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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Interview With Lynne Cheney; John Ritter Tribute; The Creators Of "The Boys Of 2nd St. Park" Discuss Their Edifice

Aired September 20, 2003 - 21:00   ET

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

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Lynne Cheney, the second lady of the United States on life with the vice-president, the 2004 presidential campaign and a whole lot more.

Plus Susan Somers on the shocking death of John Ritter. And then his other "Three's Company" co-star, Joyce DeWitt with her memories.

And from play ground basketball to hard drugs, a moving look at what growing up in the 60's America did to 1 circle of friends.

It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

It's always a great pleasure to welcome Lynne Cheney to LARRY KING LIVE. She's -- are you second lady?

LYNNE CHENEY: Well, potentially, yes. Second Lady of the United States, SLOTUS for short.

KING: She's the wife of the Vice President, Dick Cheney, Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, former co-anchor of Crossfire, author of a new children's book, "A Is For Abigail," an almanac of amazing American women with illustrations by Robin Price Glasser (ph). She was on previously when her previous book, "America, a Patriotic Primer," was the number one bestseller on the "New York Times'" children's picture book list. What led to "A Is For Abigail?"

CHENEY: We went into a second book. "America" was such a success and also, "America" allowed me all the net proceeds that I earn from these books go to charity to help so many other institutions that are promoting American history. Robin and I both wanted to do a second book and the story of the progress that American women have made since our country's beginning.

It was really one of our great national sagas and also the fact that American women have achieved so mightily in so many fields is something I thought little kids should know about.

KING: In retrospect, why did the "Patriotic Primer" work?

CHENEY: Robin is certainly part of ...

KING: ... what did ...

CHENEY: Well, I say primer, you say primer. I think ... KING: I say tomato, you say tomato?

CHENEY: That's right. They both work and Robin, I think, is a great source of the success of these books.

KING: Yes.

CHENEY: She draws such happy little kids and happy children in this book, both of us I think are pretty good at getting a lot of information into a book and I think that people really long to hear about why we're such a great country. I think people know we are, but it's important to emphasize the reasons why we are and this is one of the stories that tells that.

KING: Before we delve into women, what's been in your opinion the assessment of 9/11's effect on the lives of our children?

CHENEY: You know, I think kids know something happened. They probably forget a little more quickly than we do, the details of it, but even little children, I think, are more serious about their safety than they used to be. It's pretty wonderful though to see the ability of both kids and adults knowing that we live in a dangerous world, to go about their lives and to do the things that kids have always done in that Americans have always done.

My grandchildren, the two older girls, they're 9 and 6, just took a cross-country trip with their father. He drove them in a car to Wyoming this summer and they took eight days and they saw Niagara Falls and Mount Rushmore and the Baseball Hall of Fame and the Field of Dreams. They just got to see this whole country and that's kind of -- that's the kind of thing kids and parents have been doing ever since cars were invented.

So in some ways, things haven't changed. I think we are a little more serious than we used to be.

KING: You were always such a strong advocate. I remember you on "CROSSFIRE" and your toughness, political toughness, and your philosophy. Have you ever tamed that down?

CHENEY: No, not really. I think I've been given a remarkable opportunity to do a lot of good and to write books like this that are non-controversial really. There's a ...

KING: That's what I mean. But don't you love the action?

CHENEY: Well, I think that there's going to be plenty of time for that. We're not in the campaign ...

KING: Next year.

CHENEY: ... season. Yes, getting there though. And I certainly have every conviction that this administration has been through historic times in such a responsible way that there's a strength of purpose here that has served us very well in these tough times.

KING: And Dick is definitely running again, right?

CHENEY: Absolutely.

KING: That's a -- there's no doubt about it?

CHENEY: That's a done deal.

KING: OK. All right. And we've ...

CHENEY: Big time is ...

KING: What?

CHENEY: Big time.

KING: Abigail is Adams?

