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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Tribute to Johnny Cash; Interview With Joyce DeWitt

Aired September 15, 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)
JOHNNY CASH: Hello, I'm Johnny Cash.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: remembering country legend Johnny Cash with family and friends, including some who were at his private funeral service today outside Nashville. Joining us, Johnny's brother, Tommy Cash, and his sister, Joanne Cash, country star Larry Gatlin -- he named his son after Johnny Cash and he sang at today's funeral -- Naomi Judd, like Johnny Cash, she crossed over from country star to mainstream superstar, and Barbara Mandrell, who got her first touring job with Johnny Cash was she was 13, and like him, went on to host a network TV variety show, and the Reverend Franklin Graham son of renowned evangelist Billy Graham, who gave the sermon at today's funeral. And then later, Joyce DeWitt from "Three's Company" reflecting on the sudden and shocking death last week of her multi- talented co-star John Ritter. They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

All of our guests are in Nashville. Tommy Cash, the younger brother of Johnny Cash, a country music entertainer himself, was an honorary pallbearer. How did you learn of his death, Tommy?

TOMMY CASH, JOHNNY CASH'S BROTHER: Good evening, Larry. It's nice to be with you.

KING: Same here.

TOMMY CASH: I was at the hospital the evening John died. And we knew early in the evening on Thursday that chances were not good that he was going to make it through the night.

KING: Did you get to see him, at least?

TOMMY CASH: Yes, sir, I did. I saw him about 9:30 on Thursday night in the ICU unit.

KING: Did he say anything?

TOMMY CASH: No, sir. He was not able to speak.

KING: Joanne, were you there, too?

JOANNE CASH, JOHNNY CASH'S SISTER: Yes, I was, Larry. We had a prayer with him, and we pretty much realized that that was our last moments with him.

KING: What kind of older brother was he, Joanne?

JOANNE CASH: He was everything to me, Larry. He was always my big brother in everything. He was -- there's so much about Johnny that it's hard to put into a few words. And I was talking to Tommy on the way up here, and I said, If anything could sum up my heart about him, it would be his unconditional love for friends, family and his children.

KING: Larry Gatlin, what was the funeral like?

LARRY GATLIN, SANG AT FUNERAL: Well, Larry, it was sad and happy. We couldn't hardly laugh for crying. We were sad. There's no question about that. When someone of that enormity is taken out of your life in the present, someone who's been there as a part of your life for 30 years, as in my case, obviously, it's going to leave a void. But there were people -- Rodney Krel (ph) was funny, and there were other people -- you just can't sit there and let it all be sad because you'd think of something that had happened that made you laugh, or your remembrances of him. And because we know him as we did, he would not want us to sit there and be maudlin and moping.

So yes, we were sad, but we were also celebrating an incredible life that touched hundreds of millions of people. And I was honored to be there. I cherish his memory. And I -- you know, I know where he is. I'm going to go see him some day. I don't know when that is, either, but...

NAOMI JUDD, FRIEND OF JOHNNY CASH: Not anytime soon.

GATLIN: Not anytime soon, Naomi. I promise. But...

KING: Naomi, what -- as one country star looking at another, was his importance in the whole scheme of things?

JUDD: Enormous is the first word that comes to mind. But quick story. I was in Dublin. Wynonna and I were doing a concert over there. And the guys in U2 are friends, so they threw a party for us. And the minute we got to Adam's house, Bono grabbed me, took me over in the corner, and all he wanted to talk about was Johnny Cash. Have you ever met Johnny Cash? Tell me all about him. And that's when it really hit me that Johnny was to country what Elvis was to rock-and- roll.

KING: And they're the only two in both hall of fames.

JUDD: Yes. Wasn't Johnny the first? Tommy, wasn't Johnny the first one -- the youngest one, I mean, inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame?

TOMMY CASH: Yes, he is the youngest. He was the youngest.

JUDD: Yes.

JUDD: I mean, the guy was -- when you say superstar, sometimes, we have to remember that the word "icon," the word "legend," the word "superstar" should not be bantered around. It's reserved for a very few. And Johnny Cash was -- I mean, the first time I met him was at Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee. He was doing a thing with Jerry Lee Lewis, with Carl Perkins. Wynonna and I were asked to sing backup on him. And Wynonna and I could barely breathe! These were the icons. These were the big guys. Of course, I wouldn't leave her alone with Jerry Lee Lewis, but...

