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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Can Valerie Bertinelli Lose The Weight?; Elizabeth Edwards Speaks Out; Steve Stanton Fired for Sex Change
Aired April 15, 2007 - 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, Valerie Bertonelli. First, she had to admit to the world that she needs to lose a lot of weight. Now she has to have the whole country watch, to see if she can drop those pounds.
It worked for Kirstie Alley -- will it work for her?
And then, Elizabeth Edwards.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELIZABETH EDWARDS, WIFE OF DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE JOHN EDWARDS: John was saying that, last week, people asked him how I was doing and he said, She is cancer free. It turned out not to be the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Her first prime time interview since announcing her breast cancer's back, it's spread, and it's now incurable. How are she, her husband and children dealing with this life-changing news?
Plus, meet Steve, who is finally about to fulfill his desperate, life-long desire to become Susan. How did he tell his wife and son, and what's he going to do about being fired by the city he'd managed for 14 years, once his gender reassignment plan was revealed? He's here to make a big announcement, too.
And it's all next, on LARRY KING LIVE.
KING: It's a great pleasure to welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE, after too long an absence, Valerie Bertinelli.
In fact, you're out and about, you see "People" magazine, she's on the cover. A great shot, too, and a great story.
VALERIE BERTINELLI, ACTRESS/SPOKESWOMAN FOR JENNY CRAIG: Thank you.
KING: She -- and there it is.
New spokesperson for Jenny Craig.
She played Barbara Cooper for nine years on the hit TV sitcom "One Day At A Time." She played Gloria on the series "Touched By An Angel."
Tell me the history of this hookup with Jenny Craig.
BERTINELLI: A long time coming. I drove by their center a million times, it seems like. And I saw what a wonderful job Kirstie did in her go at it. I mean she looks phenomenal now. And she had a great time doing it. She did it with humor and I thought I really want -- I want to do this.
And when they called...
KING: They called you?
BERTINELLI: They called me. But I thought I'm going to do this diet. I'm not going to do it, you know, on TV. I'm just going to do the diet. And I was thinking -- getting myself in there. And then they called. I thought ooh, gosh, that would be really fun to work with her. But then I'd have to like really lose weight and really do it.
KING: But you -- you put yourself on the spot with the campaign.
BERTINELLI: You really do.
KING: I mean they pay you...
BERTINELLI: Yes. And you have to...
KING: You are a paid spokesman.
KING: But you still -- the public looks at you.
BERTINELLI: Yes. And I have to lose six pounds a month, which so far so good. I've lost 13, so.
KING: And you always...
BERTINELLI: And it's only been a month.
KING: Have you always had a weight problem?
BERTINELLI: Yes, I think I -- I really have, whether it's been in my head or in reality, it's always been there, because there's been times where I've been a perfectly normal weight and I think I'm fat. We always have that fat voice in our heads, which is stupid.
But that's, once again, something about society and how you grow up. And I was told I was chubby and chunky when I was 13, so I believed that my whole life.
KING: But when we saw you on "One Day At A Time," you were never overweight.
BERTINELLI: I look at that now and I think that. And yet I was told I was chunky.
KING: What's the goal?
BERTINELLI: My goal is to get down to my driver's license weight, which I haven't changed in 15, 20 years.
KING: How much overweight are you?
BERTINELLI: I think...
KING: In your opinion.
BERTINELLI: In my opinion, it'll -- you know what?
I won't know until I get there how overweight I was. I know that I'm starting to feel a lot better with this first amount of weight that's come off. My knees don't hurt any longer and my -- it's easier for me to run up the stairs. So I'm getting more energy.
I'm going to really try and base it on that and not give it a number. I've given it a size, but I don't know if that's the size I'm -- I don't know.
KING: How -- what's the heaviest you've been?
BERTINELLI: I'm not telling you.
KING: In your own mind -- all right, without giving the weight, was it something you were embarrassed by?
BERTINELLI: Oh, absolutely. That's why I'm not saying the number. I think maybe when I get down to where I'm comfortable and where -- I know it's so silly, because I'm doing this in front of everybody. But -- and it, really, it's just a number. But I don't want my boyfriend knowing how fat I was.
KING: Now, you're not tall.
BERTINELLI: No. I'm 5'4," 5'4"-1/2. 5'4"-3/4. (LAUGHTER).
KING: So it had to be -- what kind of eater were you?
BERTINELLI: I'm a grazer.
BERTINELLI: I'm not a, you know, I -- I was never a TGI Friday eater, where they give you ridiculous amounts of food. But -- and I was -- I never really kept myself to Jenny Craig portions, which are really healthy, normal portions.
But I think I just grazed a lot during the -- and I didn't even realize what I was eating...
KING: Like a cow?
BERTINELLI: I was unconscious. Yes, thinks, Larry.
KING: You grazed in the grass.
BERTINELLI: Yes, I'm a cow.
KING: No, well, cows graze.
