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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Encore Presentation: Interview With Christopher Kennedy Lawford
Aired December 25, 2005 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Happy holidays, everyone. Larry King here, and if you're just joining us, welcome back to a King-size Christmas. We're bringing you some of our most memorable shows of this past year, all day and night. Right now, a rare look inside the secret world of the Kennedys, with Christopher Kennedy Lawford.
LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, President John F. Kennedy's nephew Christopher Kennedy Lawford tells all in his first live prime time interview. His mom was JFK's sister Patricia. His dad, movie start and Rat Pack member, Peter Lawford.
Marilyn Monroe taught him the twist. Frank Sinatra showed him the high-rolling life in Vegas. He lost two beloved uncles to assassin's bullets and then he nearly lost his own life to drug and alcohol addiction. Christopher Kennedy Lawford, what a tale he's got to tell.
And we'll take your calls too, next on LARRY KING LIVE.
The man can write. His extraordinary new book, his first book, is "Symptoms of Withdrawal," Christopher Kennedy Lawford is our guest, a memoir of snapshots and redemption, the nephew of President John Kennedy, the eldest child of movie star and Rat Pack member Peter Lawford, JFK's sister Patricia his mother. He's an actor, as we said recovering addict and the book is "Symptoms of Withdrawal."
And why a tell-all, why did you write this?
CHRISTOPHER KENNEDY LAWFORD, JFK'S NEPHEW AND SON OF PETER LAWFORD: Well, a couple years ago I got a call from a guy who was writing a book about my family and he asked me to participate and I asked him to write me a letter why the world needed another book written about the Kennedys.
And he wrote me this long story, long note about one of my cousins. I mean it's a great story that needed to be told and I called him and I said, "Listen, if that story -- the only reason that story needs to be told is my cousin needs to tell it." And it got me thinking that I have a story to tell. I have an interesting story to tell.
KING: Boy do you. LAWFORD: I felt kind of compelled to tell it. The question was whether or not I could write and I started to write down some thoughts. My mom always told me that I was a good writer. I didn't believe her. I thought she was just being a mother but it turned out she was right.
KING: As I told you, I knew your dad.
KING: And you look amazingly like him.
KING: The older you get the more you look like him right?
LAWFORD: I got the gray. I got the gray.
KING: You write that when you meet new people you tell them you're a Kennedy.
LAWFORD: Well, I think this was such a huge part of my identity. My family was such a huge part of my identity, plus it gave me -- it gave me credibility and it gave me a feeling of being special. It gave me a certain power and I -- and I like that.
KING: Nervous about family reaction to this book?
LAWFORD: I was because, you know, we don't write books about ourselves. The last person that wrote a book in my family was my grandmother and everybody celebrated that.
LAWFORD: Right, my grandmother Rose and I was really not sure how my family would respond. I wrote my uncle Teddy a letter telling him I was doing this and I wrote this because I'm a writer. I mean I really enjoyed writing this. I didn't know whether I would.
I wrote some stuff down and I -- and then I -- I pursued it and I wrote him and I told him I was doing this and I told him I was doing it to pursue a career as a writer, which is what my intention was. I've gotten some response. I sent the book out about a couple weeks ago. And, as you noticed, I didn't include an index in my book because...
KING: So people can't look at what page they're on?
LAWFORD: Right. My family is notorious for going right to the index and looking up their name and finding out what I -- and so I said I'm not including an index, so you have to read the whole book because the thing about this book is it needs to be -- if you're going to read it, you need to read it from beginning to end. Otherwise -- it's a journey. It's my journey.
KING: It is.
LAWFORD: It is my journey.
KING: Very well written.
LAWFORD: I appreciate that a lot.
KING: It looks like you enjoyed it even though it's painful too right, isn't it?
LAWFORD: Yes, I had such an amazing time doing this. I would recommend -- Emerson said that all of us have one great book in us and I'm not sure this is great but I -- it was a joy to do.
KING: The "New York Post" reported that your stepmother, your father's wife when he passed away, is very angry at this book. Is that your knowledge as well?
LAWFORD: Which stepmother would that be?
KING: Patricia Seton Lawford Stewart (ph).
LAWFORD: Oh, right. Well my -- you know at the end of his life...
KING: How many stepmothers do you have?
LAWFORD: There were -- there were three I think. My mom -- my dad married three other women besides my mother, Mary Rowen (ph) who was a wonderful woman and another woman named Debbie who I liked.
At the end of my father's life he was so debilitated that, you know, he -- he was forced to do some things that probably he wouldn't have done if he had been healthy.
LAWFORD: Like get married.
KING: So, if she finds it disgusting you didn't like her very much?
LAWFORD: I didn't have a whole lot to do with her.
KING: What did your father die of?
