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Interviews with Bob Dole, Liz Smith, Renee Fleming, Ronan Tynan

Aired May 21, 2005 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Bob Dole, inside his courageous journey from small-town America to an agonizing recovery as a wounded war hero, to a distinguished senator and presidential candidate. And then America's most beloved gossip columnist, Liz Smith, dishing the dirt on sharing dishes with Liz Taylor, Elvis Presley, Katharine Hepburn, Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman and more. Plus, Renee Fleming. Why would one of opera's most acclaimed divas take a major musical risk? And talk about great singers, Ronan Tynan. The renowned Irish tenor has sung at President Ronald Reagan's funeral and at the Yankee Stadium 9/11 memorial. The story of what he overcame to do what he does with his amazing voice. And they're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
It's always a great pleasure to welcome Senator Bob Dole to LARRY KING LIVE, the former majority leader, former presidential and vice presidential candidate of his party, decorated veteran of World War II and the author of a compelling new memoir, "One Soldier's Story."

Before we talk quickly about the book, how's your health?


KING: I know you were at...

DOLE: Yes, I took a nasty...

KING: You were at Walter Reed.

DOLE: ... fall in January, and I spent about 41 days in the hospital, between that and a hip replacement, but had a blot clot and a lot of other things, but I'm doing pretty well. I still get a little tired in the afternoon, but you know, aging has a little factor, too.

KING: Yes. Were you ever worried about, you know, being...

DOLE: Yes. Well, apparently, the doctors were worried because I had this bleeding in my head. And I'd had this hip replacement in December, on December 14, and they were giving me a blood thinner. And on January 11, I took this terrible fall and started bleeding. So they had to reverse the blood thinner effect. But frozen plasma and vitamin K took care of that, and the bleeding stopped, and -- but my left arm was as big around as your leg, I mean, just bloated and filled with all kinds of fluid.

KING: What does vitamin K do? DOLE: It helped stop the bleeding, so...

KING: So you're -- you're...

DOLE: Sort of an anti-coagulant.

KING: You're a lot better now.

DOLE: Oh, I'm -- oh, I feel good, yes.

KING: All right. It's been 60 years since World War II was over.

DOLE: Right.

KING: You had a lot to do with the commissioning of the World War II memorial. You've been one of the proponents of remembering the veterans. What took you so long to do a book about it?

DOLE: Well, my -- there's always somebody in your family, if there are more than one in the family or two, that kind of hoards things and collects things. And my oldest sister, Gloria, been keeping letters. She had about a treasure trove of -- about 300 letters I'd written to my mother, and my mother and dad had written to me, other siblings, my brother, my sisters had written to me. And I didn't know we had them until about two years ago. And so when once I had the -- the letters, I went down to see a fellow in Washington who does a lot of books, Bob Barnett (ph) -- you know Bob.

KING: Know him very well.

DOLE: Yes. Says, You got a book here. And I said, OK. Let's give it a shot.

KING: Now, is the book a compilation of letters?

DOLE: No, it's not a -- it's a -- it's my telling the story about my recovery after World War II, which took about five years. I was in and out of the hospital for 39 months, and it took about another year. But interspersed are the letters. You know, it's sort of written in a way that my mother writes me on the -- she wrote me on the day I was wounded, not knowing I was wounded, and saying she hoped I was safe and all this. And of course, I get the letter a couple of weeks later. But I think it'll make a -- I think it'll bring a tear to your eye, not because it's about me but because it's about a mother and son.

KING: The reviews have been excellent (INAUDIBLE) I'm anxious to read it. Let's go back a little. Were you drafted?

DOLE: No, I was in the enlisted reserve corps. I enlisted December the 15th, 1942, and was called to active duty in June of '43.

KING: How old were you?

DOLE: I was 20. And I wound up a 90-day wonder at the Benning School for Boys, second lieutenant in the infantry.

KING: And they sent you where?

DOLE: Sent me to Italy. Off you go. And you're over there in the mountains. And they need second lieutenants. They're sort of expendable anyway. And so we hang around this camp here and have a lot of fun over Christmas, but then in February, I was sent to the 10th Mountain Division. And I came from Kansas, Larry, which you know is flatter than this table, and I wound up in the ski troops in the Mountain Division, so...

KING: So you were in the -- you weren't against Rommel, were you? He was...

DOLE: No, he was already gone. He was -- that was early. Our 5th Army commander was Mark Clark...

KING: Oh, the famous Mark Clark.

