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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Dolly Parton's Anniversary; Walter Cronkite on Peter Jennings

Aired September 30, 2005 - 21:00   ET

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


LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, legendary newsman Walter Cronkite, the most trusted man in America for decades on the death of Peter Jennings, the death of his beloved wife of 65 years and more.
And then another living legend, country superstar Dolly Parton, why this tabloid target says she reads the tabloids, and more.

It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

It is always an honor to welcome Walter Cronkite to LARRY KING LIVE. What a night, Dolly Parton later, Walter Cronkite now, two legends, Walter, of course, for more than six decades in journalism, the former anchor and managing editor of the "CBS Evening News."

I want to cover a lot of bases tonight, Walter. How do you think generally we've done with the hurricanes?

WALTER CRONKITE: Television you mean?

KING: Yes.

CRONKITE: I think you've done quite well, particularly those correspondents who get out there while the hurricane is still whipping around. I think they show a great deal of courage to get out there in that situation. I've always wondered if they've got some trick that they hide behind a particular palm tree or something. It seems -- it seems they'd have to have some sense of security other than just standing there on the edge of the water and letting it rip.

KING: Did you ever do that?

CRONKITE: Not -- not in a hurricane of anything like this. We moved to Houston, Texas when I was ten years old from Missouri and very shortly after we got into our new home we went through a hurricane. And, it was I must say terrifying.

I'd never even thought of hurricanes I don't think and I'm not sure I knew the word very well. I was ten years old. But, the electric light power lines broke and when they hit the ground they let go this great panoply of -- of light, you know. It was shattering, fearsome. I deliberately have avoided hurricanes ever since.

KING: Smart move. A lot of the journalists in this hurricane were very tough on the politicians, on the mayors, on government, the United States government, on FEMA. Was that surprising to you?

CRONKITE: No, it wasn't in view of the circumstances. They had something to be tough about. The government did not respond with the precision they should have and it should be a big, terrible fight to us that we don't have a better system in case of a terrorist attack.

That's what we're supposed to be setting up in this emergency machinery and we showed that we're not ready to do it. We don't have the coordination of the forces necessary to give us some protection.

KING: Your successor, Dan Rather, recently criticized what he called the new journalism order. In a speech at Fordham he said, "The climate of fear in a newsroom is stronger than he's ever seen, fueled by corporate pressure, trend toward dumb down tarted up coverage, 24 hour cable cycles, competition for ratings and demographics." You've been a critic long before that. Do you agree with Mr. Rather's statement?

CRONKITE: Well, he has the ability to do that now because apparently he doesn't fear being fired.

KING: Good point.

CRONKITE: Yes, a very good point, very good. But I do think that basically he is correct and I think most of the authorities, the managers of our news department at CBS understand that and know it. I think they're working to somehow or other overcome these problems we've got.

KING: There's a new movie out about Murrow.

CRONKITE: Yes.

KING: Murrow hired you didn't he?

CRONKITE: He hired me. He did indeed.

KING: What was the atmosphere like with Ed?

CRONKITE: Well, the atmosphere was, of course, he worked for Fred Friendly, as you know, knew him very well, a very talented producer and they were -- they were a team. They were Siamese twins in getting these things on the air that Murrow did so well.

Of course, Murrow did his radio program still deep into the radio years before he started doing these extraordinary pieces for television. But with the two of them, they -- they certainly were superior journalists in ever sense of the word.

KING: And he led that team, Murrow, and he fought for his people did he not?

CRONKITE: He did indeed. He did indeed. He defended all of us where necessary anytime that management seemed to rise to any way crowd our authority he came in and Friendly certainly came in.

KING: I saw you at the memorial for Peter Jennings. What were your thoughts about the late Mr. Jennings? CRONKITE: Oh, I was a great admirer and friend I hope he felt. I had the great privilege of knowing his father as a matter of fact. His father was a very good journalist up in Canada, both print and broadcasting later.

And, when I met him for the first time I didn't have any concept that his young son was going to be as prominent in television as he became and I admired him very much, I mean the son and the father.