LAWFORD: He died of liver failure.
KING: How old was he?
KING: He was a good guy, a lot of fun.
LAWFORD: He was a great guy. He was a great -- and it's a shame that, you know, I've got three -- three kids who never got to meet him and he would love my kids.
KING: You write that being a Kennedy is like an addiction to a narcotic. Explain that.
LAWFORD: Well, it's -- you know, again, it was the idea you brought up about like why I let people know or used to let people know what family I was from because there is such -- people gravitate towards that in some way and I don't quite understand it but it's true. And so, there's this idea of -- of feeling special, which I think all of us as human beings are looking for in one form or another.
KING: But you call yourself second tier or third tier Kennedy.
LAWFORD: Second tier or B list.
KING: But you're the nephew of a president.
LAWFORD: That's right.
KING: A Senator.
KING: A Senator, an attorney general.
LAWFORD: I think what, you know, what I'm referring to there is the idea in terms of the family business I was -- I was not somebody who was going to stuff up into -- into the political hierarchy of my family. It just wasn't necessarily going to happen. It wasn't going to happen for a number of reasons, primarily because that wasn't in my soul.
This book is a book about a guy who spent a lot of time looking in the wrong areas for what was going to fix him, whether it was my family, whether it was drugs and alcohol. It took me a long time to figure out the answers in here.
KING: You have brothers and sisters.
LAWFORD: I do. I have three sisters.
KING: Were you close with all of your mother's siblings?
LAWFORD: Yes, I love all of my aunts and uncles. You know I write my Aunt Eunice was like a surrogate mother to me. She was -- my mom went to Europe for a number of years and could not deal with my craziness and Eunice -- Eunice, you know, can deal with anything and she dealt with it.
KING: She's a great lady.
LAWFORD: Yes. She's a great lady and my uncle Sarge is -- I write a lot about him.
KING: How's he doing?
LAWFORD: He's doing great, you know. Sarge Shriver is one of the truly genuine great human beings I've been privileged to meet in this lifetime. My aunt Jean is wonderful and my uncle Teddy is my uncle Teddy.
KING: He's the rock of the family right?
LAWFORD: Yes, he is. He's -- he's a guy, you know, I went to work for him and I write about this when I was -- you know I went to Washington and my job was to drive him to and from work. It was the most terrifying -- terrifying job.
He had this powder blue mint Camaro convertible and he would drive this thing to and from the Senate and I thought it was unbelievable that a guy of his stature would drive around in this car.
KING: He drove himself.
LAWFORD: He drove himself until I got there and then I had to drive him and with Teddy you're always going the wrong way. You got to get there quicker. You got to -- you're always -- and it was just -- it was much more stressful than what I had to do on Capitol Hill.
KING: You say that by marrying Peter Lawford your mother was making a statement of independence like breaking away from the Kennedy mold.
KING: They wouldn't have approved of her marrying an actor.
LAWFORD: Well, now my grandfather -- my father was English. He was an actor and he was Protestant, three things that were not -- that Joseph E. Kennedy was not thrilled with but my mom, my mom was the female version of my grandfather. She had -- she had his strength.
She had his look, you know. I never got my grandfather's look but I got my mother's look. My mother could cut you off at the knees with her look and I heard that my grandfather had the same thing. And she had this -- she had a great mind for money and she wanted her own life.
One of the great things about writing this book, Larry, was getting to know my parents in a way that I had never known them before.
KING: You got to know them by writing it?
LAWFORD: Yes because I talked to people that knew them. I read -- I never read one book that was written about my family growing up. I knew nothing. I didn't know anything about any of them. Nobody gave -- I knew...
KING: How old were you when John Kennedy was killed?
LAWFORD: Eight years old.
KING: Remember that day?
LAWFORD: Yes, I was -- I was at St. Martin (INAUDIBLE) school. I was there. Sister Agnes I was in her home room. I was in third grade and I -- these women came from the front office and they were devastated and they were -- and we were -- and they started to look at me and I got called out into the hall and they told me that a member of my family was sick or dying.
I thought it was my grandfather because he had a stroke and they told me, no, it was President Kennedy and they asked me if I wanted to go home and I said no. And, I went and I played baseball that day and I hit four homeruns. I had never hit a homerun in baseball. And what I realized was the profound attention that was paid to me was like, it was like an energy that, you know, it was -- it was...
KING: More on that later.
We'll be right back, an extraordinary book "Symptoms of Withdrawal," Christopher Kennedy Lawford is our guest. We'll include your calls in a while too. Don't go away.
(VIDEO CLIP of "The Dina Shore Chevy Show")
KING: Peter Lawford, Dina Shore and Frank Sinatra, all of them gone.
Your father came from a dysfunctional family right?