DOLE: Yes, famous Mark Clark. He did a great job. I used to kid, I said, I can't understand how he succeeded when he never called me. I mean, you know, I kept waiting -- of course, there were probably about 10,000 second lieutenants in Italy.

KING: Were you a good soldier?

DOLE: I thought I was a pretty good soldier, yes. You know, I was scared. I wasn't -- I can't say I was brave and courageous and held back 5,000 Germans because I was scared, like everybody else. Somebody tell me they weren't scared, I want to have the guy examined.

KING: You're not kidding.

DOLE: You're not...

KING: Any kind of war -- all right, so what happened that day?

DOLE: Well, on April 14, 1945...

KING: Near the end of the war.

DOLE: Yes, the war ended May the 8th, which is coming up. But on that day, April 14th, we had an assignment to take this Hill 913, which the Germans had. They had the high ground. And we got about halfway up the hill, and my radio man was hit, and I went out to bring him back to a safer place, and I got about halfway there, and I felt this sting in my right shoulder and -- kind of go through my body, and it damaged my spinal cord. And I kind of -- as I remember, kind of lurched forward, and end up with my head in the dirt. And I couldn't move. I couldn't -- my hands were above me. I didn't know I had any arms. I didn't know where they were. And then a fellow came by and put my arms across my chest and took my own blood and made an "M" on my forehead.

KING: Meaning? DOLE: Meaning I'd had a shot of morphine. Don't give him any more. And so I -- I think I was there for about -- between six and nine hours before the litter squad was able to get to me, took me down the hill, went to a field hospital. They patched me up and sent me on to a regional hospital in Pistoia, Italy, and from there to Casablanca, from there to Miami, Florida, from there to Topeka, Kansas. And now they can bring a soldier home in two days from the front lines in Iraq.

KING: Yes. Were you ever in fear for your life?

DOLE: I didn't know it, but there were a couple of times I should have been. I had a pulmonary embolism. You know, if it goes to your heart, it can be fatal. And that was in 19 -- let's see, 1945. And then I had a temperature of 111 -- or 108.7 (INAUDIBLE) but that's still pretty high. And they had to take a kidney out that time. That was another time. In fact, I kid people now. I say, If I can't remember anything, remember, my brain was cooked.


KING: And it left you -- what is the condition of your right arm?

DOLE: Well, it's a good -- I can carry a pen in it. I can fill up my sleeve with it. I can't do much with it because the fingers won't move. And I don't have good feeling in my left hand, except for this finger and half of this finger, so...

KING: That's all from that one bullet?

DOLE: From the spinal injury. So my left hand has never been strong. It's been -- you know, I've been -- it helps me become independent, so...

KING: For all I've known you, you've always carried that pen, right?

DOLE: Yes, it's almost an extension of my arm, so people won't grab it.

KING: Yes.

DOLE: There's always somebody wants to -- you know. You know them. They want to show you how strong they are. So this kind of keeps them off guard.

KING: You know, we've had so many experiences together. One that I'll always remember is the Italian-American dinner...

DOLE: Right.

KING: ... when you were on stage, and the guy who came over, I think, and helped you...

(CROSSTALK) KING: ... hadn't seen him in years...

DOLE: Yes.

KING: ... came on stage.

DOLE: Yes...


DOLE: He helped -- he pulled me back to safety that day. Trouble is, he pulled me by this arm, which -- which he -- he sort of has a guilt feeling ever since because this is the one that was really shattered. And I don't know whether he helped it or -- any -- or hurt it any. I mean, I don't know whether he hurt it. He thinks he may have, but -- his name is Frank Carafa. He still lives in New Rochelle in New York. I saw him just a week ago. He just recently lost his wife. He's on kidney dialysis three times a week, but he's -- he's a proud American, and proud to be a veteran.

KING: Was -- that's the purple heart you always wear, right?

DOLE: Yes, that's -- yes, a lot of fellows are wearing it. They see Bob Dole with a Purple Heart and -- or they -- and so they started wearing theirs, and nobody knows what it means but me, but you know, wear -- and it's like a security blanket almost. It's like -- you know, you want to get -- if I leave home without it, I'll go back and find one.

KING: If memory serves me correct, you married your nurse, right?

DOLE: Married a -- my physical therapist -- occupational therapist, Phyllis Holden, and she took notes for me in class and did a lot of things for me. And then -- then she remarried, in fact, twice. Her first husband or second husband fell and had a stroke, and she remarried. We're good friends. We have one daughter, Robin.

KING: Yes, a great girl.

DOLE: Yes.