KING: What made Peter so good? As maybe the best ever, you'd be an excellent judge. What made him so good?

CRONKITE: I think the main thing that he had was a sense of the integrity of the news broadcasts he was doing at the time and a belief that -- that television news had a great responsibility to tell the story of the times, the important story, our political stories or economic stories.

And, I suspect, though I'm not sure of all this, I didn't spend any time in their newsroom but I strongly suspect because I know what his feelings were that he must have had some problems with management because all management wants entertainment today in the news.

They don't admit to calling it entertainment because they know that the news staffs would revolt against news -- entertainment in the news portion. But what they mean is to make it more interesting.

Well, that's a good goal. We should make the difficult news as interesting as we can but we should not substitute the news time for feature stories that are of really no significance to our world. They're not going to make any difference on how we live in the future and how we live today.

KING: We'll be right back with Walter Cronkite. It's an honor to share the same podium with him. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRONKITE: This aircraft is executing a maneuver to make it and everyone in it temporarily weightless.

This wall was begun 2,300 years ago.

A week long meeting in the Kremlin with the leaders of the only nation whose power rivals that of the United States.

This is Walter Cronkite reporting from (INAUDIBLE).

Good evening from Paris. Tonight, this broadcast originates from outside the United States for the first time.

This is Walter Cronkite on the Greenland Ice Cap. Beyond the horizon lies the North Pole.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Walter Cronkite. What an honor to have him with us. Betsy passed away after you were married 65 years.

CRONKITE: Yes.

KING: I guess you finished each other's sentences after a while. I knew and loved Betsy a lot. How hard was it for you?

CRONKITE: Terrible, it was terrible. Even today and it's been several months now you just bring it up and I tear up a little bit, terribly. You know when you're that close that long and got along as well as we did, we seldom had any serious arguments.

We might have -- might discuss which movie we wanted to see and what play we wanted to go to, where we ought to go for a vacation but that usually didn't last very long because we were much of the same mind all the time.

KING: So what now keeps you going?

CRONKITE: Well, the challenge of the work. I still am pretty busy. I'm doing a lot of writing, doing an occasional documentary so I'm buried in that mostly. I find that I'm reading the newspapers more thoroughly than I used to because she and I would discuss a story and we wouldn't get to page 12 of the "Times" in the morning, so maybe I'm better informed than I was then.

KING: You'll be 89 in November?

CRONKITE: Yes, I guess that's it.

KING: How is your health?

CRONKITE: Surprisingly good. I -- I tore my Achilles tendon playing tennis three years ago and I'm proud to say that at the time I was I guess 86 and I was playing singles, so I'm not embarrassed about it but I've still crimped around a bit. It's not all fully healed.

Otherwise, internally as nearly as I know everything is OK. The doctors give me a clean bill on my heart and lungs and all that sort of thing, so I gather I'm doing OK.

KING: You look great.

CRONKITE: Well.

KING: Let's touch some bases in the world, Iraq, where is it going to go?

CRONKITE: I'll tell you what I think about Iraq right now. I think it is a great chance for us to get out of there right now. We've got the excuse to do so. We are so seriously in the hole monetarily, financially right now because of not -- not only that war, which has cost us so much in gold as well as in blood, of course, but we now have these terrible natural disasters that are way up in the millions of dollars and trying to take care of the damage and the damaged people and their homes.

We don't -- we can't afford both and, you know, the president said at one point about the war that we're not going to cut and run. That was a phony. We never -- nobody talked about cutting and running. He was building a defense against his having to go in there and stay in there. We -- nobody wanted to cut and run. We might have wanted to get out but not cut and run in a working system to get us out safely and not -- not run.

KING: But still involved in the country?

CRONKITE: But somewhat involved in the country and promising, as we still are promising, to help rebuild the country. However, we got -- we can now say we cannot afford to stay there with all the cost of the natural disasters we've got and the fact that our budget already was in serious trouble with too much relaxation of taxes for those who didn't need that help.

