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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Interview With the Kesse Family; Interview With Michael W. Smith

Aired February 10, 2006 - 21:00   ET

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


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, exclusive, the Christian rock superstar and his near drug overdose, Michael W. Smith in his first interview on how he believes God saved him from losing his life to cocaine.
But first, a beautiful young woman vanishes without a trace from Orlando, Florida. Her abandoned car is found near her home. Three weeks later her desperate family wants to know what happened to Jennifer Kesse.

It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Jennifer Kesse, a beautiful 24-year-old Orlando woman, has been missing from her home since late last month. Joining us from Orlando on the left is Joyce Kesse, Jennifer's mother. In the middle is Drew Kesse, Jennifer's father. And, on the right is Logan Kesse, Jennifer's brother.

We'll start with you, Joyce. What happened? What happened that day? Where did she go missing from?

JOYCE KESSE, MOTHER OF MISSING WOMAN: Well, what we think is that she got ready to go to work. She locked the door to her condo and from there it's a mystery. She never showed up for work and we were actually notified by her employer about 11:15 inquiring as to was there some sort of family emergency, which there was not. Meanwhile, they had tried to call her cell phone, her home phone and no reply from Jennifer, which is not usual for her and...

KING: Drew, was her car found?

DREW KESSE, FATHER OF MISSING WOMAN: Her car was found two days later, Larry, approximately a mile from her condominium, left at an apartment complex and found at midday.

KING: Logan, was there any sign of tampering in the car, any sign of injury in the car?

LOGAN KESSE, BROTHER OF MISSING WOMAN: No that I'm aware of there was no sign of foul play, nothing like that.

KING: Joyce, was anyone -- did your daughter have a problem with (INAUDIBLE)? Does she have a boyfriend she was arguing with? J. KESSE: No but the condominium complex that she had recently moved into two months previous she had a punch list and she had expressed some concern about an uneasy feeling about the amount of workers and that was something that she shared with family and friends.

KING: She was worried about what, Drew, strangers working on the building?

D. KESSE: Yes. When she bought her condominium, a punch list is little things you have to have fixed when you first go into your new place and workers were having to come in and she had to take some time off, some lunches and what have you and she was just concerned they just couldn't get the littlest things done.

We had safe calls. She was a very safe person. We always had safe calls with Jennifer, which we had but she was just concerned and uneasy, obviously a young lady living alone.

KING: Now, Lance (sic) there are surveillance photos we are told of an unidentified person seen near Jennifer's abandoned car and police are asking for public help to identify this person of interest. Do you have any idea who it is?

L. KESSE: No, we don't. Honestly we're asking the public to truly take a good look. They're a hard picture to look at but someone has to know something. Where that picture was actually taken was on a very busy street. The apartment complex is right next to a very busy street and it was in the middle of the day, so we do ask the public to take a real good look at that and call the tip lines or the police if they have any ideas. And, that person itself, we're just trying to -- we think that person can help us lead to Jennifer.

KING: We're going to give the numbers out. Logan, did she have a boyfriend?

L. KESSE: Yes, she does have a boyfriend. I think they've been together probably about a year now.

KING: Were they very serious?

L. KESSE: Yes, they were. They had actually just gotten back from vacation in St. Croix that following Monday before she went missing on Tuesday. They had a great time. They loved each other very much and they just got back like I said from vacation at St. Croix that Monday night and she drove up from Fort Lauderdale, where he lives, on Monday morning and went straight into work and they have a good relationship as far as all of us know.

KING: I see. And, Joyce, he doesn't live in Orlando, huh?

J. KESSE: No, he lives in Fort Lauderdale and often he'd come up one weekend. She'd go down there, so that's pretty much how their relationship has been but he was a great guy.

KING: He must be very concerned. J. KESSE: Oh, and then some. He feels the anguish. The hole is in his heart like ours.

KING: There is a $115,000 reward, a large part of the donation posted by an anonymous donor. Anyone wishing to contribute to Jennifer's trust can go to any Bank of America and donate to just find the Jennifer Kesse, K-E-S-S-Y (sic), trust. What are the police telling you Drew?

D. KESSE: Well, the leads are coming in. Last weekend we had a volunteer effort of close to 1,200 volunteers covering all of Orlando and we're doing it again tomorrow but the leads are being generated incredibly and we think we are going to find our daughter.

