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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Interview With Richard Chamberlain

Aired September 1, 2003 - 21:00   ET

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE THORN BIRDS")
RICHARD CHAMBERLAIN, ACTOR: My punishment is never to be sure again that I love God more than you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Richard Chamberlain, the legendary leading man has been a handsome heartthrob for millions of American women. But he's only just made the shocking revelation that he's gay. Why did he live a lie all those years? And why did he decide to come out now? A rare, revealing emotional hour with Richard Chamberlain, in-depth, very, very personal, next on LARRY KING LIVE.

We have a real treat in store tonight. I've looked forward to this for a long time. Our special guest this evening on LARRY KING LIVE is one of my favorite actors, Richard Chamberlain, the award winning actor, who's a crossover actor, both a major star in television and film, author of the bestselling memoir "Shattered Love." a very revealing let it all hang out book. Was it tough to write?

CHAMBERLAIN: It was in the sense that I'd never written a book before and never thought I'd write a book. And so I had to kind of learn as I went along. And so, a lot of the early stuff got thrown out.

But no, I tell you, the honesty of it was such a relief. First of all, such a learning experience to actually sit down and have to think about something enough to write it down and have it worth looking at. So when I was doing it, it was -- it was an extraordinary experience.

KING: Cathartic.

CHAMBERLAIN: And it was cathartic in a way, but it's not as if -- cathartic means you're like getting rid of stuff. Well, I was in a sense, getting rid of fear, yes.

KING: You were overcoming something?

CHAMBERLAIN: Overcoming, yes, the fear of this whole business about being gay and all that stuff. And more than that really. But that's not really what the book is basically about. The book is basically about love.

KING: Your fears all these years. Were they warranted?

CHAMBERLAIN: No.

KING: What's been the public reaction to your fears of coming out?

CHAMBERLAIN: I tell you, I went on a book tour just shortly -- not too long ago. And the reaction of interviewers, the reaction of press people, the reaction of people on the street...

KING: What's the dig deal?

CHAMBERLAIN: ...people in airports, there were going, "good for you." And because I'm so happy about it, and it's -- I'm not coming from a place of fear at all anymore, which is a wonderful kind of sort of grace for me, that people tend to pick that up. And people are so friendly. They're so sweet about it.

KING: You've also helped a lot of gay people?

CHAMBERLAIN: Well, probably, sure. Probably because when you realize that all the fears, all the stories you had in your mind are bogus, and also when you meet people on the street who go, oh, a queer, that's bogus stuff in their head. It doesn't have to be in your head at all anymore.

KING: But you repressed it for a lot of reasons.

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes.

KING: But one of the major ones that you were a major heterosexual film -- Dr. Kildare...

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, yes.

KING: ...who was worshipped by women.

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes.

KING: I mean, so it was -- did you think, my career is over if this comes out?

CHAMBERLAIN: Well, yes. That was very scary.

KING: That was logic?

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, of course. And back in -- when I grew up in the '30s, '40s, '50s, you know, it was verboten. It was absolutely unacceptable to be gay. Absolutely. And you had to hide. Even if you were not a public person, you had to hide.

KING: So you'd go on dates?

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, sure. Well, I had wonderful girlfriends and had a lot of fun on dates. We just didn't happen to end up in bed. KING: All right, when did -- let's discuss this a lot, because it's fascinating. And we've learned a lot from you and others as we've become more enlightened. When did you know you were different?

CHAMBERLAIN: Oh, gosh, when I was a little kid. 11, 10, something like that.

KING: Did you not like things other kids -- other boys liked?

CHAMBERLAIN: Well, I -- well, I wasn't into sports. You know, that's sort of classic. I was a track -- on the track teams...

KING: And...

CHAMBERLAIN: ...Yes, yes. And I was a four-year letterman in high school and college and stuff, but...

KING: And you were a good looking guy.

CHAMBERLAIN: And I was good looking. And I was good at all kinds of games. I just didn't like team sports. So that was kind of a clue. But I wasn't attracted to girls the way my friends were, but I sort of pretended to be and had some great girlfriends, for instance in high school.

KING: But what kind of feelings were you going through? In other words, why aren't I attracted?

CHAMBERLAIN: Well...

KING: Did you think that?

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, yes, yes. I thought there was something very, very deeply wrong with me. And I wanted to cover it up. I wanted -- I didn't want anybody to know ever. I remember making a pact with myself that I would never, ever reveal this secret, ever. And that's kind the way I tried to live my life.

KING: And so therefore, you were -- there was nothing gay about you, right? You were not flowery, you were not...

CHAMBERLAIN: No.

KING: ...swishy, that kind of thing.

CHAMBERLAIN: No, no, no. Not that I was aware of anyway.

KING: In fact, you were manly?

CHAMBERLAIN: I attempted to be, yes. And it felt comfortable. That was my job. And that's the way I wanted to live my life. I didn't happen to want to be, you know, flamboyant and wear sequins and stuff.

KING: When did you want to be an actor?

CHAMBERLAIN: Oh, from -- I didn't like real life. I didn't like school. I didn't like reality.