KING: Barbara Mandrell, what was it like to tour with him when you were 13?

BARBARA MANDRELL, FRIEND OF CASH: Johnny Cash had seen me, as did his manager at that time, Saul Hollis (ph), on a local television show -- which, by the way, they showed a clip from that show of Johnny today in that montage -- because various people, such as Johnny Cash, were guests on a local show in Los Angeles called "Town Hall Party." And they just saw me on that and -- from the time I was 11 until I was 12, I guess. And then when I had just turned 13, they asked me if I wanted to tour with Johnny Cash back East. And my -- they had what they called then, like, packaged shows. And it was a Johnny Cash show, but it had Don Gibson (ph), Johnny Western (ph), Gordon Terry (ph), George Jones, Patsy Cline and me.

And that -- I mean, there are no words what that means to me. I still look back and I can't believe it happened. And he also, by doing that -- he teased me a lot about it when he was so wonderful, he and June, to be guests on -- when my sisters and I had a television variety show. And he -- now I'm an adult, and we're talking about -- reminiscing, and he said, I remember being so sleepy and wanting to get on that airplane and sleep, and this little girl, Barbara Mandrell, that I've got on the tour with me, sits next to me. She's never flown before, and she's saying, Oh, Mr. Cash, they look like ants down there! Oh, look! Are we going to fly over that mountain? You know, they'll give you all the Coca-Cola and the peanuts you want? You can have...

And then he -- he said, quote, "Yak, yak, yak, yak, Mr. Cash. Yak, yak, yak, Mr. Cash." And he was always such fun and such joy. And he was very witty. Mostly, not only was he so wonderful and giving to me to let me work, as a nobody, I have in the last couple of days, talking to various people, like my sister, Louise (ph), for one, Trisha Yearwood, various people, of notes that he hand wrote, complimenting them on a record that they had out, with particulars about it, encouraging newcomers, and really knowing what he was talking about. He was so giving and so encouraging.

KING: And thoughtful. Tommy, he appeared on this show. We replayed the interview a couple of times. In fact, we replayed it last night. It was obvious, Tommy, wasn't it, that he was not in the best of health.

TOMMY CASH: Well, we all knew for the last several years that he was not in the best of health. And I particularly noticed it on your show. We just thought maybe he had one more fight left in him on Thursday night. And he always had had another fight left. But this time, it was the end. KING: Do you think the passing of June played a part in it?

TOMMY CASH: I think John was extremely sad, and I think the loneliness of not having her as his partner anymore played a great part. But you know, he was really getting stronger the last four months, and he was learning to walk again. He was really proud of the new album he has recorded, "American Five (ph)", that'll be out this year, I'm sure. He was -- had a lot of things to look forward to. But about three weeks ago, he became critically ill again.

KING: We'll take a break and be right back. We'll include your phone calls, of course, as we remember Johnny Cash. When we come back, I'm going to spend some moments with Reverend Franklin Graham, who delivered the sermon at the funeral today. We'll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - NOVEMBER 26, 2002)

JOHNNY CASH: As I got into the '60s, yes, I began to have a lot of contact with men from the seamy side of life -- really from the seamy side of life, when I got into drug addiction.

KING: You could associate with what they -- they were guys in there for drugs?

CASH: Yes, when you get thrown into jail a few times and your head knocked around a few times, your hands slapped with a blackjack for having (UNINTELLIGIBLE) bars, you know, you become -- get to thinking like them, I guess.

KING: Did it harden you?

CASH: No, it didn't harden me. Not at all. No, I think it softened me. I think it really softened me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - NOVEMBER 26, 2002)

KING: Are you bitter?

CASH: Bitter?

KING: Yes. Angry.

CASH: No.

KING: I mean, you know, you're a young guy. You're only 70.

CASH: No, I'm not bitter. Why should I be bitter? I'm thrilled to death with life. Life is -- the way God has given it to me, it's just a platter, a golden platter of life laid out there for me. It's been beautiful. I've been with you many times, Larry, and it's been all uphill every time. You remember?

KING: Yes.

CASH: Yes, things have been good. And things get better all the time.

KING: So you have no regrets?

CASH: No regrets.