J. KESSE: Find her.

D. KESSE: We are very positive. We're working with great detectives, the public and the media. It's incredible the outpouring to try and find Jennifer and we truly believe we will.

KING: I said K-E-S-S-Y because that was printed here but it's K- E-S-S-E. It's the Jennifer Kesse Trust, K-E-S-S-E.

J. KESSE: Right.

KING: Just being frank, Drew, do you fear the worst?

D. KESSE: No, absolutely not. We are -- we are so positive. Our daughter is alive. We truly feel that. We truly -- we talk out to her all day long. She's an extremely strong individual, very smart. She feels that people are looking for her. Her family and boyfriend are going to find her and she feels it. We know it.

KING: So you're in the unusual position of that father in Salt Lake. You hope she's being held somewhere right, Joyce?

J. KESSE: You know what, honestly I hope that whomever took her wanted her for himself and honestly if that's the case I pray to God that he's taking care of her and, of course, we're not ignorant people, you know. We realize -- we realize, you know, there could not be a positive outcome but we all feel her presence and we believe that she's doing everything she can to persevere this and just hopefully we'll be able to convince whomever to let her go.

KING: And Drew you...

L. KESSE: I do want to say that, I mean Larry...

KING: Go ahead.

L. KESSE: ...that I do, I mean whoever has her, whoever has her, it has been about three weeks now and honestly enough is enough. You've done what you've done with her already.

J. KESSE: Let us have her back. L. KESSE: I mean let us have her back. There's nothing more to do like enough is enough. Just leave her be. If -- you can -- you can remain anonymous. Call the tip line. There's $115,000 reward. Just enough is enough. We've kind of had it like, you know, like please, please return our -- my sister and their daughter back.

KING: Very well said. All we can do, all of us, is pray with you. If you want to contribute to the fund it's the Jennifer Kesse, K-E-S-S-E, Trust, any Bank of America. Let me give you the search information. Jennifer Kesse is 24 years old. She is 5'8" tall. She's beautiful as you can tell, shoulder-length sandy blonde hair, green eyes, 135 pounds.

If you know anything, please call the Orlando Police Department, 407-246-3947, 407-246-3947, or you can call Crime Line at 1-800-423- TIPS, 1-800-423-TIPS. There's also a Web site, one word, jenniferkesse.com, which has contact information for tipsters.

We only can wish you the best of luck and that good news comes tonight. Thanks, thanks family.

J. KESSE: Thank you.

D. KESSE: Appreciate it Larry. Thank you so much.

J. KESSE: Thank you so much for having us.

KING: Sure. Drew Kesse, Joyce Kesse, Logan Kesse, a wonderful family and if you know her whereabouts let them know and if you're someone who took her and she's still with you, as the brother said, what do you gain? Give it up.

We'll be right back with Michael W. Smith. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Michael W. Smith has been a big star on the contemporary Christian music scene since the 1980s. There was a time when he was writing gospel songs while he was high on marijuana, cocaine and other drugs.

Today he said goodbye to the bad habits, made friends with presidents and movie stars and become a fixture at the Grammy's. He is one of the major figures in contemporary Christian music.

How did you choose that Christian music why not just music?

MICHAEL W. SMITH: Well, I wish it was just music. I mean I've hated labels since day one. You know I wanted to grow up and be like Paul McCartney and Elton John and play pop music but talk about my faith. So, you know, in the early days I didn't even know what Christian music was, so it got a label.

KING: How did it get that label?

SMITH: I have no idea, so I mean I think probably in the early days there were probably a lot of stations that wouldn't play "gospel music" and nobody would give them the time of day so they decided well we'll start our own thing. That's probably how it came about.

KING: So, is it described as gospel? Is that a fair description of what you sing?

SMITH: Well, it all depends on who you're talking to. I mean, you know, maybe on one side of the country it's gospel, the other side it's contemporary Christian music.

KING: What do you say it is?

SMITH: You know what I just think it's pop music, you know. I just think you should -- interesting, Christian music has -- has every genre of music you know what I'm saying? In the mainstream world you got country, you got bluegrass, you got heavy metal.

KING: There's Christian rock right?

SMITH: Yes.