KING: Where did you grow up?

CHAMBERLAIN: Well, funnily enough, in Beverly Hills, but the normal part, you know, with just the little houses.

KING: The other side of Wilshire.

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, the other side of Wilshire. Right, exactly.

KING: Did you always want to be a...

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, I always wanted to be an actor because it was the world of fantasy. I wanted to -- I went to the movies all the time. And I wanted to do that. I wanted to ride the steed and save the damsel and I don't know swim with Maria Montez in the jewel-laden pool and all that stuff. That appealed to me a lot.

KING: So you got that wish.

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, I did actually.

KING: You became what you wanted to be.

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, I did. Thank goodness.

KING: What was your first experience like physically with a man?

CHAMBERLAIN: The first time I was in love, I was scared in the beginning, and all that. But once I got over my fear, it was a wonderful time.

KING: How old were you?

CHAMBERLAIN: I was -- gosh, I was 24, 23 maybe.

KING: You had had no relations before that?

CHAMBERLAIN: Well, maybe some little something had happened, but nothing...

KING: Nothing major?

CHAMBERLAIN: No, no.

KING: So you're living kind of a celibate life until then?

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes. Yes. Yes. And then funnily enough, this first relationship which I write about in the book was very free and very happy, partly because the guy was such a sweet person. And then it was over in about a year. And that was kind of sad at first. But you know, when you're young, you kind of move on.

KING: And love is love, right?

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, love is love. KING: I mean, the feelings are the same.

CHAMBERLAIN: Well, yes, I think so. I think so. There's of course, all kinds of love.

KING: You were in a long-time love relationship?

CHAMBERLAIN: Oh, yes.

KING: Yes?

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, yes, yes. And that is very much more like unconditional love at this point. Martin and my relationship has been 26 years. And it's just keeps growing and keeps getting better.

KING: What, Richard, was the hardest part about hiding?

CHAMBERLAIN: Over a long period of time, living as if you were someone else is no fun.

KING: Living a lie.

CHAMBERLAIN: It's a lie. And it takes so much energy. It's -- also my personality as a pleaser and all that stuff, it just -- it's so exhausting. And finally, when you can just be yourself, you know, I have six times more energy now than I had when I was 20 in certain ways.

KING: Do you regret now having...

CHAMBERLAIN: No, no.

KING: No?

CHAMBERLAIN: I don't regret anything because it's all these problems that got me where I am. It's funny. I'm 69. And as your body -- you wouldn't know about this yet.

KING: I'm 69.

CHAMBERLAIN: Are you, really?

KING: Yes, we're both 69.

CHAMBERLAIN: Well, as your body begins to depart...

KING: Yes.

CHAMBERLAIN: ...it's interesting how your soul or whatever you want to call it, kind of begins to flower. I mean, I'm so much wiser about life now than I was 10 or 15 years ago.

KING: And happier.

CHAMBERLAIN: And happier.

KING: Our guest is Richard Chamberlain. The book is a must- read, "Shattered Love." We'll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SHOGUN")

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thou knowest how I love thee.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thou art my first love, my only love. But now I tremble with fear for thee. We are doomed, you and I. I have destroyed thee.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am not easily destroyed. Karma is karma.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TOWERING INFERNO")

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think it's wrong to feel a sense of duty.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sometimes when you return the exact same phrase, lift an eyebrow the exact same way, I see and I hear your father. The two of you, one, like a great big tree and a little baby tree in its shade where the acorn fell.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Roger, I came over here to you because I thought you might need me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know. What I need most is this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back with Richard Chamberlain, author of "Shattered Love." Both a film star and TV star. Not many have made it in both areas. He, of course, was the famous Dr. Kildare, one of the most famous characters in American television history. We'll get to that later on.

What was life like with your mom and dad as a kid?

CHAMBERLAIN: I was close to my mother. They were both attractive people. My father was a drunk until I was about 14. He was tough. He was a very big personality, very strong.

KING: Brothers and sisters?

CHAMBERLAIN: I have an older brother, yes.

KING: Is he gay?

CHAMBERLAIN: No, no. And...

KING: So we don't know why someone is gay?

CHAMBERLAIN: No, no, there's no telling. I have a theory about that, if you want to get into it. I think there's something that precedes the choice of a same sex partner. And it's a kind of androgyny of personality. You know, most men are somewhat polarized into masculinity. And most women are somewhat polarized into femininity. And the two attract to each other and it makes a beautiful combo. It makes a kind of third being or a whole being.

But an androgynous person is already rather balanced in terms of masculine or feminine. And so it's not unusual or even strange that sometimes an androgynous person like myself would be attracted to a person of the same sex, because you don't need the opposite.

KING: You don't know why?

CHAMBERLAIN: No, I have no idea.

KING: A pants would attract you more than a skirt?

CHAMBERLAIN: I have no idea. I have no idea.

KING: Most men can't tell them why the skirt attracts them.

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, yes, exactly.

KING: We don't know why.

CHAMBERLAIN: Exactly.

KING: We don't know why.

