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Interview With Mark Harris

Aired November 26, 2004 - 21:00   ET


NANCY GRACE, GUEST HOST: Tonight, they set off a tabloid feeding frenzy. When the actress and comedienne Martha Raye met Mark Harris when she was 75, the victim of several strokes and he an admitted bisexual, just 42. After 22 days of courtship, they married. And when Martha Raye died three years later, she left most of her multi- million dollar estate to him, not to her only child. Tonight, in his first TV interview in five years, Martha Raye's widower Mark Harris tells all and he answers those who say he is nothing but a gold digger. His story next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Good evening, I'm Nancy Grace from Court TV in for Larry King tonight. I want to thank you for being with us. Without further ado, let's go straight to Mark Harris. Mark, the question in so many people's minds is, you're gay. You married a woman. Why?

MARK HARRIS: I was married before Martha Raye. And I think the only thing I would like to know is those multi-millions that you speak of and everybody else. There was no multi millions so that cancels out the gold digger, OK?

As far as the gay issue, if I was gay, I'm not shy. I'd be the first to say I'm gay. There's nothing wrong with being gay. I'm bisexual because I happen to enjoy sex. Romance is even nicer. That doesn't always come. And it did so with Martha Raye in a very nostalgic way. I really never knew that I would just love her so much and become so protective of her. You see, Martha suffered several strokes and she asked to meet me. I had a successful show I was producing --

GRACE: Wait a minute, wait a minute. I remember it distinctly. So much speculation that you married Martha Raye, who is an icon in the entertainment business. She is truly beloved. Martha Raye.

HARRIS: Rightfully so.

GRACE: And the public was angry. They were convinced that you were not in love with her, couldn't be in love with her because you were gay and you wanted her money, her fame, and her notoriety. Explain.

HARRIS: Why was she left alone? Where were all these people that professed to love her, including Hollywood that came out for publicity later. Where were they when the reports came out that I kidnapped Martha Raye? You couldn't kidnap --

GRACE: I never heard that you kidnapped her. That one got by me.

HARRIS: On radio talk show.

GRACE: I don't see Martha Raye getting kidnapped by anybody. The big mouth, OK, no way.

HARRIS: And let me tell you, what a mouth. You couldn't kidnap that lady. She was wonderful. So to focus in on the multi millions or the gay, whichever you wish to, neither one is true. There were no multi millions. Long after the conservatorship was over or should I say in place, OK and her money was handled by professional people.

GRACE: Who? Advisers?

HARRIS: Stan Schneider was appointed by the court. And Fremmy Lebeau (ph) was the conservator of the person to make all medical decisions.

GRACE: You're saying a court appointee was handling her money, not you?

HARRIS: That's correct. Of course. I never wrote out a check or anything like that.

GRACE: Did Martha Raye, so many people, they love her. Did Martha Raye realize at the time of your marriage -- and that was some whirlwind courtship, 22 days. Did she realize that you were gay or bi at the time she married you?

HARRIS: We discussed bisexuality, gay, in the same first meeting.

GRACE: Did you ever wonder why everybody else was so interested in why Martha Raye would marry someone that was bisexual? Why did everybody care so much? If it made her happy, then why the onslaught by the tabloids?

HARRIS: I first of all think they were let down, if you will, because I was 33 years her junior. That was the controversy not my sexuality.

GRACE: Well, not anymore. Have you heard of Demi Moore? Have you heard of Demi Moore, OK. It's not a controversy anymore.

HARRIS: I'm not going to marry her either.

GRACE: Right, the marriage issue. But it was quite shocking at the time. But why the intense interest in who Martha Raye chose to marry? That's her business.

HARRIS: Do you know, I was Martha's seventh and last husband.

GRACE: I did not know she was married seven times. I have a new respect for Martha Raye. She has put up with seven husbands (UNINTELLIGIBLE). HARRIS: And she had a very big scandal in the 1950s when she had the Martha Raye shows and she married Sergeant O'Shea and she was excommunicated from the church for fooling around with -- he was a policeman in New York and his wife was in the hospital giving birth.

GRACE: Oh, he was married.

HARRIS: And NBC let her go on a morals clause. So there's a lot of scandals. But Martha lived life at every level devoutly. She loved America. She loved this country.