So, I think -- I think we could say -- say to the world and to Iraq we're desperately sorry but as you see Mother Nature somehow or other turned against us all and we simply cannot do both and pay for it. We can't put the generations into debt that we're going to have to do now if we continue to spend these billions of dollars in Iraq and lose more of our young people's lives.

KING: We have a new chief justice. What was your assessment of his appearances before the Senate? How do you think he'll do?

CRONKITE: I think he's going to do quite well. I believe that even the Democrats, who would like to have had perhaps a more liberal chief justice, agree pretty much. The vote in the committee indicated that. He sounds to me like, I don't know him, I haven't met him but he sounds to me like a moderate, not stringently on the right but taking the considerations of both liberals and conservatives.

KING: A lot of people forget but when this man came out against the Vietnam War that pretty much turned the tide. That's how powerful he was. Many thought he'd be president.

CRONKITE: Oh, oh, oh.

KING: We'll be right back with more of Walter Cronkite right after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRONKITE: Whatever price the communists paid for this offensive the price to the allied cause was high.

To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe in the face of the evidence the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, if unsatisfactory conclusion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hearing that, LBJ turned to a confidante, Bill Moyers, and said, "If we have lost Walter, we have lost the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRONKITE: This is my last broadcast as the anchorman of the "CBS Evening News." This is but a transition, a passing of the baton. A great broadcaster and gentleman, Doug Edwards, preceded me in this job and another, Dan Rather, will follow.

DAN RATHER: After nearly a quarter of a century as the anchor of this broadcast, I decided it's time to move on. It has been and remains an honor to be welcomed into your home each evening and I thank you for the trust you've given me.

ANNOUNCER: This is the "CBS Evening News" with Bob Schieffer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: What do you think of the job Bob Schieffer is doing at your old workplace and what do you think they're going to do eventually to replace Rather?

CRONKITE: I don't know that the answer to the last question, I'm not in the counsels of the future at CBS, still there and very happy there to be there. But I think Schieffer is one of the best correspondents on the air today. I think his Sunday show, "Face the Nation," is a superior show, great show, and he's got a knowledge of Washington.

He's got a knowledge of the nation. He's well educated and I think he pulls it all together into one of the best commentaries on his Sunday show of anybody and can do the same with the news department.

KING: You mentioned during the break that you wanted to say something about teachers' pay.

CRONKITE: I do indeed. I'm on my soapbox now.

KING: Oh, like you haven't been up to now.

CRONKITE: You can take off if you want to. No, I am so appalled at the amount we pay our teachers. Now here are the people that we turn our children over to at the age of five or so to -- to -- they're the most important people in their lives, probably more so than their parents in many cases unfortunately.

But we pay them so little that in nearly every school district of the country the janitors in the buildings in which they work make more than they do as teachers for heaven's sakes. We should be ashamed of ourselves.

If we expect this country to work, it depends on an informed, an intelligent electorate. You know, Thomas Jefferson said very early on in our republic that the nation that expects to be ignorant and free expects it never can and never will be.

We're an ignorant nation right now. We're not really capable I do not think the majority of our people of making the decisions that have to be made at election time and particularly in the selection of their legislatures and their Congress and the presidency of course. I don't think we're bright enough to do the job that would preserve our democracy, our republic. I think we're in serious danger.

KING: So, you are not optimistic?

CRONKITE: Not on that score.

KING: Well that's a big score.

CRONKITE: And one of the problems today is, of course, now we've got all these other expenses in the billions of dollars where we should be putting those billions of dollars into education first and then worry about these other things we have to pay for after that.

KING: Do you miss broadcasting?

CRONKITE: Sure. Sure. Every time there's a good story, I wish I were helping to cover it.

KING: And like you, Betsy was a news girl wasn't she?

CRONKITE: She was indeed.

KING: How did you meet?

CRONKITE: We met at a radio station in Kansas City, Missouri at a little 100-watt station that I found myself in and she came to work there just fresh out of the University of Missouri journalism school.