KING: And no anger at, Why did God do this to me?

CASH: Oh, no. No. I'm the last one that would be angry at God. I'd really (UNINTELLIGIBLE) if I shook my fist at him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Before we get back with our panel, we want to spend some moments with an old friend, Reverend Franklin Graham, who delivered the sermon at today's funeral service for Johnny Cash today. He's president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. He comes to us from Boon (ph), North Carolina. What was that like for you, Reverend, today?

REV. FRANKLIN GRAHAM, GAVE SERMON AT CASH FUNERAL: Oh, Larry, it was a great service. Johnny was a close friend of my father's and my mother. Johnny and June spent many hours together, many vacations together. And it was a privilege for me to be there.

Larry, a lot of people don't realize how deep Johnny's faith was. And today at the funeral, so many people gave testimony to Johnny's faith. He believed in God. He believed in God's son, Jesus Christ. And many years ago, Larry, he invited Christ to come into his heart, into his life, and it changed him. And so much of his latter years was spent studying the Scriptures. He became really almost a theologian. He wrote a book on the life of the Apostle Paul. Much of his music in these last few years centered around his faith.

And it was a great honor to be there and to be able to share with his friends and with his family the love of God and what Jesus Christ has done for us. Christ died on a cross for our sins, Larry, and Johnny knew that and Johnny believed it. His life was changed. And all of us believe that Johnny right now is in the presence of almighty God. He's more alive today than he's ever been in his life.

KING: Reverend, did you have to deal with the earlier Johnny Cash, the Johnny Cash who had the drug problems and was in jail? How do you balance that in your mind? How do you equate it?

GRAHAM: Oh, listen, just talk to my parents about my life in the past. We all have made mistakes, Larry. And Johnny was very honest about his life and the mistakes that he made. But he put his faith and trust in God. And he gave his life to Christ, and Christ changed his life. He was a changed man. He wasn't the Johnny Cash of 40 years ago.

When I got to know Johnny, it was in the early '70s. And he got involved with my father's meetings, and he was gracious enough to even come to two of my meetings. He called me one time and he said, Franklin, I just -- I want to help you. And you call me. And if I can ever sing for you, I want to do that. And he did. And he helped so many people. He was always giving to others. He was a great friend, and we'll miss him. We love him. But he had a great faith in God and God's son, Jesus Christ.

KING: Is it hard to do a funeral?

GRAHAM: It is, Larry. It's hard to do a funeral if the person that you're there dealing with didn't know Christ. But this man knew Christ. And this man's in heaven. God forgave him. God cleansed him. And he received Christ into his heart as his own personal lord and his own personal savior. And I believe that, Larry, that when he died last week, that he immediately went into the presence of almighty God. The Bible says we've all sinned and we've all come short of God's glory, and the wages of sin is death. But God so loved the world, Larry, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.

KING: Franklin, how's your dad?

GRAHAM: Larry, he's doing quite well. He was at the Mayo Clinic this week, not for anything serious but for tests. And he just couldn't be at the funeral. But he loved this man, Johnny Cash, with all of his heart. And I think Johnny Cash was as close to him as a brother. And he's doing well. He's had two crusades this year, and Larry, we're planning three for next year.

KING: He's amazing. Thank you, Franklin, for spending this time with us.

GRAHAM: Thank you, Larry. God bless you.

KING: Give him our best.

GRAHAM: I will.

KING: Reverend Franklin Graham, who delivered the sermon at today's funeral service for Johnny Cash, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

We'll be back with our panel. We'll go to your phone calls at the bottom of the hour, too, on this special edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

Tomorrow night, Tammy Faye returns to this program. And Wednesday night, Arnold Schwarzenegger. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back. Let's meet the panel. All in Nashville.

Tommy Cash, the younger brother of Johnny Cash, country music entertainer, honorary pall bearer at today's service.

Along with him is Joanne Cash Yates, the younger sister of Johnny Cash, former vocalist for the Grand Ole Gospel Time and co-pastor of the Nashville Cowboy Church with her husband, Dr. Henry Yates.

Larry Gatlin is the country music singer, songwriter, member of the Grammy award-winning Gatlin Brothers, close friend of Johnny's, performed and spoke at today's service. Was one of the pall bearers and named his son after Johnny Cash.

