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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Interview With Bill Cosby

Aired December 10, 2003 - 21:00   ET

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

LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Bill Cosby. One on one with an American icon. We'll talk about it all; life's up and downs on screen and off. The one, the only Cosby for the hour next on LARRY KING LIVE.
It's always a great pleasure to welcome him to LARRY KING LIVE. Welcome back. It's been too long since he was last with us, the beloved comedian, "New York Times" number one best selling author, Bill Cosby, recipient of the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award, host of the 2003 prime time Emmys, the Presidential Medal of Freedom last year.

And his new book is hysterical, "I Am What I Ate... and I'm Frightened!!!." There you see its cover. Also got a children's book; we'll talk about that later.

You and eating? What is with you and eating?

BILL COSBY, COMEDIAN: It's -- no, it's not me. It's not me. It is -- look, all my 40 years of being a comedian, what have I done? I've written about the water bottle in the refrigerator that we used to all go to.

And you're supposed to take the water bottle out, and you take the glass, you take the top off. It was a milk bottle, actually. Supreme. It was an old Supreme milk bottle full of water, and you put it in the refrigerator to make it cold, the water. So now you put it in the glass and you put the top on. Everybody did that.

When we came to the end, you were supposed to fill it and put it back in. Now, some people violated this and wouldn't get the glass. So you take the bottle out and you drank, and then your bread crumbs went in the bottle.

KING: What does that have to do with the book?

COSBY: It -- It has to do with the fact that I've always covered our behavior, things that we've done. My life now -- and a part of with the book is learning why old the people did what they did. Because I had no -- we had no idea. When you were young, and you saw an old person, you just thought they were there for you to look at. To be entertained.

KING: It ain't going to be us.

COSBY: That's right. So now we have, why does a person have a quadruple bypass with lymphoid removals. And the answer is, sometimes because they haven't listened to the doctor, and they don't want to.

KING: And looking at the man, I read this book. This book is hysterical. It's a slice of life. It's not a how-to book, folks. You're not going to find handy tips on eating. It's Cosby's memoir of a life as he turns -- you wrote it because you turned 65. You wanted your Social Security, right?

COSBY: Oh, yes. But the Social Security was another story altogether. And you have to be careful of your wife, man. Because they see this check come in your name. Now, one of the first things my wife said, which most wives, I've found out, will say to the husband when his check comes. They say, "Well, why don't you just have it put into the account?"

KING: Automatically?

COSBY: Yes. I said, "No, no. Me, me, me. This is many years from...

KING: Did you take your check? Bill, you don't need it. Bill.

COSBY: Yes, I do. It's about my life. It's about -- Larry, it's about years of working. It's about being in the Navy at $42 every two weeks. It's about...

KING: You gave to Social Security.

COSBY: It's about taking out Mr. Green's vegetables at 6:00 in the morning and putting them on the sidewalk for 40 cents an hour. And they still came and got me for that.

KING: So you get that thin -- it's a thin check, Social -- I remember when I first got mine. It's scary.

COSBY: Yes.

KING: It's very thin.

COSBY: But it's wonderful.

KING: And you take it every month and cash it?

COSBY: Yes. They know me at the bank. And the wives that work at the bank don't like me, either. They say, "Mrs. Cosby..." And I say, "No, no. Me, me. No, me."

Now, what do I do with it? Sometimes I buy my wife flowers. Sometimes I see things. But you see, Larry, it's free.

I can confuse people in stores. I go in the store and I buy something and you -- "How will you be paying for this?"

I say, "Money."

And they say, "We don't have..."

Now four guards come over, and they hold it up to the light. They turn it around. And I just -- I just enjoy it.

KING: But then the other part was finding out that you had this incredible cholesterol count. Now your cholesterol count, now hold it. I had a heart attack and heart surgery with a cholesterol count of 280.

COSBY: Yes.

KING: You had 470. Four-seventy.

COSBY: But you don't -- But you don't know why.

KING: Well, you've got to have arteries that have cholesterol.

COSBY: Listen carefully.

KING: I am.

COSBY: A man who was working on my back doing one of these, said to me, "I feel" -- Give me your hand.

He said, "I feel your gall bladder and it's clotting and closing off." So...

KING: You're in danger.

COSBY: So, like, you know, it's like the fortuneteller. You say, "My?"