LAWFORD: Well, he came from a very specific kind of family. His father was very old. He was an English general and his mother was this kind of crazy, sort of lady from England, you know, who had these designs for my father to become a movie star and marry into royalty. So, she was a very eccentric, crazy woman, wonderful. I'm sure I would have loved her but she drove my father crazy.
KING: Now, you were born March 29, 1955, same day, same hospital Judy Garland gave birth to her son Joe?
LAWFORD: Right, yes Joe and I were born in that hospital. She was up for "A Star is Born," so the media was paying was paying attention. And we used to have, Joe and I used to have our birthdays together at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Judy and my mom would bring us over there and put us on the -- on either side of a big table and then we'd have a couple of friends and they'd have all their friends and they'd have a party and we'd have a party.
KING: How much of your childhood was spent east and how much west? LAWFORD: I was always west until my uncle died, President Kennedy was assassinated and then my mom left my father. Their marriage had ended.
KING: So, they lived in California?
LAWFORD: Yes, we lived in California and I lived on the beach and one day I was on the beach and the next day I was in New York City.
KING: Your mom was very close to her brothers wasn't she?
LAWFORD: She was very close to her -- all of her brothers but particularly my uncle Bobby.
KING: And at age two months your parents put you in your own apartment with a baby nurse, why?
LAWFORD: That's right.
KING: Two months?
LAWFORD: You know, both of my parents were like 30 when they got married. They were not, you know, they were very willful, very independent people who liked their own space. My dad was very particular about his clothing. He was going to work early in the morning.
Having a screaming kid that stank was not -- was not a lot of fun for him, so they got this little -- and they had -- they lived in a little beach house. They lived in a one bedroom Malibu beach house, so there was no room for me.
KING: They didn't live Kennedy rich?
LAWFORD: No. They lived in Malibu. My dad was a beach guy. He was an actor. He was a working actor making a living, married my mother and then they moved into this house that we grew up in, which was a house that was built by the Paramount crews for Louis B. Mayer, which was a little bit bigger.
KING: You told me during the break your father would rather have been a surfer.
LAWFORD: My dad -- my dad was a big kid, you know.
LAWFORD: He was a -- he invented Malibu surfing. He invented at the pier in Malibu he started surfing at the pier before anybody else. People would go to the Malibu pier to surf with Peter. I mean he has a -- he's part of Southern California surf lore. He loved playing volleyball. He loved the beach. He loved being outside. He did not want to get stuck between Frank Sinatra and Jack Kennedy I don't think. That was not...
KING: Which he did unfortunately.
LAWFORD: Yes, that was not his...
KING: Marilyn Monroe taught you and your sister how to do the twist?
LAWFORD: We used to have these -- at night my sister and I would be dressed in our cute little bathrobes and our pajamas and we'd be brought down and there were people around our house and I didn't -- they didn't matter to me but Milton Berle was there with his cigar and he'd say, you know, and he'd have -- he'd put a little toothpick on the end of his cigar and he'd go, "Kid, you know why I put this toothpick there because that's where all the good juice is."
And Judy Garland would be playing the piano. One night Marilyn Monroe was there and she would come a lot because she'd walk on the beach with my mom. She'd always wear a scarf and she'd walk on the beach with my mom and I remember seeing her.
I had no interaction except this night that she was there and she did the twist because we would -- we would go into the den and we'd do whatever our little show was that night for our parents and she was there and she taught us how to do it. And I'll tell you when she did the twist adults paid attention.
KING: I bet. Your father slept with many actresses right? He moved around pretty good.
KING: But not Marilyn?
KING: And is it true that he said she had bad hygiene?
LAWFORD: Well, you know, the thing about -- I had to write about a lot of people in my life that were well known and I, you know, I wrote stories about them and my dad and I had a very specific relationship when I was 20, you know.
We basically -- our relationship after I went to live with him at 20 centered around, you know, partying and women pretty much.
KING: You and him?
LAWFORD: Pretty much, yes.
KING: By the way, you remember the famous JFK birthday song?
KING: Marilyn Monroe sang happy birthday to JFK, a sexual moment at Madison Square Garden. She was introduced by Peter Lawford. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETER LAWFORD: Mr. President, the late Marilyn Monroe.
(MARILYN MONROE SINGING HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO JFK)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: As we go to break a scene from a famous movie, "Ocean's Eleven."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Her career was back on track. She looked healthy. Then it seemed that most of the problems facing her had been resolved. But on Saturday, August 4th, Marilyn turned down a dinner invitation from Peter and Pat Lawford and opted instead to stay at home.
Later that evening Marilyn placed a call to Peter Lawford. She bid a cryptic goodbye to his wife and President Kennedy. Although Lawford was concerned about Marilyn, he did not rush to her side.