KING: We'll be right back with Bob Dole. The book is "One Soldier's Story" from a great American. Don't go away.



DOLE: I will never forget the man who rode on a train from Kansas to Michigan to see his son, who was thought to be dying in an Army hospital. When he arrived, his feet were swollen and he could hardly walk because he had to make the trip from Kansas to Michigan standing up most of the way. Who was that man? He was my father. And I loved my father.


KING: We're back with Bob Dole, the book "One Soldier's Story" -- great book. What was it like going back to Kansas?

DOLE: My first time?

KING: Yes.

DOLE: Oh, it was an emotional trip back to Kansas. I remember, you know, we lived in a small town where everybody knows everybody, where you didn't lock your doors at night, you didn't take the keys out of your car. Of course, this was in 1945 and '46. But it was an emotional time. People started a fund there so I could go back to a doctor to get some additional surgery because all the good doctors were leaving the Army. And they raised $1,800 in a little cigar box to give to me. One guy couldn't afford -- didn't have any money. It was bad -- pretty tough times. Brought in a live duck and gave it to my dad, which we couldn't put in the bank, but we ate it, so...

KING: Your mother was quite emotional when she...

DOLE: Oh, my mother is the star. She's the star in the book. And the first -- I've never seen my mother really break down and really sob, except for the time she walked into the room and saw me for the first time. I looked probably like a scarecrow. I had lost 70 pounds. And she went back out and came back smiling, said, Oh, Bob, you look great. And I know she cried after that, but never in my presence.

KING: "You'll Never Walk Alone," the Sinatra recording, helped you, right?

DOLE: Oh, well, You walk through the storm with your head up high -- I mean, I -- I played that song over and over and over and over. Probably drove my mother crazy with it. But yes, it kind of kept me going. You know, it's a great song. In fact, it's -- it's repeated in the book, of course.

KING: Rodgers and Hammerstein, right?

DOLE: Right.

KING: Did you -- did that lead you to serving? The war effort lead to you think about politics?

DOLE: I don't think so. I think -- I knew I'd have to use -- I couldn't use my hands, I'd have to use my head, so I decided to get a law degree. But I -- I think -- we had a young attorney in my hometown named John Wolf (ph), and he sort of got me interested in politics. And he was a Republican, and he thought I should be a Republican. So he sort of got me interested.

KING: You made friends with a Democrat in the hospital, right, Daniel Inouye.

DOLE: Dan Inouye. KING: What a guy.

DOLE: What a guy. He claims that I sort of got him into politics. I said, One day, we ought to do this, and that's how he got interested. But he's my friend. And he called me on April 14 this year to wish me a happy anniversary because April 14 is when I was wounded. And this was number 60. He was wounded a week later, about two hills later. Two hills -- we were two hills apart and a week apart.

KING: Badly wounded himself.

DOLE: Badly -- oh, in the leg, and lost an arm. Great guy.

KING: Lot of great stories out of World War II. I remember you and -- with a political rival, where you stood up for George McGovern and his actions in World War II.

DOLE: Oh, this guy was -- and somebody called him a coward. Can you imagine talking to George, the guy flying combat missions, getting shot at every day, a coward?

KING: Unbelievable!

DOLE: You know, some people won't listen. They never get the message. They -- they're such rabid Democrats or Republicans, they don't want to hear the truth about anybody. No, George McGovern is another good friend.

KING: But you've always stood up -- how -- when that -- the World War II memorial opened, what was that like for you that day?

DOLE: Well, when I saw these old soldiers -- one guy in the front row kind of wiping his tears from his eyes -- I thought, well, you know, we're about 30 years late with this, but it's worthwhile. And we didn't get the money from the government, we got it from people like you and everybody across the country -- 600,000 people donated. So it was a great day, and the weather was good, and we had all these veterans there, including -- and of course, we had President Bush and president -- former Clinton -- president Clinton, former president George Bush. John Kerry was there. And it was quite a day.

KING: That was the war we should never forget, the war was going to end every war, right? There wouldn't be a war after that and...

DOLE: That was the big one, according -- if you watch "Sanford and Sons"...

KING: The big one...


DOLE: Well, it was the big one. And -- but it hasn't stopped war, no.

KING: Now our veterans are leaving us. DOLE: Yes.

KING: Daily, right?

DOLE: Twelve hundred a day. We've gone from 16.5 million to about less than 5 million.

KING: Have you been back to Italy?

DOLE: I went back in November of last year to sort of retrace my steps to make certain we had -- book would be accurate, and went back to Hill 913, where I was wounded, went back to a little village called Castel D'Aiano. And they had a nice big dinner for us. It's a little village of 2,000 people. And when I ran in '96, they had "Dole for president" signs all over town.