CHAMBERLAIN: But the two terms are almost meaningless until -- if you tell me that you're straight, I don't know anything about you other than that. I don't know whether you're good or bad or smart...

KING: No. Tells you nothing but sexual preference.

CHAMBERLAIN: Almost nothing, yes.

KING: And the preference was not of your choosing.

CHAMBERLAIN: No, it certainly wasn't.

KING: No one sat down and said let's see, gay, straight?

CHAMBERLAIN: No.

KING: Gay straight?

CHAMBERLAIN: No.

KING: You chose gay?

CHAMBERLAIN: No. I certainly didn't want to choose to hide all my life.

KING: How did your brother react to it? CHAMBERLAIN: We had a conversation maybe 20 years ago.

KING: That's when he found out?

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes. And it involved a reason we had to talk about it. And he was very, very sweet. We sat down in the garden of my house. And I was going to have this really tough conversation. And he said, I got to tell you something. This is going to be much easier than you think. It was really sweet.

KING: He knew?

CHAMBERLAIN: And we talked -- yes. I mean, please. Yes, you can't live with it, but I never discussed it with my parents.

KING: Never?

CHAMBERLAIN: Never.

KING: And they with you, ever?

CHAMBERLAIN: No, never. Isn't that weird? And it got to the point where I thought until they ask me, I'm not going to discuss it.

KING: Did they live a long life?

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, they did.

KING: Did they see you come out?

CHAMBERLAIN: No.

KING: Never did?

CHAMBERLAIN: No, no.

KING: Do you think they suspected?

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, yes.

KING: But never broached?

CHAMBERLAIN: Never broached it, interesting.

KING: Were you outed first?

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes.

KING: Who did that and why?

CHAMBERLAIN: It's -- oh, some cowboy did it. Some Italian guy, who...

KING: In a magazine?

CHAMBERLAIN: ...was doing this to a lot of people in magazines and things. Yes.

KING: How long ago?

CHAMBERLAIN: Oh, about -- around '91.

KING: Did you deny or not say anything?

CHAMBERLAIN: I didn't say anything. My publicist unfortunately denied it before I had a chance to talk to her.

KING: What would you have said?

CHAMBERLAIN: I would have said -- I don't know. It's something I would rather -- I'm not interested in discussing or something like that.

KING: But she do, or the publicist denied?

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, which I thought was a little dangerous because well...

KING: How did it change you being outed?

CHAMBERLAIN: I was scared to death. It was my worst nightmare. You know, I thought my career was over. I thought everybody was going to hate me and there'd burn crosses on my lawn and all that stuff.

Almost nothing happened. I didn't work for a year. The phone stopped ringing for a year, but I started painting. So it was a good year. And then after that, there was no difference in my life at all. Interesting.

KING: None...

CHAMBERLAIN: But I still had fear. I still had a large degree of self dislike to get over. And I didn't get over that until I had just about finished my book.

KING: How did you deal with when you were with a group of guys or something and there would be the gay jokes? How did you...

CHAMBERLAIN: I don't know. I would just -- I would -- I certainly wouldn't -- I didn't encounter that very often, but I would just ignore it or not say anything.

KING: How about the gay -- was there a gay community?

CHAMBERLAIN: That I have no idea.

KING: What, were you and Rock Hudson friends?

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, I knew him a tiny bit. And he was always extremely friendly, but we weren't -- didn't go out to dinner or anything.

KING: Never romantic? CHAMBERLAIN: No, I didn't -- I've never had a whole lot of friends in the business. A few. But I tend to like -- I don't know therapists and acupuncturists and people who are different artists. I don't have that many actor friends.

KING: Were there rumors about you?

CHAMBERLAIN: Oh, sure. In the business I think it was generally considered I was gay. But nobody ever talked about it.

KING: Did any producers, people hiring you ever bring it up?

CHAMBERLAIN: No, never. Never.

KING: Was it rumored whether you were doing Kildare?

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes.

KING: Did anyone at the show ever say to you...

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes. Somebody came, an acting coach came out and said, you -- I think it would be OK if you knew that there's a rumor going around that you're having an affair with so and so.

KING: A guy?

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes. And I said absolutely not. I mean, truly I wasn't. But everybody believed that was true. It was -- my lawyer believes it was true, I think. My agent believed it was true. There was no denying. You know, rumors in Hollywood are...

KING: Sure.

CHAMBERLAIN: ...they just last forever.

KING: During the days of that involvement and you getting into acting now, you start getting roles. Playing love scenes. Hard? You're a great actor.

CHAMBERLAIN: No, not hard.

KING: You got to be a great actor. You weren't attracted to the person.

CHAMBERLAIN: No, listen it's -- no, but as the character you are. I mean, Rachel Ward, this beautiful, beautiful creature in "The Thorn Birds," the love scenes were wonderful to do because I was Father Ralph and she was gorgeous. And I was in love with her.

And she was actually falling in love with Brian Brown at the time. And so, she was full of, you know, all that kind of romance, which I was happy to believe was aimed at me. And it was delicious kissing her and hugging her and doing all that stuff. It was wonderful.