KING: There's Christian heavy metal?

SMITH: Oh, we really got it all, you know what I'm saying, because it's all dictated by the lyrical content, you know. They call it Christian music because we're talking about things of faith or whatever. So, it's a little crazy but, you know, this is what we -- God I think has used it. Obviously people's lives have been changed.

KING: Do you write your own?

SMITH: I do. I co-write most of my lyrics but I write all my music.

KING: And play guitar.

SMITH: And play piano.

KING: Sing with a group.

SMITH: Yes, it's just me. I put my band with me and we blaze a trail and have a great time.

KING: Right. When you were on drugs were you lying to audience? Were you talking about believing in God and doing good things while not doing good things for yourself?

SMITH: Well you know what this was in the early days. I mean I've never gone on national television and talked about it. I've talked about it in books, you know. I've shared my testimony with youth groups and people like that but it's never -- nobody has ever said "We got to go on national TV and talk about this."

So, this was actually before I got my first record deal but I was at a publishing company trying to write gospel, for lack of a better word gospel song, talking about my faith and then getting high and living a crazy lifestyle on the side. It doesn't quite mix does it?

KING: Do you think you were hypocritical?

SMITH: I don't think I was hypocritical at all because I just -- I mean it's a strange thing because what happened is that I became a, for lack of a better word, a God follower when I was ten years old and chose to follow Christ when I was ten. And then, I had a great childhood. My mom and dad are still my biggest fans. You know they're just rooting for their son.

KING: You're married, you have children?

SMITH: Married, five kids, been married 25 years this year and...

KING: Don't look that old.

SMITH: Well, I appreciate that. But you know what I think what happened to make a long story short a lot of my support group were older people in college. Like all my friends when I was a junior in high school were all getting high and drinking beer and I was in Bible studies five nights a week and sold out and then all my friends moved away, went to college, went to graduate school.

And all of a sudden I was by myself and didn't have a support group and thought I could play with the fire and not get burned and that was not the case and I found myself in a pit and I couldn't get out.

KING: We'll find out in a minute how you got out. Why haven't you talked about it on television before?

SMITH: Nobody's really asked me about it, you know.

KING: I'm glad we're here.

SMITH: Yes.

KING: Because you're going to help people.

SMITH: Yes.

KING: We'll be right back with Michael W. Smith. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: That was Michael's newest video. It was nominated for a Grammy. What was the title?

SMITH: "Healing Rain."

KING: "Healing Rain," didn't win.

SMITH: Didn't win it's OK.

KING: Can't win them all right. SMITH: Well I've won three so I think that's enough so.

KING: All right, Michael, how addicted were you, at its worst how bad?

SMITH: Well, I mean you know we were sitting talking off the air about smoking cigarettes. It's just, it grabs a hold of you and you can't seem to get out. I mean as much as I wanted to, I would -- you know I think I knew who I was in my spiritual life and as much as I wanted to get out I couldn't get out. I felt helpless and it's like being in a pit, being in a big hole that's 15 feet tall and there's no ladder to get out. That's what it felt like.

KING: What did your wife do?

SMITH: This is before I met my wife, yes.

KING: Oh, it was all before you met your wife?

SMITH: Yes, yes.

KING: Didn't have children, so you were a single guy?

SMITH: Single but I almost died. I'm telling you it was (INAUDIBLE).

KING: How close to dying?

SMITH: Well, one time almost a drug overdose, you know, didn't know what I was doing, snorted something that I thought was one thing and it's another, I mean just stupidity, just ignorance.

KING: Able to perform?

SMITH: Oh, I was -- if I did I wasn't -- I was a nut case, you know, just how do you perform when you're -- when you're living that kind of lifestyle, you know? So, at that point I was still just writing songs.

I hadn't gotten a record deal and so really what I began to really do, Larry, is I began to really pray that God would -- because I knew that if -- if something did not change, I would possibly lose my life, knew it beyond a shadow of a doubt if I kept this up.

Eventually I was going to take -- I was going to take one step too far and it was going to be over, you know and I didn't feel like that was my destiny, so I prayed and prayed and prayed, "Oh, God, get my attention, car wreck, break my legs, just don't kill me, you know" and he did something that I didn't really think he would do. He took all my joy away and...

KING: How?