BERTINELLI: I know. Yes. Yes.
KING: Horses graze.
BERTINELLI: It's an English term, you old cow, you know?
KING: But so you -- so it wasn't emotional eating?
BERTINELLI: I'm a bit of an emotional eater, yes. Emotional, unconscious. And may -- the great thing about Jenny Craig is that they will tell you. You'll fill out this questionnaire and they'll tell you where to look what your eating habits are. And emotional and unconscious were my two big ones.
KING: Do you have to attend anywhere?
BERTINELLI: Yes, I go to the center once a week to get weighed in.
KING: And then you take your food home?
BERTINELLI: And then...
KING: The food comes from them, right?
BERTINELLI: ... yes. And then you go -- you go to their freezer and they pack it all up for you and you just add what you want. It's really easy. They make it really easy to lose weight.
KING: Good to have her back.
She's the spokesperson for Jenny Craig.
More after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY JENNY CRAIG INTERNATIONAL)
KIRSTIE ALLEY, ACTRESS: Hey, Jennie, listen, I'm not fat anymore. But my friend Valerie Bertinelli is.
BERTINELLI: Hello. Standing right here. ALLEY: Oh. No, she's going to love you. Your program was so easy for me to stick with that I lost 75 pounds. No, she's not fat like I was. She's just sort of fat.
BERTINELLI: Yes. Tell her I want to lose 30 pounds.
ALLEY: You tell her.
BERTINELLI: Oh, no. I'm too shy.
You're losing weight in front of millions of people.
BERTINELLI: I am?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM JENNIE CRAIG AD)
UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: This is it.
UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: This is life, the one you get. So go and have a ball.
This is it.
UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: This is it.
UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: Straight ahead and rest assured you can't be (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on. So while you're here, enjoy the music, keep on doing what you do. Hold on tight we'll muddle through one day at a time.
UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: One day at a time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Valerie Bertinelli.
You can see her on the front cover of "People" magazine. And she's the spokesperson for Jenny Craig. Mackenzie Phillips, who played your older sister, she was tall and thin.
KING: Did that have an effect on you?
BERTINELLI: It did, very much so. Yes. I wanted to look just like her. And I was -- I had just had the curves, you know? And I didn't like it. And she was just...
KING: Yes, there she is.
BERTINELLI: Oh, there she is. Yes.
KING: What happened to her?
BERTINELLI: I'll be seeing her tomorrow, actually, at the TV Land Awards.
KING: What is she doing?
BERTINELLI: She's busy working. She's a working actress.
KING: Did she lick that drug problem?
BERTINELLI: Yes, she did. Yes. Yes.
KING: Were you with her and support her through all that?
BERTINELLI: I wasn't with her through a lot of it. Some of it happened during the show and I was with her and I always supported her. But in her -- the recent, all of -- everything she's gone through, no, we don't stay in touch a lot, unfortunately. But I love her.
KING: We have an e-mail from Sylvia in Port Orange, New Jersey: "Valerie, you have always been beautiful. Do you believe your years of dealing with Eddie Van Halen's alcohol problem, then the breakup of the marriage to him contributed to your weight gain?"
BERTINELLI: No. No, not at all. I have different reasons -- I mean I've been struggling with my weight almost my entire life. Ed had nothing to do with it. No.
As a matter of fact, he was -- he was encouraging a lot of the time, discouraging at some points, too. But, no, I can't...
KING: Do you ever see or talk to him?
BERTINELLI: Yes, all the time.
KING: Is he the father of the boy?
BERTINELLI: Yes. He's -- he's Wolfie's dad. I see him all the time.
KING: Is he a good father?
BERTINELLI: He's a wonderful father. Yes.
KING: You were in Al-Anon, right, the...
BERTINELLI: I would go...
KING: ... relative of the alcoholic, right?
BERTINELLI: Well, it's very difficult to -- some of them -- to go to, because it's supposed to be anonymous and it ends up not being anonymous when they see you there, because they talk about it. So it's -- I went to private therapy after that. But, yes...
KING: And Eddie had two battles with oral cancer, right?
BERTINELLI: One, I believe.
BERTINELLI: Or two...
KING: How is he doing?
BERTINELLI: He's doing great. He really is.
KING: So all is nice, huh?
BERTINELLI: All is terrific. We have a really wonderful family. His girlfriend comes over for Christmas dinner and all the kids are there...
KING: He knows your boyfriend?
BERTINELLI: He knows Tom. It's terrific, yes. All the kids are together at Christmas, in the summer and -- yes, it's great.
KING: Was there ever a kind of rock bottom moment about your weight, when it really hit you?
You said you drove by Jenny Craig a lot.
BERTINELLI: There might have been a few rock bottom moments where -- that it -- I'm -- I'm a slow learner. And it takes me -- I'm a -- I procrastinate a lot. And I -- there was a moment in a store where someone didn't know I was listening and they said something very unkind about my weight. And it was -- I crawled out of the store hoping that they didn't see me, because I didn't want them to know that I had heard them.