He says, "Yes, I feel that." He says, "And you need -- the way to get rid of it is to drink a cup of olive oil."

I said, "OK."

So I went to the store. I was in Lake Tahoe playing Harris (ph). And I got the olive oil, poured a cup. And I drank a cup of olive oil, and that was about 6 p.m. at night. I was notified at 9 in the morning that I was -- don't drink, don't eat anything because I have to have a blood test.

So I go to the doctor, the Lake Tahoe doctor. I forgot I took a cup of the olive oil. The man called me. The doctor was crying. He said, "Mr. Cosby, you have sludge."

I said, "What?"

"Sludge. Your cholesterol is 468 and your triglycerides are at 16,000. Mr. Cosby."

"Oh, no." So I said, "Oh."

He said, "We're going to send somebody for you right now. We've got to pump you and change your blood."

I said, "Wait a minute. I had a cup of olive oil." Then it became another issue. So that's why I put that in the book. But if your cholesterol is high, we all know why the cholesterol is high. The human behavior, why the book is funny, is because we all pretend we don't know. There are things that we have that we eat, and I'm not telling you not to eat them. I'm just saying it's funny because what we do is we keep saying, "I've got to have my..."

My mother used to say that. "I must have my salt."

Now you could not trick my mother with the salt. You couldn't. You could put fake salt down. She could look at it, and then she would say, "Come here."

And you said, "Oh, Lord."

She said, "Come here. Say, what is this?" She said, "Don't lie to me."

And we could never lie to Mom. So it's...

KING: Her's was "my salt." What was --

COSBY: "My salt."

KING: What was your -- what was your salt? What was "my thing"? Your thing was pizza, right?

COSBY: My thing is pizza. Mine -- my "my" is sausage. My "my" is barbecued spare ribs. My "my" is great lemon flavored sweet potato pie, is my "my." Creamy.

My "my" is apple pie. My "my" is devil food chocolate, chocolate.

KING: And as the man might say as we go to break...

COSBY: Yes?

KING: My, my.

COSBY: My, my.

KING: Bill Cosby. The book, "I Am What I Ate... and I'm Frightened!!!" No kidding.

We'll be right back. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY: I love cake. I love pie. I love potato chips. I love salt. I do not want yogurt, plain yogurt. It's healthy. Why don't you like it? Because it tastes like bad breath.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: It may be Cosby's funniest book, and that's saying a lot, because he's written a lot of funny stuff.

Bill Cosby. The book is "I Am What I Ate... and I'm Frightened!!!" It's great to have him with us tonight as we talk about lots of things. Back to the book.

You -- we warned people about this book. Is there anyone who reads it -- and if you're enthusiastic about your favorite foods, you'll end up drooling. I mean, you're going to want to go and...

COSBY: Yes.

KING: Most times you read a book about losing weight, and you want to go out and eat a vegetable.

COSBY: No.

KING: You read your book...

COSBY: Yes.

KING: ... and you want to go out and eat every wrong thing in the world.

COSBY: Yes, because you know, the end is coming. You know, for instance, Larry, you -- if we get back to people and their choices.

I called a lady, and I'm just talking. And this woman is talking. And she's at work, and blah, blah, blah. Now the next thing I know, she says, "You know, I am just so heavy now, you won't believe how heavy."

I said, "Well, you go on a diet."

She's "I know. But I don't know what to do."

So I said, "OK, what did you have for breakfast?"

She said, "Do you really want to know?"

I said, "Yes."

She said, "I didn't eat breakfast yet." She said, "But..." She said -- and it was like 11:30. She said, "I'm going to have a Pepsi and a bag of chips."

I said, "Where's the protein?"

She said, "Well, I will have something later. I'll have a salad."

But there you go. And people wonder, you know, why they look the way...

KING: Well, we're creatures of the habits we were raised with.

COSBY: Look, you go to a funeral. And -- And the person who died, died because of lung cancer, and the person was a cigarette smoker. So during the funeral, people are taking a break and going outside...

KING: To smoke.

COSBY: To smoke. And they're coming back in, and there's the proof. So we're funny. We are funny, funny people.

I mean, look, when you came out -- I want to just ask you a question. When you came out of surgery, and you finally woke up. And they brought food to you, what do you remember they gave you?