And, I immediately saw this beautiful redhead in our midst, couldn't wait to meet her. I don't know the first time in my life I was so impressed that I was speechless.

KING: You're kidding.

CRONKITE: Well, I didn't introduce myself. She was working in another part of the office writing advertising copy as a matter of fact and I didn't get to meet her until we both were called on as the station did, we did live entertainment -- live commercials then. We didn't have these disks and stuff we have now. And, so they -- the copy was written in our office on the instructions of the advertising agency and we had to have actors doing voices.

So, they'd come out, the producer would come out into the lobby and take whoever was sitting in the lobby, some poor old guy trying to sell advertising pencils, some woman who was trying to get a job as a cleaning woman and they'd pull them into the studio and say, "Do you read?" Yes, they read. Then you're man one, you're woman one and just when the producer would point to you, you read the line. Now there's your copy. Get ready and they had about one minute to get ready. The producer put the show on the air.

Well, by gosh, who had they called in for this commercial but the beautiful redhead. I hadn't met her yet but they asked me as the newsman, dragged me in, so I'm man one. She's woman one. And we didn't even have a rehearsal. The producer says, "All right, we got two minutes," pointed to me, man, you know. Hello, angel, only that he said, of course, a scene on a downtown street at tenth and Walnut.

Man, "Hello, angel, what heaven did you drop from?" Girl, "I'm no angel." "You look like an angel." "That's because I use Richard Hudnut (ph) cosmetics." I crumpled up the paper and threw it down and said, "Who in the devil writes this stuff?" And she said, "I do."

KING: Oh.

CRONKITE: It wasn't exactly a great start in our romance.

KING: But it worked out all right.

CRONKITE: But I had to immediately apologize by taking her to lunch and I don't think we ever ate a lunch again without the other being there.

KING: Walter, what an honor. Keep on keeping on.

CRONKITE: And I gather you're having an anniversary of 20 years?

KING: Yes, we just celebrated our 20th anniversary.

CRONKITE: Yes.

KING: And we're going to have a big party next week, sorry you can't make it.

CRONKITE: Congratulations on that. It's a great show.

KING: Thank you, Walter, Walter Cronkite.

Dolly Parton is next. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: It's a great pleasure to welcome to LARRY KING LIVE one of my favorite people and it's been over two years since she's been with us, the wonderful Dolly Parton, the entertainment superstar singer, songwriter, actress. Her latest album is "Those were the Days." We're going to talk about that in a couple of minutes because it's an extraordinary album. She didn't write one song in it. And she comes to us from Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Why Pigeon Forge tonight?

DOLLY PARTON, COUNTRY MUSIC STAR: Well, I'm in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee tonight because I'm up here at Dollywood and we, like you, are celebrating an anniversary and it's my 20th anniversary at Dollywood, and so I'm up here celebrating with my partners, Jack and Pete Herschend and their family. And so we're getting ready to do concerts over the weekend for the Dollywood Foundation and for Imagination Library. So we've got a lot of good reasons to be in Pigeon Forge today.

KING: You mean you and I are both celebrating 20 years?

PARTON: Yes, we are. In fact, I wanted to say congratulations to you. We've loved you all those years and when they told me you was having your 20th anniversary I thought well, so am I.

Me and you need to get together and celebrate.

KING: Is Dollywood the number one tourist attraction in Tennessee?

PARTON: Yes it is. In fact we've done very well since we started, and we're over two million people a year now, and we have, of course, all of our wonderful opening, you know, shows in the spring and then we have our Kids Fest in the summer and now we're up there doing - or actually this is our Fall Festival, where we have the gospel music, the country music and the bluegrass music.

And we've got a lot of special guests, you know, this whole month. So this is really our great Fall Festival and we do out Christmas Festival, too.

So we have all the great lights, all the great entertainment so we've got some of everything for everybody all year long at Dollywood.

KING: Dolly, what's your reaction to the recent hurricane problems?