CHENEY: A is for Abigail Adams. That's exactly right. Who in the beginning of our country, when women couldn't vote, couldn't go to college, weren't even supposed to speak in public, couldn't own property once they were married, I mean, isn't that just amazing to think that ...

KING: It's hard to believe that existed.

CHENEY: There were ...

KING: In a civilized society.

CHENEY: Well, and it wasn't -- it wasn't unusual. I mean, this was the status of women around the world, but Abigail was really an important thing here because she spoke out about it. And she wrote to John, remember the ladies, you have to think of us when you're making a log. We deserve to be heard.

And at the same time that she was historic for making this point, she also was proving the other confidence of women, managing the farm while John was off creating the country, acquiring land, even though she couldn't do it in her own name. She had to do it in John's name, deciding when to plant and when to harvest, educating her children, even her daughter, though it wasn't common for girls to be educated. So she's a really wonderful place to start this book.

KING: Think she would be surprised at what she'd see today?

CHENEY: I think she would be gratified. It's so nice these days to be the mother of grand -- the grandmother of granddaughters and to know that the whole world is open for them. They can be moms or physicists or athletes or politicians, that's it's all open for them now.

KING: How far away from a female president?

CHENEY: I don't think so far. I certainly will see it in my lifetime.

KING: Yes. It's around the corner?

CHENEY: I think so.

KING: Now, there's not just famous women in this book, right?

CHENEY: That's correct.

KING: How did you choose the women you chose?

CHENEY: I learned -- well, as we were doing research, I kept coming across the years that I hadn't heard of before, but that I wanted to include. There's this one really -- the centerpiece of the book is gatefold (ph) where you've got curtains that open. It's the curtains ...

KING: The stories are incredible though.

CHENEY: It's P is for the performance and the curtains open. These are curtains modeled on the old Hippajone (ph) theatre here in New York and you see all of these performers and many of them you've heard of, you know, you've heard of Mary Tyler Moore and you've heard of Katherine Hepburn and you've heard of Mahalia Jackson, here you go.

You've heard of them, except down here in the corner, you'll see Camilla Urso. She's playing the violin, actually in the center right here.

KING: Yes, Camilla U-R-S-O, Urso.

CHENEY: You've not heard of her. I discovered that in the 19th century, and sometime into the 20th century, playing a violin was not considered something girls should do. It was a male activity. Isn't that interesting?

KING: You're kidding?

CHENEY: But Camilla Urso was gifted and came through this kind of stereotyping and had a pretty successful career. There's also down here -- I want to play (ph) on Hazel Harrison.

KING: Yes, playing the piano?

CHENEY: A pianist. She was African-American and she was a pianist -- an accomplished pianist in the days before desegregation and so because of segregation, and her being African-American, she couldn't play any important halls. She nevertheless had a remarkable following and a good career, but she's not famous as she would be had she been able to display her talent.

KING: Do you ever -- Lynne, look how far you've come. How does society put up with that?

CHENEY: Well, it is interesting.

KING: I mean, keeping groups of people, blacks, women, down?

CHENEY: Exactly. And ...

KING: It harms everyone.

CHENEY: Well, and it deprives the society of the remarkable ...

KING: I know. Well, ...

CHENEY: ... that women have for example.

KING: ... why would society do that? I mean, it just boggles you to me.

CHENEY: You know, part of it -- part of it was that women bore lots and lots of children and that meant that in some cases they didn't live as long as men. There's just story after story of women who died in childbirth. Because so many children died at a young age, people did feel a compulsion to have many, many children.

And I think that a lot of the laws that we see back in those days were reflective of the fact that, you know, people wanted and thought women should be in that role, including women themselves. Now that we live in times when childbirth is safe and when people can have a limited number of children and expect to see them grow into adulthood, I think that's been part of freeing women.

