CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Interview With Traci Lords
Aired July 14, 2003 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Traci Lords. She overcame being a drug-addicted underage porn queen to become a legitimate actress and singer. That's only half the story. There was childhood rape that damaged her and the moment her X-rated double life was exposed in the middle of a high school cafeteria. All that and more tonight with Traci Lords, in-depth and personal for the hour, next on LARRY KING LIVE.
She's back. After 12 years, Traci Lords returns to LARRY KING LIVE, the former underage porn queen and now legitimate TV and film actress, author of a new memoir with a great title, "Traci Lords: Underneath It All." She was born Nora Kuzma (ph), May 7 -- Norma Kuzma?
TRACI LORDS, EX-PORN STAR: Nora.
KING: Nora Kuzman, May 7, 1968, in Steubenville, Ohio. Why did you change your name? You didn't like...
LORDS: Because you just stuttered when you said it.
LORDS: No, originally -- I started going by Traci Lords in 1984, and that was after I had run away from home. I came from a small town in Steubenville, Ohio, and early on, I had a lot of sexual abuse that had happened to me. I was raped when I was 10 years old, and then my mother's boyfriend started molesting me from the time I was, like, 10 until I was about 15. So I was...
KING: Were you overdeveloped at 10?
LORDS: I was.
LORDS: You know? And it was -- it was definitely a curse. At least, I saw it like that when I was a little girl because I had all of this sexual energy thrown toward me. I didn't really know what to do with it. And then, you know, the very traumatic experience of being raped as a child, you know, filled me with shame and a lot of guilt. And ultimately, it was one of the reasons that I ran away from home.
KING: And got rid of the name.
LORDS: Yes, and got rid of the name. I think I was trying to get rid of a part of myself that I saw as being very painful.
KING: What led to writing the book?
LORDS: Because after -- 20 years it's been now since I was that 15-year-old little girl in porn movies. And as many successes as I have enjoyed, I still have this title before my name, the ex-porn star thing and...
KING: Well, you're always going to have that.
LORDS: Yes. More than that, though, there has been so much about me that has been said and so many, quote, unquote, "true Hollywood stories" done that have been anything but true, I really wanted to set the record straight. I thought I deserved to do that. And also, you know, two-fold, there is such a huge epidemic in this country right now, with teenage prostitution and pornography, that I think that the other side of the story really needs to come across and be told.
KING: And we're going to get into it a lot. Do you regret your past?
LORDS: I have a lot of -- I struggle with a lot of shame over my past. There have been times when I've been incredibly embarrassed about the things that happened to me. I don't think that there is one human being in this world that would wish, you know, to be injured as a kid the way -- in ways that I was. So yes, there are a lot of things that I wished hadn't happened.
KING: What age did it start, your abuse?
KING: And it was your father?
LORDS: No, it was a boy from school, an older boy that I had a crush on. He was 16 and I was 10 years old. I mean, you don't really have a boyfriend when you're 10 years old.
KING: No, you don't.
LORDS: But you have those feelings and you giggle like a little, innocent kid would. And when someone, you know, violates your trust...
KING: Did he physically...
LORDS: ... and you physically...
KING: ... enter you?
LORDS: Yes, it's -- he violated...
KING: At age 10? LORDS: ... me, and the whole trust issue and what that does to a child, I think it's so destructive because -- I mean, at least in my case, and from what I understand, it's a pretty typical reaction to blame yourself for everything that's happened.
KING: Did you report it?
LORDS: No. I didn't tell anyone. That was one of the huge things that I talk about in the book. I took on that shame for so long and thought that it really was all my fault.
KING: Your father was violent, though, with your mother, right? I mean, you had a turbulent childhood.
LORDS: I did. My parents split up when I was really young. And my dad -- I don't think that -- that my dad was a bad man necessarily. I think that he was someone that lost his dream, somebody that, you know, really took to the bottle. You know, he drank a lot. And he was somebody that was very angry, that had a really violent temper. So as a child growing up, I had this, you know, sexual abuse that was really violent. I had these thoughts in my head of, you know, This is what girls are for, this is what this is about. And then I had my mother's boyfriend, who I loved and trusted, you know, really betray me and start molesting me in my sleep and made me think I was even crazier. And ultimately, he was the one who took me to the nude modeling agency and said, Everybody starts out as a model this way. It was incredibly naive. It was really stupid, and...
KING: How old were you?
LORDS: ... at 15, I bought it -- 15.
KING: What did your mother say?
LORDS: My mother -- later on, years later, I said, Why didn't you do something? And she said, I reported you to the police as a runaway. You know, I tried to -- when she realized what was going on because they were...
KING: She didn't know about the...
LORDS: ... split up at the time. Yes. They were...
KING: You never told her...
LORDS: ... split up.
KING: ... either.
LORDS: No. Not until years later.
KING: Why didn't you tell her?