GRACE: I want to get back to the seven husbands.

HARRIS: The seven husbands.

GRACE: I only equate that with possibly Elizabeth Taylor. I did not know Martha Raye was married seven times. You were her last husband, right, didn't sneak another in, right?

HARRIS: Yes. As a matter of fact, we only found out later that the divorce was final in 1969 from Sergeant O'Shea. Could you imagine?

GRACE: ... only found out later. When did you find out?

HARRIS: Martha went off to Vietnam and she didn't know if the divorce ever came through and we found out as this was going on, the conservatorship hearings and everything. The divorce was final in 1969. Otherwise, she would have been a bigamist.

GRACE: You and Martha were married for three years.

HARRIS: You want to be exact? Better than three and a half.

GRACE: I've studied her career and she was such a star.

HARRIS: Seven and a half decades.

GRACE: What was life like with Martha Raye? She's such a big personality. After the parade had passed, Hollywood really had turned its back on Martha Raye. What was her life like then?

HARRIS: Booze. A lot of stars fall to uncontrollable amounts of booze. And when I was with her, I mean, she knew everything that was going on. Life with her was wonderful and I weaned her off the alcohol.


MARTHA RAYE: Where's the bar?


GRACE: How did you do that?

HARRIS: Her drink was vodka and cranberry juice. Instead of vodka could I just put in some cough syrup, a little bit.

GRACE: Oh God. No wonder she quit drinking.

HARRIS: Just there should be a taste of alcohol. And one day, Martha said to me, "did the conservators take all the money? We can't buy good vodka anymore?" I said, "well, Martha, I don't know, this is what I bought, the cheapest vodka." She says, "and it tastes like it." with a wince she would drink it and the drinking eventually, eventually, would stop. She'd stop drinking.

GRACE: I wonder if it had hurt her, quitting drinking. I wonder if it had anything to do with having somebody to share life with, to be with there in the home with her.

HARRIS: We had a very big life within those three and a half years. I confess that I've always been mesmerized by Hollywood of yesteryear and of course I grew up knowing who Martha Raye was. My late father served in the Army as a soldier and he was in London when she came over and I would find out they were born on the same day and year.

GRACE: As a boy, you knew who Martha Raye -- she was a big star.

HARRIS: Big. We would watch those NBC shows, the Martha Raye shows and laugh. She was Martha Raye.

GRACE: She was so big.

HARRIS: She was a huge star.

GRACE: With me is the last husband of Martha Raye, huge, huge star in her heyday. He's gay. He married Martha Raye and they had a very successful marriage. Of course, that drove the tabloids insane. Mark Harris is with us. Don't move.



UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Congratulations. How does it feel to be tying the knot for Martha Raye?

HARRIS: For the second time better than the first time. At least now I know what I'm getting.


GRACE: Welcome back everybody. I'm Nancy Grace from Court TV in for LARRY KING TONIGHT. I want to thank you for being with us. What a story. Remember Martha Raye? Huge, huge star in her heyday. Her seventh and last husband is with us tonight, Mark Harris. Many people said he married Martha Raye for her millions, for her stardom. And it was quite a tabloid sensation in light of the fact that Mark Harris is bisexual. Many people could not fathom any love between them.

Martha Raye ended up in the hospital on your wedding night. Mark, your marriage was so controversial that "Hard Copy" went after you two newlyweds and as soon as Martha got out of the hospital, just a few days after the wedding, she and you did sit down with "Hard Copy" for a very rare joint interview in which Martha answered those who doubted your love was real. Let's take a look.


RAYE: So we're being married and it's wonderful because I'm really in love this time.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Really? How do you compare this to your previous...

RAYE: Just the feeling inside of me.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: It makes you that happy?

RAYE: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. It makes me feel very young and very womanly.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How does he do that?

RAYE: Never you mind.


GRACE: OK, how did you do it?

HARRIS: First of all, I went after "Hard Copy." The story to be told is, we were in St. John's Hospital coming home from Las Vegas and we turned on the television and we saw these reports saying that I was a gigolo, a scoundrel and this and that, and Martha's doing all this against --

GRACE: Doesn't a marriage license change all that?