And I've heard different things and separate things. And I think it just -- it was a buildup to where I -- and then my knees hurting. Then I finally said, you know, this is ridicule. I'm going to be 50 in three years and I don't want to do this anymore. I want to have the body. I want to be the person -- I want to enjoy my life.
I found out I would -- I was becoming a hermit. And I wouldn't go out. I wouldn't do things. I didn't want to go out. I didn't want people to see me. And I don't want to be a hermit for the rest of my life. I have a whole other life to live.
KING: Boy, do you not look 50.
BERTINELLI: Oh, thank you.
Well, I'm not 50 yet.
KING: Oh, me. I mean you don't look anywhere close to it.
BERTINELLI: Thank you.
KING: Is it kind of also a little embarrassing?
BERTINELLI: Very embarrassing...
KING: To be called by Jenny Craig?
KING: To say we'd like you to be our spokesperson?
BERTINELLI: Yes. It's like oh my god, they know I'm fat, too. It's like how could they know that; I don't go out anywhere?
But, yes, it was embarrassing. But now it's become freeing. It's like OK, I can say it. Yes, I know what you're thinking.
KING: Now the commercials, are you and Kirstie going to be kind of teamed...
BERTINELLI: Yes. And I just love it. We -- we just shot the second one yesterday and it's just -- it's so much fun, because this woman, she's brilliant. She's -- her mind.
KING: Oh, yes. (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
BERTINELLI: She just always goes. She's got ideas and ideas and I'm just -- I'm a huge fan. I'm going to be her stalker. Don't tell her, but I just love her.
KING: Do you know that Jenny is a close friend of this show and she's been on this show?
I have not met her yet. I'm very excited about that.
KING: You haven't met Jenny Craig?
BERTINELLI: No, I'm very excited about meeting her. I'm hoping to go down to San Diego soon so I can meet her.
KING: Oh, you ought to go when her husband -- a great guy.
Oh, that's nice to know.
KING: You're on a 1,200 calories a day?
KING: Can you make that?
BERTINELLI: Easily. Easily.
KING: That's hard.
BERTINELLI: I've been doing it for over a month. It's not hard. It -- well, OK, yes, it's hard, obviously, because it's always hard going on a -- if it was easy, it would have been able to do it a long time ago.
But the reason maybe I'm thinking it's easier is because I have a terrific consultant. I have -- I have Kirstie. I have people -- I have Tom helping me. He's on it. I have the support of my boy and my stepson. I have -- this just -- I -- it's just, there's a lot of support around me. I think that's how you do it.
KING: Tom is your boyfriend?
KING: We'll be back with more with Valerie Bertinelli coming up.
KING: Our guest is Valerie Bertinelli.
Now, do you find, since this all came out, people checking you out?
KING: I mean you go to the grocery store, hey, Valerie, what are you buying that for?
BERTINELLI: Not a lot of that yet. I think it's still too new. But most everybody that's -- especially in the last week, it's you don't need to lose weight. It's like where were you a couple of month's ago when I was here and I did?, you know.
KING: You don't look overweight.
BERTINELLI: Thank you. I am, I am.
KING: Paparazzi follow you around?
BERTINELLI: No. And I don't believe they ever will. I'm not interesting enough, thank God.
KING: Would you do a TV series again?
BERTINELLI: Absolutely, in a heartbeat.
KING: Any offers coming in?
KING: What do you mean, no?
BERTINELLI: Well, because -- OK, sitcoms, whatever I mean -- basically when they're looking for mothers of 20-year-olds or 24-year- olds they're hiring 35-year-old actresses. I'm kind of up there. So I don't know. I think they'd be stupid not to hire me. I think I'm pretty talented, but I don't run the networks.
KING: You do summer stock, you do theater, you do anything?
BERTINELLI: I'd love to do that. I'd love to do that. Well, to do my -- before I die list, that's one of the things I want to do is do a play again, preferably on Broadway or off-Broadway.
KING: You've done that before?
BERTINELLI: Not Broadway, but I have done plays before, yes, and I enjoy them.
KING: Don't you miss the whole schtick?
BERTINELLI: I do. I miss being in front of a live audience. I like that. That's what I love about sitcoms. But they're not doing a heck of a lot the sitcoms these days so, I don't know. I might have to wait a little while.
KING: Don't you think all this attention can bring something back to you. Somebody is going to say, hey.
BERTINELLI: And they'll realize I'm not dead.
KING: She fits this.
BERTINELLI: That'd be nice because I haven't really tapped out of the spotlight since Wolfy was in kindergarten. I've really kind of not worked a lot. I've worked a little, but I don't like to travel because I don't like to be away from him.
KING: Because you a very young about to be 50.
BERTINELLI: Well, thank you.
KING: I mean you really are.
BERTINELLI: Would you stop saying I'm about to be 50.
KING: You're the one who said it.
BERTINELLI: I know. I know. But I've got three years.