LORDS: Because there is a lot of shame with sexual abuse that happens, especially when it's a kid like that.
KING: Guilt, too.
LORDS: Guilt, shame, embarrassment. You take that all on. And it's something that's really incredibly hard to let go of. The reason that it's taken me, I think, so long to have this conversation, A, and to write a book like "Underneath It All," my autobiography, is because for so long I wasn't sure how I felt about it. I had -- I was trying to make this career -- last time I saw you, 11, 12 years ago, when I was promoting "Cry-Baby," even then, as confident as I was and as proud of myself and my work as I was, I was still really struggling to try to figure out, What does it all mean, and am I really OK? Am I -- am I a good girl? Does this make me bad? All of those thoughts that I think that you have, I had them 10-fold.
KING: You had an abortion when you were 14?
LORDS: Yes. I was really young, yes.
KING: Who was the father?
LORDS: A boyfriend from school.
KING: And by that time, was consenting.
LORDS: Yes. Yes.
KING: That wasn't -- early sexual experience does what to you? Does what to someone?
LORDS: Well, when you're talking about something like rape, it fills your head with a lot of mixed messages.
KING: Anger at men?
LORDS: For me -- anger at men. You think that sex is violent. You have incredibly low self-esteem. You do take on all of that shame and all that stuff. To have a healthy, you know, outlook on life is really, really difficult. And it's taken me -- you know, at 35, it's taken me the last 17 years to get to the point where someone can ask me these kinds of questions without me totally crawling out of my skin.
KING: You don't think of it as love, though, do you?
LORDS: What's that, sex?
KING: Yes. When you're abused...
LORDS: Oh, God, no. No. There's nothing...
KING: Nothing to do with love.
LORDS: There's nothing loving about it, no. Absolutely not. For me, porn was about my pain in my life as a child. And I was completely acting out. I was a wild kid. I was angry at the world. And I was very rebellious, and I wanted to show everybody.
KING: ... reputation?
LORDS: I think I was punishing myself, more than anything.
KING: You had a reputation?
LORDS: Oh, yes.
KING: Everybody in school knew...
LORDS: I lied about everything. No, I was out of school by then. But with, like, the porn world and everything -- I mean, I was...
KING: I'll get to that in a minute. You stole a birth certificate and adopted a new...
LORDS: No, I didn't.
KING: What's that about?
LORDS: I -- you know, that was, like, one of the many things that I started discussing at the beginning of this interview. There have been so many things said about me that aren't true.
LORDS: My story was sensational enough, and one of the frustrating things about listening to these shows and reading these interviews is that they made it even worse than it was.
KING: Well, here's what they said.
LORDS: I was, like...
KING: They said you created...
LORDS: ... Wasn't it already bad enough?
KING: They said you created a new identity at the age of 14.
LORDS: That's true. No, 15.
KING: Christie Elizabeth Nussman (ph).
LORDS: I was 15 years old, and it was Christie Elizabeth Nussman, but it wasn't a stolen birth certificate. It was a birth certificate that was given to me.
LORDS: So there's -- you know, there are pieces of truth in a lot of it, but I'm not sure exactly how... KING: So for a while, were you Christie Elizabeth Nussbaum?
LORDS: Yes, for about three years, I was. Absolutely.
KING: Where was your mother?
LORDS: I was more of a teenager growing up. I was Christie, the assumed name, and I was Traci Lords, the sex star. And what I really was, ultimately, is incredibly lost.
KING: Yes. Where was your mother in all this?
LORDS: I was a runaway. You know, I ended up on the streets in Hollywood, living under overpasses...
KING: What'd you get, lifts...
LORDS: ... you know...
KING: ... take hikes?
LORDS: Yes. I...
KING: How'd you get across the country?
LORDS: Exactly. I would -- across the country?
KING: I mean, what'd you -- hitchhike?
LORDS: We came to Ohio when -- no, we came to Ohio when I was about 11. Our whole family moved out here.
KING: How did you get to Hollywood?
LORDS: I first got...
KING: You ran away.
LORDS: ... to Hollywood on a bus, a Greyhound bus, because I wanted to walk down the boulevard and see the sparkling sidewalks. It was a silly...
KING: We'll pick it up in a minute. Traci Lords is our guest. What a story. The book is "Underneath It All." Traci Lords. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - MAY, 1989)
KING: Do you remember why you started initially?
LORDS: I think I was just young and very rebellious, a lot like the character I'm playing in this film. She's very young and she's entrapped in this really overdeveloped body, and she uses her sexuality to embarrass people and to frighten them, at times. But in the film, you find out that she's not nearly as secure with her sexuality as she pretends to be. (CLIP FROM "CRY-BABY")
LORDS: What I really found attractive about this film was that I get to go back and play a kid, and I never really got to be one. She has a whole gang...
KING: That's right. You never were a kid, were you.