HYMAN ENGELBERG, M.D., MARILYN MONROE'S PHYSICIAN: Peter Lawford got a call from Marilyn and she was mumbling. Apparently she was going under from the pills she took and perhaps was calling him as a cry for help.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
P. LAWFORD: Hey fellows, do you have any idea how much money a man can steal if he was something like commissioner of Indian affairs? That's what I'll be commissioner of Indian affairs.
DEAN MARTIN: That you'll never be.
MARTIN: Because I'm going to be secretary of the interior and I won't appoint you as commissioner of Indian affairs.
FRANK SINATRA: That's a pretty snobbish idea.
MARTIN: No, I won't.
LAWFORD: (INAUDIBLE) my dear fellow went out with a question statuary.
MARTIN: Now what kind of language is that??
SINATRA: Beats the hell out of me. SAMMY DAVIS, JR.: I don't know but if you ask me I think that cat's a spy there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: The original "Ocean Eleven." But you wanted to add something about that production where your father introduced Marilyn.
LAWFORD: Yes, that night Marilyn Monroe, she was such an extraordinary woman that night she was late. That's why my father said the very late but that was -- that was a gala, the presidential gala that my father and Frank Sinatra produced and they got like 36 of the biggest stars to show up. It was the first time that Hollywood really turned out in that way for -- for a gala, which has now become sort of commonplace.
KING: Did your father talk to you much about her death?
LAWFORD: No, no. My dad didn't talk much about those days with me. Those were pretty much -- all of that really I think left him wounded in a way that he never could really kind of...
KING: What was Vegas like for you being in the casino? You were on the set of "Ocean's Eleven."
LAWFORD: Yes. It was the second movie. (INAUDIBLE) was the first movie I went to see them do, which they were cavalry guys and I was like I got to do that because I'm looking at my dad playing cowboys and Indians basically and I thought I got to do that.
And, Vegas was this place that my parents were always going. It was like Oz to me. It was on the other side of the mountains. And I remember the first time we went there we went in this limousine and we went to the Sands and we ran through this casino looking for my dad.
I walked onto the set of "Ocean's Eleven." I watched those guys doing what they did and they had so much fun and so much camaraderie. It was just -- it was -- once I saw that I knew I wanted to do it and I wished I could have done it with my dad.
KING: You write that Sinatra was a big deal in your life, why?
LAWFORD: Yes. Well, he was a big deal in my father's life because of the split. I mean what I was aware of, I remember later in life when I was 20 Frank summoned my dad to Palm Springs just for a sit down basically.
KING: Really mad at him.
LAWFORD: Yes, well he was mad at him before and I think he wanted to kind of clear the air at least that was the intention. That's not what happened during the sit down. My dad brought me with him and Frank was just kind of gruff and it never really went anywhere.
But, you know, he -- Frank maintained a very good relationship with my mom and he visited us in Hyannis port. He visited our whole family one summer. He came down in this giant yacht with Mia Farrow and parked in the Hyannis port harbor and my cousins and I would buzz around this boat looking for, you know, seeing if the great man would come out on -- out on the deck.
KING: But he was mad at your dad because John Kennedy stayed at Crosby's house right?
LAWFORD: Well, yes. The story is and, you know, again I was eight years old but this is what I get, which is basically, you know, Frank did a lot for Jack Kennedy to get him elected.
KING: Sure did.
LAWFORD: And he worked really hard for him and my dad did too and when -- and he assumed that once he got elected that Jack Kennedy would stay at his house as the western White House when he came to Palm Springs and Jack couldn't -- President Kennedy couldn't do that because Bobby Kennedy saw that there were people of, you know, questionable...
KING: Ill repute.
LAWFORD: Yes, questionable allegiances that were visiting Frank, so he told -- and my dad had to be the one to break the news to Frank and Frank did not take bad news well.
KING: I know.
LAWFORD: Yes, at all. He blew up, he blew up the landing pad apparently that he had built so.
KING: What are your memories of Uncle Jack?
LAWFORD: In 1960, the Democrats had their -- their convention in Los Angeles. Now I -- my mom was a delegate. My mom and dad brought me to that convention. I remember it. It was -- because how do you forget a convention when you're five years old?
I got tired though and I went to bed and they brought me back to my Uncle Jack's hotel room and later that night my mom and him came in and he sat on the bed and he looked down at me and said something like, "Christopher, I've been nominated to be president of the United States. It's going to be a hard job. Will you help me?" I was like okay but I want to go to bed now. It was -- yes.
KING: He had charm though didn't he I mean?
LAWFORD: He was just -- like when he arrived, he arrived. I used to raise the presidential flag when he came to visit us in California and on the cape there were these, you know, he'd arrive in a helicopter and all of us kids and dogs and everybody would be there and he'd bum around Hyannis port in this golf cart and we'd all like fight for our space on that cart and there's pictures. People have grown up. You know it was -- it was a magical time. I mean it was a magical time for the country and it was a magical time for me. KING: You did not go to his funeral right? You told us the story where you were on his assassination.