KING: You know, if I make you nervous, you'll go out and eat.
The complete first season of the Emmy-winning sitcom series "One Day at a Time" is coming out on DVD on April 24 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
BERTINELLI: It's about time.
KING: There it is, the cover. Yes, it is about time.
BERTINELLI: Yes, yes. Wait; let me say hi to the Vitales (ph) and the Altieris (ph) first because they're all sitting around having a party, watching Larry King right now.
KING: They're your boyfriend's family?
BERTINELLI: Yes, his family.
KING: Where in Ohio are they?
BERTINELLI: Cuyahoga Falls, did I say it right?
KING: It's outside of Cleveland?
BERTINELLI: Yes, yes.
KING: We have an e-mail from Lisa in Fort Smith, Arkansas. "How have you raised such a wonderful son when both you and his father have been in the spotlight at the same time? How have you kept him grounded and out of trouble?"
BERTINELLI: He is a very, very loved boy. I mean he is unconditionally loved by both of us. And you know what we really haven't been in the spotlight as much as people really think. I mean we started off that way. But I have taken it easy since -- not taking it easy, I've been raising him since he came into kindergarten. It's about 10 years. So I'm there. I'm an at-home home.
KING: When you look at "One Day at a Time," when you look at Barbara Cooper, what do you think?
BERTINELLI: I think what a sweet little girl. And it's not me. It looks like some -- I can't connect to it. It's a whole other lifetime ago. I mean do you do the same thing when you look at baby pictures, too? Who is that little thing? It's the same thing except I have live action baby pictures.
KING: Why was the series so successful?
BERTINELLI: Gosh, I don't know.
KING: A lot of years.
BERTINELLI: A lot of years, nine years, from '75 to '84. I think maybe it had to do with -- just those kinds of things were not talked about a lot back then. And you know how can you go wrong with Norman Lear producing your show? I mean he knew what the heck he was doing.
KING: Great scripts.
BERTINELLI: Yes, great scripts.
KING: First thing, it has to be the script comes first.
BERTINELLI: Yes, yes. They did a lot of work on those.
KING: Best of luck, Valerie.
BERTINELLI: Thank you, Larry.
KING: Now, we'll follow you, OK?
KING: We'll keep in touch...
KING: ...like once a month, once every six weeks.
BERTINELLI: I'll come in and I'll tell you how much weight I lost.
KING: We will not weigh you but you'll be honest and tell us -- well, we'll see how well you're doing.
BERTINELLI: Well, you have to be honest, too. I mean you can't lie.
KING: Larry: I must say though, you look terrific.
BERTINELLI: Thank you.
KING: Valerie Bertinelli, the new spokeswoman for Jenny Craig.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING (to Elizabeth Edwards): What did you make of all of the flack over the fact that your husband continued the campaign?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We now welcome Elizabeth Edwards to LARRY KING LIVE. It's always good having her with us. She's in Des Moines.
How are you feeling physically?
EDWARDS: I feel fine, physically. You know I've got two kids who keep me pretty busy. I was up at 5:00 with them this morning. So if I get worn out, it's probably more likely to be a 6-year-old and an 8-year-old, than the recurrence of the cancer. I've had no side effects so far. No symptoms whatsoever.
KING: What treatment are you getting? EDWARDS: I'm getting a bone strengthener that I take intravenously. It just takes 15 minutes. There's no apparent side effects and I'm taking a drug that is tailored for the kind of cancer I have, that I hope will be enormously successful in reducing it in my body and certainly keeping it under control.
KING: When someone says something you to like "inoperable" or "terminal" or those kinds of words, how do you deal with that?
EDWARDS: Well, I mean you've sort of been in this position too where you face something that's pretty serious.
EDWARDS: The truth is that all of life is terminal. We're all dying some day.
EDWARDS: So that's the prognosis for all of us. But Jonathan Alter said something to me, which was really right, he said, You know you all are saying that this is incurable, when the real thing you should be saying is, it's not curable at the present time. Because as we know, the great strides we've made in medicine.
You remember when Magic Johnson made his announcement and we all thought, in our heads if we didn't say it out loud, I wonder how long he has to live. It can't be very long, a year, two years. And in truth, what was incurable, maybe it's not -- it's still not curable, but it's completely manageable and he's lived a completely full life ever since that diagnosis. I hope to do the same thing.
KING: What did you make of all of the flack over the fact that your husband continued the campaign?
EDWARDS: Honestly, it didn't bother me for us. We're used to criticism. What it bothered me about was, other people who are facing exactly the same kinds of questions we're facing and decide that what they're going to do is embrace their lives. They're going to continue the work that they thought was important yesterday is still important today and will be important tomorrow. And I was fearful that people took that as a criticism of them and the choices they made. For us, you know, it's water off our backs. We're used to criticism.
KING: How is Senator Edwards doing?