Naomi Judd, country music star, friend of Johnny's. Same year the Judds won their seventh straight Country Music Award for Best Duo and announced they were disbanding because of Naomi's hepatitis, Johnny won the CMA's Pionner Award for Career Achievement.

And Barbara Mandrell, country music star who got her first touring job from Johnny Cash when she was 13. In 1980, Barbara was named the Country Music Association's entertainer of the year. Johnny Cash was elected that same year to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Let's go to some calls. Tampa, Florida, hello.

CALLER: Yes, Larry. My question for your panel is relating to the last video he recorded for the song, "Hurt," which seemed to be a reflection of the hurt of his past. My question for the panel is, is how much inspiration do you think he derived from the pain and tragedy that he went to, and do you think perhaps maybe he lived that last song as a reflection not only on his own pain but the human condition?

KING: Tommy?

T. CASH: Well, I think that that video and that song was a reflection of his failings, that he wanted to get the message to other people, that drugs can kill you, and will kill you. And I think that it was a reflection of his own life, and his own pain.

KING: To Pleasanton, California, hello.

CALLER: Yes, hi. I happened to see Johnny Cash a few years ago when -- and I loved him since I was a young girl. And stood in line for two hours to see him. And then loved the show so much, that I stayed for his second show, got back in line and saw him again. And so my question is, for his sister or brother, was June as funny offstage as she appeared to be on-stage with him? And did he, you know -- did they go back and forth with that funniness together?

KING: Joanne?

YATES: Yes, absolutely. She is. She always was. Every time I would go over to their home, June would have something -- she would keep someone in the house laughing constantly.

I remember one time I was sitting in the kitchen area where they sometimes would just have their meals brought in a plate by the fireplace. And June was sitting there one afternoon -- one evening, and she was eating. And she said, Johnny, the more I eat, the more my food grows. And Johnny said, Well, June, quit eating. That was June. She just was always funny. Yes.

KING: Memphis, Tennessee, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: My condolences to all of those on the panel. I'm a 30- something African-American female, and I've loved Johnny Cash for I don't know how long. My question is, why is it that he had such a universal appeal to everyone? He was incredible.

KING: Why do you think, Naomi?

JUDD: Because he was unpretentious. Because he was incredibly humble.

Johnny was very stripped-down. He had emotional clarity. And I think because he went through so much stuff, that that's what made him -- I mean, weren't you all born of cottonpickers? Didn't he tell me? Cottonpickers in Arkansas, right?

T. CASH: Northeast Arkansas.

JUDD: And the fact that he was one of us. He went through all the crap that we have to go through in the human condition. And I think that that's what not only endeared him to us, and we followed him throughout his whole life -- when I was listening to Franklin Graham I thought that biblically Johnny was sort of the prodigal son.

KING: Yes.

JUDD: He was definitely a true believer.

But the reason I dug him so much was today we've got all these followers following followers. And Johnny was just right in the groove. Because he never, ever tried to be more than he was.

KING: Cincinnati, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry, how are you?

KING: Fine.

CALLER: I just wanted to tell everybody that everybody -- I don't know of anybody who doesn't love -- that didn't love Johnny Cash.

And I have a question and then I have a comment. My question was, Did Johnny always want to be an entertainer from little on? And my comment is, to all of them, did -- did -- if anybody's ever watched Dr. Quinn, I enjoyed so much Johnny and June's reoccurring roles on Dr. Quinn. It was great. And I want to let you to know I think the whole world, you know, loved Johnny and June Cash. And I think that we'll all miss them so much and everything. But we've got his music. Thanks a lot.

KING: Larry, he always wanted to be a singer, didn't he?

GATLIN: Well, Tommy and Joanne, you know, can address that much better than I can. Because I only -- I've only known him since 1971, 30 years. But I don't remember my life when he wasn't singing. You know, because as a kid in West Texas growing up, it was Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash, and the gospel influences the Blackwood Brothers and Statesman Quartet and people like that.

But I tell you, the man -- here's the thing. Anybody can make one and one equal two. That's easy. When you can make one and one equal three -- Johnny Cash was greater than the sum of his parts. You know, he wasn't a classic great singer like, you know, like a Vince Gill or Gary Moores or Frank Sinatra or somebody like that.

JUDD: He was a storyteller.