KING: Wrong stuff. Toast and butter. But they give you the wrong stuff.

COSBY: They operate on you...

KING: They gave me bacon.

COSBY: They operate on you, Larry. They give you everything. They put it on the side. You should see the business. All your stuff was over here, under there. Everything was laid out. You looked like -- you know where the car is, and here's the carburetor and things all over there. And somebody's holding, making Polaroids so they make sure they put it back where it was before.

So now you're there, and -- and they clean you out. Carbs, pork, took you sternum, pop, put it back, boom! You're in the bed, and they put you in the bed. You don't look pretty when put you back in the bed. You go -- and now they go, blip, blat, smack, boom. And you're laying there like this.

I don't know. You didn't have a (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KING: They take a thing in your mouth for a day.

COSBY: Yes, then you put it in there. So now...

KING: What's it called, when it goes down your throat? They don't cut it.

COSBY: Throat thing. So then -- that Red Buttons gave me that. It's a throat thing. So now, first meal, boom! They put -- they put it there. You've got eggs, bacon, with the yolk and everything. Stop, why are you putting back that which clotted?

KING: Why do doctors do that?

COSBY: Because they're dumb. Because they're dumb. They don't know any better. Your insulin level, if they check your insulin level, it's wrong. They could start -- what is wrong with the...

KING: How -- How do we help people? Look, for example...

COSBY: You grab your doctor by the throat, and you say to them, "I don't want sausage and fish. I want boiled vegetables." KING: The shortest chapter in this book, it's titled "Moderation." When you turn to this chapter, it's empty. There is nothing. You do nothing in "Moderation," right?

COSBY: That right.

KING: So how can I be helped, Bill...

COSBY: Yes.

KING: ... by reading this?

COSBY: You can be helped by laughing. You can laugh. The laughter is healing. You can also realize, hey, man, I'm not alone. There's 18 billion people living like I live. And eventually, like Bill Cosby, is going to come to the point where, when they go up one in your carotids and you're getting scared. When people -- see, there was a time when you and I -- and I know how old we are, but when you and I went to the doctor. And all people are like this. The doctor said -- There's a point when you're in, like, your 40s and your doctor says, "You've got the body and the organs of a 36-year-old man."

(CROSSTALK)

COSBY: You say, ha. I know.

And now, at our age, you know what's a good report? "Keep doing what you're doing."

But we don't have the body. I'am 66, I don't have...

KING: I'm 70.

COSBY: ... the body of a 57-year-old man.

KING: Do not.

COSBY: No. Just keep doing what you're doing. Now, the trouble is we get into a certain age, we can't remember what we did.

KING: People have three choices in terms of lifestyle. Don't go to a doctor at all.

COSBY: Right.

KING: Pay for doctors, bills and machinery.

COSBY: Right.

KING: Or stay healthy.

COSBY: Yes.

KING: Now, the third choice seems obvious.

COSBY: Yes. KING: Are you now a healthy person?

COSBY: I'm not the healthiest, but I am healthy. I'm healthy to the point where there are things that I have to eat that I don't want to eat, but I eat it because I'm enjoying staying alive.

KING: What foods do you eat that you don't like, but you eat?

COSBY: Well, Brussels sprouts.

KING: I hate Brussels sprouts.

COSBY: But well, I read an article says they're wonderful for your prostate.

KING: So you eat them?

COSBY: Yes.

KING: Good.

COSBY: But I never have gotten anything but good results from the prostate exam.

KING: You say don't become a health zealot. Don't be people go around preaching to other people about changing their behavior. You don't like people who say, don't do that?

COSBY: Don't. People are not going to pay attention, and they don't like you. I know a diabetic who shoots the thing, and you better not say to him, hey, man, put those potato chips -- you know, put down the Coca-Cola. He would hit you with the needle.

KING: Right. You know human reactions better than most. Why do people -- don't want to be told something that's good for them?

COSBY: My acupuncturist, Mae Jin (ph), said to me one day, what did you have for breakfast?

I said, "I had a croissant."

She said, "That's for the mouth."

So, 99 percent of the things that we eat that we shouldn't really eat, happen to be for the mouth.

KING: Correct.

COSBY: And so, if we forget the mouth...

KING: Great idea.

