Washington. Unbelievable.

SCOTT: We could sit here and spend rest of this show, from Helen Hayes to Al Jolson, Duke Ellington Mama Cass...

SCOTT: Goldie Hawn.

SCOTT: Goldie Hawn. I mean, it goes on and on and on.

KING: Warren Beatty.

SCOTT: Jimmy Dean, yes.

SCOTT: Shirley MacLaine -- all from Washington.

SCOTT: Washington. And we haven't even scratched the surface with that.


KING: What was Henson like?


SCOTT: ... never changed. He was the most -- I met him, really, the first day he came to channel 4. Jim Kovak (ph) was our manager. Remember Jim? Biscuits, we called him, big guy. And Jim hired Jim.

KING: Did he have Kermit then?

SCOTT: He brought him out. We were sitting on the steps of the Wardman (ph) Park Hotel, down where the studios were. And he had this little bag. He was -- well, he's one year younger than I am, so he was, like, 18. I was 19. I'm a staff announcer. And he and I were talking. Same thing, wore those tattersall shirts and, you know, corduroy pants. He never, never changed. He changed his pants, but I mean, he never changed his outfit. He always looked the same.

KING: He took Kermit out of a bag?

SCOTT: And he brought these things out, and he says -- he called them Muppets. And Kermit was the first one that I saw. I don't want to beat this to death, but I remember saying to him, Jim, you've got -- these are cute. I said, Don't sign these over to NBC. Now, I think you ought to keep -- I don't know whether he listened to me or not.

KING: I think he listened to you.

SCOTT: Well, I was right about that, for once. And then we did the first TV show that the Muppets ever did it. Was called "Barn Party." It was on at 9:00 o'clock in the morning in 1953 on Saturday. Betsy Stealth (ph), beautiful Betsy. I hope she's watching tonight because she's lovely. And Mike Honeycutt (ph), a local disk jockey, and the Muppets, and I was Farmer Willard. And the rest...

KING: Farmer Willard.

SCOTT: I was Farmer -- the rest is history.

KING: Let me get a break. When we come back, your phone calls for Willard Scott. Tomorrow night, Lynn Redgrave. And on Friday night, Rodney Dangerfield. He's back. Don't go away.

SCOTT: No respect.


COURIC: Hey, Willard, before you get to the weather, turn around for a second, will you?

SCOTT: Oh, no!

COURIC: Come on, Willard!

SCOTT: Not a chance.

COURIC: Come on! Willard!

SCOTT: Are you ready?


SCOTT: OK. This is a post-Christmas trauma.


MATT LAUER, CO-HOST: They don't make them like they used to, do they, Willard.

SCOTT: Not this one, they don't!




ANNOUNCER: Introducing the world's newest, silliest and hamburger eatingest clown, Ronald McDonald.

SCOTT: Hey, believe it or not, this is me. I was the original Ronald McDonald.


KING: How did that come about? What would be the original.

SCOTT: Right here in Washington. Another one, Ronald McDonald was born in Washington along with other stars.

KING: Really?

SCOTT: That's right. I played Bozo the Clown. Larry Harmon, is wonderful man out -- have you ever met him? He created Bozo the Clown. Actually, Bozo was and old ringling circus clown and then Larry bought the rights from Capitol Records. I always loved to tell the story, because Capitol Records was on -- this was a hundred years ago in the 40s, Peggy Lee was on Capitol Records, Nat King Cole and Johnny Mercer and the record company was in the toilet. And Larry Harmon came out with the first talking record for children. It was a 78 and a bell rang and a little book came with it like a comic book. And every time the bell rang the kid was supposed to turn the page and supposedly it would teach the kid how to read. It was a kind of early Miss Francis, Ding Dong School.

KING: How did you get to be Ronald McDonald.

SCOTT: Larry picked me for Bozo the Clown here in Washington. That record saved Capitol Records. It was their financial success that put them over the top.

KING: So you were Ronald and Bozo.

SCOTT: Bozo with Larry Harmon's group in Washington Channel 4 and I did that for four years.

KING: Did Bozo talk?

SCOTT: Hey, boys and girls.

KING: Bob.


SCOTT: Made $5 a show, he told me. Buffalo Bob Smith was tight was tight with nickel. He made $5 a show for network television.

KING: Do you know what Bozo sounded like.

SCOTT: I did Bozo. Hey, boys and girls, it's old Bozo. Don't forget the circus. We and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) are going have a wonderful time.

KING: Oakford, Pennsylvania, the book is the older the fiddle, the better the tune. The guest is Willard Scott, hello.

Hello, are you there, Oakford.

I'm hearing nothing. Are our phones working, guys?