GATLIN: He was a storyteller. You know, he knew how to do that. And, you know, it wasn't that classic Robert Redford face. It had that big hole in the side there. God knows how that got there.

But the total package was more than what the parts all added up to. And you can't explain that. It happens by magic.

KING: Fairfield, Ohio, hello.

CALLER: Hi. My question -- I've got a question and a comment.

First, my heart goes out to all you guys.

I was wondering how many kids he had, and how many grandkids he had?

KING: Tommy?

T. CASH: He had 17 grandchildren, and he had five children. Or is it seven? Joanne?

YATES: He has five, and June had two.

T. CASH: OK. But June and Johnny together had seven kids, had four girls and -- by his first marriage with Vivian, and then two with June's daughters, Carline (ph) and Rosie. And then John Carter, who was John and June's son.

KING: And Barbara, when he toured, and sometimes those one- nighters can be something, he always gave his all, didn't he?

MANDRELL: The very last thing gave all what?

KING: He always -- why are you having -- why is she having trouble hearing me? MANDRELL: Because I got the end of the electrical package (ph). I think you said he always gave his all.

KING: Yes.

MANDRELL: Absolutely. And his all was -- you know, even during the time when I was touring, and I would watch from the wings, even though it would be like of the same material, of course, his hit songs, it was always like watching something different because he was so free-spirited about what he did. And there was just magic in his voice.

It was very, you know, demanding and commanding. In fact, I remember saying in the last couple of days as well, I can only think of twice -- I've heard of this before -- but 've only experienced it twice -- when they say that someone is so charismatic, there's such electricity in the air and all of that excitement, that when they enter a building, before you ever see them and anybody ever says they're here, you know they're here.

And Johnny Cash, and of all things, Dr. Billy Graham, and I had shared that with the gentleman from A.P. the other day, and when I walked up to the funeral and saw Dr. Graham's son. Anyway, it...

KING: Yes.

MANDRELL: Johnny...

KING: Well put. I know. We'll take a break and be back with some more moments with our panel and a few more phone calls. And then we'll talk with Joyce DeWitt about John Ritter.

Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Why the black? Why do you always and only wear black?

J. CASH (singing): I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down living in the hopeless hungry side of town I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crimes but is there because he's a victim of the times.

You know, I wrote a song about why I wore black. But maybe that's not quite it. I wear black because I'm comfortable in it. But then in the summertime when it's hot, I'm comfortable in light blue.

KING: I don't think I've ever seen you in light blue. Did you ever do a concert in light blue?

J. CASH: No. Never done a concert in anything but black.

KING: Are you a clothes freak?

J. CASH: You walk into my clothes closet, and it's dark in there. Dark!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Victoria, Texas, hello.

CALLER: Yes, Johnny Cash made me a fan of country music. And I have a question for Tommy.

KING: Sure.

CALLER: Does Johnny have songs in a can so his fans can have his albums for years to come?

T. CASH: Johnny has probably over 100 songs in the can that have never been released. Especially for this new album, "American Five" that will be out before long.

KING: Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, hello.

CALLER: Hi. I have a question, and also a comment.

KING: Sure.

CALLER: Since I've been 12-years-old, I've been singing, and I've always listen to Johnny Cash since I was young, and I just loved him. But my question is, it's for the singers on the panel, any songs that you have written, were they inspired by Johnny, and how were they inspired?

KING: Well, we're going to have Larry Gatlin sing a song. He is going to sing us out of this segment with a song he wrote when he learned Johnny Cash had died, so that was certainly inspired.

Naomi, do you write songs?

JUDD: I do. I do. I've never written one about Johnny or for Johnny, though. I just write for Miss Wynonna. Let me just tell you a story...

KING: Real quick, because we've got limited time.

JUDD: When they broadcast Tammy Wynette's funeral live form the Ryman Auditorium, I talked about how important it was to tell each other we loved each other while we're still here. I just thought about this because Barbara just leaned over and told me that, and Larry tells me that all the time. But as soon as I got home, Johnny called me at home. He was so sick at that time he was bed ridden. And he said, girl, I just called to tell you I love you. And I think if Johnny was here right now, he would tell each and every one of us, that birth and life are just passages into eternity. And we don't know. So we best tell each other how we feel about one another.

KING: Boy.

JUDD: I love you, Larry King!