DOLE: I carried that village in Italy, but I didn't carry many in the U.S.

KING: I also think of how many people in your life you've encouraged and helped and -- I'll never forget that night at a show, we discussed prostate cancer and you'd discussed Viagra. You made that product, by the way. It's now the number-one-selling drug, I think, in the world.

DOLE: Oh, I think we helped, but I think we -- you know, never mentioned Viagra. It was always men's health.

KING: Yes.

DOLE: And it is. I mean, it's a -- you know, there are a lot of jokes about -- in fact, I've heard them all. But it's about men's lifestyle and -- and I've had women come up to me in the airport, Larry, and say, Thank you, Senator.


KING: But do you -- because you were in the trial for it.

DOLE: Yes.

KING: Yes. But I remember that guy. We were at a convention, you and I, walking. This guy came up and thanked you for...

DOLE: Yes, we were going up the escalator.

KING: That's right. And he said...

DOLE: He said, Thank you.

KING: I watched you...

DOLE: You saved my life.

KING: ... I took my PSA, had prostate cancer, had surgery. You saved my life.

DOLE: That's -- I remember. We -- yes, it was a national convention.

KING: You still stay very actively interested in...

DOLE: I stay active in that, and also now I've had an aneurysm, which is about belt-high, an abdominal aneurysm, which can be very fatal if you don't take care of it. And men don't seem to have it checked. There are two million people walking around right now...

KING: There is a check for it now.

DOLE: Oh, there's a check for it. It's just a ticking time bomb. And if they catch it, they fix it.

KING: So how's Elizabeth? How's the senator?

DOLE: Doing fine. Trying to elect more Republicans.

KING: You and Bill are in the same shoes, right?

DOLE: Bill and I, we're in the same shoes. Saw Bill last week.

KING: Senatorial husbands.

DOLE: We're spouses, yes. We're spouses. And I'm going to run against him for the spouse club.


KING: Thank you, Bob.

DOLE: Thank you.

KING: Bob Dole, one of the really good guys. The book is "One Soldier's Story," already climbing "The New York Times" best-seller list. We'll be right back.


DOLE: What we dedicate today is not a memorial to war. Rather, it is a tribute to the physical and moral courage that makes heroes out of farm and city boys, that inspires Americans in every generation to lay down their lives for people they will never meet, for ideals that make life itself worth living.




KING: Now our great pleasure to welcome to LARRY KING LIVE and old friend, a terrific lady, the best-selling author and columnist. The new book is "Dishing: Great Dish and Dishes From America's Most Beloved Gossip Columnist." There you see it's cover.

What are you doing in San Francisco?

LIZ SMITH, AUTHOR, "DISHING": I'm just humping around, pushing this book.


KING: Because you're so New York, Liz. I mean...

SMITH: I know. I'm so New York. And Texas.

KING: How did you get to be a gossip columnist who's also beloved?

SMITH: I know. That's an oxymoron.


KING: Yes.

SMITH: Yes, I don't think -- and also, I think my friend, Cindy Adams, might take exception.

KING: Well, but -- but you -- it's true that most gossip columnists are not looked upon the way you're looked upon.

SMITH: Well, I'm not really -- I'm not a gossip columnist, like the -- my illustrious peers. I don't have the talent to slash and burn quite as much as some of them.

KING: So what are you?

SMITH: So I just do the best I can, Larry. I talk about things that interest me and people who interest me, and I write about the things that I like. And so far, they haven't fired me.

KING: How did "Dishing" come about? Great title.

SMITH: I was asked by "The New York Times" to write some pieces about Southern cooking, and so I did. I wrote about watermelon being politically incorrect, and I wrote about the things that Elvis used to order from his cook downstairs. He had a cook on duty 24 hours a day. And these pieces just became the basis for a book. It seemed like there was more to it than just Southern cooking. So I tried to write a book about the philosophy of food, why it's so important to us, maybe how we should approach it. And I don't know, it's full of stories about famous people and what they eat and great parties I've been to. You know.

KING: I know. And terrific recipes.

SMITH: I like eating with Larry King at Nate's now.

KING: Yes, we've had that!


KING: You also pay great homage to your dear -- our dear friend, Governor Ann Richards, and print one of her recipes.

SMITH: Well, Governor Ann has certainly enlivened a lot of people's lives. And I made her give me her recipe for chicken-fried steak. And she said this. Though she herself now very health- conscious and is a speaker against osteoporosis and...