EDWARDS: He's doing great. He's been such an unbelievable support to me. You know I think people got a chance to see that when we made the announcement, how strong, how focused he is, how determined. They didn't get to see him in the hospital as I saw him, tender and compassionate, wanting to know, you know, what I needed from him, because he would give me whatever I needed from him. He waited really for me to say what I wanted to do before he said that he agreed that we would continue the campaign. He was extremely -- he couldn't have been a better husband then and every day since then, supportive in every conceivable way. And I think it was a window for the American people to see the kind of decent, strong man that he is.
KING: Are you campaigning all the way with John?
EDWARDS: Well, today I'm not campaigning with John. Today I've been campaigning in Des Moines, Iowa, and in Ames, Iowa, on education, and opening the campaign office here. John, meanwhile, has been in New York and in Florida, doing rallies. I will campaign with him later this week and again next week. I hope to do a lot of campaigning with him, honestly. It's more fun that way for me. But we'll also have our separate campaign schedules.
KING: You're opening an office in Des Moines? He's been in Iowa forever.
EDWARDS: Well, so has the office a little bit. But you know it's like they -- you get around to cracking the champagne bottle over the front of the ship. In this case, the ship's probably already made one trip around the world before we got around to doing it
KING: Have you thought that this might, though, affect you, it might tire you, tat this might be a tough ordeal for someone with breast cancer?
EDWARDS: You know I certainly considered the possibility that my schedule would have to be curtailed from what it was in 2004. In the general election, though, I did -- I had an enormously tough schedule. I did four and five events a day, every day, you know, month after month, honestly. If I curtailed and did three or four events instead, I probably would be back where the rest of the pack is, in terms of what spouses do. But I don't imagine doing very much restricting my schedule very much. Honestly, I get energized by the crowds. They feed me when I'm in front of them. They emotionally they feed me.
KING: With Tony Snow announcing that his colon cancer her recurred, with Fred Thompson announcing that he has cancer in remission, do you think this might put a new impetus -- and you with breast cancer -- it might put a new impetus on health in this country?
EDWARDS: I really hope that's what happens, Larry. There are sort of three things I hope -- three parts of the conversation I hope can happen. One is the need for universal health care, because Tony Snow and Fred Thompson and I are going to get great health care. But the truth of the matter is, too many Americans across this country face these exact same diagnoses without the protections we have. So I'm very proud of John and his universal health care plan and maybe the conversation can turn to that.
Maybe also it can turn to the need for cancer research and other medical research that has been so under-funded in the last few years. It used to be that five in 10 grants requested the NIH work were given money. Now it's two in 10, and existing grants are being cut back. You know those other eight that are being turned down, the answers could be somewhere in there to the problems we face. We need to do it.
And also, lastly, people will think about their own mortality. You know what John and I have decided to do is, you know, try to fight for the things we believed in yesterday, believe in tomorrow for a better country. And we want people across this country to think about -- we know what we're going to do tomorrow, but for them to say what can I do to make this country a better place tomorrow.
KING: In 1970, then-President Richard Nixon declared war on cancer.
KING: And he was the only president ever to say it before or since. What happened to that war?
EDWARDS: Well, we've made enormous improvements. I mean the drugs I'm getting today were not available when Richard Nixon declared war on cancer. But a lot of people say, you know, if cancer were a foreign nation, we would have declared war on it again. And maybe the fact that this -- that cancer and high profile people across political lines may draw attention to it again and we can recommit ourselves to finding answers to this disease that threatens so many families and so many lives.
KING: Back with our remaining moments with Elizabeth Edwards right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN EDWARDS, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Both of us are committed to the cause. We're committed to changing this country that we love so much and we have no intention of cowering in the corner.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Elizabeth Edwards. How are the children taking all of this?
EDWARDS: They're great. They're great with the campaign. They seem to be, you know -- they probably don't understand the full implications of the diagnosis but we've certainly told them the words. And they're really great with the prospect of traveling with us this summer and in the fall campaigning. We're going to bring them with us.
And we'll also -- we'll combination of home school and tutor them -- have a tutor for them so they don't miss out on any school, but also get this great experience that we've had campaigning. So they're actually pretty enthusiastic about it.
KING: You said earlier today, Elizabeth that the 2008 presidential campaign so far has fallen into a cult of personality. What do you mean?
EDWARDS: Well, you know, you've been the victim of this some too. I think with -- in Hollywood, and in the entertainment industry, it's easy for people to fall into this idea of you know I'm interested in every move that Britney Spears makes, you know I want to know about Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. And it's really kind of harmless.
But when you're talking about politics and people become obsessed with these little details, it detracts from the real business of politics, the serious business of politics. And I think it's all right in the early stages, but we need to keep pressing. The people in the campaigns need to keep pressing the conversation towards the serious issues, towards global warming, towards finding a solution to the mess in Iraq, to finding answers to the health crisis in this country and making certain our education policy is preparing our next generation of children to have a better life as opposed to a worse life.
So we've got these important issues and while we're talking about personality, we're not talking about those.