LAWFORD: Right, yes, no. I came home that day and my mom asked me to go to Washington with her and I said I couldn't go because I had my first sleepover with my best friend that weekend.
KING: At eight years old you don't really understand it.
LAWFORD: I didn't understand anything and I thought I had an obligation to my friend and they kept trying -- my mom was fine with it. My mom said OK. She respected my decision and she went with my sister Sidney (ph) and my mademoiselle who was our nanny tried to get me to go.
She kept saying "Well what if I get John Glenn to come and take you in a rocket ship will you go then?" And I was like, "No, I can't. What's my friend Jerry going to do? Where's he going to sleep?"
KING: Did your dad want you to go?
LAWFORD: I don't remember. My dad was just devastated. I remember my mom during that time. I don't remember my dad except finding him at the flag pole the morning after. He was in Tahoe doing a show with Jimmy Durante and he came home.
KING: Was he an alcoholic for a long time?
LAWFORD: He drank like a lot of people did and his drinking just got progressively worse.
KING: Do you think you inherited that gene?
LAWFORD: I think there's a genetic predisposition towards alcoholism and addiction and I know that that exists. I don't -- I don't think I, you know, I don't know where I got it. I just know I have it.
KING: Still have it?
LAWFORD: I still have, yes.
KING: But you're stone sober.
LAWFORD: I've been sober over 19 years.
KING: We'll be right back with Christopher Kennedy Lawford. The book is "Symptoms of Withdrawal," great title, a memoir of snapshots and redemption. Don't go away.
KING: You look at him so lovingly.
LAWFORD: Oh, it's just so great to see that. I -- they were so back -- they were so talented and watching my dad he had such charm and grace and...
KING: What was your relationship with Jackie? The first woman you saw nude, is that right?
LAWFORD: Well, yes, I mean I used to go over to my cousin's house. I was -- Jackie and my mom decided that it would be a good idea if I was like a surrogate brother to my cousin John and I used to go over there every like couple of weeks and she happened to be the first woman I walked in on. It was, you know, it was -- it sort of emblematic of my life that this every -- I had the experience that every young boy has and it happens to be most famous woman on the planet.
KING: Robert Kennedy's assassination, where were you then?
LAWFORD: I was in New York.
KING: And I -- you were 14, 13?
LAWFORD: Thirteen and you know my mom was, as I said, really close to my Uncle Bobby and I was very involved in that campaign. I, you know I knew what was going on.
KING: They were divorced then, right?
LAWFORD: My parents were divorced. We moved back to New York and I had become assimilated into my mother's family and that campaign was sort of the first campaign that I sort of became aware of politically and I remember that sort of the psychedelic Bobby posters and I remember coming down the morning that he was shot and seeing (INAUDIBLE) there and "The Daily News" and going to school and being, you know, just thrown into that kind of confusion and horror again and my mother was with my uncle in California and she came back and she was broken.
KING: You went to that funeral?
LAWFORD: Yes. I was an alter boy at that funeral and you know again, it is difficult because it was such -- you know, the deaths of both of my uncles -- and I didn't participate in the funeral of Jack Kennedy but certainly of Robert Kennedy it was a national funeral. And it was, you know, it was an event that was for the whole country. It was...
KING: The Kennedys don't cry, do they, in public?
LAWFORD: Well I don't know about that. I cry. I didn't cry back then. But I -- you know, I think that my grandfather used to have this thing where he would go around clapping his hands, Kennedys don't cry, Kennedys don't cry, and but I've seen members of my family cry.
KING: You got into drugs real early?
LAWFORD: I was 13 or 14. It was after my Uncle Bobby was killed. It was, you know, it was 1969, and there was a lot of experimentation going around. It seeped down into elementary schools...
LAWFORD: There were a couple friends of mine who used to get together on the weekends and drop LSD and they kept trying to get me to do it and I said no. And I knew that it was the wrong thing for me to do. I knew in my gut it was the wrong thing for me to do and one day I said yes and it changed my life.
KING: You -- there is a story in the book of how you -- Peter made Johnny Carson angry, Peter gave Johnny a joint full of PCP by mistake. Carson got so messed up he threatened to jump from the 28th floor.
LAWFORD: He used to -- my dad used to -- my dad hosted "The Tonight Show" a lot, probably more than anybody else, and there were rumors the he might even take over for Johnny. It didn't happen after that.
KING: Did you ever feel the same thing would happen to you that happened to your cousin, David?
LAWFORD: I knew I...