HARRIS: We were legally married, right. But also, let's stay on "Hard Copy." I went right there. I called them and I walked right through those gates never being on camera before and just told the truth to their reporter. And then I arranged for them to come to the house with Martha's permission because she didn't want to give interviews. But she says, OK, it's NBC, even though they threw me out years ago.

GRACE: She still remembered that they threw her out.

HARRIS: She remembered everything.

GRACE: On a morals clause right?

HARRIS: On a morals clause. Martha was not a stranger to controversy. Every Tuesday I would have to go to the market in Bel Aire and get all three of those tabloids, bring it back.

GRACE: There's actually four. We've got "The Globe," "The Examiner," "The Star," "The Inquirer." HARRIS: There was no "Examiner" then OK. And she would read it and then she would say to me, oh, honey, I know how you feel. They say terrible things about you. It's OK anytime you want to leave. But my feeling about it, first of all, Martha's name was in print. She was on television. She had publicity. That's not why we got married. We got married because she told me that her daughter was going to have her thrown out of the house and she could either have another child or a husband because alone, she wasn't going to make it.

GRACE: Why was there a battle over her money? Who were the contestants in court?

HARRIS: Martha had only one child with Nick Condos (ph). They did not get along for many years.

GRACE: She and the child?

HARRIS: She and the child.

GRACE: Girl, boy?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Martha's estranged daughter Melodye was concerned about the controversial union.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The agenda in my mind was basically that he wanted to marry her, he wanted to murder her and he wanted to take her money. And that was my opinion right or wrong. So I finally convinced an attorney to go in for a conservatorship of my mother's money so that they protected her money from him and a conservatorship of her person to protect her from being mishandled medically.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The court did find Martha to be mentally incompetent and appointed two conservators, one to oversee the handling of her finances and one to oversee her medical needs. Although Harris continued on in his role as number one fan.


GRACE: Are you and Martha's daughter still estranged?

HARRIS: Let me ask you a question. If Martha and her daughter were estranged, why would I bother talking to her?

GRACE: I just wonder if the lawsuits are still flying.

HARRIS: There's no lawsuits. In Martha's last will, she left $50,000 no contest and Melodye took the $50,000. There was not multi millions. There was not $2 million. The time the conservatorship ended and taxes and so much, I got the house.

GRACE: That was some house. HARRIS: No, it wasn't. The house now is some house. I built it as a tribute to Martha Raye. It was a little bungalow. But it had like a double lot size and I did build one big shrine. But let me tell you what I'm going to do with all the memorabilia. I did send all the military stuff -- I buried her in Ft. Bragg and opened a museum in the John F. Kennedy building for Martha Raye. It's there if you go to Ft. Bragg. But now all the Hollywood stuff is going to go to the Jackie Gleason theater in Miami Beach. I spoke with a man on the board of culture in city hall, Miami Beach, Michael Alla (ph) and he's arranging everything. I already sent pictures.

GRACE: So there's going to be a Martha Raye --

HARRIS: Auditorium.


HARRIS: And maybe you could cover it.

GRACE: I would love -- I'm a very big Martha Raye fan. You know what a lot of people don't know, especially with our troops in Iraq, our troops in Afghanistan. Martha Raye was a huge entertainer for the troops even up until Vietnam.

HARRIS: I believe many people do know that and Martha deserves her place in history. She was apolitical. She went there on a bet. She lost the bet and wound up in Vietnam.

GRACE: Where did she go? Where did she entertain the troops?

HARRIS: She went to the boondocks, without USO, on her own dime. And she took then "Hello Dolly" and played Dolly Levi. It was through all the casualties --

GRACE: the Vietnam war.

HARRIS: Yes, in the Vietnam war and many tours of duty. She kept going back for - she went into her nursing mode. She was a nurse.

GRACE: I did not know Martha Raye was a nurse. How did she go from nurse to being a superstar?

HARRIS: World War II was when she decided and when it ended because she got involved in nursing and caring for our boys, she decided to go for nursing.

GRACE: So it's a reverse?

HARRIS: A reverse for sure, absolutely. Because Martha was a star with Paramount studios, before Bob Hope.

GRACE: What were some of her movies?

HARRIS: But younger than Bob Hope. Bob Hope shared with me and Martha that that his favorite movie he ever made was "Never Say Die." I saw it recently. It's hysterical.