KING: What do you say to a woman who might today have been told she has breast cancer?
EDWARDS: There's no reason in the world to start dying early. You have to -- in every step of the fight against this disease, you have to believe you're going to win. You have to experience each day with as much joy as you can and never, ever give up hope until the time when there really is no room whatsoever for hope. Until then, you hold onto it as hard as you possibly can.
KING: Thanks so much, Elizabeth, continued good luck. We'll see you along the trail.
EDWARDS: Absolutely. It's great to talk to you, Larry.
KING: Stay healthy. Elizabeth Edwards, wife of the Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: When did you first say, I'm the wrong gender?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His record is outstanding, and if it was not, then you would have never gien him a pay raise in September.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But I question the performance, and that has been my issue since day one with the city. And there are so many examples here, I can't cite all of them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I dealt with city managers and other managers all the time, and his is one of the best performances I've seen. He has served this city well.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Steven doesn't exist any longer, and Susan basically is brand new. No Social Security number, no elementary school, no high school, no college. We're talking about a (INAUDIBLE).
KING: We welcome to LARRY KING LIVE, Steve Stanton, the former city manager of Largo, Florida. He was fired last month after disclosing he was a transsexual and wanted to become a woman. With him is Karen Doering, she is senior counsel for the National Center for Lesbian Rights. She is the attorney for Steven Stanton.
How long has this feeling gone on, Steve? When did you first say, I'm the wrong gender?
STEVE STANTON, HUSBAND & FATHER FIRED AFTER 14 YEARS AS LARGO, FLORIDA CITY MANAGER: Yes, very earlier, since I was a child I can remember I wanted walk to the candy store in my sister's shoes. It was just a very profound knowledge that your body didn't match your spirit.
KING: What's the difference between that and wanting to be, or being gay?
STANTON: Yes, sexual identification -- orientation is very different from gender identification. So when you're a transsexual, it feels like your body does not match your...
KING: You don't belong?
STANTON: Yes, yes, yes, and it's not synonymous with sexual orientation at all.
KING: Yet you grew up hiding all of this. You got married and you had a son. What was marriage like?
STANTON: Marriage was good. I loved my wife. I got married because I wanted to have a lasting relationship. She's the best thing that's ever happened to me. We had a good marriage.
KING: Good boy, good son?
STANTON: Good son, a great son. My little son is named Travis, and he and I are extremely close.
KING: How's he dealing with all of this?
STANTON: He's been dealing with it great. He's been dealing with it great. His school took all of the right opportunities to make sure that he was able to continue on with class and has not missed a day.
KING: How did you tell your wife?
STANTON: Initially, it was difficult, because you don't think you would ever grow up wanting to change your gender. There those things that you think are permanent. And I realized I had to, it was a very difficult decision. I actually did it in an eight-page letter, in an eight-page letter, and it was very difficult.
KING: Is it difficult, Karen, for a lesbian to understand this, because you're different, right? You don't want to be a man?
KAREN DOERING, SENIOR COUNSEL, NATIONAL CENTER FOR LESBIAN RIGHTS: Correct, correct. You know, sexual orientation is about who you're attracted to, whereas you know gender identity disorder, the medical condition that Steve and a number of others have, is where basically your internal sense of who you are, what your mind tells you is your proper gender is inconsistent with the physical anatomy you have.
KING: And yet you became city manager, successful city manager for 14 years. You earned $140,000 a year, right?
STANTON: Yes, yes.
KING: Why didn't you just -- since you loved your wife and loved your kid, why didn't you just live it out?
STANTON: Yes, that's been the thousand dollar question. Why now and how come you had to do this? I guess ultimately, you want to be authentic to yourself. You want to make sure that you're going to be around for many years with your son. And I just wanted to be true to who I am. And I actually believed -- I believed that the city of Largo would be able to accept this. Even though that sounds maybe...
KING: Have you started the process?
STANTON: Yes, I have, absolutely.
KING: By doing what?
STANTON: Well, the first process is electrolysis to remove the hair from your face -- it's an extremely painful process. And then hormone therapy, where you start changing the outside of your body. And the last phase is when you try to actually experience life in your true gender, and that's where I am now.
KING: When will that take place?
STANTON: That will take place in about 30 to 60 days; at the end of May is when I'll be going as Susan full-time.
KING: Is your wife going to stay married to you?
STANTON: No, we'll be separating, probably around June.
KING: You were fired. You were surprised.
STANTON: Yes, shocked.
KING: What was the vote?
STANTON: Five to two.
KING: The mayor voted?
STANTON: The mayor voted to support me, as well as another commissioner.
KING: We contacted the mayor -- for the record, that's Mayor Pat Girard of Largo -- and she said, the city had no comment on the dismissal.
STANTON: Yes, at this point that's appropriate. I mean, everybody is worried about being sued and that's been a big concern. Everybody is always focusing on litigation these days.
KING: Are you going to sue?