LORDS: Yes. I never was a kid, and so now it's, like, reliving something, getting something that I never had.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Traci Lords, what a story. OK, you arrive in Hollywood. How did you get to do, like, nude -- how did that come?
LORDS: Actually, when I left and went to Hollywood, it was because I had already started doing, you know, the nude pictures.
KING: In Steubenville, Ohio?
LORDS: No, no, no. I was in California from the time I was 11 on.
LORDS: And when I left home, my mom and her boyfriend had broken up. And you know, the...
KING: How did you get...
LORDS: I was really, really defiant, and I was looking for a job. And I was 15 and I was pregnant, as you said before. And I went and was trying to -- What am I going to do with this, you know, baby? And, Oh, my God, I can't take care of a baby, I can't even take care of myself. And it was that, you know, consumed thing. And I was looking for a job, and I answered this ad for models. And the boyfriend, my mother's ex-boyfriend, actually took me there and convinced me that, Hey, Marilyn Monroe started out doing nudes. This is the way it works.
KING: Where was this?
LORDS: It was in Hollywood. And so I went into this agency with the fake ID that we just discussed. And you know, they said, Are you 21? And I went, Uh-huh. And it was a time, I think, in porn, in the early '80s -- this was '84 that this happened -- where, you know, if you said you were old enough, people kind of went, yes, OK, sure, you know? It wasn't -- it wasn't what the business, so-called, is today. Not that I have any connections to that business, but I've heard that after the whole thing that happened with the scandal, that they really carefully screen those girls, and which I think is perhaps the only good thing that maybe came out of some of the stuff that happened to me. KING: How did you go from nude photos to porn?
LORDS: So shockingly easily that it is chilling to even think about. And in writing this book and going back to those days and remembering what that was like -- it was never intentional. I never set out to be a porn star. I never -- wasn't trying to do anything. I was stoned. I was on a set. I was supposed to be a girl in a bikini walking around the pool. And you know, I got high enough, a guy hit on me, and it was a filmed thing. And that was the beginning of my career in that world.
KING: And no one knew you were 15 or 16?
LORDS: Nobody really asked, at that point.
KING: All right...
LORDS: There was one person at the beginning that said, you know, I need to see your birth certificate. I'm going to -- your ID, rather. I'm going to copy it. And everybody pretty much took his word for it, you know? So when the whole outcry about this happened, the whole porn world came out and said...
KING: You became a big story.
LORDS: ... you know, She's a manipulative little girl, and this is what she -- manipulative woman, and this is what she did, and she victimized us. And I always said, You know what? I wasn't unwilling. I was a girl, a young girl that was really confused, that was really angry, that definitely acted out. Yes, I lied about my age, but honestly, nobody really seemed to care that much. They wanted to make money.
KING: Was it hard the first time to pose nude?
LORDS: Yes, it was. It was. And cocaine was, like, courage.
KING: So this happened around the same time?
LORDS: Oh, it all happened at the same time, yes.
KING: Who tuned you on to that?
LORDS: The same agent that signed me up to do it, and the boyfriend, my mother's ex-boyfriend.
KING: So in many of the porn films, you'd be stoned while doing them?
LORDS: Oh, yes. As often as possible. I was stoned for about three years, from 15 to 18, almost constantly. I was suicidal. I was wild. I thought -- there were times when I thought I was having a good time. There were times that I thought that it was fun, and who cares, and I'm going to be dead by the time I'm 21. I was fooling myself, and I was a little brat, really. And on the inside, I was a really scared, really hurt little girl. KING: What was your first porn film?
LORDS: You know, that was the one I just told you about.
LORDS: That was -- yes.
KING: ... sort of happened.
KING: What was the first one where you knew it was a porn film?
LORDS: You know, I don't really have any vivid memories of any of it. This book -- there are three chapters that are specifically about the porn. It's not a porn book. It goes from cradle until present. And in it, I describe the things that I remember most about it. There's nothing graphic about my book, as far as -- you know, that world goes...
KING: ... not interested in graphic...
LORDS: I understand.
KING: I'm just trying to wonder what it's like to do that. In other words, do you feel like an actress?
KING: What do you feel like?
LORDS: You feel...
KING: What do you feel like?
LORDS: For me, what do I feel like? I felt disconnected from my body, and I felt high a lot and I felt angry. I felt...
KING: Were you turned on or not turned on?
LORDS: It was never about being turned on. What it was about was about venting. It was about rage. It was about release. It was about, you know, a kid getting off on power, if anything. That's what it was about.
KING: Were you very good at it?
LORDS: I've been told that I was. It's something that's very hard for me to hear because when I have people come up to me that are fans -- and mind you, I have fans from all walks of life, from the "Melrose Place" days, from the "Cry-Baby" days, and of course, the old porn fans. And when people come up to me just completely with nothing on it, they don't get where it gets me, and they say, Wow, I have all your old movies, and I love it -- it's like being...
KING: You have old porn...
LORDS: ... stabbed.
KING: You have old porn fans?