KING: Right.

SMITH: She did say to me, Well, I fed all of my five children chicken-fried steak, and none of them have ever been fat.


SMITH: So I guess -- I guess it's OK to eat that junk once in a while.

KING: You believe, Liz, true, that what a person eats tells you a lot about them?

SMITH: Not necessarily, Larry. I think we go through stages. Like, I remember you when you weighed more than you do now.

KING: Yes.

SMITH: And now you're in your stage where you really watch your health because of your heart. And you exercise and do all those good things. And I honestly prefer you to be a little more plump, but you -- but you don't like it. So we're different at different times. Yes, I guess food is an indicator of either how frivolous we are or how -- how reckless we are or how much...

KING: What kind of -- what kind of...

SMITH: ... how much fun we want to have.

KING: What kind of eater are you?

SMITH: I like all kind of things that are really bad for me, like fried food and sweet things. I'm not a big -- I like a few vegetables. But I'm trying not to just drive myself crazy and kill myself before I'm 90.


KING: Darling Liz Smith. Do you -- you -- is there a -- you're from Texas, as is well known.


KING: Is there a Texas kind of cooking, unique to Texas?

SMITH: Well, I think they had those rough, tough old cattle out there in the beginning, when Texas was, you know, forming itself. And so their whole idea was, We better figure out a way to tenderize these -- the meat from these cows. So they beat it. They ground it up and made hamburgers. They put it in chili. And they began to beat it and chicken-fry it. And I think that caused a whole kind of -- you know, cooking meat until it's thoroughly dead.

KING: How did you learn all about Elvis's eating habits?

SMITH: Oh, there's so much stuff on it, and he -- and there are about six fabulous cookbooks of Elvis food and how he kept the cook on duty 24 hours a day to make him things like fried potato sandwiches. And it's just fun to read those. I call them "food pornography." Instead of eating, you read the book.

KING: He was a snack freak, right?

SMITH: Well, he just would call down for incredible messes of food. I mean, you know, Bring me a loaf of Italian bread with a full jar of peanut butter and a pound of bacon and jelly on it. He was incredible.

KING: And it showed.

SMITH: It probably helped kill him in the end, unfortunately.

KING: Yes. Now, what about Liz and Richard Burton, Liz Taylor and Richard Burton?

SMITH: Well, I went all over the world with those two, and I got tired of writing about their romance and their hot sex attraction and how infamous they were and what they were doing. And I thought one day, What can I write about them I haven't already written? And so I wrote this story. I had just observed them for a number of days while they talked incessantly about food -- what they were going to eat, what they had eaten. And they would have, like, contests, who ate the most and -- they were obsessed with food, not with sex and romance.

KING: And what's that great Taylor recipe that you served at the luncheon we were at here for AARP?

SMITH: Yes, we had her chili. We had some chili that a friend of mine named Diane Judge had made for her, buying all the ingredients at Fu-Shing, where it costs a lot of money. But the chili was delicious. I thought it was delicious that day at our lunch.

KING: You were -- it was. You were great friends with Katharine Hepburn, right?

SMITH: Well, I knew Miss Hepburn. I wouldn't say I was great friends, but I did have the privilege of knowing here at the end of her life. And I did the last story on her, just about -- that was -- I think -- it was in "Vogue," when she wrote her book, "Me." And I loved observing Miss Hepburn. She was a martinet. You had to do exactly what she said, show up when she said, don't come in her living room with a briefcase or an umbrella or anything extraneous. And you had to eat. You had to eat her dinner and appreciate it.

KING: Liz...

SMITH: And she liked it if you have a drink, too.

KING: I've heard.


KING: Liz Smith is our guest. The book is "Dishing: Great Dish and Dishes From America's Most Beloved Gossip Columnist." More with Liz Smith right after this.


KING: Back with Liz Smith. The book is "Dishing," terrific book, "Great Dish and Dishes From America's Most Beloved Gossip Columnist." You reveal things about slim stars like Julia Roberts who likes biscuits. If you mention them, she eats them, right?

SMITH: Biscuits and red eyed gravy, like they make down in Georgia.

KING: Nicole Kidman.

SMITH: Well, she'll eat the whole basket of rolls on the table. I mean she's an omnivorous eater and she weighs about 100 lbs. soaking wet. So I can only guess she has a really athletic life. She is an athlete.

KING: How well does Martha -- I know you write about her -- how well is she going to bounce back?