LAWFORD: Yes, I knew I was going to -- David was closest to me in age in the family. We grew up together. We had a saying. We used to call each other -- we would be best friends until the bitter end. David was funny -- funnier, smarter and had a bigger heart than anybody else in our family. He was a really remarkable kid.
LAWFORD: And both of us traveled down this road and he -- with many people, some people get hurt by this quicker than others, and he got -- he was a small kid, and he got hurt before I did...
KING: In liquor and drugs, how bad did it get for you? Were you ever really out, down?
LAWFORD: I -- it got as bad as you can get, Larry. I was -- you know, I knew I had a problem when I was 22 years old and it took me seven or eight years to get sober from that point. And I, you know I ended up in emergency rooms. I was arrested. I overdosed. It was a very, very dark journey and one I that I write about in this book, but all of that, all of that got me here. I don't think I could have -- I -- you know if people go God, do you regret any of that? Do you -- yes, I regret any -- I regret a moment of wasted time. But all of that time wasn't wasted because it got me to this life.
KING: How did you stop?
LAWFORD: I -- my Aunt Joan took me when...
KING: (INAUDIBLE) wife.
LAWFORD: Yes, she took me to recovery -- to a group of people that were in recovery and I think what happened to me -- she saved my life, Joan Kennedy -- and I think what happened to me was I surrendered. I think an alcoholic or a drug addict is like a guy who's getting hit on the head with a baseball bat and eventually you go, enough. I've had enough. That's really what happened to me.
KING: Are there days you want it?
LAWFORD: Never. I mean I've been blessed with -- you know most alcoholics and addicts have an obsession. It's like -- I went to bed every day and I said I'm not going to do that tomorrow. And every day I did it. And I could not stay sober a day unless I was locked up or in a hospital. And today that obsession has been removed from me and it hasn't come back in 19 years. Now that's a miracle as far as I'm concerned.
KING: We'll be right back with Christopher Kennedy Lawford. The book is "Symptoms of Withdrawal". Don't go away.
KING: We're back with Christopher Kennedy Lawford. Did you tie them on with your dad, too? Did you ever party together?
LAWFORD: Yes, we did.
KING: Go to Hefner's mansion.
LAWFORD: Yes, yes, we did all of that. It was a crazy time the '70s. You know people were in L.A. and to some degree New York...
KING: Your father didn't feel any guilt over this?
LAWFORD: I'm sure that he did. I'm sure that he did, but again it was a different time. There was a different -- way different sensibility. Much less was known about all of this. And my dad was -- my dad you know, I think believed on some level that the comradity that we were sharing was making up for what -- how we were sharing it.
KING: Your father had a relationship with Elizabeth Taylor. In fact, he gave her, her first screen kiss, and we'll show it to you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) always kisses the bride. It's an old (INAUDIBLE) custom, handed down from father to son. Excuse me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fresh.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Did you know her pretty well?
LAWFORD: Yes, she used to call my dad every day from London when she was breaking up with Richard Burton for the third or second time. And one day my dad got kind of tired of it and handed me the phone and my dad loved Elizabeth and she loved him, but he handed me the phone and she didn't miss a beat. And she kept talking to me and so for three months I talked to the biggest movie star in the world about what was going on in her life. We became fast friends and she came to L.A. and we hung out and I would, you know, it was...
KING: Your father had a relationship with Lana Turner, too, didn't he?
LAWFORD: Yes, that was, I think, one of the great loves of his life.
LAWFORD: She used to -- Lana Turner used to pick him up every day at work -- at home to go to work and they'd go to the studio, and one day she never showed up. And my dad didn't know what happened to her and got a call one day from her and she was with Gene Krupa, I think in Boston and he pretended like it didn't matter, but it mattered.
KING: Where were you when your dad died?
LAWFORD: I was in New York and my dad had been dying for five years. You know there was always a medical emergency because of his, you know because of his drinking and because of his illnesses associated with that. I was always getting on a plane to go out there and it was on Christmas Eve and I was on my way there with my sisters and he died while we were in the air.
KING: Did he know he was going to die?
LAWFORD: I think he did. Yes, I think he did. I think -- I mean, I think on some level he was probably glad to be out of here.
KING: What was his funeral like?
LAWFORD: It was not so good. It was raining. I remember it rained like cats and dogs and we were there. And there were not -- you know there were a few people there and there...
LAWFORD: ... a lot of my cousins came, which my sisters and I were there. And some of the people that had worked with my dad, Stan Camen (ph) and it was his great friend and agent. Milt Evans (ph) was there. Some of the people that worked for my dad, but a lot of his relationships had sort of...
KING: Red Prescott (ph) didn't come?
LAWFORD: None of them. I don't know.
KING: None of them?
KING: Let's take a call for Christopher Lawford. Burlington, Ontario, hello.