Ellijay, Georgia.

CALLER: Yes, Larry, wonderful program. Willard I admire you very much. My question is has your positive mental attitude helped you cope with the death of your wife, and who would you consider to be your favorite president of all time.

SCOTT: I'd have to say that number one, no question having a strong faith in the people that at our church at home have been tremendous support for us. For the girls and for me. I couldn't -- I just wished everybody could reach out and get that faith. We could talk about that at great length, I'd like to do a show about some other things, we'll maybe talk later on. But there's nothing that even can come close. It's nothing else on the track. Faith is...

KING: Favorite president?

SCOTT: Favorite president. I loved Harry Truman with all my heart and soul. He was one of my favorites maybe because that was one of the first...

KING: Did you meet him?

SCOTT: I mean, I used to go -- David Vaughn,(ph) I hope he's watching. His father Harry Vaughn (ph) was in the military (UNINTELLIGIBLE) at the White House.

KING: Part of the scandal.


KING: Harry stood by him.

SCOTT: That's one of the things I liked. Harry Truman stood by his pals. But we'd go to the Army-Navy game it was wonderful. I got to swim in the White House pool. So, I loved him first. But I love Ronald Reagan with all my heart and I do love the Bushs' very, very much.

KING: How did you get to light the Christmas tree?

SCOTT: Well that started, actually Nancy Reagan. No, wait a minute! No, no, no! During the White House Christmas party for the diplomatic corp started with Nancy Reagan.

KING: Great lady?

SCOTT: Unbelievable, the best.

KING: The best.

SCOTT: And the first time I met her, I was in a Santa Claus suit riding the presidential limo to Children's Hospital. You talk about a little boy from Alexandria and I'm doing pretty good, you know. First lady my...

KING: How'd you come to do the tree?

SCOTT: That was Art Lamb (ph), remember the disk jock here in Washington KING: Yes.

SCOTT: He did one of the first television shows at where they mimic records. Can you believe that for sure. Five hours they were just, you know, and you (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that. He worked for the National Park Service. And he called me one day in 1970, I think it was, and asked me if I'd like to play Santa Claus at the lighting of the Christmas tree. And I was trying to think that -- believe if I remember, Gerald Ford -- was that 70?

Have I got my years right?

Gerald Ford was the first president that worked with.

KING: '74.

SCOTT: So who would have been...

KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in '73. Ford took over...

SCOTT: OK, well, maybe I got my year wrong, but I think he was the first one.

KING: It's one of the problems of age, Willard, you forget.

SCOTT: Yes. But I love working. Let me tell you what, if you have got time for one half a story, because with George Bush, the 41st George, the 1st George, the first. They did wireless microphones, first time they'd ever done that, as opposed to a microphone with a wire that plugs into the wall. And yet at best, sometimes they're lethal.

KING: You're secured with the wall.

SCOTT: Always with the wall. I only had the mic at all. It was a hand mic, and it was in my Santa Claus beard in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) like this one. And so it was the only mic working. And so when President Bush was lighting the tree and had to make the little speech, and it didn't work. So I go on stage or he comes up to me on stage and he spoke into my beard. I thought that was -- you talk about greatness. That's greatness.

KING: That's great.

Richmond, Virginia, hello.

CALLER: Willard, you announced my grandfather's 104th birthday on the air, which that was great, but what I need to know is it going to rain this weekend on the northern neck down in Virginia or can I go sailing?

SCOTT: You can go sailing.

KING: You sure, Willard?

SCOTT: I'm not going to say anything about the rain but he can go sailing.

KING: By the way you were never a meteorologist.

SCOTT: I'm Southern Baptist a not meteorologist...

KING: But you were the weatherman.


KING: You never studied weather? You never went to weather school.

SCOTT: Everything I've ever done at in my life has been fluke. Anything I've ever tried to do...


SCOTT: One of the great lines you want to make god laugh, tell him your plans. I think that's a great line. And everything I've ever heard


SCOTT: Everything I have ever tried to do on my own -- I've produced more pilots than United Airlines and they've all been disasters. Every audition I ever took in my life I lost except for the Space Agency and the guy at the tape, Nelson Funk, ran the tape -- I was on the audition tape as Bozo selling cookies. And the guy heard my voice and he said I don't want him to play that high pitch, but I want enthusiasm.

KING: How'd you come away with it?

SCOTT: I was a staff announcer in NBC, WRC Washington, 1953. And they had a block of news radio like they do in TV from 6:00 to 7:00. And either (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Thomas (ph) or "Three Star Extra" was the network show -- Morgan Batey (ph) remember him? So I read the weather on radio. That's how I started.