SMITH: Larry, I think she's going to come back so big, it's just going to be amazing. I mean she's already done her stint and she'll come back and tell us how to make marshmallows from scratch.

KING: She's got a radio show coming now on Sirius.

SMITH: Yeah, $30 million deal with that radio station that has Howard Stern, Sirius.

KING: How do you account for all of that? How do you account for her, that remake?

SMITH: Well, you mean, how do I account for her?

KING: Here's a woman who goes to prison and comes out bigger than before she went in.

SMITH: All right. Well, here's the thing. A lot of people didn't think she should have gone to prison.

KING: Right.

SMITH: They felt while those men from Enron hadn't been convicted and weren't serving any time, they didn't like it that the FBI made such a big deal out of her lying to them. And so they felt maybe she might have been punished in a less stringent manner. Also, what Martha always offered was a really great product. She had a wonderful catalog. She just turned America on its ear for cooking and home style and all of that stuff. Why can't she go on and do it? She's paid her debt and she's a dynamic woman. So she was always a little controversial because she wasn't so warm and cuddly. But everybody can't be like you and me, Larry.

KING: You got a point. I like Martha a lot.

SMITH: I do too.

KING: You got another chapter in the book about giving a toast. Since Jessel died, you do a lot of funerals, right?

SMITH: I do. I mean, honey, when they die, they call me up, and I'm supposed to dream up something wonderful to say about them.

KING: Is there a eulogy secret?

SMITH: I think it's better to be a little bit humorous, not just lugubrious if you can help it. It's wonderful when you can say something poetic as Diane Sawyer said about Lucille Ball that now we knew that there was laughter in heaven. I don't know. You have to be sincere and it's good to do research on people if you're going to speak about them. You can't get up there and wing it, I don't think.

KING: Why do you like fried foods so much?

SMITH: I guess because...

KING: (INAUDIBLE) that you lay away from.

SMITH: I just think people like really crunchy things in their mouth.

KING: They like the sound of it.

SMITH: I know perfectly well that we shouldn't eat a lot of fried food. I was just remembering something funny. Elizabeth Taylor came on a set one day, sat down and they were lighting her and fussing over her and she said, gee, I wish I had a potato chip and I thought, that could be my epitaph. Larry, I am for people using common sense about what they eat. "Dishing" is a book that's supposed to make you laugh and have fun and remind you of funny things that, like Chuck Barris said, a balanced diet is a Dove bar in each hand. I mean, we have to have a few laughs here, while we're exercising.

KING: But eating is still a wonderful thing to you, right. You still like the whole scene of going to dinner.

SMITH: I think Duncan Hines said it best. He said, almost everybody wants to have at least one spectacular meal a day and I find myself looking forward to that one meal. But you know, when you and I had our lunch together recently in the Bel Air Hotel, I didn't eat any dinner that night. I had had that big lunch, so I know when to stop.

KING: If you had a final meal, what would it be?

SMITH: Oh, I'm ashamed to say. I'm like that guy in prison. He ordered a big cheeseburger as his final meal and he had a lot of other things, of chocolate malted milk with it and then he ordered Splenda for his coffee. So that's the way I am. Well, I would have to take a fried steak and collard greens and black eyed peas and biscuits and gravy and probably, maybe a chocolate sundae. I want to go out in style, honey.

KING: You live in style. Do you ever think of retiring or is that a bad word?

SMITH: No, I mean I think about it all the time. I'm always expecting to be forcibly retired any day. Every time I write the column I think this may be my last. But Larry, I just signed a contract with the "New York Post" to write for two more years, so I guess you've got to put up with me a little longer.

KING: You keep on keeping on. I mean, what would you do if you didn't write?

SMITH: Oh I guess I'd go off and read myself to death or write books or something. But I'm going to keep on a little longer.

KING: You're a national treasure, Liz. We love you.

SMITH: I love you too, Larry.

KING: Liz Smith, the book is "Dishing," great dish and dishes from America's most beloved gossip columnist, Liz Smith. We'll be right back.


KING: We welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE the internationally acclaimed lyric soprano, two-time Grammy winner, author of the "Inner Voice, The Making of a Singer." That was the last time she was on. Now she's talking about her new CD "Haunted Heart." This is not opera, right Renee?

RENEE FLEMING, SOPRANO: That's right, a long way from opera.

KING: Tell me about doing this crossover thing. What led you to do it? I know you sang jazz years ago, didn't you?

FLEMING: I started as a jazz singer. I sang in clubs for 2 1/2 years with a trio and I thought this would be my life's love, my life's work and circumstance led me to classical music and for very many years now, I have wanted to kind of explore my roots and put together a project like this. And it's finally come to fruition. I'm so thrilled.