DOERING: We advised Steve what his options were. We looked at the law and it's very clear that what the city of Largo did is illegal. You cannot fire somebody just because they announce that they're going to transition from male to female. That's absolutely clear that that's what they did in the city of Largo.
So what we did was, we laid out the options for Steve, and had real heart to heart about what litigation really looks like. It'll probably go on for years. And we talked about some other possibilities. And then we left it up to him to decide whether or not he wants to sue the city of Largo.
KING: You have decided yet?
STANTON: Absolutely. I decided the first night.
KING: You're going to sue?
STANTON: Of course not.
KING: Not sue?
STANTON: Of course not.
KING: Have you have gotten any other offers?
STANTON: Offers to sue?
KING: To be city manager somewhere else?
STANTON: Well, yes, I have some interviews scheduled. But the city of Largo has been great to me, 17 years. It is a city of progress. Other than the commissioners, who were just inundated with a lot of negative e-mail, the community was extremely embracing. I was not surprised, but reaffirmed how supportive they were with me.
KING: We were told you were going to make an announcement tonight of some kind?
STANTON: Yes, I think everybody thought we were going to sue because that's typical of what...
KING: So the announcement is you are not going to sue.
STANTON: We are not going to sue. Absolutely not. KING: That's the announcement?
STANTON: Well, because I think that there's a time for healing, as opposed to the decisive process of litigation. I always said from the first time that I really wanted to educate. I wanted to educate, to make people understand that just because you're transsexual doesn't mean you can't lead, doesn't mean you can't be a productive person. I think I can do that better as an advocate.
KING: As a lawyer, would he have had a good suit?
DOERING: Absolutely. I think he had a very strong suit and we've actually brought and won cases for transsexual people who were fired in the workplace in Florida. We talked about that with Steve. We talked about the options.
But from the beginning, and one of the things I admire most about Steve, is he said I just want to make sure that nobody else has to go through this. He knew he was in a very high-profile job. He knew that, you know, it would make the news, when he announced he was transitioning. And he hoped and believed that the city of Largo would do the right thing and he would be able to transition and keep his job.
Unfortunately, that didn't happen, but he wants to educate. He wants to help people understand this medical condition, transsexualism, understand what it is, and understand that these are human beings. It could be you or me or somebody's kid.
KING: How did you tell the city?
STANTON: How did I tell the city?
KING: How did you do it? Did you go before the council?
STANTON: Yes, we had an opportunity to make an appeal. We did that. We brought...
KING: I mean how did you tell them you were transsexual?
STANTON: Well, I didn't really tell them. I was "outed" -- quote, unquote by a local newspaper, who said we're running the story whether you tell your community or not. And that was unpleasant. That was kind of devastating actually.
KING: So tonight you officially tell them you're not going to sue.
STANTON: Absolutely, yes. When I told them the night of the process that -- I specifically said suing the city would be like suing my own mom, and it would have been. Largo's been too good to me.
KING: Did your co-workers know? Who knew about it, other than your wife?
STANTON: Well, when I first started to get very close to the point of which I would be bringing this in the workplace, I brought in four or five people that were occupationally trained to ensure some confidentiality, to talk very frankly of what the impact of this decision would be on their operation. And so about five people from the city.
KING: We'll be right back with Steve Stanton and Karen Doering. Don't go away.
KING: One commissioner was reported as saying, "I do feel he was the integrity, nor the trust, nor the respect nor the confidence to continue." How do you respond to that?
STANTON: Yes, and that was a perspective that a few people had. I think people don't understand the courage and conviction it took to stand up and really discuss something extremely personal like this, and knowing the public reaction that was going to follow.
DOERING: One of the things we know from the medical experts who deal with transsexualism all the time -- and at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, we deal with people transitioning in the workplace all the time -- and this is the kind of reaction that is absolutely normal and human. When you tell somebody, you share a deep part of yourself. Hey, I am transsexual. The initial reaction is how can I not have known that? How can I trust you now? You kept this from me. And that is a very human reaction.
KING: What was the plan you said had?
DOERING: Well, Steve had come up with a great plan. It's the kind of plan that we recommend for anybody who's transitioning in the workplace. You tell a human resources person. You tell your immediate supervisor. As the city manager, the closest thing he has to an immediate supervisor is the mayor. You bring in some of the key leaders in the organization. You set up training so that -- and you plan how you're going to announce this to folks, so that you can do the education, so that yes, there's going to be a speed bump. This is going to be shocking to people. But there are ways, when it's done properly, when it's handled properly, it can absolutely be done well. People transition in the workplace all the time and are very, very successful.
KING: What is it like, Steve, to live in a body that's wrong for you? Day to day, wasn't it?
STANTON: Yes, it's something, when I discussed with other transsexuals, it's a situation when you wake up, it's the first thing you think about when you wake up and the last thing you think about when you go to bed at night. It feels like that there's something profoundly wrong with who you know you are and who you portray to be to the outside world.