BOB HOPE: Now supposing I'm you. You hold her like this and then you kiss her.


RAYE: You see, Henry?




RAYE: No? Well. Show him again.

HOPE: All right.

RAYE: Wait a minute. Here. Thank you.

HOPE: Pardon me. There, now you do it, Henry. I'll sit here and watch.


HARRIS: Martha Raye got top billing by the way.

GRACE: You're kidding. She got billing over Bob Hope?

HARRIS: In "Never Say Die."

GRACE: Now there have always been rumors that she and Bob Hope had a thing.

HARRIS: You're leading someplace that's very interesting. I had a reason to ask her such a question. We had to go see this movie Bette Midler took "For the Boys" and we saw a private screening. And in that movie, the James Caan character would be the Bob Hope. That was written in later and so Martha and I looked at it, the whole movie. And Martha relived the war scenes. She was crying and very stoic, so she just wiped the tears. And when we got home, I said, "Martha, I have to ask you a silly question. I said, in those scenes with Bette Midler and James Caan in the trenches and they intimate that they slept together, did you ever sleep with Bob Hope?" And she looked at me and she said, "oh, honey, I wasn't that desperate." Now, that was Martha Raye.

GRACE: So I guess that means no.

HARRIS: Oh, no. She was emphatic. She always knew who she did and did not sleep with.

GRACE: Forget the whole conservatorship thing. Not only did she know the date, the time, the location, she recalled everybody she ever slept with.

HARRIS: Absolutely. As a matter of fact, she would tell me, "you know, you're the only one I really loved." I'd give it right back to her. I said, "is that a pat line? Did you tell them all that?" So we had a lot of laughs.

GRACE: I've always admired her, huge icon. But when I actually looked at a list of all of her movies, all the entertaining she did, did you say for how long?

HARRIS: Seven and a half decades.

GRACE: Incredible.

HARRIS: She was on the vaudeville circuit.

GRACE: Incredible. We are talking about Martha Raye. And with us tonight, her last and seventh husband, Mark Harris. A lot of people called him a gold digger at the time he married the big mouth. Stay with us.


GRACE: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE." I'm Nancy Grace from Court TV in for Larry tonight. I want to thank you for being with us. Tonight, we are remembering Martha Raye, huge, huge entertainment legend. But at the end of her life, the tabloids were talking not about her show biz career, but her marriage to a man they said was gay, not only gay, but many, many years younger than her. With me, that husband, husband number seven, Mark Harris. Aside from the whole gay, bisexual, straight thing, a lot of undercurrent was about the money, the house, the money, the jewels, the cars.

HARRIS: The few jewels Martha had, other than the beautiful diamond ring that I had made for her, wound up with Marge Durante, the widow of Jimmy Durante.


HARRIS: Because that was in Martha's will, that any jewels --

GRACE: were they best friends?

HARRIS: They were very close. Yes, they were very close. Martha worked with Jimmy in her last feature film "Jumbo."


JIMMY DURANTE: Good morning, Mr. Bone.

RAYE: Good morning Mr. Campbell. Look at that lovely sun. Isn't it a scrumptious day for starving (ph)?

DURANTE: Indubitably but I got a problem.

RAYE: And what's that? DURANTE: I hate to starve on an empty stomach.


GRACE: Now let's talk about Rock Hudson.


GRACE: Is it true that on a drinking binge in Las Vegas, Martha Raye and Rock Hudson nearly married?

HARRIS: Yes. They both got so soused. I heard it both from Martha and Roddy McDowell who stopped --

GRACE: The precursor to Britney Spears, crazy in Vegas.

HARRIS: Look, he brought her back to show business. She was blackballed after the Vietnam period. And he brought her on to McMillan as Nancy Walker's sister. And then she got Polident and that's where she made the money that she was left with which I think was about $700,000.


RAYE: .. why I call my Polident the big clean.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It fights denture odor in a big way.

RAYE: Trust the big mouth. Get super strength Polident.


GRACE: What was life like with her? What was a day in the life with a legend Martha Raye?

HARRIS: We discussed so much and shared so much of old Hollywood she would share with me.

GRACE: You love that. You're Broadway trained.