KING: I'm going to ask you in a minute how stardom affected you. How suddenly being well known affected you and always. Richard Chamberlain is the guest. The book is "Shattered Love." We'll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE THORN BIRDS")

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, Ralph. You rode all the way like this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hardly noticed it. I was worried about the horse making it through all that mud. Burrowed in Gilley (ph). God, don't. Peggy, don't.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The truth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know the truth.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can do better than that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not much. They say my name is Borne, Jason Gorne.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They? What are you talking about?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My life began a month ago, when I was washed up on the beach in a French fishing village of Port Noir. I have no past, doctor, no memory of a past. I have no idea who I am, what I am, why I'm so good at killing, or who those people are who are trying to kill me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back with Richard Chamberlain, author of "Shattered Love." Before we move to career, you went into the Army, right?

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, I was in the Army two years. I was drafted. I was in Korea after the war. And I worked by ass off and I became a staff sergeant, believe it or not in two years, which is very unusual.

KING: What was it like in the Army for a gay guy?

CHAMBERLAIN: It was really horrible. I hated the Army because I hated being told what to do. I hate being ordered around. And that's what it's all about. I hate stamping my socks. I hate standing up for inspection, you know. And...

KING: (Unintelligible.)

CHAMBERLAIN: No, I was good. As I said, I got out as staff sergeant, which is amazing.

KING: What do you think of "don't ask, don't tell?" CHAMBERLAIN: I honestly don't know because it's really hard being a guy in battle. This is as hard as life gets. And I personally wouldn't want to do anything to disturb their law, if they have any, you know, sense of, I don't know how things should be. But I wouldn't want to get in their way in any way. They're out there risking their lives for me and for you. And if they didn't want me around, I would...

KING: No big deal?

CHAMBERLAIN: ...I would tend to go elsewhere because I wouldn't want to be there anyway.

KING: I guess the fear that the brass has is that you or a gay soldier would be attracted. And therefore, attached together and the like, could lead to problems.

CHAMBERLAIN: I suppose. It never was a problem with me. I just didn't.

KING: You didn't at all?

CHAMBERLAIN: No. No way! And I just did my job.

KING: You were with a woman, were you not?

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes.

KING: You lost your virginity to a woman?

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes.

KING: A Japanese girl.

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes.

KING: What was it like?

CHAMBERLAIN: Great.

KING: Oh, so wait a minute, you were able to enjoy it?

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, but...

KING: But what?

CHAMBERLAIN: ...it was under extraordinary circumstances. I was very drunk and very young. And she was lovely. And it just sort of happened. But it's not -- but the idea of being married, etcetera and having kids, never appealed to me at all. Not at all.

KING: Not at all?

CHAMBERLAIN: Not at all.

KING: So you couldn't fake that? CHAMBERLAIN: No, no.

KING: You couldn't have moved on with your life, getting married, and having children?

CHAMBERLAIN: No way, no way.

KING: But you did enjoy the experience?

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, I did.

KING: So did you ever say to yourself, maybe I should change, or could I try to change? Or did you ever try to change?

CHAMBERLAIN: No, no. It was kind of a fluke. It was -- I don't know how it really happened. And it was just a kind of fluke. I don't know...

KING: One time only?

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes.

KING: All right, what was it like when you -- what was it like for you when you became a star, not just as a gay person?

CHAMBERLAIN: No, no, no.

KING: Becoming a star?

CHAMBERLAIN: Well being gay is just one little tiny bit of the story.

KING: Of course.

CHAMBERLAIN: It was everything I'd ever dreamed of because I had zero self-esteem, a lot of self-dislike, a lot of self mistrust. And I needed applause, I needed attention, I needed all that. And I loved acting. I really loved being an actor. So given the two things, it was just wonderful.

KING: Did you take to it right away?

CHAMBERLAIN: Oh, yes. And I was -- well, I had my hang-ups. You know, I was very inhibited young person.

KING: Aren't a lot of actors?

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, I think so. Very shy. A lot of actors. But it was very hard for me to get into my emotions for a dramatic scenes and stuff in the beginning.

KING: Where did you learn?

CHAMBERLAIN: It's easy now. I just learned by doing it.

KING: No actors... CHAMBERLAIN: Oh yes, sure, sure. I studied with Jeff Corey in L.A. Very highly thought of method teacher who died just recently. Wonderful. He had a wonderful lot of...

KING: Did you ever get psychological?

CHAMBERLAIN: Oh, yes. Gosh, I started -- I had my first work with a psychologist when I was in my early 20s, because I was so unhappy and I didn't know why I was so unhappy. You know, this life of hiding and lying is no fun.

And she pointed out to me in the course of a considerable amount of time that I was totally out of touch with my real feelings. I didn't know when I was angry. I didn't know when I was sad. I was pretending to be this perfect all-American guy all the time, you know, really pleasant.

KING: Wow.

CHAMBERLAIN: And so when I would be angry, I would just -- I would withdraw. My energy was disappear. My eyes would go blank. But I wouldn't know why. I wouldn't know why. I didn't know because I wouldn't admit that I was angry about something.

KING: And how did she help?