LORDS: Of course. Yes.
KING: You mean they have Traci Lords connections. They -- I mean, collections of your stuff?
LORDS: Yes. Yes, I've heard that.
KING: And you -- that hurts you...
LORDS: And it's hard to -- yes, it's -- it can be embarrassing. It can be insulting. And sometimes, it can be so ridiculous that, you know, you have to sort of throw up your hands and say, OK.
KING: What was the pay like?
LORDS: Very bad. You know, one of the things that...
KING: Oh, yes?
LORDS: ... I wrote about in this book is there's this whole myth about how I became, you know, the highest-paid woman in that industry and that, you know, I had plotted to do all of this. But you know, I never made a lot of money in that business. And everything was paid in cash. And it was something that was really hard for me to explain to the IRS years after the fact.
KING: At the height of your fame, when you were -- they would advertise it's a Traci Lords film, what would you make?
LORDS: Oh, you know, the entire -- that whole three-year period, you know, I maybe made $40,000 or something.
KING: A picture, $40,000...
LORDS: For three years, yes. But as much as people have said that I've done hundreds of movies and things, one of the main points that I make in this book is that that's not true. They were all compilations. You know, you make one film in one day, and they edit it into 50 different ones with different titles and pictures. And all of a sudden, they think that you made 50. There were maybe 20 films over three years -- as if that's not enough! But I've heard, She's made hundreds of hard-core movies, and she did this -- and it sounds like -- you know, I've read quotes and seen things. And maybe at that time, I perhaps even bragged that I did more than I did because that's who I was then. I was a mouthy little kid...
KING: A different person.
LORDS: ... saying, yes, that's right. Go ahead. And at the same time, saying, Please, somebody help me. It was that dual personality.
KING: Did you go to high school in Hollywood?
LORDS: I did -- no, not in Hollywood, in Redondo Beach.
KING: Redondo Beach.
KING: And did you quit high school?
LORDS: In 10th grade is when this all sort of blew up.
KING: Were you doing porn films while in high school?
LORDS: Yes, I was.
KING: Did any of your people recognize you...
LORDS: Well, you know, what? It wasn't -- it wasn't actually at the porn film stage yet. It was at the magazine stage.
KING: Did any of the high school people say, I saw you on a newsstand?
LORDS: Oh, there's a -- there's a chapter in my autobiography that I talk about. That was the final day that I actually left school.
KING: Someone recognized you?
LORDS: Yes. I was in the cafeteria, and I was getting Jell-O and mystery meat. He laughs. But it is kind of funny.
KING: It's kind of funny.
LORDS: I mean -- well, it was horrific! It was -- there was nothing funny about it at the time. And you know, I was wearing the outfits -- you know, the little -- my little trashy skirt and kind of high heels. And I walked into the cafeteria, and it was exactly that thing of, you know, I'm going to do whatever I want and that brattiness and that kind of rage mixed with, Somebody stop me.
So I'm flaunting by showing it at school, thinking a counselor or a teacher or somebody, you know, my mother, somebody, Look at me. Nobody did. So somebody came up to me in the lunch line, as I was sitting down at a table, this jock, and he started calling me the name of the centerfold girl because they always made up a different name, so you actually ended up with 50 aliases.
LORDS: You know, everybody had an alias. And they splatted the magazine on the table. And I didn't get it, at first. What is this about? And it -- the headline was -- you know, it was a game board, and it was me in a pleated skirt, looking like I was 12, you know, topless. And I freaked out and left the cafeteria, and that's how I ended up in Hollywood.
KING: Our guest is Traci Lords. The book is "Traci Lords: Underneath It All." We'll be right back.
KING: We're back with Traci Lords. The drug scene, did you like it?
LORDS: I think that, you know, millions of heroin addicts can't be wrong. There's a reason that there are so many...
KING: It must be something...
LORDS: ... because it does feel good.
LORDS: Heroin was not my drug of choice. You know, it wasn't really around, that I knew of, in the '80s. Well, I guess it was, but that...
KING: Well, cocaine was the...
LORDS: Cocaine was. but my point is that, you know, drugs do give you a certain amount of numbness, and I think that that was absolutely what I was looking for. It was a way to escape the reality that I was in, and my reality wasn't all that pretty.
KING: Were you ever whacked out?
LORDS: I was always whacked out.
KING: I mean, ever where you needed help or you had to go to the hospital?
LORDS: Oh, yes. I was extremely suicidal. I was...
KING: Oh, really?
LORDS: ... you know, killing myself slowly. At the end of it all, in 1986, when the FBI actually raided my apartment, I was stoned on cocaine. And I was 90 pounds, and I'm 5-foot-7. So I mean, I was pretty much wasting away. That was really, like, the end of it. Yes, so I was pretty bad off.
KING: Always be able to afford it?
LORDS: No, it was always really hard to afford it. I think that that's what -- one of the reasons that I stayed in porn for as long as I did. You know, it was...