HARRIS: I loved it. And of course I cooked so I prepared meals and she was not eating frozen food anymore. I mean, we had friends over until they became parties and each party outdid another party. And one day, Martha got down, she was in a bad mood, and he says, "stop the parties no, more parties, I don't want any more parties." So I left it alone and two days later she said, "won't you make a party? Who's coming over tonight?" When I had such parties and Bob Hope and Charlton Heston and so many people, Jimmy Stewart, Dotty Lemore and these people would come over, Martha looked at me said, "how did you get them here? They were never here before." So Martha Raye was now Martha Raye and before she'd make the grand entrance in the wheelchair, but very well spoken. So she did.

GRACE: There was a grand entrance at the party? Please describe.

HARRIS: Absolutely, with music. The pianist Leo DiLion (ph) would strike up Mr. Paganini, her signature tune. It would come up and everybody stood up and I would wheel her in and she just looked wonderful. She would always ask me just before coming through the doorway, she'd say, "Do I look OK? Do I look OK?" And I said, "you look like Martha Raye, it's OK."


RAYE: Mr. Paganini, please play my rhapsody and if you cannot play it, won't you sing it?


GRACE: For those people that don't know about her career, which is hard for me to imagine, I remember her distinctly as a child. What were her big movies?

HARRIS: Her biggest movie in retrospect would have to be because Charlie Chaplin, she didn't believe it was Charlie that was calling her as she told me the story and she did it. She was the prostitute in the movie and now you could see the movie on VHS.


CHARLIE CHAPLIN, COMEDIAN: I give up. I'm going back to my boat.

RAYE: But we've only just arrived.

CHAPLIN: I can't help it. What are you doing?

RAYE: I've got a beut.

CHAPLIN: Don't be a boob, let go.

RAYE: Don't push me, now.

CHAPLIN: Who's pushing you? Don't be an idiot.

RAYE: Help!

CHAPLIN: Please sit down.

RAYE: I can't sit down. I'm trying to stand.


HARRIS: It was banned from America. You couldn't see it.

GRACE: Because?

HARRIS: They believed him to be a communist. And Martha paid for that one, too, in the years of blacklisting, because she worked with Charlie. Until it was proven she was no communist. And she was no right winger either. She was just Martha Raye, American patriot. That's all. An entertainer.

GRACE: She starred with Chaplin. She starred with Bob Hope.

HARRIS: W.C. Fields. The big broadcast of '37 and '38. She starred with Buster Keaton. Al Jolson on Broadway, "Hold onto Your Hats." She did later come and reprise the role of "Hello Dolly" after Carol Channing on Broadway.

She starred with all the big ones. Red Skelton. Bob Hope.

GRACE: Bing Crosby.

HARRIS: Bing Crosby. That was her first picture.

GRACE: What was that?

HARRIS: With him "On the Range" in Paramount Studios.




GRACE: With me is Mark Harris. And he is the seventh and last husband of Martha Raye, telling all. Their marriage was a source of great controversy. Stay with us.






RAYE: Yes? Hello! Yes, yes? It's for you.

Well, maybe this will mean something.

What a form! What a figure!


GRACE: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. I'm Nancy Grace from Court TV, in for Larry tonight. Thank you for being with us.

We are talking about an entertainment legend, Martha Raye, known later in life as "The Big Mouth." It was with Polident, right?

HARRIS: Polident. But she had "The Big Mouth" from Paramount. They labeled her "The Big Mouth."


HARRIS: She and Joey Brown, another big great she worked with, had very big mouths. And she could contort her mouth, I mean, so big.


RAYE: Gosh, I wish I could kiss all of you all at once. I got the mouth that can do it, too.


GRACE: Did you ever think of walking out on the marriage?

HARRIS: No. Walking away from Martha? Leaving her, what, alone? Like I found her? You have to understand, she asked to meet me. I had a successful production.

GRACE: Yes, how did you meet?

HARRIS: Through a comic. She asked him to put us together, because she wanted to go back to Polident and be shot from the waist up, because she could walk with a forked prong and she didn't want to come out that way.

So starting out that way in the same first meeting, she says, "And by the way, honey, we're going to get married."

And I said, "Yes, that's funny; you are a comic."

She says, "No, we have to, because of the conservatives."

I said, "Conservatives versus liberals, what?" And then I would learn what is conservatorship, and that's when I knew that I needed.