CHAMBERLAIN: She helped by pointing that out to me, and saying well look at this situation. How did you really feel? Well, I don't know." No, how did you really feel?

KING: Were you angry at all?

CHAMBERLAIN: Well, yes, it did piss me off a little bit. Well, she said a little bit. And I -- well yes, it pissed me off a lot. But I didn't know it until she in a sense pointed it out to me. But then I began to become more and more aware. And I worked with spiritual teachers and I worked with other psychologists and all kinds of things to try to find my way back into life. What I think is life.

KING: But through all this you were able to do well acting?

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, yes.

KING: You were acting?

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, I was acting. And what you really are comes through anyway.

KING: Yes, our guest is Richard Chamberlain, the award winning actor and author of "Shattered Love." We'll be right back on this edition of "LARRY KING LIVE." Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHAMBERLAIN: Paul, you're not looking so hot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Peddle your pills elsewhere, doctor. You can't make money on friends.

CHAMBERLAIN: No, seriously. They mix up a marvelous prescription for what ails you in a little bar across the street. Now, we can get a couple of nurses...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Out, out! Faker. Quack pill pusher.

CHAMBERLAIN: I'm going, I'm going. But I'll be back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: What was it like getting famous?

CHAMBERLAIN: It was just wonderful.

KING: Was Kildare the thing that made you famous?

CHAMBERLAIN: Kildare, yes. Overnight.

KING: How did you get that part?

CHAMBERLAIN: I had done a pilot film for MGM about a year and a half before called "The Paradise Kid," a western. And it didn't sell. Westerns were on their way out at the time.

And when they were looking for Kildare, they looked all over town. They wanted a new face, and they couldn't find what they were looking for. And they pulled this old pilot film out of the vault and looked at it and thought, there he is. I don't know why. But there he is.

KING: So fame was wonderful?

CHAMBERLAIN: Fame was sensational. There comes a time when you miss being anonymous, I must say. There comes a time when you miss -- especially at the height of your fame -- when you miss being able to go to a movie or go to the grocery store and not be...

KING: Because Kildare was enormous?

CHAMBERLAIN: Enormous.

KING: Enormous.

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes.

KING: For how long?

CHAMBERLAIN: Huge. Five years.

KING: That long?

CHAMBERLAIN: It was huge. Yes. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But I'm going to get worse.

CHAMBERLAIN: There will be times when you get better, too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Honest?

CHAMBERLAIN: Honest. Have I ever lied to you?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHAMBERLAIN: People still, when I run into people who are still alive who saw it, they still approach me with this extraordinary affection because I was in there Kildare -- I as Kildare was in their living rooms once a week for five years, and they got very attached. And they liked me.

KING: For the benefit of those who don't know, it was a famous radio series.

CHAMBERLAIN: Well, it was a famous -- No. It was a famous 12 movies, MGM movies.

KING: With Lionel Barrymore?

CHAMBERLAIN: Lionel Barrymore and Drew Ayers. Yes. Hugely successful.

KING: It was also a radio show.

CHAMBERLAIN: Oh, was it? I didn't know that.

KING: "Calling Dr. Kildare."

CHAMBERLAIN: No kidding? Maybe we could do that again.

KING: And then you played it with -- who played the other doctor?

CHAMBERLAIN: Raymond Massey. Wonderful Raymond Massey. Great, great, great actor. He became a kind of surrogate father.

KING: Oh, really?

CHAMBERLAIN: Because I was having big troubles with my own father. And it was -- I tell in the book how I came to a total forgiveness and even love...

KING: For your dad?

CHAMBERLAIN: ... with my own father. Forgiveness to me is realizing there was nothing to forgive. I think that's what really forgiveness is. It isn't pardoning a wrong. It's realizing that you weren't wrong in the first place. Very interesting. Read the book, you'll find out. KING: How did you deal with recognition? Suddenly, what you wanted came true.

CHAMBERLAIN: Well, I loved it, and especially in my youth, I just loved it. I loved, I don't know, having to get away from the crowds and all that stuff.

KING: Did you say to yourself, I'm going to have problems because of my sexuality?

CHAMBERLAIN: No, that was always a kind of fear in the background, but it wasn't the problem. And I didn't invite it as a problem and it didn't become a problem except, of course, within my own being.

KING: But you had no fear of saying, "Boy, some day somebody is going to find out. My career will be ruined."

CHAMBERLAIN: Well, that fear lurked in the back of my mind and there certainly were journalists who wanted to kind of get me to say the wrong thing or the revealing thing. And I got used to playing the game with them and sort of fencing with them.

But, no, I never, to my knowledge, slipped up. And it seemed to me -- because there was a kind of general agreement at the time that unless you screw up, we won't say anything.

KING: Did the powers that be, the suits, want you to go on dates?

CHAMBERLAIN: I was doing it anyway.

KING: Oh, you were?

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes.

KING: Part of the facade.

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, sure. Well, it was also OK, you know? My friend Clara or whoever, I'd take to premieres.

KING: It wasn't a terrible time? Because...

CHAMBERLAIN: No, because they were my dear friends anyway that I was taking out and we'd have good times together.