KING: The book is "A Is For Abigail," and all an (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of amazing American women. The author is Lynne Cheney. Her earlier one, "America, a Patriotic Primer," for the second lady, was the number one best seller on the "New York Times" children's picture book list. Back with more of Lynne Cheney right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Lynne Cheney. Some of the letters in "A Is For Abigail" stand for the names of particular women, others for groups of women like E is for educators. Helen Keller's feature, Ann Sullivan (ph) comes up, F is for first ladies. Tell me how we broke this down.

CHENEY: Well, I think the women themselves dictated the organization. We kept coming across wonderful stories that we wanted to include in this book and so we arranged it, and arranged it and rearranged it until we had most of the women we wanted. You never get everyone in here who has contributed so much, but it was the women themselves that drove the arrangement.

KING: Did you finish? Did anyone come up to you and say, you forgot ...

CHENEY: No, not yet, but it could happen. There are -- you pointed out that it's not just well-known women, but some people that you might not have heard of before. There's a little girl on the I page, that I like very much. I is for Laura Ingals and other girls of America's past and the point of this page is to tell little kids that you don't have to be a grownup to be part of history. That when Laura Ingals was moving from the prairie to the big woods, the things that she later wrote about, she was part of history. In any case, on this page there's a picture of a little girl walking a Mormon trail beside her family's wagon barefoot and her name is Fannie Peck (ph). She's 7 years old. And I -- well, this is self-indulgent of me, but it turns out she was my great-great grandmother and I knew that of course when I put her into this book.

She wrote this story when she was an old lady and I discovered it. I hadn't seen it before when I was working on this book. So here's little Fanny Peck (ph) walking the Mormon trail when she was 7 years old.

KING: She was a great -- she was Mormon then?

CHENEY: Yes, yes. I had a -- my father's branch of the family came from Wales and they came across the ocean, many of them from New Orleans up the Mississippi and Missouri and then to Council Bluff, across to Utah.

KING: Is this book for girls?

CHENEY: I think so, but I think it's for boys too. There are wonderful stories about how girls who have achieved mightily were encouraged by their mothers and one of my favorites is, Zora Neale Hurston, who was a novelist of the Harlem Renaissance and her mom used to say to Zora Neale and her siblings, jump for the sun, you know, aspire mightily. What a great thing, you know, for a little kid.

KING: Jump for the sun?

CHENEY: But there are fathers too and this is an important point. Maria Mitchell (ph) would never have become the world famous astronomer that she was had she not had a father who encouraged her, who took her to look at the stars. So fathers are important. Little boys will grow up to be fathers and they need to know these things too.

KING: Any dealings with political correctness in this book?

CHENEY: I don't think so.

KING: Did you have any, you know, problems at all with anything you left out?

CHENEY: No. No. You know, that still is a problem. In our textbooks I think that sometimes we veer too far in one direction or another, but not in this book.

KING: That's good and I want to ask you about this. In a recent book by the educational professor, Diane Ravich (ph), called "The Language Police," she accuses textbook publishers of caving to pressure groups from both right and left saying that a combination of political correctness from the left and the religious fundamentalism from the right restricts what students read and learn.

And the textbooks are often insipid and bland presenting a world which has no realities children experience.

CHENEY: I think she's right. The textbooks are often just plain boring and that's one of the reasons I think that kids shy away from history. The textbooks are ...

KING: It should be their favorite subject.

CHENEY: Well, in my opinion, yes. But the textbooks are just lists, you know, of names and dates and places and they don't really give you the context. They don't give you the flavor. They don't give you the narrative. Now they are doing some things that didn't happen when I was a little girl. I think it's good. I was looking at a textbook that I might have used when I was a little girl.

It was written about 1950, and this is a wonderful textbook in some ways. It's about heroes and greatness. But it described -- this textbook described the Civil War without mentioning the fact that it was fought in large measure over slavery. You know, I think -- I think the -- you know, they didn't want to scare little kids or make them think bad things about our country and that's not right. What we do now, which I think is a good thing, is tell all those parts of the story that we once left out and that is very much an example of progress.

KING: Oh well, you think based on what you discovered, we should all look into our genealogy?

CHENEY: I love family stories.