SMITH: Just became depressed, extremely depressed. When you lay in bed you don't want to get out of bed all day because you just are so down. You're just like rock bottom at the very lowest of the lowest and I think that was an answer to my prayer, prayers of my mom and dad and it all ended one night on a kitchen floor in my apartment in Nashville, Tennessee.

I had -- I know I have a nervous breakdown, never went to the -- never went to the doctor, never did rehab. I honestly feel like it's, you know, when we hear these people who get healed of cancer or that have some sort of healing that just happened to come out of nowhere. Somebody's got a tumor. They're going to die in a month. Then all of a sudden the tumors are gone.

That's the kind of rescue that I think that I got and I don't know why I got picked to get the rescue, why I didn't go to rehab. All of a sudden, you know, on that floor until 3:30 in the morning. I woke up the next day and I haven't been the same since. That was 28 years ago.

KING: When you got up in the morning did you feel rescued? Did you feel different?

SMITH: I felt empowered. I was still tempted to go out and do some of the -- some of the things that I did and I actually went out and did a few of those things and I hated it.

KING: Really?

SMITH: I lost my desire. It's almost like...

KING: No kidding?

SMITH: Yes, it's almost like, you know, you smoke one day and all of a sudden you lose your desire for smoking cigarettes. It's just gone. So to me it was I don't think that's -- that's supernatural to me honestly. I really feel that way and to this day it's still a real mystery. All I can -- I just give credit to the Lord. I think God just rescued me. And, obviously then I look at my career and look at what I've been able to accomplish and feel like I'm kind of fulfilling my purpose.

KING: Did it start to take off soon after?

SMITH: Yes, everything turned around at that point. It was amazing. That very next day I got a call from a publisher. I was writing songs in this great publishing company but obviously wasn't being very productive. That next day after that whole event in my apartment a good friend of mine, Randy Cox (ph), pulled me into his office and said, "There's a gospel group called Higher Ground and they're looking for a piano player and wanted to know if you're interested."

Now that might not mean anything to you but to me it was like I just said yes and never met the guys. I just said "I'll take the job. I'll take the job." So for eight months those guys kind of nurtured me kind of back to health.

And then Amy Grant, started writing songs for Amy and then we began touring together and first record came out in '83, got married in '81 to just the most amazing woman and have five beautiful children.

KING: Amy Grant had a lot to do with your career.

SMITH: Yes, she did. I wouldn't be here talking to you if it hadn't been for Amy, so I give her a lot of credit.

KING: How did you meet her?

SMITH: Met her at a publishing company and we ended up writing songs on the (INAUDIBLE) record which was a -- for back then you have to realize Christian music back then that record was huge. It was just -- it was a big, big record and that's how I got my start.

KING: You're friends with Vince Gill too?

SMITH: I am, great guy.

KING: And then you spurt out on your own.

SMITH: Toured with her for two years and then started touring on my own in '85 but Amy and I continued over the years to kind of get back together, join forces and go out and tour together. We've toured a lot doing Christmas tours together with the Nashville Symphony and we're still very good friends and it's been a great ride.

KING: How have your parents reacted to all this?

SMITH: Well you know what my mom and dad knew. I wish they could talk to you firsthand but my mom and dad knew what was going on in my life in those early days. The cool thing about my mom and dad is that it was unconditional love on ten the whole time, never threatened to kick me out of the house just always received me. When I would come home from Nashville on one of those trips to get some money to pay the rent and get some food, they always loved me unconditionally.

KING: You have brothers and sisters?

SMITH: One sister, Mary, and has three girls. They live in Nashville and...

KING: Was she supportive too?

SMITH: I think she tried to be. I'm sure she got frustrated with me, you know, because we -- my sister and I were actually living together, you know, and I'll never forget the time that I spent my rent money on probably drugs and fixing my hair instead of paying the rent, you know, so that (INAUDIBLE).

KING: You found Jesus when you were ten.

SMITH: Yes.

KING: But you were doing all this and you never felt I'm in conflict with the Lord? SMITH: Oh, I felt -- oh, it was very conflicted. I was definitely very conflicted. I feel like I'm the story in the Bible. I feel like I'm the prodigal son, you know, and went off and went on a wild feast and then came home and who's out there to greet him, his dad.