KING: To pay for the cocaine.
LORDS: Yes, it was my drug habit.
KING: Why did you...
LORDS: It went hand in hand, the whole thing, you know?
KING: Why the FBI raid?
LORDS: Because after three years, they had -- you know, I don't know if it started from the initial reports that my mother made of me as a runaway or if they -- how exactly they received the information that they did. I don't know that I'll ever know the answer to that. But I was finally -- I was never arrested by the FBI. They broke down my front door. It was early in the morning. I was stoned on cocaine. I thought that, you know, there was an earthquake or something. You know, this is...
KING: What'd they do (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
LORDS: They took me downtown to the federal building, and they questioned me. I was, you know, wearing a long T-shirt and nothing else and bare feet, and I was taken up this fright elevator in the federal building. And they kept popping X-rated films in this VCR, saying, Is this you? Is this you? Is this you?
KING: Was this about the age factor?
LORDS: And -- yes.
KING: Is that what they were investigating?
LORDS: It was about child pornography. And I didn't get what everything was happening. My brain was pretty mushy. And I thought, Is this about the drugs? Is it about -- why now? Why would they be trying to help me, stop me now? Why, after three years, does anybody even care? That was pretty much my attitude?
KING: Traci, did you miss your mother?
LORDS: Absolutely. Yes.
KING: Did you call her?
KING: She wouldn't tell...
LORDS: I would never speak to her. I would call her and hang up because sometimes I needed to hear her voice. I did miss my mother.
KING: How did she handle the knowledge of what you did when she found out? LORDS: You know, it was really, really hard for me the first time I saw my mother after all of this, you know, because I was so mortified. I really was. And it was, like, sort of a crashing thing. You know, the first words out of my mouth were, Look, I'm really sorry. I knew that I had really -- I'd a lot of that stuff. I'd really embarrassed -- and then just all of it came out. This is what this is.
But it took me years, really, to, you know, confront my mother and say, Why didn't you protect me when I was younger? You know, Why did you let your ex-boyfriend do this to me? And my mother said, I had no idea. And that was the hardest thing for me to hear and accept. I said, How could you not know? How could you not know? And she said, I swear to you, I just didn't know. And we talked about that. You know, that was one of the main things that happened to me. I mean, the rape set me up because I was so destroyed over that. And then what he did to me, as I was really coming into my teens -- 12, 13, 14 -- it just kind of finished me off and it made me so PO'd that I felt really worthless.
KING: Was your mother ashamed of what you did for a living?
LORDS: I think my mother was more ashamed that she had allowed the things to happen that she had. As far as...
KING: Mad at herself.
LORDS: As far as the porn films go, my mother's attitude, thank God, has always been, Look, ultimately, all we're really talking about is sex. I have -- she had no shame about that. What she was really mortified about was the fact that she hadn't been there to protect me. And I have to tell you, by her saying that to me, it gave our relationship a whole new shot.
KING: Is she living?
LORDS: Yes, she is.
KING: Are you close?
LORDS: We are as close as we could possibly be. We have a really good relationship. And there's still stuff there that I don't always get, you know?
KING: Do you have any brothers or sisters?
LORDS: I have three sisters.
KING: How do you get along with them?
LORDS: I get along with them well.
KING: Are they younger, older?
LORDS: They've all had their trials and tribulations, let me tell you. KING: Where are you in the age...
LORDS: I'm No. 2. I have one older sister and two younger sisters.
KING: And they stayed with the mother, grew up normal...
LORDS: No, my older sister left home and had her own thing. And she's not a public person, so I don't really speak about her. But she's OK now. But she went through her stuff in a different way. My younger sisters have been through it, too, but in different ways. They've had their own issues with things in their life. We did grow up in a difficult situation, what with, you know, my father's alcoholic behavior and the violence in the house. So yes, whenever kids grow up in that kind of environment, there are real problems.
KING: The porn...
LORDS: You know, I know, working now -- I work with Children of the Night. I don't know if you heard a lot about them, but...
KING: I was going to ask you.
LORDS: ... Dr. Lois Lee (ph) -- yes, she founded this organization in Los Angeles, and she helps -- she has a hotline that goes all across the United States. And it's, you know, child prostitutes. And these girls -- I've been working with her for about 12 years. But these girls, they're all Traci Lords. You know, they have all been molested in some way or another, and they've all been child prostitutes. They're between 12 and 16 years old, the ones that are in the house at the moment. And the one thing -- they've all read my book, which is really wild. But the one thing that they have all said to me is, Wow, you're OK now. That's their dream. You know how some people aspire to go to Harvard, or when I -- When I grow up, I'm going to be a doctor. I'm going to be a -- When I grow up, I'm going to be OK. That floors me that kids think that way, that they don't get...
LORDS: ... just to start on some kind of a level playing field.