GRACE: Conservator, not conservative?

HARRIS: She said conservative. But she meant conservator. It was all new. How many people today know about conservatorship?

If you have one child in this country, 50 states wide, and you get older, infirmed or not, they can challenge your status. And they can take you through the courts to drain your account.

GRACE: Unless you get married to a guy that's going to protect her assets.

HARRIS: Well, in essence, that's what happened. I was indemnified by the judge.

GRACE: OK. I've got to ask you the big question.

HARRIS: There's a big question?

GRACE: Yes, yes, a big question. Forget about the conservatorship.

HARRIS: Let me get ready for the big question.

GRACE: She's 75, you're 42. HARRIS: Oh, that question.

GRACE: The sex thing.

HARRIS: Yes. We did. We consummated our marriage. Not because we had to. The moment arose, if you'll excuse the pun. And when I spoke about it, yes, we did.

Gloria Allred called me and she says, "You know, Mark, in California you don't have to declare that you consummated the marriage to keep it legal."

And I said, "But I didn't. We just consummated the marriage because we were enjoying ourselves."

GRACE: Every picture I've seen of her, every movie, every performance, it seems as if when Martha Raye comes into a room, she takes over the whole room.

HARRIS: Yes, indeed.

GRACE: Everybody is focused on Martha Raye.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Daddy, what's happened? You're so...

RAYE: Beg your pardon?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't you two know each other?

RAYE: Walter! Why yes, of course, Jim's brother. I've known Walter ever since he was a dirty little boy. You haven't changed a bit. Still have that wave in your hair. Pretty.


GRACE: Now, was she like that in her later years?

HARRIS: Yes. Even more so, because she was now out of that alcoholic state. Her name was in print, as I said before. And she just looked radiant. You know, her first husband, too, was younger than she was.

GRACE: I didn't know that.

HARRIS: Bud Westmore, a makeup artist at Paramount.

GRACE: How much younger?

HARRIS: I think five years, maybe. And that could have meant something in those days. I don't know if he was 17 or 19, but regardless.

And once, you know, I would do her hair. I was a hairdresser. And she loved the way I cut. She had very thick hair. And when I tried to help her with her makeup, she says, "Honey, don't touch it. Not even Bud could touch it. I do my own makeup."

She was quite something.

GRACE: You two met where?

HARRIS: In her home.

GRACE: In her home?

HARRIS: We spoke on the phone and she said, "When could you be here?" Because I had just come up from Vegas.

GRACE: For what?

HARRIS: She wanted to talk to me about representing her for Polident.

GRACE: Oh, I see.

HARRIS: So -- because I had success with Eddie Fisher and Al Martino. And what Martha Raye said about that she said, "If anybody could get Eddie Fisher to sing, no less stand on a stage, he's for me."

And that's how it all happened, one joke after the other.

GRACE: Now, she has not one but two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

HARRIS: Walk of Fame, yes.

GRACE: That is very rare.

HARRIS: Hollywood did love Martha Raye. There was a time that Hollywood really loved Martha Raye.

The Oscar, she's the first woman recipient of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Oscar in 1969. And we put it at the Friars Club in Beverly Hills. It's on view with a beautiful painting that I approved with the flag behind her.

GRACE: Were you with Martha Raye when she passed away?

HARRIS: No, not when she passed away. When she took her last breath, you mean? No. I was on a plane back. And when I came back, she was still alive, and I was rushing to the hospital. I had to go to New York for three days. I was doing a tryout show for "Dorian Grey." And so no. But I made it in time but not to the hospital. And she was gone.

GRACE: Was she alone?

HARRIS: No. She was with a nurse. A very fine nurse, Trudy. And she held her hand. She died of pneumonia.

But I was with her all the time when they took both legs off. I'm the one that found the gangrene. My late mother died of that, too. Martha was a double amputee.

GRACE: Do you think, of course, I'm just a lawyer, a trial lawyer. I'm an armchair analyst. Do you think that Martha Raye was a mother figure to you?

HARRIS: No, no. Definitely not. A mother figure, no.

GRACE: She was so much older than you.