PARTON: It's always so sad to see people misplaced out of their homes and people suffering in any way and of course everybody; every entertainer is working in their own way.

We're doing our own part, a lot of stuff through Dollywood, too. And of course we're going to be doing more things as time goes by.

But it's always just so sad to see family's broken apart and people uprooted and you just never know what's going to happen to you but I'm just - I've got them in my heart and in my prayers like everybody else.

KING: Okay, let's talk about this album. This is very unusual. It's called "Those Were The Days" and it's all pretty much standards. The cuts include "Blowin' in the Wind" and "Where Have All the Flowers Gone," "Me and Bobby McGee," "Turn, Turn, Turn," "Both Sides Now."

Songs with anti-war themes. Are you turning political?

PARTON: Oh, I'm not the least bit political, but I'm very patriotic and I'm one of those people that - I just love these songs and a lot of them do have that message like "Blowin' in the Wind" and "Imagine." That sort of thing.

But it's really these songs sound like they were just written day before yesterday.

Goes to show you that there's going to always be wars and rumors of wars. The Bible speaks of that. So these songs really have hope and they - they're great songs. I've always loved them.

I've been singing them for years in different shows and I just thought it was time for me to do this.

And I'm not getting sappy in my old age, and I'm not protesting anything, although I do wish we could all get along and love one another and there was no such thing as war.

But like I say, this is not an anti-war album. This song has - this album has a whole lot of wonderful songs also like, "If I Were A Carpenter" and "Twelfth of Never." I get to sing with a whole lot of new artists along with some of the old original artists that actually performed on the record.

So I had a good time doing that and made a lot of new old friends.

KING: So you - Judy Collins sings with you in this. Kris Kristofferson. You even used Yusaf Islam, the former Cat Stevens, right?

PARTON: Well, actually, Cat Stevens, Yusaf Islam, wrote a - several songs that I've always loved. In fact I recorded his song "Peace Train" years ago. And we kind of made a little -

KING: Great song.

PARTON: - connection - yes, it's a great song. He writes great songs.

And he wrote a song called "Where Do The Children Play?" And I'm very involved with children and hopefully I'll have a children's show one of these days, but the work that we do here with The Imagination Library - and it just seemed like a wonderful song for me to add in this album, because it talks about where do the children play if we take all this stuff away from them and all the environment and all the bad things?

It's like we've got to think about the children. So I told him I was recording it and I asked if he'd be willing to sing with me on it and he said he didn't think he was singing that good now and - but he didn't want to sing on it but he'd be happy to play the guitar.

So I was tickled to death for him to come. And he did sing with me; I do have a recording of my own.

And maybe one of these days he'll let me put out a little special thing, but he just said I'm just going to do this for you because you asked me but I don't want it to come out on a record.

But he's a really nice man. He's always working -

KING: He is.

PARTON: He's always working to, you know, with the children a lot of his charity things. So we relate to each other in that respect.

KING: You have never been averse to sharing the bill. You have sung a lot of duets, right? You like that?

PARTON: Well I do. I enjoy singing with a lot of different people. Boys and girls.

In fact, some of my better duet male partners - I started out, actually, singing with Porter Wagoner years ago because he had a syndicated television show and that's where I got my big start.

But then of course I've had great success with Kenny Rogers and I've sung songs with Vince Gill, had a record or two out with him.

And now I have a new record out with Brad Paisley, a song of his that I got to sing on, and then in this new CD I got to sing, as I mentioned, with Keith Urban and Joe Nichols and so a lot of good folks on that one as far as males, but then we got to sing with a lot of the great gals, too, like Alison Krauss and Lee Ann Womack and Norah Jones and some of the folks you mentioned.

KING: Isn't this one of the rare albums and not - you didn't write one song in it?

PARTON: Well, yes. I don't remember when I've done an album that I didn't write one song in.

And I did, though, write a little bit on a verse in the "Cruel War" in the song - I thought well, I got to make this ending a little better. I don't want them to die on the battlefield like the original song said.