KING: The porn star Marilyn Chambers told me in an interview once that sex to her was like a commodity. I mean, some people sell fruit some people sell vegetables, she did sex and they paid her money. She had no feeling about it at all.
KING: Is that the way you feel or felt?
LORDS: I think that when I was in that business, I was a young kid, and my motives weren't those motives. And no, that's not how I feel or felt about it. I think that when I did that, I was acting out something. That's the way that, you know, it came out. That's what I did. It was me and my venting, whether it came across as being, you know, erotic or sexy or whatever people want to put on that. Where I was with it was that I am not valuable (ph) because I'm a little girl and this is what little girls are supposed to be used for.
KING: So "enjoy" would be the wrong word.
LORDS: Oh, my goodness. Yes. Yes.
KING: Traci Lords. The book is "Traci Lords: Underneath It all." You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LORDS: I just wish you knew better than to come snooping around like this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hold it right there now. Put up your hands.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, Ben.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean it, lady. Put them up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do as he says, ma'am.
LORDS: You wouldn't stop a little lady from putting on a little lipstick, would you? Some people call it final passion. I call it final surprise. Bye bye, boys.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LORDS: Alert the recon to check location. Begin 24/7 surveillance. Until then (UNINTELLIGIBLE) weapons update. Timetable.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Check.
LORDS: Throw this piece of crap back in his cell.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're breaking your own laws. Even prisoners of war have rights.
LORDS: You know what? You've got no rights.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Traci Lords. The book is "Traci Lords: Underneath it All."
You mention suicide. In fact, I'm told you -- suicide runs a lot through the book, right?
KING: Did you ever come close? LORDS: I remember driving down the street and not knowing how to really drive and using both feet because I couldn't figure out how to just use one, so, it was -- and being really high on cocaine and being really, really distraught and thinking and -- Pat Benatar's song, "Hell is for Children," which is one of the titles in my book. A lot of it is inspired by the music that I listened to when I was involved in that part of my life, and thinking, it would -- isn't that the truth? Hell is for children and it would be so much easier to drive off of a cliff. So the answer to your question is, Absolutely.
KING: You would rather drive off a cliff?
LORDS: No, suicide was something that was right there.
KING: I mean, have you ever given a thought? Ever sat down with pills? Ever come close?
LORDS: Yes. Yes.
KING: What stopped you?
LORDS: Well, It didn't stop me once. I mean, I od'd once and ended up in community hospital. I was always killing myself slowly anyway. That is what the porn and the drugs were about. I don't think that I really believed that I would live to be 21. I thought that it was, you know, live fast, die young, big deal. It was just kind of that kind of -- that destructive attitude.
KING: Did you ever worry about AIDS?
LORDS: You know, then, in the 80's, that's when you started hearing about it. It was after the fact that I worried about it. Absolutely. Come 1986 when I was sober and I was out of the business and I was 18-years-old, you bet I worried about it. I got tested dozens of time and I am very, very fortunate to be as healthy as I am. You know, I am free and clean of any and all diseases and my mental state is really good considering the things I have been through in my life.
KING: Have you had what could be called since, normal relationships? Dated men...
LORDS: Yes. Yes.
LORDS: Yes. I was married when I was 21. I think when I was hear last with you I was married. I married Brooke -- I met him at John Waters, the director of my movie. I melt him in Baltimore and he was my first husband and we were married for about five years and we ware still friends. We had a really great relationship and after that I had a boyfriend for several years and now I'm married to an amazing man named Jeff. And so...
KING: What's that like?
LORDS: I am a serial monogamist.
LORDS: You know, my husband is an iron worker.
KING: An iron worker?
LORDS: Yes. That's right.
KING: Where do you live?
LORDS: We live in Los Angeles.
KING: So he's like a...
LORDS: So on the way here, I was checking out all the DC iron workers.
KING: He's a blue -- there's a convention here.
LORDS: Is there?
KING: Yes. He's a blue collar guy.
LORDS: Yes, he is.
KING: How did you meet?
LORDS: My -- one of my best friends in the world, John Tierney (ph), who I talk about in the last half of my book -- he's in the fun half of my book, you know, that I really enjoyed talking about. He used to own a restaurant on Beverly Boulevard called Muse.
And about eight years ago, when I was doing profiler at the time, I lived right around the corner. And after work, I would go in and I would say hello to John and we would have dinner and Jeff was there. He was moonlighting as a bartender on Friday and Saturday nights to make some extra money and what have you and we always had a nice relationship. We would sit and we would chat and here was this really, really nice man. And as he tells it now, I didn't know really he existed, he says because I was so busy caught up kind of with, like, the bad boys and I was in my 20s and I wasn't really a bad girl any more but I was trying to figure out who I was. And so Jeff was this nice guy that I kind of ignored for a while. And...
KING: What happened?