KING: And the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) expert on that.

CHENEY: Well, and I am not Mormon, but I have found the church to be a wonderful -- the LDS Church to be a wonderful source of information. They have a great Web site. There are other Web sites that you can begin to look at your family history, but don't just stop with finding out, you know, that Jesse James was in your background or maybe William the Conqueror.

That's kind of interesting, but what's really compelling is to find out the story. You know, about little Fannie Peck (ph) walking across the Mormon trail barefoot.

KING: And after you found out one of your husband's forebearers, A. Nelson Cheney, was a 19th Century fly fishing expert and the official ...

CHENEY: Isn't that interesting?

KING: ... fish culturalist (ph) of New York.

CHENEY: And he wrote a pretty famous book, you know, if you're into fly fishing with a man named Charles Orvis (ph), who was a good friend of his. There's a book called, Fishing With The Fly, by Orvis (ph) and Cheney. And so for Dick's birthday, I wrote him the story of A. Nelson Cheney and, you know, it's a great story because fly fishing has these internal elements in it. You don't have to catch fish to have a good time. It's sort of one of the central ideas that J. Nelson Cheney ...

KING: ... Connor (ph) wrote a very good book about it.

CHENEY: Is that right?

KING: Yes. He fly fishes all the time.

CHENEY: A. Nelson Cheney was also a great advocate of women, fly fishing and he wrote columns for sporting magazines at the time and he would frequently tell about the triumphs of women who had taken to the fly.

KING: Was researching "A Is For Abigail" fun?

CHENEY: Oh, absolutely. Robin and I both enjoyed it very much.

KING: Did you and Robin do it yourself or did you have a whole bunch of people ...

CHENEY: Well, I have a research assistant, but part of the fun in doing a book like this is finding people that you haven't heard of before, like Camilla Urso or Hazel Harrison (ph).

KING: Does Dick pre-read them for you?

CHENEY: No. He doesn't.

KING: He sees the finished product?

CHENEY: Exactly. Well, I did give him some advance notice of one of the figures I included on the Z page. Z is for Babe Didrickson Ziharious (ph) and the women who would be strong. And so you have Mia Hamm and Peggy Fleming and Jackie Joyner Kersey (ph), but you also have a 1930s softball star named Marjorie Dickey (ph) and she came from a little town in Syracuse.

She played for the Syracuse Bluebirds in Nebraska and this team was like a movie. You know, they'd beat the big town teams in Omaha and Lincoln ...

KING: And Hoosier?

CHENEY: Exactly. And they went to the nationals, they made it all the way to the semi-finals. They were lionized in this little town in Syracuse, Nebraska, so Marjorie Dickey (ph) is in here. And after her softball career was over, she married and had three children, the oldest of whom is my husband. So his mom is in this book. And he loves that.

KING: We'll be back with some more moments with Lynne Cheney. The book is "A Is For Abigail." You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: The book "A Is For Abigail," an almanac of amazing American women. The author is Lynne Cheney. Tell me about the James Madison book award.

CHENEY: Well, I give all the proceeds, my net proceeds from this book away. And so far, I'm up to over $400,000 which is really nice. It's very gratifying to be able to ...

KING: It's a successful book.

CHENEY: ... to help people who are doing good things to foster appreciation of history. I took $100,000 of the net proceeds and put it into a fund for the James Madison book award, which every year recognizes books that are representative of excellence in bringing history to children. And our first award was last July and it went to a book called, "First To Fly," which is the story of the Wright brothers. And it's a really terrific book. It's full of energy and life and ...

KING: ... the winner gets what?

CHENEY: $10,000. So this little chunk, I was able to set aside from the net proceeds will keep us going for a while.

KING: Why Madison?

CHENEY: Because he loved books. I suppose that you could find many great people in history who did, but perhaps few have put their love of reading to such good use as James Madison did. Before the Constitutional Convention, he I guess took a course of reading that went for years, three or four years.