COSBY: She's beautiful. If you forget the mouth and go to the body. Also, we don't know how to balance ourselves. The body says, "I want something." And then we eat a bag of potato chips and take a soda drink, which is good for the mouth and the stomach says there's something in it. But when it breaks down and goes out it turns into sugar. So we're just -- nothing. There's no protein. We're not satisfied.

KING: Think stomach.

COSBY: Think Larry King. Look, when you sit down and you see something...

KING: I do. I watch myself. I lose a lot of...

COSBY: Because you don't want to go back to that surgery again.

KING: Never again.

COSBY: No. When you open it up -- ha.

KING: We'll be -- The book is "I Am What I Ate... and I'm Frightened!!!" It's a terrific read. It's by Bill Cosby. What a great Christmas gift this.

We'll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MALCOLM JAMAL WARNER, ACTOR: Do you remember Princeton.

COSBY: Of course, I remember Princeton

WARNER: Dad, please listen to me.

COSBY: I am listening to me.

WARNER: There are no more tickets. Look at me! There are no -- look. There are no more tickets.

You understand me?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: By the way, we discussed smoking with Bill Cosby. He has a chapter on smoking.

You smoke? I...

COSBY: Yes. You have to smoke. The big cigars.

KING: That's what I do. I smoke cigarettes. You smoke cigars.

COSBY: And there were times, man, as a smoker I didn't understand or accept, you know -- I'd light up the cigar. But everybody was smoking then. I remember in the good old days when cigarette smokers could really smoke. I don't even know why they smoke now.

In the old days, you had a cigarette and you'd go out. And I could talk and then my smoke would come and hit you in the face.

KING: I'm telling you...

COSBY: And your smoke...

KING: If we were doing this 30 years ago, we're smoking in each other's face.

COSBY: That's right. And blowing smoke and then have the mashed potatoes, put the cigarette out in the -- in the mashed potatoes.

Now, the poor people, the poor people who smoke, they -- first of all, they have to go around to everybody, "May I? Pardon me? May I have a cigarette?"

"Yes, you may."

So now -- and then you can't smoke because the police is -- cigarette police watching. So now, even outside -- now watch this. Tell me this is comforting. You light -- you light away from people, put it back. You go like this. And then you take your hand and you put your hand all the way back here. And then you lay back and you go . And then you come back.

That's not real smoking. Joan Crawford used to smoke like that.

KING: Didn't she?

COSBY: But you see, hack in the mashed potatoes.

KING: She did smoke (ph); smoked right in my face.

COSBY: And blew it. Yes.

KING: Those were the days.

COSBY: I'm telling you. But now, you don't do that.

KING: And it's healthy. I mean, it's better that we don't smoke.

COSBY: And it's cleaner.

KING: Cleaner.

COSBY: Our children are healthier. The grandchildren are healthier. Everything is better.

I keep my cigars right there. That's the way I quit. I quit and the cigars were right there. And my wife said, "And now we will go..."

And I said, "No, we won't."

She turned into the lady, the witch in "The Wiz." She snarled and went to get -- I said, "No! Please." And they're still there. Because that's the enemy, and I know that the enemy cannot jump out of the humidor. My hand has to go in, pull it out...

KING: Do you miss the enemy?

COSBY: Do you know, I do not?

KING: That's right?

COSBY: As a matter of fact, here's worst thing for me. Smelling somebody that smokes. Not -- not that they're smoking now, but just -- I can pick up...

KING: Off their clothing.

COSBY: You can pick it up.

KING: Me, too. Know if there's a -- know if they smoked within the hotel room the day before. Oh, bad.

COSBY: Nothing worse than a hotel where people...

KING: Have smoked.

COSBY: And...

KING: Except we used to be those people.

COSBY: And so that's why I can't say anything. We can't say to a person like that -- you walk down the hallway, some hotels, are great hotels but they have, like, four-day-old Lysol from trying to mask.

You know, you go in -- I was in a hotel in Topeka, Kansas, man. I had to leave the room. And then there was another one in Louisville, Kentucky. I went in and they must have just had a big poker game the night before. But I went in and...

KING: You know, we never knew it when we smoked.

COSBY: No.

KING: We didn't smell it.

COSBY: No, you -- you don't know at all. You don't know how you're offending people. I apologize to those people.

KING: Why do you think...

COSBY: Pipes are the worst when you have cherry flavor. And cherry flavor and myrrh.