LORDS: I thought, you know, here's this great looking guy, and he must be gay. That's really what I thought. And he wasn't! And years later, I had gone up to Canada to do a show called First Wave" and I had taken a break from guys and it was 1999/2000 and I came back home after being away for about a year and I walked back into the bar, the restaurant/bar two days before Christmas and Jeff was there and we started talking and it was just like, why haven't I seen you before?
KING: And you got married? LORDS: And we started dating about three months later and we had this amazing relationship. And he was definitely not gay and he's really, really loved and I'm lucky.
KING: Do you want children?
LORDS: Absolutely. Absolutely. It's something we have been talking about a lot. And it's such amazing head trip in many ways because it's a huge job, I think, to raise a child and how do you protect them? Are they going to be OK? And will I be a good mother? And oh my God, what if it's a girl, you know? All of those thoughts have gone through my head.
KING: Did Jeff have any qualms based on your past?
LORDS: Jeff and I -- we were friends for seven years before we ever dated. And we had conversations in that period of time about everything. He's not somebody that has ever, ever said to me, Oh, I can't believe you did that. Quite the opposite. I think that his view on i -- although, I mean, perhaps you'll have a chance to hear it straight from him, is that there's nothing that I have done in my life that other people, you know, haven't had experiences that he hasn't had experiences with, and that mine just happens to be on film. So that's pretty much where he stands. And if he didn't, I don't know that I could be with him.
KING: We'll ask Traci Lords in a moment how she gave it up, right after these words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is my honor to pronounce in love interest and destiny that you are husband and wife. This is the kissing part.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LORDS: Probably feel all alone, unprotected. You're taking all the flak. No wonder you need company.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stomach feels like a gravel pit.
LORDS: There are people who care about you, though. I'm here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: The book is "Traci Lords Underneath It All." How did you get out of drugs and porn?
LORDS: Well, it happened in 1986. It was in May. And the FBI raided my apartment. That was...
KING: That led to it? LORDS: Oh, that was it.
KING: You stopped cold?
LORDS: That was it. Well, Larry, let me tell you. The drugs are really -- it was all intertwined. I really wanted to get high because I was very really stressed out, and something about having the feds sit outside my apartment kept me from copping any drugs. It was really difficult. But all joking aside, it was the hardest thing I ever did.
KING: Was anyone arrested for using you in films underage?
LORDS: I'm not sure if, you know, how many people were convicted, if any, what happened, but I know that there were trials that went on for a long time. And the majority of the ones that at least I know about, they were really to do with people who sold the films after it became public. You had a lot of people in the porn industry coming out and saying, you know, she manipulated us and she ruined our industry and she caused us all this money, but yet weeks after it had been announced that these films were all illegal, they were caught by feds for selling them, advertising them as child pornography.
KING: So you didn't have to testify?
LORDS: I had to testify once. I was really fortunate. I found a really good attorney that really helped me. And you know, I talk about Leslie Abramson.
KING: Leslie Abramson. Tough broad.
LORDS: You know, there was a lot that was going on that really wasn't right. I really am very grateful now that it ultimately them raiding my apartment and whatever they did, however I feel about the way that they handled things, which they didn't handle them very well in my opinion, I'm still really glad that they did it, because ultimately it did save my life.
KING: How did you get into the straight world? What kind of -- did you go right for acting jobs? What did you do?
LORDS: Well, what I did was I really wanted to be an actress, and I was looking for a way to kind of, you know, another outlet to vent a lot of stuff. I was in therapy. I was doing a lot of time on the couch at that point, three or four times a week, trying to figure out, you know, how to stay alive, really. And I started studying acting at the Lee Strasburg Theater Institute in L.A., and, you know, with all the sense memory and stuff. And I remember early on that people thought, wow, you're really good at playing this angry scene or this -- or whatever. But it was just where I was at.
KING: So did you get a break?
LORDS: I did. My first break was on a series called "Wise Guy" with Ken Maul (ph). KING: I like Ken.
LORDS: Yes, and it was Stephen Canall (ph) that really got me my first break. And you know, I had a huge crush on Ken.
KING: Who didn't?
LORDS: I wrote about him in the book and when he heard about it, he called me up and he said, wow, you told. I said, I'm sorry but it was such a huge thing for me, because he was the first guy that I was with after all that porn...
KING: Oh, really?
LORDS: Yes. So I mean, he was a heartthrob and he was sexy and I thought that he was cool, and it was just, it made me start to think differently about relationships, or I didn't want to be a one-night stand girl. I wanted something more. And how was I -- so it was a really changing time in my life, and (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Then I went on to do "Married With Children" and then "Cry Baby" when I last saw you, and I slowly started really building my resume.
KING: You did "Melrose Place."
LORDS: Yes. After "Cry Baby" I did "Melrose Place."
KING: Has anybody asked you to do a film, a mature film, not a porno film in which you were asked to be nude or in a sexual scene?
LORDS: Yes, that has come up a lot. Yes.
KING: You don't do it or will do it?