KING: Well, what kind of tunes are we going to get in this and who did you work with?

FLEMING: Well, I worked with Bill Frisell, a fantastic guitarist and Fred Hersch, brilliant jazz pianist and composer and what's fun about this recording is that it's a little bit inspired by the recordings of Norah Jones or Cassandra Wilson. It's a very eclectic mixture of music with not only jazz standards or classical popular songs, but also songs by Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder, the Beatles and a couple of classical tracks as well.

KING: What kind of tunes -- give me an example of some of the songs.

FLEMING: Well, "My Cherie Amour" from Stevie Wonder, "River" from Joni Mitchell, who's my all time idol and "In My Life" from the Beatles, has a really unusual treatment, a very slow, soulful treatment and all of these songs are bound a bit by a kind of an atmospheric whole. It's a very moody -- I played it for one girlfriend recently and she said, I want to slow dance with my boyfriend right now. It's all very, am I allowed to say sexy on television?

KING: You're allowed, yeah.

FLEMING: This is cable. I'm fine.

KING: Will opera fans take umbrage that you are somewhat reducing yourself to record pop?

FLEMING: Some will. Some will. In fact, there is a kind of a -- obviously people who really love only classical music and I find that I know many more audience members who have very eclectic tastes. They love jazz. They love popular music. I like bluegrass for instance. I mean I like almost everything. So but there will be some people who will wonder why I'm doing this, why am I deluding what it is who am I. Why would I come down off of the pedestal the real diva and sing popular music? However, the truth is, this music is less in a way popular than classical music. Certainly, jazz has become more of a niche, which is surprising, because it's our music. It's the national music of America.

KING: We invented it.

FLEMING: Yes. We should treasure it.

KING: Do you have to -- I don't know how to put this -- sing differently?

FLEMING: Very differently. In fact, I have so much fun playing the first tracks of this for friends and acquaintances because nobody had a clue who it was. And I love doing that. I'd put this on. I'd say what do you think and they'd say, wow, who is that? I love that sound. So I'm not really recognizable as myself. I sing, oh gosh, at least an octave lower in a very intimate whisper. I wanted to sing as if I were whispering in someone's ear. And no virtuosity, no high notes. It's moody and low. It's great dinner music, completely different than my opera singing.

KING: All right. Is it harder, different, what?

FLEMING: Well, you know, it's about style and it's -- for me, style, whether I'm singing French music or Strauss or Handel is all an exercise of understanding how to bring something across. Very few opera singers in history have been able to cross into popular music. Mario Lanza is still one of the most popular recording artists in history and Eileen Farrell was one soprano who managed to get up with a big band and really belt. But most people, most opera singers when they try to cross over as it were and sing popular music, still sound like opera singers, if you know what I mean.

KING: Of course.

FLEMING: So this is, I think, a complete departure from that and hopefully, listeners will be very surprised.

KING: Any risk to the voice?

FLEMING: No. In fact, I'm so glad you asked me that question because that's another thing that would concern people is the fact that I'm not making a pure sound. It's husky. It's breathy and the sound isn't completely consistent and these are all things that are required of me of an opera singer. It doesn't hurt at all. In fact it's so relaxing. I recorded this while I was singing a very demanding opera at the Metropolitan opera in New York City and it was so fun to go into the studio and just relax into this music, because it's so quiet. We don't sing with microphones. We're never amplified so we have to produce an athletically enormous sound and for this type of singing, with the microphone that's very intimate, I find it well, vocally easy, stylistically difficult.

KING: Can't wait to hear the album, thanks so much again for being with us.

FLEMING: Thank you Larry.

KING: Renee Fleming. The new CD is "Haunted Heart." She's quite a lady. We'll be right back.


KING: Great pleasure to welcome to LARRY KING LIVE, Ronan Tynan, an extraordinary talent, the acclaimed tenor, best selling new CD is called "Ronan." He's authored a memoir some years ago called "Halfway Home, My Life Till Now." It shows a lot of musical versatility, this new CD. You can do "Man of La Mancha" and "Carry Me Home" and the "Eyes of Love" and "Amazing Grace." Why so diverse? You like that Roland?