HARRIS: My mother died of that. She was the same age as my late father. No, she was foremost Martha Raye. I didn't even see her as an old woman. And the sparring we had with comedy was wit to wit. It was wonderful. And I got to learn so many things of the inner parts of old Hollywood.

GRACE: Do you miss her?

HARRIS: Of course I do.

GRACE: What do you miss?

HARRIS: I miss her because she was the...

GRACE: She's so big.

HARRIS: Probably the pinnacle of my life where happiness is concerned. I mean, it's memories that could not be created.

GRACE: If you had to name what you miss the most about Martha Raye, what would it be?

HARRIS: Caring for somebody the way I did. She let me care for her. She never let anyone care for her. I did lift her and do all those things and made sure she was seen standing whenever possible.

I miss everything. The music. And I used to sing to her, because she couldn't sing. She could speak perfectly, but she lost the ability to carry a tune. That bothered her.

GRACE: With me, Mark Harris. Stay with us.






RAYE: This is a V.C. weapon that the Green Berets captured of the 5th Group, 5th Special Forces Group. And they gave to it me just before I left for a farewell.


GRACE: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. I'm Nancy Grace from Court TV, in for Larry tonight. And I want to thank you for being with us.

With me, Mark Harris, husband No. 7 to an icon, Martha Raye.

You know, so many people have questioned your marriage that for a period of time, it really overshadowed who Martha Raye was. She entertained our troops. Not only in Vietnam, but in the world war. Two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The first woman to get the Oscar you referred to.

HARRIS: Humanitarian Oscar.

GRACE: The humanitarian Oscar.

HARRIS: First woman in the Friars Club.

GRACE: She was a true show business baby, wasn't she?

HARRIS: Oh, yes. A baby on stage. I don't remember the song she was singing.

GRACE: How young was she when she started to perform? How young was she?

HARRIS: She was 3 years old.

GRACE: And what's so interesting about her career is, she had a reputation as being an all-American. But the reality is, in the '40s, she was dragged into the hearings on un-American activities.

HARRIS: I believe the hearings were the '50s.

GRACE: Yes, thank you.

HARRIS: She made "Monsieur Verdoux" in 1947 with Charlie Chaplin, and the government declared him a communist sympathizer. And she was his co-star. And she got called on the carpet, yes.

GRACE: She was blackballed as a result of that.

HARRIS: Yes. Temporarily.


RAYE: Tell me. Have you been good?

CHAPLIN: What a question.

RAYE: You haven't been fooling around with native girls, I hope?

CHAPLIN: How could you think such a thing?

RAYE: With you I think of all sorts of things.

CHAPLIN: There's the difference. All I think of is you.

RAYE: No kidding.

CHAPLIN: Every moment. In the cabin on the bridge, even on the poop deck.


HARRIS: She was such a Legion person during World War II, how could they even accuse her of being...?

GRACE: What's so ironic is she was the one that was going overseas to entertain the troops when she could have been here, making money, making movies, entertaining, in the world war. Not only that, in Vietnam, as well, where nobody wanted to go, and she went.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Martha, you've been over four times or five now. I can't even keep count anymore.

RAYE: Four.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going back?

RAYE: Yes, sir.


RAYE: Next October. I go back in October for the holidays.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the world of showbiz, I hear you've given up as much as $1 million just to make those trips.

RAYE: I've gained so much more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You could make more money.

RAYE: No. This is worth much more than money. Really. To see the smiles on those fellows eyes and faces. There isn't any money in the world that can buy that.


HARRIS: Martha was a fish swimming upstream. She won the most beautiful legs, and the runner-up in that contest was Betty Grable.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yours have been selected as the world's most beautiful legs.

RAYE: Same old legs I always had. Well, they are.


HARRIS: Martha wanted to go to World War II.

GRACE: She beat Betty Grable's legs?

HARRIS: They made a movie, "Pin-up Girl." It's Betty Grable and Martha Raye. But Martha said, "You take it, Betty. I'm not going to do a publicity tour. I'm going overseas." So Martha was true to herself.

GRACE: My question is, regarding that, all the hoopla surrounding your marriage. Did it ever drag Martha down?

HARRIS: Oh, no. No. The publicity that swirled around and Martha making a grand entrance into court and all places was foremost. And that was OK with me. That didn't bother me.

Look at today's scandals. And then review mine. What did I do? Be a companion, a husband, and be with somebody? I mean, what was it really all about?