So I had them fighting and then getting together and then going on to live a wonderful life.

But, actually, to answer your question it is very rare, so I figured next time I do one I'll have to - to have one with all songs I've written and probably call it something like "Let Me Compose Myself."

(Laughter)

KING: We'll be right back with the great Dolly Parton. The new album is "Those Were The Days." No one performs like Dolly. Don't go away.

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Dolly Parton; she's in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee where they're celebrating the 20th anniversary of the most successful tourist attraction in Tennessee, Dollywood.

And her new CD, her new album is "Those Were The Days." Who came up with the idea to do this kind of album?

PARTON: Well, I came up with the idea to do it, and I take full responsibility for it.

But, actually, I had the idea to actually do this album because it was something I always wanted to do and I thought well, I want to leave some of everything behind, you know, when I'm gone.

And I thought well, these are songs I love and I should put them down just for my family if for nothing else or for the - for my fans that like to hear me do different things.

So I came up with the idea to do the album and then right in the middle of it I got a bigger idea to have some of the original artists come sing with me on it.

And so I didn't know how many of them I could get so almost everybody I asked did come to do it and the ones that wouldn't do it - of the past that couldn't or wouldn't - well then it allowed me to use some of the newer folks like Nickel Creek.

I couldn't get Bob Dylan to sing "Blowin' in the Wind," but then that gave me the inspired idea to use Nickel Creek, and now that I've heard how good they did I thought well, that was a blessing in disguise although I would still have loved to had Bob.

But it gave me a chance to, you know, bring a lot of these folks back in. I didn't know how many of them still were active in the business. But just like the title track, Mary Hopkin had the big - biggest record on "Those Were The Days" I thought well, I'm going to take a chance trying to find her.

I found her and she sang on it and she still sings great so I - it was really a lot of fun for me. It was like I was exploring, it was like a big adventure.

KING: How long did it take to do it working with all these people?

PARTON: Well, actually, it took me about a year and a half working off and on because you can't gather up all these people -

KING: Right.

PARTON: - because it takes time because they all have different labels, they live different places and you got to get them in and out. So it took me about a year and a half to complete the album from the time I actually started it.

KING: Now there's a report that you're writing the music for a Broadway musical of - from "9 to 5" is that true?

PARTON: Yes it is true. In fact we've been working on that for about a year, a little over a year I've been working on the music. They are working on that and they're hoping that it is going to be on Broadway in the fall of 2007.

But they're going into workshop this coming summer, 2006, I think and they're hoping to start some workshops in June and July of next year.

And I'm going to be very involved in, hopefully, helping to pick the singers and the people that are in it. And I'll be involved in some of the business end of it.

But I'm writing all the music, all by myself and it's a nerve- wracking job but it's fun; I've never done anything like it and it's - I've written already about 15-20 songs -

KING: Wow.

PARTON: - and they've already picked to keep about 13 of them and I've got to write a few new ones and revise some of them so it's a - it's a lot of work and it's something different for me but I'm looking forward to it.

KING: Why didn't they ever do a sequel to that movie?

PARTON: I do not know. It was a perfect movie to do a sequel.

KING: Perfect.

PARTON: I know, it would have been great. But they never did come up with a great script.

I think it's really hard to - when something does so well, something so good you really kind of hesitate because sometimes when something is really great it's really if you go do the sequel it almost cheapens the first part if the other one is not as good.

So I think maybe that might have been the thinking. And normally I don't like to go back and do something, you know, again. It's like I always say I don't like to chew my tobacco but once.

But, I would have chewed it again on that one. I still would if they came up with something.

KING: A great movie. Tell me about The Imagination Library. What is that?

PARTON: Well, we - we work a lot with the children around here in East Tennessee and a few years back we got the idea to actually start giving children from - in the county here a book the day it was born and once a month until it started kindergarten so it could learn to love to read and to learn to love books.