KING: Most of your close friends know?

CHAMBERLAIN: Oh, sure. Always.

KING: So you didn't hide it among them?

CHAMBERLAIN: No. Well, I did in the beginning. For instance, I can remember in acting, when I was in Jeff's class, in the very beginning, before I started working, I didn't talk about it to anybody. But shortly after that, everybody knew. KING: "Breakfast at Tiffany's" you did with Mary Tyler Moore. And that didn't work.

CHAMBERLAIN: Oh, my God. Everybody you ever heard of was doing that show. Oliver Stone was doing the sets. Everybody. Dave Burrowes (ph) was writing and directing. It was totally stellar.

It was supposed to be -- Dave Merrick was producing. It was supposed to be the biggest show to hit -- of the decade.

It didn't work. It just didn't work. And they finally brought in Edward Albie (ph), of all people, to rewrite it.

KING: Really?

CHAMBERLAIN: So then it became this really dark show. And our first four previews in New York of this dark new dark kind of operatic thing, people liked it so much they walked out. They'd yelled at us. I had a line, and it was something like, "I'll never sing again" and somebody said, "Good!" Unbelievable.

KING: What's it like to be in a bomb?

CHAMBERLAIN: It's horrible. Because all I had known was success. I thought, this is so easy. Everything is going to be success.

KING: And you were a big draw. Because...

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, I was. Yes, I was. And it was heartbreaking.

KING: Did you get along with Mary?

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, very well. Got along with everybody. Everybody was smelling defeat long before I did. And I loved the show. And when it died, I was heartbroken.

KING: Were you ever asked to play a gay role?

CHAMBERLAIN: Sure, Tchaikovsky. In the first Ken Russell film, "The Music Lovers." I can't think of another one at the moment.

KING: Was that different?

CHAMBERLAIN: It was just a part.

KING: So these are separate things?

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes. Very separate. Yes. It was just a part.

KING: Heterosexual men are often asked about love scenes they play with women, et cetera. Were you ever attracted to any of the men you worked with? Would have been logical.

CHAMBERLAIN: I find that when I'm working, I'm so obsessed with getting it right -- acting is hard work for me. It's joyful, but it's also hard work. That kind of stuff just almost doesn't happen.

KING: Really?

CHAMBERLAIN: It just doesn't get into my consciousness. Yes.

KING: Interesting.

CHAMBERLAIN: I mean, I can't think of a time when it did.

KING: So you never, like, would do a scene with Paul Newman and say, "I'd like to go home with him tonight?"

CHAMBERLAIN: Listen, if he'd invited me, I probably would have gone, but...

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Richard Chamberlain is our guest. The book is "Shattered Love." We'll talk about "Centennial" when we come back. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You must know why I'm here.

CHAMBERLAIN: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe our friendship is as important to you as it is to me. It mustn't end.

CHAMBERLAIN: It ended when I married.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your marriage is a charade.

CHAMBERLAIN: I am a married man, a respectable married man for all the world to see.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Peter!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHAMBERLAIN: You shouldn't have come to the hill, lad (ph). It's too hard to pull out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: McKeag, stop.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back with Richard Chamberlain who, again, made that crossover. How did you do that, to make that crossover from television star to film star?

CHAMBERLAIN: Well, it just sort of happened.

KING: Usually that works against you.

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes. I was -- I had done "Hamlet" and some important things in England and then I started working in British films because they're less -- there was less of a barrier between the two mediums in England at the time. And then...

KING: Was Britain more progressive regarding gays at that time?

CHAMBERLAIN: All of Europe, the whole world is.

KING: ... and others.

CHAMBERLAIN: The whole world is. My French friends, when I was talking about coming out, they spent Christmas with me and they were saying, "In France it would mean nothing. Nothing."

NO. Americans are so hung up on sex, it's not funny."

KING: Do you ever wonder why?

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, I do. I suppose it's partly our Puritan roots. Other than that, I don't know, because we've had a lot of time to get over that. But sex in America is thought to be basically evil, I think. You know, even heterosexual sex is very questionable. Yes.

KING: Don't do that.

CHAMBERLAIN: Naughty. And don't do those things when you are in bed with your wife.

KING: There were laws against it.

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, there were.

KING: Just threw it out.

CHAMBERLAIN: Until two minutes ago, yes.

KING: Are you angry at that? Are you angry at the way a lot of people feel about gay people, gay bashing? Are you angry?

CHAMBERLAIN: Oh, of course, of course, of course I am.

KING: Read about that killing in...

CHAMBERLAIN: Oh, of course. It's just totally loathsome. But it is reality. It is a fact. And there we are. And we have to start where we are and deal with it.

One of the reasons I like being on your show and talking about it is because that it will help that little bit of people to realize that human beings have various possibilities. And -- yes.

KING: Why was "Centennial" so special to you? CHAMBERLAIN: I loved McKeag. I loved this character I played. He was so whole. He was everything I wasn't. He was -- he needed celebrity, as I say in the book, like a moose needs a hat rack.