CALLER: Hi there. First I want to say, Christopher, I enjoyed meeting you at the was at the Charm Hill (ph) Film Festival.
LAWFORD: Oh good.
CALLER: And just wanted to know how close your relationship was with JFK. I had heard that you were asked to be on the flight that unfortunately crashed. Is that true?
LAWFORD: Are you talking about my cousin, John?
LAWFORD: Yes, I -- as I said -- as I was telling Larry, I used to -- you know I used to be, you know, see him when I was a kid, but he was much younger than I was, but I would see John everywhere. John was a star.
KING: A great guy.
LAWFORD: Yes, he was a great guy. He was a star in our family...
LAWFORD: Yes, and he found a way of dealing with growing up in our family and all of that that was -- you know he had so much grace. He had his mother's grace and he had...
LAWFORD: Yes, yes...
KING: ... does his sister?
LAWFORD: Yes, yes, yes.
KING: Are you close with her?
LAWFORD: Caroline, yes. She's wonderful.
KING: Where were you when the plane went down?
LAWFORD: I was -- actually saw John the night before for...
KING: Oh really?
LAWFORD: ... dinner with a friend of his (INAUDIBLE)...
KING: Were you supposed to be on the plane?
LAWFORD: He asked me if I wanted a ride and I had to go out to Long Island to go up with my mother and my sisters and my then wife, so I couldn't go with him. I was not supposed to be on it. He asked me if I wanted to go and I assumed I would see him there and the next morning I got a call from my cousin Carrie (ph) and said his plane was missing. And I didn't for a moment think that he wouldn't show up.
KING: Because? LAWFORD: I just -- he always showed up. And I -- there is just no way he would not show up.
KING: Do you think that the Kennedys are snake bit?
KING: They're so proud.
LAWFORD: We're a big family. You know I just -- I was up at the Democratic Convention and there was a park dedicated to my grandma and Doris Kearns Goodwin spoke and she talked about how my grandmother said that none of her kids would change the length of their life for the vitality of it. You know my family lives life to the fullest.
We have that ethic in us. My Uncle Bobby had it in spades. All of us have -- my Uncle Teddy. I mean we suck the marrow out of life. My grandmother said you know living life to its fullest in all of its joy and all of its duties and that's what we do. And sometimes that can be dangerous. Sometimes people can die. And it's why in the old days people had big families because you know some of us don't make it.
KING: We'll be back with more. The book is "Symptoms of Withdrawal". Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean I can keep looking for him and may -- no maybe in a week or a month. Who knows, but I'm telling you the odds of finding this (INAUDIBLE) is not good.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll play the odds, Charlie.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look, Jack, I'm in business to make dough just like the next guy, but you're a buddy, and I got to say something...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look, I'm tired, Charlie. Just say that you're going to leave here and get back on the job, all right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are obsessed with this lady, Jack. You're not...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't hire to you analyze my mind. I hired you to find a missing person.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why? Why is it worth it?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: "All My Children". LAWFORD: Yes, that was trip...
KING: Indian Harbor Beach, Florida, hello.
CALLER: Hi Christopher. How are you doing?
CALLER: My question is speaking of "All My Children", what was it like to work on "All My Children"?
LAWFORD: Oh, it was a great job. I mean it -- you know, there were long days but it was -- they are a great cast and it was...
KING: How long were you on that show?
LAWFORD: I worked with Kelly Ripa.
LAWFORD: Yes, her and I, we worked together. And as a matter of fact, she was the last virgin of daytime and I had to take her virginity...
KING: You've done quite a few films?
LAWFORD: I have. I've done a bunch of movies. I did a -- I just did a film Anthony Hopkins called "The World's Fastest Indian", which is going to come out in January.
KING: "The World's Fastest...
LAWFORD: ... "Fastest Indian"...
KING: What's it about?
LAWFORD: It's about a guy from New Zealand who races this Indian motorcycle 200 miles an hour in 1962 in the Bottom Hill Salt Flats (ph).
KING: That's you?
LAWFORD: No, that's Anthony Hopkins. And I play this race car driver who helps him do it. It's a great movie and it was directed by Roger Donaldson, who did this movie "Thirteen Days"...
KING: I'm going to show a clip from that in a minute. What's your fascination with Havana?
LAWFORD: I went there with this movie "Thirteen Days", which is about the Cuban missile crisis, which you know is one of the great events...
KING: Great movie.
LAWFORD: Yes, it was a great movie and I went there with Kevin Costner. And we showed the film to Fidel Castro and the Cuban people. And I sat next to Fidel Castro and watched this movie about my uncles and almost the end of the world. And it was -- and at the end of the movie Fidel Castro got up and he said you've made a great film about -- you've made a great film, but you ignored Cuba.