And they love running to the mailbox to get their little books, so it caught on. People really loved it and it goes to all income families, not just for poor people, this goes to all the children born in this county. And then a lot of people caught on to it and it started to grow and now the governor, Governor Phil Bredesen of Tennessee got on board with it.

And of course we've expanded it and now we're in like 500 counties, got 42 different states and we send out I think before the end of the year we're going to be sending out 2-2.5 million books to little children.

And as a matter of fact, one of the things we're proud of because the Katrina victims - we're sending out 100,000 books through the Red Cross to all the little children that - maybe give them something to do while they're kind of recuperating and kind of getting themselves settled.

So it's really for the little children but we do a lot of work up here with all the kids no matter what age they are.

KING: Have you always been big on reading?

PARTON: Well, I've always loved books myself. I was just a country kid and I didn't like school but I loved books. I always loved to read. I don't even remember learning to read.

I just remember always reading. But one of the reasons that this is so important to me, this whole type program and children learning to read is because so many of my own relatives couldn't read and write.

My own father never learned to read and write, but he was a very smart person - I've always wondered what all he might have been able to do had he been able to have gotten an education.

So before he passed away he got to see a lot of this stuff going on with The Imagination Library and he was so proud of me. And the kids all call me "the book lady," and Daddy was prouder of the fact that I'm called the book lady than he was about the fact that I've become a star.

So it's very personal to me and it means a great deal to me.

KING: Last year you were honored by the Library of Congress with the "living legend" award. What was that - you're 60 now. What was that like? A living legend.

PARTON: Well, I'll tell you it's kind of funny when you get these things like living legend awards it's like as opposed to the dead legend award? I guess I'd better accept - I'd rather accept the living legend award.

But it was like when I became a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. I felt like I was just starting out in the business so in some ways it makes you feel about 112. But then there's that part of you that makes you feel real proud, because you really don't know what you're going to accomplish in your life when you start out. You only hope people are going to like you and like your work but then as you do get older as you mentioned I'll be 60 in January and it's been a good life for me. It's been good and bad but I wouldn't trade anything for it.

And so the fact that people think that I've done something worthwhile to give me things like living legend awards it's a great, great compliment. I'm very humbled by it, really.

KING: Back with some more moments with my favorite, one of my favorite people, Dolly Parton. Her new CD is "Those Were The Days." We'll be right back.

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with more moments with Dolly Parton. The new CD is "Those Were The Days," a collection of songs like "Blowin' In The Wind," "Where Have All The Flowers Gone?" "Me and Bobby McGee," "Turn, Turn, Turn," "Both Sides Now."

Recording with artists like Kris Kristofferson and Judy Collins and Norah Jones. Cat Stevens or Yusaf Islam, as he's known playing guitar.

Only Dolly could call these people and of course they say yes.

Your first hit was in 1967, "Dumb Blonde." You wrote that, didn't you?

Well, actually, no I did not write "Dumb Blonde," it was written for me by my current husband who was one of the great writers in Nashville.

And I was looking for a song and - but what the song says is just because I'm blonde don't think I'm dumb because this dumb blonde ain't nobody's fool.

And I've tried to live up to that. I know I might look - you know - people say does it offend you when people call you a dumb blonde?

I say no because I know I'm not dumb and I know I'm not blonde.

KING: Do you ever sing that song?

PARTON: You know I don't. And I should. That was - several years ago, maybe ten years ago in one of my stage shows I put together a little segment of the early days and I did put it in as a little piece of a medley but I really love the song, I should re-record it and that would be a good idea so maybe you've made me think of something that I should do.

KING: Yeah, let's do it. Jessica Simpson calls - Jessica Simpson calls you here model and her mentor and her idol. Says if she could have a career like yours and end up having her own theme park that would be success. What do you think of her?

PARTON: Well, I think she's great, especially now that she's said all that stuff about me.

Well that's a nice compliment. Like I said earlier you never know what you're going to mean to somebody until you've lived your whole life. It's just like one of my favorite songs is called "When I've Learned Enough To Really Live I'll Be Old Enough to Die."