He asked Thomas Jefferson, who was in Paris, to send him books because of course, you couldn't just go down to the corner and buy books in those days, and he read ancient history and he read modern history and by the time he arrived at the Convention, he really had the Virginia plan instructed and that is the basis for our Constitution. So that long period of reading and study really gave us the framework for our country.

KING: Do you select the winner?

CHENEY: There's a committee and I was lucky enough to be on the committee this year but I was not the chair.

KING: Really? Even though you formed this?

CHENEY: I think that's a good thing. We have wonderful people on it, David McCallum's (ph) on it, Ken Burns, Michael Beschloss, lots of names ...

KING: Pretty good.

CHENEY: ... we know. Jay Winnig (ph).

KING: Are you looking forward to the campaign or not?

CHENEY: Well, I am. It's wonderful to get to ...

KING: Some people don't like it. And some -- why these husbands and women ...

CHENEY: Well, you know, the part you don't like is when the other side talks, but it's a lot of times ...

KING: They have to, don't they?

CHENEY: That's right. It's a lot of fun to get out, you know, and make the argument for your side. But campaigns, I shouldn't -- of course, campaigns are an exchange of ideas and the other side talks, but they do get kind of -- I don't know, a little hurtful sometimes. That part's not fun, but on the whole, it's a great thing to participate in.

KING: One of the highlights of the last one was the vice presidential debate. Don't you think that was a very civil debate between two very bright people?

CHENEY: I thought so and I also thought Dick was very funny.

KING: Yes, he was.

CHENEY: And I think people don't understand what a wry, dry, wonderful sense of humor he has always. I was glad to see that.

KING: Naturally we can't talk to you without getting an update on his health.

CHENEY: Dick is doing very well, thank you. He exercises regularly. His favorite machine these days is the recumbent (ph) bike, but he also likes ...

KING: Recumbent (ph) bike?

CHENEY: Yes. It's one where you, you know, sort of sit and your legs go out in front and it's very good on your knees. He's got a football knee left over from his high school days.

KING: Is that thing that we felt in his body kicked off yet?

CHENEY: It's called an ICD, no, no, no. It hasn't. It's like an insurance policy.

KING: And that's the correct (UNINTELLIGIBLE), right? If your heart misfunctions, it functions?

CHENEY: That's right. If your heart starts beating wildly fast, it will help you get it back in order.

KING: What's your role in the campaign?

CHENEY: Well, I've been to Michigan this week talking to Republicans from all around the Midwest and I'll be doing some campaign fundraising on my own. I think four stops in October. So I am anxious to get out and talk about the historic times in which we live and how I think that the team we have in place really does have the strength of purpose that we need in these times. KING: You agree that you always run exhibits (ph) very close?

CHENEY: Well, it will be very close. I mean, you just -- you have to assume that. And it would be silly to assume anything else, wouldn't it?

KING: All right. I know you Lynne. You're not going to stop at "A Is For Abigail," so what's next?

CHENEY: Well, Robin and I are having a meeting this month and we're going to talk about another project.

KING: B is for ...

CHENEY: Well now, there's an idea. What do you think B should be for?

KING: Boys?

CHENEY: Well, there you go.

KING: Men have run things for too long. You're always going to work with her, right? You're going to work with Robin?

CHENEY: Sure. I think that there's ...

KING: And children's books and you enjoy children's books?

CHENEY: I enjoy children's books. I'm going to get back to writing adult books one of these days too. I miss that.

KING: What age is this for by the way?

CHENEY: Well, it depends. If you look on some Web sites, it says 8 to 12, you know and some of the book stores keep it in the children's category, but if it's like America, I will find as many copies for adults as I do for children. And I think the best designation is all ages.

KING: Well, it was wonderful having you.

CHENEY: Well, it's great to be here. Thank you Larry.

KING: Lynne Cheney, the book "A Is For Abigail," an almanac of amazing American women. The illustrations by Robin Price Glasser (ph). We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back. It was a real shocker when TV, film and stage star John Ritter died last week. He was only 54. And undetected heart ailment took his life. In the days after his death, 2 of his co-stars in the highly popular show "Three's Company" shared their memories on this show.