KING: We'll take a break. When we come back we'll include your phone calls for an extraordinary artist Michael W. Smith. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Michael W. Smith.

Now, is that a video or a scene from the movie?

SMITH: Well, that's a video from the movie. And I'm starring in this role in the movie called "The Second Chance." But that song is from the movie.

KING: And it opens next Friday?

SMITH: Next Friday.

KING: And whom do you play?

SMITH: I play Ethan Jenkins. I'm associate pastor at a predominantly white church, mega church, and through various circumstances, which you'll have to go to the movie to find out why, I get sent to an inner city church to observe and learn from a young African-American pastor named Jake Sanders.

Sparks fly. Drama unfolds. Two worlds collide. There's conflict, to say the least.

KING: Independent film?

SMITH: It is. But Sony distribution...

KING: Oh, Sony? A lot of music?

SMITH: A lot of music, yes.

KING: Where did you shoot it?

SMITH: All in Nashville.

KING: Do you have fun being a movie star now?

SMITH: The first week was a stretch. But once I got past the first week, I was OK. You know, I'm used to working for myself. I'm a short-fused guy. All of a sudden you're sitting in your trailer for three hours waiting for them to set up the camera shots.

KING: Was the black pastor actor good?

SMITH: He was fabulous. And I think he will get discovered big time.

KING: What's his name?

SMITH: Jeff Carr.

KING: Some Christian records though, as I understand, boycotted you because you did music videos, is that right?

SMITH: Well, I remember that it was either "A Place in This World" or "I Will be Here for You" that I was asked to host VH-1. You know, so I hosted VH-1 a couple times. And, you know, there was a Budweiser commercial or whatever.

And so because there was a Budweiser commercial, a beer commercial, the record stores in Alabama started pulling my records out of the store, like I supported Budweiser. You know what? It is absolutely the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard of.

And they wanted a debate. And I'm going, I'm not going to debate with you, because there's nothing to debate. And I had to hold my tongue. I have to be honest and say that.

KING: A little prim, don't you think?

SMITH: It's crazy.

KING: All right. Let's go to some calls for Michael W. Smith.

Glen Alpine, North Carolina, hello.

CALLER: Hello, Larry.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: I would just like to thank you for having these people of faith on your program.

KING: Sure.

CALLER: It really has strengthened your viewer ship. My question for Michael W. Smith, Michael, we love you, we love you. I am 63 years old, and my two sons sing your songs and my grandson sings you songs. And I would just like to know if in the times since you have had sobriety have you been tempted or have you had any weaknesses that you would call back sliding into the temptation?

SMITH: You know what? No. I mean, not over these past, yes, 20-some years, whatever, 27 years.

KING: No temptation?

SMITH: Well, I think you're always tempted anytime you're in the limelight and if you lose your support group. I think the biggest thing for me has been not only my wife, my church, and I have some very, very good friends in my life that, for example, if I get the big head, being on the Larry King show, you know, and thought I was something else, they would slap me upside the head and say, snap out of it.

You know, it's that sort of accountability is what we call it. So I think you set up parameters and you hold yourself accountable. And I think if you do that, then I think you can survive.

KING: Have you ever had a low day where you came close?

SMITH: I've had a lot of low days, but not low days that would take me back into drugs. Not whatsoever.

KING: How did you meet your wife, by the way?

SMITH: I met her at a record company. And I had no interest in dating. I just got my first song writing contract, making 200 bucks a week. And she walked by. And I flipped out. I fell in love. And just decided that's the girl I was going to marry.

KING: Like that?

SMITH: I don't advise that when I speak to kids about marriage and stuff. You know, but it is very rare. And I called my mom and I said, mom, I just saw the girl I'm going to marry. My mom said, what's her name? I said, mom, I don't know.

And I went out and found out that she was in the women's restroom, so I hung out beside the women's restroom for her to walk out. And introduced myself. We were engaged three and a half weeks later and married four months later.

KING: That will never last.

Ottawa, Canada, hello.

CALLER: Hello. When people find God, why do they always find the God of their parents? And when you found God, did he tell you which Christian denomination was the right one?

SMITH: Good question. Well, you know what? I think that for me, I found out that the God -- I had to personally find him in myself. My mom and dad had a big influence on me, but, you know, I think you have to go really work out your own salvation is what you have to do. And that's what I've done.