KING: Partly cloudy, chance of showers.

SCOTT: I get (UNINTELLIGIBLE). In fact I used to say this program is produced and written by Rip Read, (ph) because that's how I got it. I ripped it off the wire and read on the air. And that's the only thing that got me started. And then Bill Small, god bless him, who was with CBS for years back in the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) days and Fred Friendly.

KING: News director.

SCOTT: News director. He came over to NBC and the first thing he walked in my office and he said I'm Bill Small. I said yes, sir.

He said how come you've never been on the network?

I said nobody's ever asked me. And he said how would you like to do the "Today Show" weather?

And I said I'd love it and that's how it happened. So I didn't have to step on any bodies foot or anything. And he was -- what a wonderful gift that was because, without question, Eddie Walker, my radio partner I love with all my heart and soul.


SCOTT: And (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I see him every day. And he and I had the -- we thought it was the greatest show in the world because it was ours. It was our little -- were in armed forces radio for 23 years. That's the most treasured thing.

KING: Fun?

SCOTT: Fun. But the TV, being on the "Today Show," I remember Dave Garroway was on the show, at one of the anniversaries. And he made the remark, he said to Bryant Gumbel. He said my son, you are about to embark on the greatest journey of his life, hosting that show. I wasn't a host, but I was a part of it. Unbelievable. No show like it.

KING: Right back with Willard Scott. More of your phone calls this edition of LARRY KING LIVE don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: During the parade, Willard, was on the sidelines and Mrs. Bush and President Bush were walking and Willard was waving and said hey over here, over here, Mr. President. And Barbara Bush saw him and broke out of the parade and ran toward him and gave him a big kiss.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good morning, how are you? Look who we have here.

SCOTT: Wait a minute what is this? Is this the man -- holy mackerel.

Can you believe this?

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I came out to see if you wanted to do jog run with me.

SCOTT: Mark, do the weather, will you? We got to get here. Let's go. I'm ready.

CLINTON: Actually, we played ours a little earlier. Come on. Let's go.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SCOTT: Look at that. Not a cloud in the sky. Going to be a beautiful, sunny day, all day.

Really breezy here in your nation's capital.

Hazy and cold right now. They it could get up to a foot of snow in Denver. Snow is falling even as we speak.



KING: Willard the weatherman.

SCOTT: There was a career for you, huh?

KING: You like your publisher? Hyperion?

SCOTT: Aren't you nice? Yes, I love my friends up there and they're all watching there sitting eating their pretzels saying, Oh did he mention my name? They really are so good. I've got to say the best publishing house I've ever worked for and they've been terrific and -- have we sold the book? Did we tell them there's a book out there?

KING: They're showing the book.

SCOTT: We've showed the book.

KING: Guyton, Georgia, hello.


KING: Hi. Go ahead.

CALLER: I wanted to ask Mr. Scott since he's always so jolly and happy that if people (UNINTELLIGIBLE) see him with his jolliness (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

My husband passed away seven months ago of 38 years and I find that's the way it is with me.

SCOTT: Well, bless your heart.

KING: It's hard to be happy though, isn't it?

SCOTT: Yes, it's hard to be happy, but like we said in this business, we're so lucky because we do get lifted up and I remember years ago doing a radio show when I felt terrible and I was sick and had a cold and this is not the same as grief, but I went in the studio and once I did the show and the show must go on, I got into.

But no, the sadness is when you're alone and you're by yourself and I'm sure you probably do the same thing I do, talk to a chair. I mean, that's...

KING: You do?

SCOTT: Oh, absolutely. I mean, I'm the greatest -- Joan Rivers had a wonderful line. Remember she said, all of the people in New York that walk down the street and talk to themselves, they ought to get with a partner so they at least look like somebody's listening.

KING: Or give them a cell phone.

SCOTT: I think half the cell phones -- I don't have one. I think half of the people that walk around with cell phones, there's no batteries in them, they're broken. I think they're just using them as a prop.

KING: They should give them to the homeless people who talk to people. The skitzos.

SCOTT: Well, you know who said something interesting about that was Jane Pauley at one time.

KING: I didn't mean that as a putdown.

SCOTT: No. No.

KING: You see some people talking in New York, you give them a phone, they're talking to some body.

SCOTT: But she said that she thinks maybe a lot of people just don't want to -- to try to drown out the rest of the world and they don't want anybody to bother them, so they use a cell phone or a walkman.

Any way, the lady in Georgia, I know exactly how you feel, my darling, and I just -- they say time takes care of it, but so far...

KING: So far it hasn't.

SCOTT: I haven't seen that yet.