KING: Well, thank you. Love you, too. Special thanks, by the way, to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville. They provided us with much of the video you've been seeing throughout this tribute to Johnny Cash.

OK, Larry Gatlin brought his guitar to the studio and is willing to sing a song that he wrote shortly after learning that Johnny Cash was dead.

It's called, "A Man Can't Live with a Broken Heart to Long.

GATLIN (singing): Larry, play us out. A man can't live with a broken heart too long it. Will either heal itself or kill him outright, right or wrong. When the number one reason he had for living is gone. A man can't live with a broken heart too long. But my friends I have good news to tell. Though we're all broken-hearted, our old buddy's doing well, because it really wasn't his heart all along. Now he's got a brand-new heart and a brand-new song. That's for you, J.R.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Very familiar television face joins us now. Joyce DeWitt, the actress and producer, co-starred with John Ritter in ABC's "Three's Company." She played Janet Wood. She roomed with Jack Tripper, who was played by Ritter, and Chrissy Snow, played by Suzanne Somers. How did you hear about it, Joyce?

JOYCE DEWITT, JOHN RITTER'S FORMER CO-STAR: My darling sister. My sister worked for me during the time of doing "Three's Company," and she -- her husband runs every morning. He has a little radio he puts in his ears when he runs. And he was running at 6:00, and he heard the news and went back to the house, and said, (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And my sister is such a compassionate person. I -- it was so impossible to believe, that I just sat there. I just sat there and I couldn't speak. I couldn't anything. And she just kept talking to me and talking to me, and talking to me, until I could say something.

KING: When did you last see him?

DEWITT: In May. When he had gone into New York to do the up- fronts for his wonderful new series that he is doing -- was doing. And I was there for the promos for the "Three's Company" movie.

I left the hotel to run an errand, and I ran into the paparazzi, and na-na-na-na-na, you know, and as I was walking away, they said, you know, John Ritter's inside here. And that was the hotel that he was in. And that's the night the movie was going to be aired. And I called, left a message, I said, Jonathan, you're not going to believe this, I'm a block away. How can you be in New York at the same time on this day of all days? So I was getting ready to leave the hotel that night, and I got a call from him, and he said, Joycey, baby, I've got two parties to go to, several parties to go to, I got two dinners to go to, you're my date, pick you up at 7:30.

And he and Bobby Lyman (ph) came and we did the town. We went to all these places, unexpectedly.

KING: Last saw him in "The Dinner Party." He was wonderful with Henry Winkler. They appeared on this show together. It was a great show, by the way.

DEWITT: It was a wonderful show. And they were wonderful in it.

KING: What was he like to work with?

DEWITT: The best.

KING: Everyone says that.

DEWITT: But it's true. You can't say anything else, because he was just so -- very talented, it's hard to remember that he's on the other side. He was so full of joy, and love. And so ready to play all the time. And he could make fun out of anything. I mean, you walked down the street with him, and anything within his peripheral vision was a potential prop.

KING: So that comedic ability was natural?

DEWITT: Absolutely natural. It fell out of him as if -- he had no choice, he had no choice but to spread joy. It was the nature of his very being. And it was also his conscious desire. He loved relating from his heart to your heart. And his life was so about that.

KING: Also pretty good serious actor, too.

DEWITT: A marvelously talented serious actor. But people who can do comedy that well, who can go that deeply within their own heart to share, generally have a place of deep dramatic ability.

KING: What do you think they're going to do with the series? ABC is pondering now what to do.

DEWITT: I don't know.

KING: They've got two episodes done, that they think they may show, and then have him sort of die in the series.

DEWITT: Yes. Yes. I was talking with his producers yesterday, which John loved, by the way, doing this new show. When we were in New York -- and by the way, two nights later, I do want to say this, we went to the theater with his wonderful wife, Amy, so we were together these two different nights, Amy and Bobby Lyman (ph) again, and so I wouldn't want us not say that the last time I was with him was the joy of being with he and Amy together, because -- and Bob Lyman (ph), his dear, exquisite friend.

KING: What do you think they're going to do with the show?

DEWITT: With the show, you know, they -- yesterday they really were just trying to get through this weekend of things of this nature. And this week they will have to put their heads on that. But my heart goes out to them, because to have the personal situation, and then the business situation...