And denomination, I was raised in the Baptist church, but now I'm interdenominational. You know, to me--I'll probably get myself in trouble--I'm not a big fan of denominations because I think denominations divide us.

KING: So you don't believe in Presbyterians sort of thing?

SMITH: No, I mean, I think probably every denomination has a piece of it right, you know. I just wish we could kind of go let's just kind of unify.

I mean, that's what the whole movie's about, "Second Chance." You've got the white church, black church. You know, we say there's a problem, you know, but we don't do anything about it. You know, Sunday morning being still the most segregated hour of the week. We don't do anything about it. Let's do something about it.

KING: Did you try anything like rehab before finding God on the kitchen floor?

SMITH: No. I probably should have, but I didn't.

KING: Of course, you're not knocking that, are you?

SMITH: I'm not knocking that at all. I know a lot of people who went to rehab and have done extremely well.

KING: The movie "Second Chance" opens Friday. Back with more of Michael W. Smith and your phone calls. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM CAVIEZEL, "THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST": Between takes I had to wait up there. They couldn't take me off so this was the time I would put my DVD player in my ear, put some sound in it, and I just had them play that song over and over and over again. Above all, crucified, lay me behind the stone, you live to die rejected and alone.

And when I got to that point, I just kept weeping. And I was like OK, hold it back, hold it back, because I need that for the film. You can only weep so much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That's Jim, the wonderful Jim Caviezel, great guy, talking about his friend Michael Smith. What do you make of that?

SMITH: That's powerful to watch anyway. You know, I'm thankful,, you know, that Jim's a very good friend of mine, and, you know, I'm just glad. There's a song called "Above All" that I sang in one of my records was I'm just thankful that it gave him strength. I mean...

KING: He had it in his ear.

SMITH: Every time they would cut, he would have the little Italian guy get on a ladder and go up that ladder and put those headphones on his ears, a little walkman, and he would just put repeat and play the thing over and over again.

He tells me to this day, he says I never would have made it. I think I would have died if I didn't have that song playing in my ears.

KING: My gosh. How does that make you feel?

SMITH: I don't know. It's a little overwhelming actually.

KING: Did you go see the movie after you learned it too?

SMITH: I saw the movie before. Mel Gibson had come to town to Nashville. A select few of us got to see the film. And I had already met Jim, but when I saw that I called him.

And then he just said, I can't believe you called. I just can't believe you called. And he told me that story. And we've kind of been good friends ever since.

KING: Wonderful guy.

Bloomington, Illinois, hello.

CALLER: Hello, Michael and Larry.

Michael, I've been hugely inspired by both your music and Amy Grant's music. I was just wondering who you were inspired by, both musically and life in general?

KING: That's a good question.

SMITH: Yes, that is a good question. Well, I grew up -- musically I was inspired by the Beatles, Elton John, Kansas. You know, I grew up on rock 'n roll. I also grew up on Andrae Crouch, the Evan Hoffman singers.

And, so I think in the early days there was a guy named Larry Norman and Randy Stonehill. They were the kind of cutting edge of what we call contemporary Christian music because they were playing rock 'n roll and talking about their faith.

And I just thought that was the coolest thing since sliced bread. I just thought that was just amazing. And so I thought I want to do the same thing.

KING: Who are your contemporaries now? I know how huge you are. Who else is big...

SMITH: In music or just in life in general?

KING: In Christian music.

SMITH: You know what? I'm always kind of looking for the new and kind of the new thing. Switchfoot is kind of a new band.

KING: Is there a female?

SMITH: Well, Amy Grant.

KING: I know that. Other than here. Is there a female up and coming?

SMITH: You know what? I am sure there is. I mean, nobody just pops into my mind right now. There are a lot of great artists in our industry.

KING: Do you play all the big concert halls?

SMITH: I have. And I continue to. I still sometimes go back and play the small halls. We still just got through playing soccer stadiums in Brazil. And I found myself -- all these people are still showing up. And I think it's time to pass the baton to let somebody else have it.

KING: You're big all over the world?

SMITH: In some places, yes. I'm trying to be humble here, Larry.

KING: I know. They understand what you're saying?