And it's like it's so true because you just don't know what you're going to mean to somebody so when somebody like Jessica and different people that say that I've inspired them and that I mean something to them, that means something to me.

KING: How do you react now that - you're always in the tabloids. "The National Enquirer" two weeks ago said that your 39-year marriage to Carl Dean is in serious jeopardy because he didn't attend the June wedding of your niece.

How true is that?

PARTON: Well it's a big crock, a great, great, great big crock. But every few years they're always saying that me and Carl are divorcing and then they have to make it worse by saying that he's leaving me because it's either me or my best friend Judy.

You know it's like they make - it's embarrassing what they do. But the truth is, we're not divorcing, there's not a word of truth in that and Judy and I are good friends; we've been best friends since we were in the 3rd grade.

She travels with me, she works with me, and Carl and I are just fine so I went out and bought the tabloids because I didn't care what they wrote about me, I was wanting to see what they wrote about - said about everybody else. And I believed all of that.

(Laughter)

KING: All right, you guested on Reba's show earlier. Are you coming back to acting?

PARTON: Well not really. I would love to get a good script. I'm not getting offered any great things now because I'm kind of in an awkward age, I guess, to get good parts but I would still love to do a great thing like "Steel Magnolias" or "9 to 5" or "Best Little Whorehouse" or whatever.

But I'm just not getting any good offers and I'm doing so many other things I'm not really missing it but I certainly would take a good script if I could find one.

KING: Do you still get -

PARTON: But I loved working with Reba.

KING: Do you still get the kick, do you still love going on stage?

PARTON: Yes. I love performing and I will never, ever retire and the only thing that would take me out of the business and off the road would be just bad health or if Carl was sick or something I'd certainly stay with him.

But if everything goes well, I hope to be caught dead in the middle of a song in about 100 years.

KING: Is - has your voice changed?

PARTON: Well, I've had a little trouble with my voice the last three weeks, in fact that's one of the reasons I didn't get to join in all the Katrina benefit shows because I was off the road.

I had laryngitis and then I got a cold on top of that so I was kind of out - but I think my voice is stronger because I sing all the time and especially when I'm writing songs like "9 to 5," I just keep it exercised and strengthened.

That was just one of those mishaps that happened but personally I think I - my voice is as strong as it was when I was a young girl.

KING: Have you been good when you write something at predicting how well it will do?

PARTON: No. I wouldn't know a hit if it jumped up and hit me in the butt. You just write and you hope - I just write what comes out of me.

Sometimes I try to tailor make things like for sure things like for the "9 to 5" musical I know what I'm writing about and I have to cover certain points and follow the beat, as they say.

But I wouldn't know a hit song. I just know when I like one and some of my favorite songs are songs that have never been hits, just songs that's in albums. So I don't have that knack to say I'd know a hit or I'd be having more of them.

KING: How come we don't see Carl a lot?

PARTON: Cause Carl don't want to be seen. He likes his privacy. No, he does not like the limelight. In fact, he don't even like it if he's out in the yard mowing the grass and the fans stop and say are you Carl Dean?

He says no, I'm the handyman around here. So he doesn't like it. He's very - a very private person and he loves for me to do it. He's proud of me but he likes being behind the scenes, which is why I think we've lasted for all these years.

We'll - our next anniversary we'll be married 40 years and we've been together 42.

KING: Wow. Dolly you're a great credit to a great profession. And I salute you on this new album and all you do as well. Thank you so much as always.

PARTON: Thank you for having me and again happy anniversary. You've been great; we love watching you. You're a good man.

KING: Love you, Dolly. The new CD is "Those Were The Days." The guest: Dolly Parton.

Thank you, Dolly.

PARTON: Thank you, Larry.

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Thanks for joining us on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. What a night with Walter Cronkite and the one and only Dolly Parton.

Interesting match up. Among our guests tomorrow night Gary Bettman, the commissioner of the National Hockey League, hockey is back next week.

That's tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE. Stay tuned now for Anderson Cooper and Aaron Brown. Good night.

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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