KING: Myrrh.

COSBY: Myrrh and cherry flavor and the guy's sitting there. And pipe smokers are the worst drivers, also. It's like, if I see a guy with a pipe...

KING: They can't keep a permit?

COSBY: No. They put -- I mean, there's something about a pipe and you start to go -- you know, you drive -- you watch. I get away from them. I just -- you'll see me on farmland, doing like a...

KING: Can we now say that Cos is healthy?

COSBY: Yes. Yes, I am very, very healthy.

KING: Health conscious and healthy.

COSBY: Health conscious, healthy and -- and I don't want to bother people who are doing whatever they're doing. I don't want to reach -- look across the table and say to that, you know, you're eating, you know, you're doing it.

But I will give long dissertations if you open a flank. If you are a person that I know, and you say, "You know, I'm really overweight." You've opened the flank.

KING: Yes. You've invited it.

COSBY: But then, like a fool, I dive in and all I hear is, "I know. I know. I know."

But my mother had help. My mother had these little friends. Ladies. Very nice looking ladies. And they all had patent leather bags which will show no grease.

Now my mother, the doctor said my mother cannot have fried chicken. She cannot have fried -- because what they're doing is saturated, unsaturated.

And so, I said, "Mom?"

And Camille said, "Mrs. Cosby?"

And my mother just looked at us and she said, "I'm going to have my..."

So we barred -- we called restaurants. We did everything. And she found herself, she couldn't get it at places. So the little three ladies, I'll not name them...

KING: With the bags.

COSBY: With the bags. So they came over to play bridge. And we forgot to check them. And in the bags was the chicken. When my mother died...

KING: Drug dealers.

COSBY: When my mother died, my brother Russell said, "You won't believe what was under the pillow in the hospital." KING: What?

COSBY: Chicken bones. Chicken bones. And Russ said he noticed on her face, a little grease. Just a little grease, right there. And she had a smile.

KING: But you were raised that way. So you like fried foods?

COSBY: I love fried. But listen, it's a matter of manhood. Especially if you're brought up in the South or Southern cooking. Southern cooking of lard. Lard. Southern cooking of fatback. I mean, the oink is king.

And so you have -- you have fried everything. There was some guy on TV up here in New York. I don't know what he's doing. Have you heard of him? He's deep-frying Twinkies. I'm 66 years old. I looked at that man I turned if off, man, because it was like he was going to come at me. Fried Twinkie monster will come and get me.

KING: Bill Cosby's our guest. The book is, "I Am What I Ate...and I'm Frightened!!!"

Tomorrow night, Tom Brokaw and also at the end of the show tomorrow night, my wife Shawn. Shawn's going to sing. Got to love the holidays. New Christmas song for our charity, the Larry King Cardiac Foundation.

In which some day you may appear, hopefully.

COSBY: Oh, I will.

KING: And Friday night, President Carter. Not a bad week.

Oprah sends her love. She was here last night.

COSBY: Now Jimmy is one of the real people. I mean, you really should be happy to just shake his hand.

KING: You ain't kidding.

We'll be right back with Bill Cosby after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY: What's going to happen when Michael Jordan sees that you have on his shoes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, these are my shoes.

COSBY: No, no, you didn't say that to me, Miles. I asked you, I said, whose shoes do you have on? You said, Michael Jordan's. That's what you said, Miles. Now, these are Mr. Jordan's shoes. Did he give you permission to wear these?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Bill Cosby, who also has a children's book out, "Friends of a Feather: One of Life's Little Fables," illustrated by his daughter Erica. Right?

COSBY: Yes. Yes.

KING: And you said your late son, Ennis, inspired this?

COSBY: Yes. Yes.

KING: How?

COSBY: Well, Ennis -- we couldn't -- we didn't want to go back home for the Christmas holidays, and Mrs. Cosby...

KING: After he died?

COSBY: After his murder. Mrs. Cosby picked out a place and we went to -- in Ireland. And it was very, very heavy, the feeling.

There's a, like, a water cul-de-sac, and I sat up from the house and I'm looking at the water. And there's a mountain, and then there's a rock, a small one, about the size of this desk. But there are birds flying, and they're doing tricks and everything. And I'm just watching them.