First, Suzanne Somers, who joined us by phone. And then the next night Joyce DeWitt. Watch.

How did you hear about this today, Suzanne?

SUZANNE SOMERS, ENTERTAINER: You know, I woke up this morning and I turned on the television and there was Diane Sawyer saying, It's always tragic when we lose someone so young. And I thought, Who? And then she said John Ritter and my heart just fell to my feet. It's just so shocking.

KING: Did you know anything was the wrong at all with John?

SOMERS: No. No, not at all. Not at all. And, you know, I -- I just -- when I heard, I called his wife immediately. And, his wife is a wonderful person. She's the one who really put John and I back together again. And I talked to her this morning and she was just -- just in shock. Kept saying it's inconceivable.

KING: You had had a riff for a long time, hadn't you?

SOMERS: Yes. And you know, anybody listening, if you have unresolved issues in a relationship, make a phone call and end it because, I'll tell you, that was my shock at his death but the relief that we had had resolution. I would -- today would have been unbearable for me if we hadn't had that.

And I really have to thank his wife. I was in the bathroom at a premiere for "Victor/Victoria" and she walked in and -- she's this beautiful woman. And she said, I am John Ritter's wife. And I didn't know her. And, she said, you and John have to get together. And she dragged me out of the bathroom and brought me to his table. Brought me to his table. And the two of us just looked at each other and hugged each other, and cried.

And what was so -- we were both so willing to forgive and it all had been so stupid. I don't even know what it was about. But I'm so glad to have patched things up.

I talked to him just a few months ago. He wanted me to guest star on his show in a dream sequence and...

KING: Ah! Would you have done it?

SOMERS: Yes. Well, I called -- you know, we talked about it and I said, you know, we haven't done anything together outside of "Three's Company" for over 20 years and I feel there's a hunger for it because people's asked me all the time, "When are you and John Ritter going to get together again?" I said, "This is just a dream sequence. We're not even in the same scene together. Why don't we do a whole episode or..."

KING: Yes.

SOMERS: " ... do a movie project." So we were -- we had been talking about finding a project for the two of us. It's just so sad.

KING: I saw him on Broadway in "Dinner Party." He was -- don't you think he was kind of an underrated actor?

SOMERS: He is -- he is the -- the finest physical comic that I am aware of. I put him up there with Dick Van Dyke, who is just, you know, incredible. I don't think John ever got the real kudos for being as good as he was.

He was like playing ping-pong ball with a great player. He'd just bang the ball across the table and you better be fast to get it. And he also -- he had great joy. And, when you're on a set with John Ritter -- it is just delicious and I'm sure everyone on his series today is just devastated because John turned the room on.

He was -- he was -- the only other person I met in my life who had that same kind of charisma when he walked into the room was Sinatra. You know Sinatra and you how when he would walk in a room, it was like -- the lights went on even if it was dark? John would that, He had that it.

KING: Your differences had nothing to do with how the two -- how well the two of you worked together?

SOMERS: And, be it clear, when -- when we worked together, the entire five years I was on that show, it was beautiful. Delicious. It was -- it was the last day -- it was the mob fury created by the producers that created this whole thing that none of us even understood what it was. But what -- the chemistry that people see on that show is the chemistry we had.

I loved John Ritter. I loved him then. I love him now. And I'm so grateful to have worked with him and so glad we had the resolution. I'm so sad for his family. Oh my God.

KING: It was wonderful that you were able to resolve it. How is your own health?

SOMERS: I'm doing real good, Larry. You'll be the first one to know when everything -- when I'm out of the woods. You know that.

KING: Is it a five-year thing?

SOMERS: Yes. Two more years. Two more years.

Yes, I was thinking about that today. Audra's gone -- Audra Lindley. Norman's gone. John's gone. When that came out of my mouth -- John's gone -- it took my breath away.