KING: You're a producer. What do you think they should do?

DEWITT: I don't know. I've thought about it, just because I met all of them in May and loved them all so much instantly. And he loved them so much. There's the possibility, you know, of looking for someone. But those are huge shoes to fill.

KING: Are they huge. "Three's Company," when you look back, that was racy, wasn't it?

DEWITT: In that day. Not anymore. But people now say, oh, we love your show. Why isn't it still on? It's so clean, it's so safe. And I was thinking, when we were on...

KING: That was a T&A show, right?

DEWITT: In the day, that's what they called it, yeah.

KING: Was that as happy and ensemble as it appeared, even though you had the break-up with Suzanne?

DEWITT: Yes. Even though there were two or three times where the situation there got very difficult and stressful for us, if you add all that together it would maybe come to one season. And we did eight seasons. So there are seven years, other than perhaps that one added all together year, but seven years of extraordinary joy. And just playing full-out all the time, led by John Ritter. Led by this incredible talent who came in every day to make sure everybody was taken care of and everybody was included, with genius falling out of him when he was having a cup of coffee or a doughnut. He was still being brilliant. He couldn't help it. Because his heart was so big.

KING: How did you get the part?

DEWITT: ABC actually saw an audition -- I did an episode of "Baretta."

KING: "Baretta?"

DEWITT: How about that? We won't go there. And he -- ABC saw it, and -- but they were really into comedy at the time, it was a dramatic role. And then I auditioned for the Fonze's girlfriend, Pepinte Caskinero (ph), and I was really wrong for the part. There were all these really, well-built women there, and I was like this short, little, chubby, brown-haired thing. And -- but before I got -- but I knew how to be Italian, certainly, I am, you know, and I know how to be funny. So before I got home, ABC had called to ask me not to work for another network until they found a show for me. So it was -- and I was a kid.

KING: Was "Three's Company" a hit from the start?

DEWITT: Yes. Yes. It was the second week that it was on, it went into the top 20, and then into the top 10, and stayed there for seven years. It was...

KING: It was very well written.

DEWITT: We had exquisite writers. Really, Larry, you would have loved to coming to visit. Our guest stars -- we -- the letters we got from after they guest starred were so amazing, because the entire ensemble, the cast, the crew, the staff, the brilliant crew that we worked with, our producers, who did the final rewrite on everything, it was an amazing family. And the amount of joy that was shared there, day after day after day -- that's why I think the show was such a hit. People watch it and they feel that. They know that we were playing as hard as we could.

KING: It's almost -- Johnny Cash was sick, and looked sick, you know. And was 71. That's young, but he was 70. John Ritter?

DEWITT: I know.

KING: That shouldn't have happened.

DEWITT: You know, Susan Wilcox (ph), his dear friend and assistant for a million years -- that's the thing -- one of the things that tells you about a person acting, very much about who they are, the people around them, their closest friends, their associates have been with them since high school or college. That's John Ritter. The people in his life have been with him, friends and staff, and associates, that long. You don't leave John Ritter, you love him so much, you're so lucky to be near him. But Susan said yesterday that he went out on such a high, because he loved this new show. It was such a hit. He was so with his soul mate, Amy, this beautiful little daughter, three older kids who were absolutely exquisite. A marvelous relationship...

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Are you going to do a memorial service?

DEWITT: Yes. But we don't know when yet, because it's going to be quite a large event.

KING: Oh, I'll bet.

DEWITT: In keeping with the rather huge wonderment that was John Ritter.

KING: Not soon forgotten.

DEWITT: Impossible to forget. Impossible not to love.

KING: Thank you for sharing these moments with us, Joyce. DEWITT: Thank you, Larry.

KING: Joyce DeWitt, the actress and producer who starred with John Ritter in ABC's "Three's Company." We'll always remember Janet Wood, who roomed with Jack Tripper, who was John Ritter, and Chrissy Snow, who was Suzanne Somers.

I'll be back in a couple of minutes to tell you about what's coming up tomorrow night. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Hey, we're back in California. And tomorrow night, Tammy Faye Messner, formerly Tammy Faye Bakker, will be our special guest. And on Wednesday night, Arnold Schwarzenegger will be here. He kind of remains in the news every day, doesn't he? On Thursday night, the former president of the United States, Jimmy Carter.

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