RONAN TYNAN, IRISH TENOR: I do, Larry. I think it was something that I've always wanted to do and I wanted to always diversify into different music and different styles and so, once you get a chance to spread your wings, you always take an opportunity and do it. And the songs that are on the album, an awful lot of them are new and contemporary as well as everything else and when I decided to do the album, I listened to a lot of my fans who loved songs like "Amazing Grace," "How Great Thou Art," "From a Distance" and then I penned a song called "Passing Through," about my mom who has Alzheimer's disease and that was a very special song that took a long time to write because I suppose it takes a good 40 years for you to realize how great your mother is. That's for sure.

KING: Is your mom still with us?

TYNAN: My mom is still with us. Yeah, she's in I suppose you would say, Larry, the third trimester of Alzheimer's disease. And it's funny. You have to look from the outside in to realize what this is about and you realize how much it deprives you of somebody you really love and how great they were to you. And the song kind of tells the story of that very gently. But she used to always say to me, you know, Rony (ph), you have to carve your footprints in the sand. She says, the dreams are for the dreamers but goals are for me and you.

KING: What prompted you to leave the Irish tenors?

TYNAN: I feel, Larry, one of the main reasons I was getting crazily busy. I was doing a lot of corporate functions and I'm also a motivational speaker and I was doing an awful lot of solo concert work and between everything, I just couldn't balance everything and I've been with the tenors for nearly six years and I decided possibly the best thing to do was to take a rest and I still get on very well with the lads and I didn't want to stop them from achieving their dreams and I also wanted to, as you can see, spread my wings and sing different music and sing everybody's music.

KING: You lost your legs in a motorcycle accident, right? But didn't you also have leg problems?

TYNAN: That's right. That's right. I was born actually with a congenital deformity and as a result, I used to wear a prosthesis or what my family used to call it wear aides. But as I grew up, believe it or not Larry, I was a jockey as well. That's an interesting story. I know you're amazed. I stand in front of you about 260 pounds, but then I was a little slimmer. But the beautiful thing is I'd go into a jockey's enclosure, standing about six foot one and come out about five foot two. It's a miracle of science. The great thing about being a double amputee is you're adjustable, and my father won a lot of money on me in the races.

KING: Did singing always come naturally to you? Were you always good?

TYNAN: I was very blessed. I have fantastic parents, and my father was a gifted singer. I'm from a family background, and I used to sing to the animals and sing in the fields and he used to sing with me. We used to sing in the car and we had a wonderful relationship together and I suppose I had a natural voice, but I never realized what that voice was about until I was 33 in the middle of delivering babies. I also did medicine and that year, I decided to have some singing lessons. So at the age of 33, I started my singing career as such, learning how to sing, and then it just took off from there and it was like a drug. I couldn't give it up.

KING: Do you miss doctoring?

TYNAN: Yes, you know, I do. I had a terrific practice. I have a sports injury practice in Ireland, and I was murdered nearly with patients, I had so many patients. But it was great.

But I think, Larry, both music and medicine are very alike. Medicine you interpret results. You examine people and you diagnose and hopefully you come out with a solution that's going to benefit the patient enormously. But in singing, I think, I give with my soul and allow them the intimacy of their thoughts about the song and they don't have to share it because it's their own individual thought and that's a beautiful thing and I think singing can heal the soul and it can give you a moment where you can actually be nostalgic and reminisce over dreams.

KING: What makes an Irish tenor different from an Italian tenor or just a tenor?

TYNAN: You see, I always like to approach this, I'm a tenor from Ireland, rather than an Irish tenor, because I think our tenors are unique. They're a unique sort of an animal. You see, if you sing high, you have a tendency to excite females better, see what I'm saying.

KING: Yes. I've heard.

TYNAN: I think ladies love the fact that a man can sing, but when he sings high and hits those high pitches, they just love it. They just love it. And it's a gift from God and to be an Irish tenor, it's equated with the song, the sound I suppose of John McCormack, which was -- had a most beautiful, beautiful sound. Would you class me as a classical Irish tenor. I don't think so, because I'm possibly a little more robust and I sing every sort of a thing.

KING: And you're also a balladeer.

TYNAN: I am. And I think the beauty of Irish music is that it tells a story and we -- Irish people have a great ability to tell a story, but when they sing, they sing with their soul and their heart and it creates the whole scenario for the person who's listening to enjoy the story.

KING: Ronan, you're a great man and a great talent. See you at Yankee stadium.

TYNAN: Please God, Larry.

KING: Thank you, Ronan. God bless you, Ronan. The new CD is "Ronan." We'll be right back.


KING: Thanks for joining us for this delightful edition of LARRY KING LIVE and certainly a mixed bag of terrific people. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did in hosting it. We'll be back tomorrow night with another edition of LARRY KING LIVE.


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