KING: Louisa, Kentucky, hello.

CALLER: Yes. This is Jack Ward (ph), Larry. I always enjoy your show.

KING: Thank you.

CALLER: I would like to ask Willard what he's going to do with the rest of his life.

KING: Good question.

SCOTT: Well, you know, I like what I do right now, I guess. Every thing is sort of -- and one of the things -- I don't want to just keep plugging the book. One of the things in this book that every body sort of, I think, states is that as you get older your chemicals begins to change and you are -- you don't do all of the things you used to do. Nature takes care of that. You calm down a little bit. You're not as full of life and beans and you're not as much energy.

So I think it sort of takes its own natural course that you've got to slow down. But nobody should -- I don't believe, unless you have some incredible desire to sail around the world, I don't think any body should ever quit their job. I think working is the greatest gift -- health, love and work. The greatest gifts.

KING: Did Mary want you to keep working?

SCOTT: Oh, a couple of times that I had some moments, you know -- we've all had that. You go, I got to get out of here. This is driving me crazy. It's showbiz and there's all of the good also has some yang to it, you know? But she would go crazy. She would never allow it. Never.

KING: Richmond Hill, Ontario, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Willard. How are you tonight?

SCOTT: How are you? How are my friends in Canada? I love that place. Cleanest city in the world. All of them.

CALLER: Willard, you've been a mainstay on "The Today Show" for many years and I was just wondering, of all of the people you've worked with on that show, who has been the most interesting and why.

SCOTT: You mean as a guest or a partner?

KING: Partner.

SCOTT: You know, I would be very undiplomatic to pick any one person.

KING: You were close to Bryant weren't you?


KING: You were close to Bryant.

SCOTT: Bryant Gumbel and I...

KING: You had a rift once.

SCOTT: We had a -- all of that is gone with the wind and we have had -- I get very emotional about that. He and I have become such good friends and his family and I'll tell you something that was -- at one point and nobody cares except us, but we talked about getting back together and doing a show, the two of us.

KING: Really?

SCOTT: Not too long ago, as a matter of fact. And -- but that's -- yes. That was a...

KING: But he sent a memo critical of you.

SCOTT: Oh, yes.

KING: But that was a big story.

SCOTT: It was a big story and yesterday's soup. Who cares? It's the same old -- but it did.

The point is now whatever ever was there, feelings were hurt. But there are so many really -- as I say, Gene Shallit is one of my favorite people in the whole world. He's been on that show longer than anybody. I've been on almost -- what? -- 23 years now but Shallit -- Roker who is incredible.

See, now I don't work with the anchors as much as I do and I can say anything nice about, you know, Katie or Matt, who's terrific or Anne Curry who's a mensch.

KING: Great girl.

SCOTT: Absolutely, and Jane Pauley was a -- and Tom Brokaw, who was kind of a mentor. He helped to get me up to -- when I first went up there, you know...

KING: He was the host?

SCOTT: He was the host and he was so good to me because he knew what I was all about and -- I can't tell you the words the engineer used, but I was in the elevator about three months after I'd been up in New York, and I was not an instant hit, you know. I got more mail than anybody on the history of "The Today Show," but half of it was to get me off of the air.

KING: Really?

SCOTT: Well, because I was a bumpkin. You know, full of -- and I was on the elevator and this engineer says, "You know, I was in the studio," he says, "when you did your first show." He said, "I thought you were a real." At that point he says, "My mother in Brooklyn is crazy about you."

So I went out about a week later and bought an apartment on the strength of that because if you get the mother in Brooklyn, who cares about the engineer?

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with Willard Scott. The book is "The Older the Fiddle, the Better the Tune: the Joys of Reaching a Certain Age."

Don't go away.




(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: In this wonderful book, Jack LaLane, born in 1914, says "I can't afford to die; it would wreck my image."

SCOTT: And he's the one who pulled a boat across San Francisco Harbor with his teeth.

KING: I know. Monty Hall says getting older is an honor. Amhurst, Nova Scotia. Hello?

CALLER: Hello, Larry.

KING: Hi. Go ahead.

CALLER: Hello, Willard.

SCOTT: I love your place up there. That Annapolis Valley is...

CALLER: No, this is down around (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KING: A little south of there.

SCOTT: That's where the tides come in and out, right?

CALLER: Yes, yes, the highest tides in the world, Willard. And I know you love strawberries, and we have great blueberries here. We'd love to have you come down and visit us.

KING: Do you have a question, dear?

CALLER: Yes, what is your favorite food, Willard?

SCOTT: Meat loaf and pot roast. I like meat loaf, mashed potatoes and peas or pot roast with onions, potatoes and carrots.