SMITH: You know, you go to South Korea, and they don't speak a lot of English, but they sing every word to every song. Paris, France, which I thought we'd have maybe 100 people, we had 3,000, 4,000 people sing every word to every song.

KING: Huntington, West Virginia, hello.

CALLER: Hello.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: I'm a longtime friend and supporter from Huntington, your hometown.

SMITH: That's right.

KING: What's your name?

CALLER: Darrell Clark (ph). Good to see you on there, Mike. God bless you brother.

SMITH: Thank you.

CALLER: I have a question for you about your movie.

SMITH: OK.

CALLER: I'm disappointed that it's not opening in Huntington.

SMITH: So am I.

CALLER: Why is it not?

KING: You're from Huntington right?

SMITH: Well from Kenova, which is just 10 or 15 miles from Huntington. You know what? The reason it's not opening in Huntington, which I probably should have pushed for that more because that's my hometown state, West Virginia, is I think we have a limited budget.

We could only afford to open up in so many markets the first week. And so we found the biggest markets, which is -- Huntington is not one of those, which I'm sad to say.

But I think if we do well the first weekend in the Portland, Seattle, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Nashville, you know, if we open up strong that first weekend, which I am putting my marketing hat on here--we need your support--if we open up strong, I think we'll at least double our markets. And I would say there's a really good chance we'll come to Huntington.

KING: There's no one single market they're opening in a sweep in a group of markets?

SMITH: Yes.

KING: You've got to go to Huntington.

SMITH: I got to go to Huntington.

KING: We're talking with Michael W. Smith. Back with more phone calls in a moment.

Right now, let's check in New York with Anderson Cooper, the host of "AC 360."

Are you in New York?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Actually not, Larry. We're doing a special edition of "360" tonight live from New Orleans where today the people of the city, Larry, had a tough time listening to the testimony Capitol Hill from former FEMA Director Michael Brown.

He was in the hot seat defensive about what he and the White House did and didn't do when Katrina struck.

Also tonight we are going to have an in-depth look at the missing. Almost six months after Katrina not just doctors and nurses missing, but people and pets, money and homes are missing in the city. We haven't forgotten the damage here. And we're keeping them honest at the top of the hour--Larry.

KING: Anderson, did you have any advance notice what was going to happen today to send you down there? Because that was kind of embarrassing.

COOPER: Yes, it was remarkable testimony today. You know, we didn't have an advance notice. We knew there was going to be testimony, and we decided yesterday late in the day, you know what? We should come down here, and, yes, it was good timing. And the people here, I mean, we're watching that testimony very closely.

KING: Thanks, Anderson.

Anderson Cooper with "AC 360" at the top of the hour.

Right back with Michael W. Smith right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: We are back with Michael W. Smith. "The Second Chance" opens next Friday.

What do you think of a lot of contemporary music, you know, the Britney and Eminem?

SMITH: Well, some of it I like. Some of it I don't. You know, I'm a big U2 fan. So it was nice to see them win the other night. I thought Bruce Springsteen was amazing. Some of it I can't relate to. But I mean, I guess that's OK.

KING: What did you make of Kanye West's cover of "Rolling Stone" wearing that Christ-like crown of thorns? Did it offend you?

SMITH: I would say that's stepping over the line. And I don't know him, so I'm not going to make a judgment call. But obviously I would be extremely careful because that's a dangerous place to go. I think it was way out of line. But that's just my opinion.

KING: What do you think of him as an artist?

SMITH: You know what, I think he's really, really talented. There's no question. He's a creative human being. Absolutely.

KING: So there's some conflict in you why would someone with this talent do that?

SMITH: I would say so.

KING: To Greenbrook, New Jersey, hello.

CALLER: Hello, Larry.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: Hello, Michael.

SMITH: Hi.

CALLER: How are you?

SMITH: Doing well, thank you.

CALLER: That's good. Michael, first of all, I'd like to say that we thoroughly enjoy your music. And I'd like to ask you the question of, which one of your songs--I know you've had multiple songs, all have been popular, but if you were to say, which one of your songs was truly inspirational to you?

KING: Is there any one close to you?