LORDS: You know, I haven't done it. The last time -- my first film that I did for Roger Corman in '86 after the scandal, right after "Wise Guy" was the last time that I was, you know, topless in a film. And the reason for that was that I wanted people to, you know, look at me as an actress. As naive as that was at the time, because it just wasn't happening. That's really what I wanted.
But in a way, I think that that really worked for me because people did start to take me more seriously. I kept my clothes on. I've always said that if a fabulous role comes up and part of it is nudity -- my issue is not with nudity, I'm not trying to be a nun now or something. I just don't want to be exploited in that way anymore. So to answer your question, if we were talking about "American Beauty," I should be so lucky, it wouldn't be an issue. But if we were talking about the "B" list film down the road, I'm not interested in being the breasts of the film.
KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with Traci Lords. Quite a lady. "Underneath It All" is the book. Don't go away.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (MUSIC)
KING: We're back with Traci Lords, who has got her life straightened out. You work with that group, you said?
LORDS: Children of the Night, yes.
KING: And what do they do?
LORDS: What do they do? Well, Dr. Lois Lee (ph) is the founder of the organization, and she has a house in Van Nuys, and she helps the kids really rehabilitate their lives. You know, they're claiming they're sober. They have rules in the house. She puts them back into school so they can finish their education. They're schooled there. They're taken care of their health concerns, are taken care of. They are fed. They're protected. They're treated as children.
You know, they do have an 800 number. I believe it's 1-800-551- 1300. And that's the hotline. It is all across the United States.
LORDS: That's right. And I think that what she's doing is amazing, because there's a lot of organizations that help kids, but only for limited periods of time. That's the problem with these organizations that are funded, you know, by the state, by the state. It's 30 days, you get a bed for 30 days, you get a bed for 60 days. Well, then what do they do? They end up back out on the streets. There's no time limit at Children of the Night, which is one of the reasons that I think it's such a sensational organization.
KING: Do you know why young girls prostitute themselves?
LORDS: I have never met one that hasn't been sexually abused by an uncle, by a father, by a boyfriend, by somebody. They all have that in common. That's what I meant earlier when I said there's so many Traci Lords out there. My story is so completely typical, by the book, profile. It's scary.
KING: You just got famous.
LORDS: I just did it in a way where it became -- yes, it became news. It became -- and you know, a lot of that really bothered me. I write about the fact that they made it a bit of an advertising campaign, because putting that porn star title in front of my name, because what they really should have been talking about is child prostitution. By putting that title in front of my name and saying this poor girl was victimized, and then putting pictures of me half- naked, which is what they did on the news, I thought was pretty disgusting.
KING: They were using you.
LORDS: They used me, too. So, I mean, the lines between -- who are the good guys here? Is it the FBI that waited three years, they were telling me they were gathering evidence, is it the news people who are saying this poor victim and then putting pictures of me half naked, of the victim, revictimizing me? Is it, you know, these pornographers that are saying, well, she lied to us? Well, yes, I lied to them, but then they went and sold the tapes for three times as much money.
It's hard for me to tell what was what. So instead of what I did was I took it all on myself. It was all my fault again. So it took a long time for me to kind of figure this out. OK, yes, these are the choices I made, this is why I did it, this is where I was at, and OK. There's a lot to it.
KING: As you look back, Traci, do you regret a lot of things? Are you angry at yourself?
LORDS: You know, I really try not to even go there. I had somebody ask me yesterday, if you could just erase it all, and go back -- my answer was, you can't erase it all. You can't go back, but you can look at it in a bunch of different ways. It's like an onion, there is always another layer. There is always something else. Every time you hear people say, OK, I dealt with that, I dealt with that. You never really deal with anything. You deal with it on layers, you're doing different things. It sits in a different place. And then you get to revisit it constantly. You know, that's the one thing that I found out about life, that you know, regrets are just a waste of time.
KING: Do you ever look at some of the things and say, I did that?
LORDS: Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely.
KING: Did you ever find out what happened to your mother's boyfriend?
LORDS: No. I still have fantasies about running into him in a dark alley.
KING: He might still be alive, right?
LORDS: You know, he's probably one of the only people that I have found it really incredibly difficult to forgive.
LORDS: Because he did so much damage. And he was never punished for that, and I thought that that was really incredibly unfair.
KING: Great seeing you this happy.
LORDS: Thank you.
KING: And let's not wait another 12 years between visits.
LORDS: Very good.
KING: Traci Lords, the TV film actress, author of the memoir "Traci Lords Underneath It All." I'll be back in a couple of minutes and tell you about tomorrow night. Don't go away.
KING: Thanks for joining us on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Tomorrow night, a profile of John Walsh. You've seen him on a lot of our shows, discussing individual matters and cases. Now, you're going to learn about the life of John Walsh himself. And Queen Noor will be with us on Wednesday. Aaron Brown, "NEWSNIGHT," next. Thanks for joining us. For Traci Lords and yours truly, good night.
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