KING: Yes.

SOMERS: It's such a loss. It really is such a loss. And these people that drop into our lives and make us feel good, they have purpose and John had such a purpose. Everybody liked him. You won't find anybody you talk to who didn't like him. Everybody liked John. Great guy.

KING: Thanks, Suzanne. Thanks for spending time with us.

SOMERS: Thanks. Thanks a lot. Bye bye.

KING: Suzanne Somers, who co-starred with John Ritter on "Three's Company."

UNIDENTIFED FEMALE: That'll be $5.25.

JOHN RITTER, ACTOR: Thank you.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are those?

RITTER: I can explain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know what you had in mind tonight, but I am not that kind of girl.

RITTER: I can go to a locksmith. I'll bite them off!

(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...

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 DeWit, 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.

And 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)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The park for me was like the magic kingdom. And it was this -- it was a fantasy land that was sort of steeped with Brooklyn reality.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It wasn't just Second Street Park, when you were there it was Madison Square Garden.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When things would feel out of control it was a place where you could lose yourself.

KING: We welcome to LARRY KING LIVE from New York, Dan Cloris, the co-director and co-producer of "The Boys Of 2nd Street Park." And Ron Berger, the other co-director and co-producer.

Dan of course, is the president and founder of Dan Cloris Communications. And Ron is founding partner and CEO of EuroRSCG partners.

"The Boys of 2nd Street Park" is an award-winning documentary that will air originally on Showtime on September 28 and of course, will be repeated frequently.

What's the story behind this Dan? How'd this come together?

DAN KLORES, CO-DIR, CO-PROD "THE BOYS OF 2ND ST. PARK": Well, it came together. It was an idea that we had a couple of years ago. It's a story -- a very bitter sweet story, Larry, about a generation of guys, who are now in the mid-50's, grew up in Brooklyn, first addiction was basketball and then the counterculture came. So they faced all sorts of obstacles, war, draft, drugs, death. And then what happened to their lives and some became wonderfully successful and some are continuing to fight some demons.

KING: Having grown up in Brooklyn myself, and many people grow up in many areas, have lots of stories like this. Why did you think of this as a film, Ron?

RON BERGER, CO-DIR, CO-PROD. "THE BOYS OF 2ND STREET PARK": Well we just thought that, you know, Dan and I were part of the group, and once we started to talk about the stories and the tragedies and the things that happened to these friends of ours, we realized that the stories were actually larger than our own friendships and our own neighborhood in Brooklyn. That they really had a universality about them that anyone, regardless of where you grew up, or what your friends were, could really relate to and learn from. So we decided to do the film.

KING: And you use actors Ron -- Dan?

KLORES: No, these are the real guys, Larry. This would be just like if the guys you grew up with, or any viewer -- there's no actors, there's no script, it's very raw, very honest and very open.

KING: Of course, you had Steve was the hardcore drug addict, right?

KLORES: Right, Steve Satin was a drug addict who became homeless. And then you got a guy who won a $45 million lottery. So it runs the gamett.

BERGER: That's the real power of the film, Larry, is the honesty of these real stories told by real people in these really emotional ways. And they actors at all, but they just do an amazing job of telling their life stories.

KING: We often ponder this, Dan, this is for both of you. What was special, Dan, about Brooklyn?

KLORES: Well, you thought it was the center of the universe. You thought growing up in Brooklyn, there was nothing else. There was, you know, even Manhattan, you referred to it as the city and it was sort of mythical. You felt there was no place outside of it. That you were essentially on top of the world. And what a shock you found out there a big world out there.

KING: What do you think about Ron?

BERGER: I think, Brooklyn has a romance about it. It's sort of a brand in itself. And everyone, everytime you say, you grew up in Brooklyn, people -- you know, conjures up a story, whether it was from TV shows like "Welcome Back Cotter."

I've been back in Brooklyn more in the last 2 years than I had been in the last 20 years, and what's amazing about Brighton Beach is how it is so preserved, both physically and emotionally, the way it was 30 years ago. The park is still the same. the boardwalk is still the same.