KING: Were you ever slim slim?

SCOTT: In high school I weighed 175 to 180. I looked like Abraham Lincoln. I was 6-foot-3, biggest thing in the class, but tall, not fat. Went to college and started eating breakfast. There was a doughnut shop on Wisconsin Avenue, I think it was called The University Bake Job (ph), and I would take the street car, how about that for old Washington. Took a street car up Wisconsin Avenue, I got off at the university shop and ate a dozen doughnuts every day as I went to walk the rest of the way to college, AU, and by the end of six months I was up to almost to 225 pounds, which I kept until after the Navy, and after the Navy I got married and...

KING: You were a page boy.


KING: What do page boys do?

SCOTT: Well, I worked the weekends, basically.

KING: You wore a uniform. SCOTT: I wore a model NBC uniform. You know, I worked the switchboard. Harry Truman called one day when I was on the switchboard. Theodore Grannick (ph) had this show "American (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on radio -- I'll bore people to death with these names -- but I was a switchboard, 16, 17-year-old kid, and Dean Acheson -- is that right?

KING: Secretary of state.

SCOTT: Was the secretary of state under Truman, right? Got that right? Anyway, he was on the show as a guest, and the switchboard lit up, 11:30 in the morning, and I plugged it in, "Hello, NBC," and this voice said, "this is Harry Truman. I want to speak to the secretary of state." I said, "this is Santa Klaus," and I pulled the plug. And he called back 30 seconds later, "damn it to hell, this is Harry Truman, the president of the United States and I want to" -- and that was my introduction to politics.

And I lost Eleanor Roosevelt's coat one time at the press club.


KING: I didn't know pages answered phones.

SCOTT: We did everything. I got hot dogs for the crew that invented color TV, the tricolor system. Remember CBS had the wheel? Remember that? It was approved by the FCC. I don't know. You don't remember the color wheel?

KING: I remember NBC had the wheel. I worked at the CBS affiliate in Miami. We had to wait two years before we had color. The NBC station had a two-year lead on us.

SCOTT: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) he developed the tricolor tube, which (UNINTELLIGIBLE) electronic.

KING: Do you know how hot the cameras were, the lights?

SCOTT: And the thing was as big as a small boat.

KING: Yes. They were gigantic.

SCOTT: This was incredible, because we brought the government up to see the color -- you got to remember, CBS had a wheel literally with colors on it. It spun around in front of a TV set. It was more complicated, but the FCC, God have mercy, they approved this, which would have made every TV set in America obsolete, and then RCA came out with a system that was compatible. You could watch color and black and white if you didn't have a color set. But they put on a demonstration, they had a 10-inch screen, and all these congressmen and FCC officials came up to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and they were in this lovely room with carpeting and they'd get drinks and they'd watch the TV, and Annette Febray (ph) was on with the canary. I remember. Kinky, kinky act if I remember.

KING: A little kinky. SCOTT: A little kinky. For the canary, not for Annette (ph). And so, anyway, here they didn't see behind this thing were these huge, huge cables that ran to the back of the building, where there about 24 rooms of equipment to make this thing work right, but they finally got the thing passed.

KING: Now about 30 seconds left. How is your health?

SCOTT: Thank God. I mean, I take pills. You take -- I -- what is that stuff you sell? I take all of that.

KING: Ester-C.

SCOTT: Ester-C. I take that. I don't have anything (ph). I take something for cleaning my arteries out, I guess, but that's...

KING: But you're in good health?

SCOTT: I'm a border line everything, the guy says. I'm too fat. I got to lose some weight.

KING: You've been saying that for how many years?

SCOTT: Thirty-five years.

KING: Thank you, Willard.

SCOTT: Thank you. I don't believe we did an hour. I thought we lost (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KING: Willard Scott's my man. The book is "The Older the Fiddle, the Better the Tune: The Joys of Reaching a Certain Age." Hyperion is the publisher.

SCOTT: Beautiful people.

KING: I'll be back with a note or two and tell you about tomorrow night right after this.


KING: Sports fans, it's Wednesday, so don't forget to read my column, "Sports a la King." It's posted every week on CNN Sports Illustrated on the Web. The address to get right to us is And "Sports a la King" is interactive, so give it a read, send me your e-mails, and we'll right you back in the weekly mailbag. Once again, the address, Log on tonight and we'll talk sports.

Tomorrow night, Lynn Redgrave will be with us. Friday night, Rodney Dangerfield. Standing by just down the hall, to host tonight's edition of "NEWSNIGHT," one of my favorite people in all the world, Judy Woodruff. Judy, the mantle is passed to you.


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