And one day, it looked like one of the birds was doing a great one-and-a-half, triple something. It looked like that -- that bird hit the rock. And I looked. And this is -- I'm looking at a distance of about 100 meters.

The next morning, I went down to be entertained again. I didn't want to watch any TV or anything. And there's the bird, dead. And I said to the fellow cleaning the beach, "What happened?"

He says, "Well, some of the birds, you know, they like to perform and they do -- and they hit the rock." And that's -- and then I noticed, also, there were people taking pictures of the birds. And my mind started to go, and the story started to evolve. And when I sat down to write it, at first -- I mean, it was about Ennis. Because I'm in that mode. I'm in that mode.

And then Shel Silverstein, my buddy, pure, pure buddy Shel Silverstein. I wanted to do something like Shel, something that he would -- he would also feel proud of. And then for the illustrator, I wanted George Booth. I love George Booth.

Now, what happens is can't get George Booth. I have a daughter with many degrees who was a -- she's a painter. So I asked Erica to do some...

KING: Wow.

COSBY: ... some work for the book. Erica took it because the money was great. But Erica also said, "Dad, I'm not an illustrator."

So the people at Harper Collins, very, very wonderful people, they got with her. And with Erica's talent and her education and their showing her how things should be done.

But the book, Larry, the book is about friendship. And it's about who do you really want to perform for? And are the people you're performing for really worth it? Are they worth your almost damaging yourself?

And I think it's a great book for parents to read to their children, up to, even while they're in college. Because even in college, who do you perform for? When you want friends. And they say, "OK. Chug-a-lug, chug-a-lug." And you think they're -- and you're drinking. And "chug-a-lug."

And next thing you know, you're puking in the toilet bowl, and people are laughing. And you think these people happen to be friends.

So that's what this is about.

KING: So it's for children of all ages?

COSBY: And the parents to guide them. Yes.

KING: We can only imagine what it's like to lose an offspring.

COSBY: Whoah.

KING: Is it with you all the time?

COSBY: Yes...

KING: Do you get over it?

COSBY: Do you know what it's like? Your -- your heart, you have a scar. Is there -- now sometimes when you take your clothes off...

KING: You see it.

COSBY: You see it. And then sometimes you don't even notice it at all. It's like that.

There were times when the four-letter "S" word -- I mean, and this is a long time ago now, maybe two -- I'm past that. But all of a sudden, something would -- and I would just feel...

KING: Scream.

COSBY: I'm -- I wouldn't say it; it was a four-letter word. And I would just say -- like that. And then I would -- I would move on.

It's very, very important to also note that I went back to work right away. And you know why I went back to work? Because I was going into the city, and Ennis was dead maybe four days. And I was in the car in New York City, and a van pulled up at a light. And I'm sitting in the back on the side.

And the people, African-American -- I guess, well, they were black. And they looked. They were like this, and the people went -- my God, to me. A man who for 36 years has been making them laugh, a man who walks into a room and people, they light up. People begin to talk. "Thank you for the album. Thank you for the CD." And now they're going.

And man, something in me said, "No. No, no. This is not right. This is not right." And I looked at them, and I couldn't do what was natural. I couldn't go -- and -- I called a lady one time, man. And this woman said to me, "No, no, no, no. I cannot talk to you. Do not talk to me. Do not talk." And she hung up.

So this -- this tragedy. The pain there, terrific. Terrific pain.

Time has passed. It exists. It exists, but it is not this sad old man walking around the house. We have a bust of Ennis. And it is a happy bust.

KING: Did you get closure?

COSBY: Yes.

KING: You felt that? The police ...

COSBY: You can -- the closure and at the trial...

KING: Yes.

COSBY: And closure with I think and I believe that the young man has said he did it.

KING: Yes.

COSBY: And he is searching, I think -- I'm not sure -- he is searching for -- he's the person now who has to deal with closure.

And when they said, "Do you want, you know, the death penalty?"

My wife was the first one. She said no. No, it's not for us to deal with the obvious.

And my thought was, "Hey, man. They could poison, they could strap 1,000 of these people in the chair."

KING: Isn't going to bring him back.

COSBY: See, what's missing within us. I mean, put aside our joy, put aside our pride that this young man would -- is -- let's say he's alive. He's some place teaching and helping lower economic children of all races, colors and creeds. Put all that aside. What is lost to this world, is a young man who cares.