GRACE: A lot of people have attacked you, claiming that you wanted Martha's fame.

HARRIS: Her fame?

GRACE: Yes. Part of her legendary status. That you wanted her money. But at the time of your marriage you had your own money, right?

HARRIS: Yes, I had a Rolls Royce, too. And I was investigated thoroughly by the courts.

GRACE: What do you mean by that?

HARRIS: Well, "Did you ever take any money from Martha Raye? Do you have a joint account with Martha Raye? Did she buy you anything?"

No. Why do you think Gloria Allred would take me on?


GLORIA ALLRED, ATTORNEY: I met with Martha alone without Mark. And Martha personally assured me that she very much wanted Mark Harris in her life and that she cared very deeply for him. That she was very kind and very good and very caring toward her. And she knew exactly what she was doing.

So because that was Martha Raye's decision and choice, she knew what she was doing. I was very happy to be supportive of Mark in this relationship with Martha Raye.

And he fulfilled everything which she had hoped for. Cared for her, loved her. He gave parties to for her so all her friends could come and be with her.

HARRIS: If she sneezed, I made a party.

ALLRED: Yes. Absolutely.


HARRIS: Gloria doesn't just take anybody.

GRACE: And what became of those cases?

HARRIS: Any accusation her daughter leveled against me was false. But you're allowed to make allegations.

GRACE: Yes, you certainly are. Was that heartbreaking for Martha Raye, that her own daughter would take her to court, basically over the marriage?

HARRIS: I think somewhere along the line, Martha was very hardened to life.

GRACE: We're talking about an entertainment legend, an icon, Martha Raye. Stay with us.


RAYE: You know, we're not buttercups. We're soldiers. And where men go, we'll go too, if they'll let us.


RAYE: Well, I think we're -- we're doing much better this last trip I had, as far as the war goes. We have Charlie on the run now pretty well.

But the morale is the most fantastic thing I've ever known in my life.






GRACE: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. I'm Nancy Grace from Court TV in for Larry tonight, and I want to thank you for being with us.

Martha Raye made an impact on Hollywood, on this country, like no other, an entertainment legend. And with me, her last and seventh husband, the controversial Mark Harris.

I want to focus now on this phase of your life. Martha Raye passed away October of '94. HARRIS: 1994.

GRACE: Can you believe it's been ten years?

HARRIS: No. It's hard to believe. I mean, it's quite hard to believe. She's still with me.

GRACE: What are you doing with your life now?

HARRIS: Well...

GRACE: It's kind of a tough act to follow, being with her.

HARRIS: I'm now looking for my next wife or husband.

GRACE: Living that -- that wild and wonderful life and with a legend like her.

HARRIS: Well, I mean, I'm invited to parties and sometimes I will go. Most of the times now, having a teenage daughter, I don't. And...

GRACE: Your daughter is what, 17?

HARRIS: Seventeen, yes. I love her so much. I love Rebecca. And sometimes I have to hold back, because I don't want to be that parent that she would be responsible, knowing that I need her more or something, you know. So I hold back. But...

GRACE: What are you working on?

HARRIS: I do a lot of writing. I conceive shows. And I've just pitched something, and I'm having a meeting with Viacom. They're having launch Thursday this coming February 2005, a gay channel. Now, this gay network...

GRACE: Viacom is?

HARRIS: Viacom is. And it's called Logo. Now, it's open to all viewers. It's not going to be with smut.

And I wrote myself a night show, seeing me as the gay David Letterman. After all, if you look at Letterman and you look at Leno, look at me, I'm much prettier. And I have great hair. So I wrote that kind of show. And we'll have that first meeting.

GRACE: The network is launching when?

HARRIS: February 2005. So I hope they include me. I would -- I would love the opportunity.

GRACE: With us tonight is the seventh and last husband of an American patriot and a legendary entertainer, Martha Raye. Mark Harris has been with us sharing his life with the icon Martha Raye.

I want to thank you for being with us tonight. Larry will be back in the chair tomorrow night. I'm Nancy Grace from Court TV, signing off for Larry king tonight.

I want to thank Mark Harris for being with us and sharing. But most of all, I want to thank you for inviting us into your home tonight. Good night.





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