Now you must make a film about what was happening in Cuba in those 13 days. So the producer and I went down there for a couple of years to see if we could work it out, but the embargo, of course, makes it impossible to do anything with Cuba.
KING: You like Havana?
LAWFORD: I love Havana...
LAWFORD: It is a -- the people, the culture, the political -- you know their revolution is an amazing event. It stuck in -- to some degree the '50's because of this embargo. It's been unable to do a lot of modernization. It's just -- it's a beautiful country and the people are remarkable. It's really...
KING: Musical? Lyrical?
LAWFORD: Oh, and artistically. I mean I've gone down there for -- with films for the film festival, Latin American Film Festival and the art down there is remarkable and the filmmakers are...
KING: So what do you want to be? Be an actor, writer, what?
LAWFORD: I want to do -- right now I act and I write. I'm going to write a novel. I'm writing a novel about the relationship between the sexes and actually I've already started on that. I'm writing a television show that is imagine entertainment and I'm going to continue to speak about recovery all over the country. I...
KING: Your cousin Patrick is involved in that...
LAWFORD: Yes, Patrick has done amazing work...
LAWFORD: ... you know on the parity bill in Congress. He's, you know him and Ramstad have worked really hard to get you know, the equal compensation for people suffering with mental illness and substance abuse, which we do not get now. It's an issue that needs a lot more attention.
KING: As we go to break, here's a scene from "Thirteen Days". (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excuse me, sir. What the hell is going on here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Commander, if you're fired upon, the president will be forced to attack the sites that fire on you. He doesn't want to have to do that. It's very important that he doesn't or things could go very badly out of control.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about my men? We don't have anybody to protect us (INAUDIBLE) be writing letters home to parents.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the president protects you, Commander, he may have to do it with a bomb. Now I've known the man for 15 years. The problem is he will protect you. So I'm asking, don't make him protect you. We get shot at.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, Mr. O'Donnell, we'll do what we can.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh I need your help please. (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You didn't register?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I didn't know anything about it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know how it is, Jim, rules are rules.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You should have registered months ago.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't know.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll be talking with these guys later, see if I can change their minds.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know about that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look, we can talk about this later. Maybe you can let him go through (INAUDIBLE) inspection, get that out of the way. Just in case (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're asking a lot?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Make me proud.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: That's a clip from "The World's Fastest Indian", which stars Anthony Hopkins, in which our guest also appears. It opens in January.
One more call, El Paso, Texas, hello.
CALLER: Hi Christopher.
CALLER: Do you have any words of encouragement for someone who has a loved one with an addiction?
LAWFORD: Do I have words of encouragement?
CALLER: Yes, do you have any words of encouragement...
LAWFORD: Yes, don't give up on them. Don't give up on them and say a lot of prayers. You know I struggled with this for many, many years and I'm sitting here now clean and sober 19 years. It's possible for anybody to get sober. I'm a testament to that and there are many, many people are, but prayers help.
KING: A lot of people have asked are you doing book signings anywhere? Are you going around at all?
LAWFORD: I am. I'm going to Boston this week. I'll be in Burlington, Massachusetts, on I think Thursday at 7:00 and then I'm in Washington next week at Olson's (ph) on Monday night and then I'm in L.A. on the 5th and 6th in Santa Monica, on the 5th and Century City on the 6th, Barnes & Noble on the 5th and (INAUDIBLE) in Century City on the 6th.
KING: I gather you are looking forward to more writing?
LAWFORD: I am. As I said I'm doing this novel which is...
LAWFORD: ... it's totally different. You know fiction is a completely different thing. I'm very glad to put my life to rest. This was the first book I had to write. It is the book people wanted me to write. It is a book I had to write. It was a joy to do it and now it's done and it's out in the world. And now I can move on to my novel and let my imagination run wild.
KING: Do you consider yourself lucky?
LAWFORD: I have had an extraordinary life. I have been gifted to be in the presence of amazing individuals. And I have been lucky to have two very, very distinct lives. I have been reborn and I have -- you know I was given everything at birth. I squandered it. I was given a second chance and now I have realized myself in all that I come from and that's a great gift.
KING: You ought to be very proud.
LAWFORD: Yes, I got great -- three great kids, David, Matthew and Savannah. None of them have seen me drunk or stoned and you know, I love them very much and it's -- I'm blessed.
KING: Thanks Chris.
LAWFORD: Thank you Larry.
KING: Christopher Kennedy Lawford, what a story, what a book. The book is "Symptoms of Withdrawal: A Memoir of Snapshots and Redemption."
KING: An update on Christopher. We've heard he's developing a TV show based on his remarkable life. And he wants to play himself. We'll keep you posted. King-size Christmas will be right back with the queen of country, Reba McEntire, after this news update.
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