And my brother-in-law, Eric, said it so beautifully when, you know, someone from the family can speak to the -- to the person who's been convicted. And my brother-in-law said, you know, "Had you but talked to him, he probably would have spent two hours talking to you about your, you know..."

KING: Let me go to break. Hard for me.

Bill Cosby is the guest. The book, "I Am What I Ate." And the children's book, for children of all ages, is "Friends of a Feather."

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Bill Cosby.

I want to ask you about some things current, and then a little more on both books.

What do you make when you read about Michael Jackson, Kobe Bryant? Trouble. How do you look at it?

COSBY: I mean...

KING: And tabloid frenzy.

COSBY: Media and -- what I don't like, having lived it and having been there, I don't like the fun that people have with pundits who can get away with just saying anything because they believe something is going to happen.

There's a trial. And then we're going to have people judge. We're going to have them say, whether a person is guilty or not guilty.

I don't like that, so I don't watch. Because the media can dump you up and down. And of course, with media, it happens to be what they want the story to be about.

Michael Irvin, who used to play for the Dallas Cowboys, was accused of something with marijuana and something and a woman. And the media, the Dallas papers were--

And then, when it came back that he didn't do it, or that the person who made the accusation...

KING: Was nuts.

COSBY: ...was problematical, then Michael -- I remember, man. He -- he had his coat on his arm, and he pointed it through the camera. He said, "Now, keep up the intensity."

KING: Man.

COSBY: "Stay on the case. Come on. Keep it up now. Don't hold back." And there are times with the media might win. As a celebrity, we -- we know that we're right. We know that they brought people in who made accusations and then the things turn out to be not true. And then they -- you can hear them packing.

You know, you say, "OK. That's that."

And you say, "Wait a minute. What about -- you're going to let him go away for free?"

"Well, that's that."

And so there, I don't watch it. I don't like...

KING: Do you know Michael well?

COSBY: I don't know Michael.

KING: Don't...

COSBY: At all. I met Michael. He was a baby, and then I met Michael again at Clinton's inaugural...

KING: Ball?

COSBY: ...festive thing. And with Chuck Berry. And we took a picture with a giant poster-like Polaroid thing. And somebody -- I never got one, because I wanted one.

But he looked at me, and he said that I was a very, very nice person. And I said, "OK."

And I looked away. I never tried to Moonwalk.

KING: You know Kobe?

COSBY: No. No.

KING: But you were at the play-off.

COSBY: I've seen him play. I've seen Allen Iverson play. I've seen Magic Johnson play. I've seen...

KING: Do celebrities have an edge or a detraction when they come in the public limelight?

COSBY: They have -- they have the worst situation. Let me tell you something.

The lie that is put out. For instance, I've heard -- I've heard shows, as you know -- Larry, if you got caught in something, they would say, "You know, he's an actor. So when he's on the witness stand, he'll be able to really convince the people."

Hey, man, stop. There are people who have never done a TV show, never done a radio program or anything who can lie and make Orson Welles sound like Ebrow Bryson (ph). I don't know. I'm making up names now.

But I'm telling you, the way that they have access to free up on us, to just load up on us. And we can't get at them, because of some laws and whatever. And now, "The New York Times," the "L.A. Times," the "Philadelphia Inquirer"...

KING: The...

COSBY: I mean, respected places are now having things. But you can't tell their headline on a particular story from the "National Enquirer" or "The Star." And they're quoting each other.

So now this stuff also goes, "Larry King ate a persimmon. And the people are suing him." So now that's in the paper.

Now, I have a radio show. "Good morning, this is Hang 'em and Sell 'em (ph). And guess who was eating a persimmon in the thing. Well, he's a fool anyway. Who really likes the man? I'm telling you, ladies and gentlemen, give me the persimmon because Larry King is one of those persimmon eaters that this country does not need."

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments...

COSBY: And a persimmon. And the persimmon would be customary with the card (ph).

KING: Exactly. Right after this.

COSBY: Present.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

COSBY: This is Bill Cosby, coming at you with music and fun, and if you're not careful, you may learn something before we're done. So let's get ready. OK?

Hey, hey, hey!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Cos was a young man.

COSBY: Hey, stop it.

KING: That was -- that was...

COSBY: And guess what? I was eating. Yes, but that's the guy that ate the stuff. And it got me where I am now.