He didn't need your approval at all. He was whole. He knew himself. He could do his job. He could -- and stay sensitive and fall in love with Clay Basket and be very loving to her and be very tough. He could do all those things. So he didn't need anybody.

KING: Henry Fonda told me when he played Mr. Roberts, and he never missed a performance, he couldn't wait to be Mr. Roberts...

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes.

KING: ... because he was nothing like Mr. Roberts.

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, yes.

KING: And a chance to be this kind of person.

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes.

KING: He would get -- can't wait for 8 p.m..

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, I felt like that playing Cyrano de Bergerac.

KING: Really?

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes. He was such a great guy and could do everything, you know? So right.

KING: You've had encounters, and you write about, with a lot of famous people, right?

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes.

KING: Princess Margaret.

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes.

KING: Get along with her?

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, I did. I think -- I vaguely suspect she had a teeny crush on me. And I liked her a lot.

KING: How about Joan Crawford?

CHAMBERLAIN: We had sort of a week together in New York on this -- not living together. I was doing P.R. there. And she sort of took me up and I went to the theater with her and went to her apartment.

KING: Did she know you were gay?

CHAMBERLAIN: I don't know. We never -- We certainly never talked about it, no. And I liked her a lot. She was so big and she had wonderful stories about Hollywood. And I was dazzled by her. KING: She's a tough lady, though.

CHAMBERLAIN: She was tough. I -- she was in her apartment and Christina was there. And she said, "What would you like to drink?"

And I said, "Gin and tonic."

And she said, "Make us two gin and tonics." And it was so -- so...

KING: I interviewed her when she was running Pepsi for awhile.

CHAMBERLAIN: Really?

KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

CHAMBERLAIN: Really?

KING: She knew her stuff, even in the cola industry.

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes. I'm sure she did.

KING: No dope.

CHAMBERLAIN: I'm sure she did.

KING: You were on with us in the Katharine Hepburn memorial show we did.

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes.

KING: What did she mean to you? What was the occasion working with her?

CHAMBERLAIN: She was a great, great lady and a great personality. I think she was a brilliant actress, for instance, in "On Golden Pond." I thought that was her best work.

But sometimes she was just a kind of showy personality. But wonderful, wonderful technician with what she did. And unmatchable -- totally, totally unique.

She -- I was on the set during "Madwoman of Chaillot" when she heard she had won the Oscar for "Guess Who's Coming for Dinner."

And she said, "You always get it for the wrong thing," she said.

She was very honest about herself.

KING: Really?

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes very, very.

KING: What's it like to work with top people?

CHAMBERLAIN: When I worked with Paul, I was very intimidated in "Towering Inferno." We had a scene together. And I regret that I didn't stay on the money and...

KING: Who were you? You were the architect?

CHAMBERLAIN: I was the electrical engineer who screwed up the whole building.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL NEWMAN, ACTOR: We had an electrical flare flare-up in the main utility room, and it looked like some of that wiring wasn't exactly what I asked for.

CHAMBERLAIN: Every piece of wire I put in that building is strictly up to code, inspected and approved.

NEWMAN: The code's not enough for that building. And you know it. That's why I asked for insulation. They were way, way above standard.

CHAMBERLAIN: Honey, you live in a dream world. I deal in realities.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: You screwed it up?

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, but I should have played that scene much more forcefully. And I was scared of him in the scene.

KING: Really?

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, yes. But I wasn't scared of Kate. And I've worked with a lot of wonderful people.

John Gielgud. Well, I was a little scared of him. Because he was -- I did "Hamlet" on television. And he was the ghost and he'd been one of the great Hamlets of all time. So I was a little nervous in his presence.

KING: Is Shakespeare harder to do or better?

CHAMBERLAIN: No, you know what? It's easy to do in the sense that it's so right, and it's so rich. And you can hardly go wrong with it. That material is so wonderful and it gives you so much.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHAMBERLAIN: Oh, answer me. Let me not burst in ignorance but speak.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHAMBERLAIN: It's like doing a musical and having the orchestra and the songs and all. I mean, it's not exactly like that. But you have that. You're buoyed up by the material. It's wonderful to do. Wonderful. KING: Do you admire Ian McKellen and all he's done in the gay area?

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes. Yes.

KING: Sir Ian has stepped out and been strong.

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, Yes. I think he's doing wonderful work. Yes.

KING: Did you have a fear when AIDS began?

CHAMBERLAIN: No. Because I was in a monogamous relationship when it all started.

KING: And that's still that relationship going on?

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes. Yes.

KING: We'll be back with more moments with Richard Chamberlain. The book is "Shattered Love." Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHAMBERLAIN: Forgive me.

KATHARINE HEPBURN, ACTRESS: No. You can't ask me that. For to forgive you is to forget you.

CHAMBERLAIN: What can I do? Tell me.

HEPBURN: Nothing. Only let me hear sometimes, far away, the distant echo of your love.

CHAMBERLAIN: I promise.

HEPBURN: And now, farewell, Alphonse Bertod (ph). Farewell.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it's very important for our society to respect each individual, to welcome those with good hearts, to be a welcoming country. On the other hand, that does not mean that somebody like me needs to compromise on issues such as marriage. And that's really where the issue is headed here in Washington, and that is the definition of marriage.