KING: And you want to be your wife?
STANTON: No, I want to be who I am. I don't want to be my wife. I want to be who I am and I want to be an authentic person and I want to be somebody who can be productive. And I think I can still do that. And I can still be an extremely effective city manager.
KUDLOW: Do you expect your son to call you Dad?
STANTON: I expect my son to call my anything he's comfortable calling me. What I do expect and I have received is his love and his support.
KING: Are you scared?
STANTON: I'm terrified. This is going to be a very substantial challenge. Having my reputation smeared by so many people that really thought because I'm a transsexual that I'm not able to do my job and all of the things that people sort of came up with, justified their decisions, has been devastating. So I'm very...
KING: Are you scared of the surgery?
STANTON: No, not at all.
KING: That's what I meant.
STANTON: Yes, the surgery, no. The surgery is not -- a lot of folks don't have the surgery. My intention is to do so. But right now I need to get my life...
KING: A lot don't have the surgery. They just, what, wear female clothing?
STANTON: Well, they live who they are.
KING: They're hiding?
STANTON: I wouldn't say they're hiding but I don't think your genitalia really defines your personality and who you are as a whole person.
DOERING: Yes. And the surgery is for a lot of people is cost prohibitive. Almost every insurance company out there puts this specific prohibition in there that they do not cover sex reassignment surgery. And so, this is a medical condition. It's the only accepted medical protocol but it's not covered by insurance and not everyone has 20 or 30 grand.
KING: What specialist does the surgery and what code of surgery?
DOERING: Well, there are many...
KING: Plastic surgeons?
DOERING: Well, there are medical standards of care and different -- depending on which surgical procedure, if it's, you know, a chest reconstruction of some sort, depending on whether it's a male to female or female to male, then that would probably be some sort of plastic surgeon.
KING: Isn't female to male harder?
DOERING: Female to male...
DOERING: The bottom surgery for them is more difficult, yes.
KING: Do you know where you're going to have it done already, Steve?
STANTON: I have no idea. It's almost irrelevant at this point. It really is. That was a big focus. That's the sensational aspect of this story, the sex change, what is he going to wear, when is she going to be...
KING: That's because people think about that.
STANTON: Yes, they do. And it shows a lack of education. And that's why I think litigation in this situation is not nearly as important as education. And I think -- I had a very unique opportunity having a national stage now to communicated in ways that people don't.
KING: Do you want to be a city manager again?
STANTON: Oh, absolutely. I was extremely good at it. I was extremely good at being a city manager. I enjoyed the city of Largo and I had a lot of friends in the city. And that's been the biggest adjustment that so many people...
KING: Do you want to stay in Florida?
STANTON: Probably, but not necessarily. You know city managers, we tend to be nomadic. So I'll go where I feel comfortable.
KING: Have you received a lot of support?
STANTON: I've received extreme support. We have people sending food to the house and flowers. There was an interfaith rally in the city of Saint Petersburg. Absolutely. I was not prepared for the emotional outpouring that so many people gave us the last three weeks. It's been superior.
KING: Where is it all going to go, Karen? Do you think we'll ever have a society that totally accepts this?
DOERING: I think we will. Again, I think it takes time. This is a new concept that society doesn't understand very well. And I think by Steve, you know, taking the stand, because he was such a public figure, and sharing his story, it helps people understand transsexualism. It helps them understand that this is just another medical process. And once he transitions and starts living as Susan, people will realize that he's the same person he's always been. And Susan Stanton will be absolutely every bit as good a city manager as Steve Stanton.
KING: You're going to be Susan?
KING: Why did you pick Susan?
STANTON: I didn't, my mom did.
KING: What does she think of this?
STANTON: Well, she died but she would have been proud. She would have been proud.
KING: So she knew all about this?
STANTON: She did not know about it.
KING: Then how did she pick Susan?
STANTON: Because I asked her when I was about 7, "Mom, what would my name have been if I was a girl?" And she told me the name Susan. And it just exploded in my head. That was the identification of who I was.
KING: May I be the first to welcome you, Susan?
STANTON: Thank you.
KING: He's still Steve. He will be Susan.
Thank you, Karen.
DOERING: Thank you.
KING: Steve Stanton, the former city manager of Largo, Florida; Karen Doering, his attorney, the senior counsel for the National Center for Lesbian Rights. And again, Steve announcing tonight, he will not -- repeat, not sue the city of Largo.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A consummate professional.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mayor Gerard.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have not communicated well.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Vice Mayor Crozier?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ...consider stepping down.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Commissioner Arnizen.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have lost confidence.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Commissioner Black.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope we can move forward in this city with a greater understanding.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Commissioner Woods.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But he's lost his standing as a leader.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Commissioner Gentry (ph)?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I no longer can trust his judgment.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Commissioner Guyette?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Motion carries 5-2.
Be it asked for the city manager to be put on administrative leave, I believe.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We do need to appoint an interim city manager.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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