KING: Cos...

COSBY: Not a nice person. KING: Cos got the Freedom Medal. Cos got the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award, the Emmys. Cos still works for 40 weeks a year.

COSBY: Yes, sir.

KING: Still up there singing and -- entertaining, not singing. Telling jokes.

COSBY: Yes.

KING: Did the Kennedy Center, two hours, two nights.

COSBY: For four hours, one night.

KING: Two shows?

COSBY: Two shows, back to back. And I loved all of it. My audiences, we get together. We have a wonderful, wonderful time. And I've got younger people coming.

I just, if I have time, I start -- I was all prepared. I'm doing old people material. That's what I was doing then. This was about a year ago. I have no idea of the power of the run, of the reruns of the run-runs of the, you know, Huxtables.

So I'm just busy doing stuff about being 66 and being the father and the grandfather and everything. And all of a sudden, there's a voice that says, "That's not funny!"

And I looked, and there's a guy -- I'm at Foxwoods, which is a gambling casino. There's a 5-year-old kid in the chair. And he says, "That's not funny."

I said, "Wait a minute. How did you get in here?"

He says, "My mommy brought me in here."

So the mother said, "He wants to meet Little Bill."

I said, "Well, Little Bill is asleep."

He says, "Where's Rudy?"

I said, "Son, Rudy's about 25 years old."

"No! No! She's (UNINTELLIGIBLE)."

So now I've had to alter my material and move into not doing the stuff, the old stuff, but just doing stuff that these young people and the parents -- so I'm back to the family work.

But Larry, I love my work. I love my job. And the audiences, oh boy.

KING: You don't need the money.

COSBY: No.

KING: No.

COSBY: No.

KING: So it's got to be for a lot of other reasons?

COSBY: Yes, but there's still a charge. There's still a charge, people.

But I don't charge -- my tickets are not $150. There's some people that are out there, and there's $150, $200. Mine still says $48, $46.

KING: You're going to keep on writing books?

COSBY: I'm looking for -- yes. I'm looking for Joan Baez. I want Joan Baez. Because she's a wonderful...

KING: You want what, want her to open for you?

COSBY: No. We're going to do a benefit for any charity she wants to do it for. Also, if Buffy Sainte-Marie is still working.

KING: You and your jazz. You and your stuff. You and your offbeat music. You and your -- you like your own people. I mean, you like different bends of the road.

COSBY: Yes. You have to do that. Because in there you will find, in lower economic areas, everybody. Everybody. You find the synagogue, the Corinthian Baptist Church, the Presbyterians, and all of it, the Episcopalians. We're all down in what they call the melting pot.

KING: You never, then, think of retiring?

COSBY: No. Not yet. Not yet.

KING: Do you think you might some day?

COSBY: I wish I could. I'm the little train that wants to.

KING: Yes, but you don't have to. So you could.

COSBY: But you see, the brain is still working.

How long are you married now?

KING: It's almost seven years.

COSBY: OK. See yourself sitting at home. Now, wait a minute. And all of a sudden you get a great idea. And you say that to your wife. What does she say? In truth.

There you go. That's why I'm out here.

KING: Great. Fortieth wedding anniversary.

COSBY: Yes.

KING: In January.

COSBY: Yes.

KING: Congrats. Congrats on the book.

It's an honor to have you in my company.

The book is "Friends of a Feather: One of Life's Little Fables."

COSBY: Hey.

KING: In the company, or...

COSBY: But you made yourself non-party (ph).

KING: The pleasure of his company.

COSBY: Who?

KING: You.

COSBY: No. "You is," "I am."

KING: No, "you are."

COSBY: No, must "is," because must ain't...

KING: "I Am What I Ate... and I'm Frightened!!!"

COSBY: Yes, and you look it.

KING: You should be.

I'll be back in a minute, to tell you about tomorrow night. Don't go away.

COSBY: Who's tomorrow?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Tomorrow night, Tom Brokaw is with us. President Carter on Friday night. You'll also hear my wife sing a great Christmas song tomorrow night at the end of the show.

We thank Bill Cosby for being with us.

"NEWSNIGHT" and Aaron Brown is next here in New York.

COSBY: The Aaron Brown?

KING: The Aaron Brown.

Aaron, it's yours.

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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