I believe in the sanctity of marriage. I believe a marriage is between a man and a woman.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The president spoke about it recently in a press conference, saying that all people should be treated equally. And we're all born sinners in a sense. But he's opposed to gay marriage. And gay marriage has now been approved in Toronto in the past...

CHAMBERLAIN: I heard something about that.

KING: What do you think?

CHAMBERLAIN: Well, all I personally would be to have the rights of a married couple.

In other words, Martin and I, if we build this house that we're thinking about building, it's going to cost a lot of money. And we've worked together on financially and everything, you know, like a regular couple. And if I kick the bucket, this house is like the crowning achievement of our relationship. If I kick the bucket, half -- 55 percent of everything immediately goes to the government, because we're not legally married.

If he were my wife or I was his wife or something like that, he'd get to live there forever. So he'd have to sell the house and move to something else.

KING: So it's not important that marriage is legal.

CHAMBERLAIN: Well, because I'm not that connected to any organized religion, the idea of marriage doesn't -- isn't interesting to me. But being civilly married, or whatever you'd call it, having a civil agreement that gave us the rights of a married couple, I think is very important. Partnership.

KING: You wear a wedding band.

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, I do.

KING: And you're had that for a long time.

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes. Yes.

KING: Did you once go out to dinner in drag?

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes. I was -- I had written a sitcom. I had found this character. Her name is Daphne Papaya. And I got her from literally from a minor bird, who said when I was being given a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) treatment once said, "I love papaya. I love papaya. I love you."

And that struck me so funny that I was doing it for friends and then I discovered this character. And so I wrote a sitcom for her. And I was going to play her and her husband in the sitcom.

And my agent heard about this and when Drew Carey was looking for someone to play Mrs. Wick, they called and said, "Would you like to try out Daphne?"

And I said, "Sure." So to see if I could really do it, I got into drag. I put the whole thing together. It was very embarrassing, you know, to go in and order shoes and things like that, and a bra.

And I went with Martin and two friends of ours to a restaurant in Honolulu that we had never gone to before and pulled it off. And I was talking in this voice and...

KING: And no one caught anything?

CHAMBERLAIN: Well, I think they thought I was rather strange, but I don't think they knew who I was.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHAMBERLAIN: You can't make a proper impression with your tie all askew.

DREW CAREY, ACTOR: This isn't going to work!

CHAMBERLAIN: I'll change your mind, dear. I've changed a lot of men's minds in my time.

CAREY: I believe. Was one of them was Elton John?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHAMBERLAIN: And I found that I could do it like acting a part very easily.

KING: Are you always working?

CHAMBERLAIN: No. I live in Hawaii now. And I like -- I still like being a beach bum. I like painting. I like fooling around with my friends. I like lazying around the beach. So it's a little hard to tear myself away.

I just did a play in Massachusetts, a wonderful new play that might go to New York. It's called the "The Stillborn Lover." It's wonderful, wonderful. Martin directed it brilliantly.

KING: He's a director?

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes. A director/producer. He does all that stuff. And...

KING: You don't identify him by last name, though?

CHAMBERLAIN: No, he wanted to keep -- He wanted to keep a certain distance from all this. He doesn't like being a public person. And so I said, fine.

KING: Did he come out the same time you did?

CHAMBERLAIN: Oh, no. He's always been out.

KING: Always?

CHAMBERLAIN: Well, he's 19 years younger than me. He grew up in a time when it wasn't such, you know, such a scary thing to be.

KING: It must be so refreshing to have lived a lie and then unburden it.

CHAMBERLAIN: I tell you, I feel like God's hand came on my head and said, "OK, enough. You're free." I really feel -- it happened so suddenly. And I am now so happy.

KING: When was the first time you said, "I am gay?"

CHAMBERLAIN: Publicly? Just about three months ago. Age 69.

KING: With the publication of the book?

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, it was about the book tour. And I couldn't believe that I was talking about this dreadful secret so happily and so freely on television. It was -- it's just amazing. It's really amazing.

KING: Did Martin encourage you to come out?

CHAMBERLAIN: Yes.

KING: Did he say do it sooner?

CHAMBERLAIN: He was right. Yes. Yes. I'm not sure in terms of my working life that it would have been smart. But in terms of everything.

Well, except that if I had come out earlier it would have been from fear because I was still afraid. And that might not have done any good. Now I'm coming from, I don't know, happiness. And so it's OK, because the message is right now. Whereas before, if I'd come out, it would have been kind of...

KING: I'll pay you a great compliment. I don't think I've ever interviewed a happier person.

CHAMBERLAIN: Whoah! Thank you.

KING: Thank you very much.

Richard Chamberlain. The book is "Shattered Love." What a guy. What an hour. Hope you enjoyed it. Stay tuned for -- well, we'll tell you what's coming up right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Stay tuned now for "NEWSNIGHT WITH AARON BROWN." And we'll be back with another edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't forget, you're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.

We thank Richard Chamberlain for being our special guest. Bid you a wonderful good evening.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com




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