SMITH: Well, I would say "Place in this World" was probably one, which was a big hit on pop radio. You know, my favorite song I've ever written is a song called "All is Well." And it's on my first Christmas album. Still to this day, if there's one song that I still tear up when I listen to--I hope that's OK that tear up to your own song, but there's just something about what happened with the marriage of the music and the lyrics. It's the American Boy Choir with a huge orchestra. And it takes your breath away.

KING: Is "Healing Rain" a pop song?

SMITH: It is a pop song. Very spiritual.

KING: So not a departure for you?

SMITH: No, not at all.

KING: But it is pop?

SMITH: Yes.

KING: Davie, Florida, hello.

CALLER: Hi. Actually, I wanted to say that when Tara (ph) sang that song in your Fort Lauderdale Christmas concert, " All is Well," it was absolutely phenomenal.

SMITH: Well, thank you.

CALLER: When she sang that it was amazing.

SMITH: She knocked it out of the park.

CALLER: But I'm calling from Davie. And I wanted to know when you're going to do your next live worship album. Because my father's a pastor, and our church we do your worship songs. And my kids watch your DVDS.

And I've been listening to your music. I'm 30 years old, and I've been listening to you since as long as I can remember.

SMITH: You know what, that's a good question, because I really don't know. When this movie comes out I'm supposed to start on record number 19. And what that record holds, I just don't know at this point.

You know, I just -- when I did the worship albums, it was worship and worship again. Those were borne out of real conviction in my heart. And I did them because that was what I was really supposed to do.

I think to go out and manufacture a third worship album is probably not the right move for me. So whatever it is I think you'll be happy with it. At least I hope it's my best record. That's what every artist hopes that they do is that their next album is the best one they've ever done.

KING: It'll be your 19th?

SMITH: This record number 19.

KING: Are you doing a lot of promotion for "The Second Chance?"

SMITH: A lot of promotion. I haven't worked this hard since I started. You know, I mean, we're burning it up to try to let people know about the movie.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with Michael W. Smith. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The music of Michael W. Smith has had an impact on millions of people all over the world. He has been an ambassador of good news for 20 years. His signature song "Friends" is a personal favorite in our house. Thank you and God bless you Michael for your friendship to me and Barbara and to our kids too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: When President Bush the first turned 80 there was a gigantic birthday party in Houston at the baseball. I had the honor of being the emcee of that event. Five former world leaders were there and Michael w. Smith was one of many great entertainers. That was a memorable night.

SMITH: And you were a good host.

KING: That was a fun night.

SMITH: That was a great night.

KING: You're a friend of both Bushes, huh?

SMITH: I am.

KING: Are you very political?

SMITH: You know what? Yes and no. You know, I always think about whether I should run one day. I think that's the craziest thing I've ever thought of in my life, because I don't think I would make a very good politician.

And it's so funny because Bono the other night said, you should run. I said, what are you talking about? You should run. I said, I can't be a politician. He said don't. Just run and win and don't be a politician.

KING: That's why you run. Don't be a politician.

SMITH: Don't be a politician.

But, yes, the Bush family have been really good to the Smiths. We really love them very much.

KING: And also, Billy Graham?

SMITH: Billy's a dear friend. I love him.

KING: He is a friend of ours, too. Billy's watching right now.

SMITH: Is he watching?

KING: Oh, Billy doesn't miss it. Billy is our most loyal viewer.

SMITH: Oh, he loves you know that.

KING: What a story you are. You must pinch yourself a little. From the lowest depths to the top.

SMITH: Well, I guess it's a miracle. That's all I can say. And I'm grateful. I'm humbled. I'm honored. You know, I just want to make sure I do the right thing for the rest of the days of my life. It's too late to miss it.

KING: I wouldn't bet against it. You're a good guy man.

SMITH: Thank you, Larry.

KING: "The Second Chance" opens next Friday. Michael W. Smith, the three-time Grammy winner, one of the major, major stars in Christian contemporary music.

Tomorrow night, we'll repeat our program on heart disease. Sunday night repeat the program with "Growing Pains." And Monday night take a look back at United Flight 93 back on 9/11, 2001.

Right now, we turn to New Orleans where Anderson Cooper--he's a much familiar sight down there. They must know you. Everybody down there must know you. Anderson Cooper, the host of "AC 360," there was an extraordinary session on Congress today. Anderson Cooper following up on that and lots of other things.

Anderson, go get them.

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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