KING: Lincoln High School is still the same.

BERGER: Lincoln Hight School is still the same.

KING: Yes.

BERGER: Still better than Laffeyette, Larry.

KING: Prettier, but not better.

Dan, was this tough to put together?

KLORES: Tough -- it was real work, but it was wonderful work. It took about a year and a half, from the time we started shooting to the time we finished the edit. There were times, of course, it was tough. There were very difficult decisions to make. I interviewed 25 people and shot 80 hours of film, so to get that down to 90 minutes -- it was a good experience. And times -- some of it was tough. It's tough on the editing floor -- you would have liked to include, but it didn't help the flow of the story.

KING: Basketball is a key ingredient in these young days, right Don. Because it was the city game. BERGER: Yes, it's been the city game for years. And, as Dan said, it was sort of the first love and first addiction that all of us had. I played on a team with 3 of the guys in the film at Lincoln. And today it's still our first love. You know, we get together at the reunion that Dan has out at his house in Bridge Hampton every summer and we still play. And the difference now is, we're a lot slower and our kids are a lot faster, but it's still the great love that we all have together. And it's the single bond that keeps us excited and we all enjoy.

KING: Dan, both of you have gone on to great success. Do you ever think that luck played a part, when you look back at what happened to some and what happened to others?

BERGER: I think that fate and luck are a big part, especially in my life. I think, I could have been Steve Satin in a second. Yes, just luck, just luck. Certain things happen in your life and you say, I have to stop that, got to stop that type of behavior. So, yes I do.

KING: When you tested it, Ron, for audiences. What reation?

KLORES: The reaction has been amazing. I mean, the 1 word that we often hear, and is probably the most surprising, is how inspiring the film is. And when you consider some of the tragedies that happen in the film, serious drug addiction, 2 guys losing children to childhood cancer, homelessness, the fact that these group of people went through these life experiences and came out the other and have a optimism about them everyone can look at their stories and say wow, not could that have been me, but in some cases it was me, or it is me. And feeling like, they're really inspired by the hope that people like Steven give them in telling his story.

KING: And that soundtrack, Dan, you've got Bob Dylan on it, Paul Simon...

BERGER: Yes, it's a great soundtrack, The Impressions, Grand Funk, Love and Spoonful, Nick Drake, who was a contempory artist. That was a lot of fun. There's 20 songs and a lot of fun.

KING: We are not, Ron, in an era of documentaries are we? Documentaries aren't in, yet this one seems so special and Showtime giving it a lot of attention. Is this just the opposite of the norm?

KLORES: Well, I think that documentaries as a category have always had a certain audience that appreciate the honesty and the quality of the stories. This one, again, I think that because it really has resonated with people in surprising ways, because of how universal the stories have become. Showtime liked it at the beginning and we're fortunate enough to have them buy it and they've been tremendously supportive of everything that Dan and I have wanted to do with the film in terms of promoting it. Like, you know, shows like this.

KING: And one of the advatages, Dan, unlike news magazines, it's not a 10 minutes, quick in and out, cut, fast cut, let's go away from it. BERGER: Yes, it's something that grows. I think the film has a -- you know, hopefully people will think the film has a bunch of layers and begins with something innocent, but it's really about a universal theme of love and loss, all the triumphs and all the disappointments that that brings.

KING: You ought to be very proud. It airs on September 28 on Showtime. And Showtime will repeat it frequently. It's "The Boys of 2nd St. Park." It's set in Brooklyn, a place we all know very well. And I salute both Dan Klores and Ron Berger for doing it. Thank you guys.

Don't forget, September 28 on Showtime. We'll be right back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was the time that the 60's were exploding into free love and people sharing their girlfriends and everything.

When you're sex with someone and you're snorting heroine to do it all night you don't know where you begin and the drug begins and where you end and et cetera.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Now more news on CNN, the most trusted name in news. Good night.

END

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