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Interview with Tyler Perry; Dolly Parton Speaks Out

Aired February 20, 2009 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, he's gone from being homeless to hanging out with Oprah and making mega millions at the movies.


TYLER PERRY, FILMMAKER/ACTOR: I always believed that it would work no matter what.


KING: He directs, he writes, produces and plays a pistol-packing grandma named Madea.


PERRY: Did I ever ask you for some me time?

What the hell is me time?


KING: Tyler Perry shares his amazing story.

And then, the one, the only Dolly Parton.


DOLLY PARTON: Oh, I'm always ready.


KING: She knows all a about surviving tough economic times and the scandal press.


PARTON: I'm going to get my that gun of mine and I'm going to change you from a roaster to a ham with one shot.


KING: She's also got a message for tabloids -- leave Jessica Simpson alone.

It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE -- a great pleasure to have him with us -- Tyler Perry -- actor, producer, director, writer. Other than that, what else?

The new movie is "Madea Goes to Jail." His new TV show is ""House of Payne"" -- spelled P-A-Y-N-E. "Forbes" magazine named him the number three top earning black star, grossing $125 million a year. He went from being homeless and living in his car.

Now, how did that happen?

How did you go from that to this?

PERRY: Well, listen, that was a great introduction there for me to even think about. You know, I try not to think about it in those terms, but...

KING: What were you doing living in the car?

PERRY: Well, you know what, I had started doing my play back in 19 -- this is how I got into it. I was watching...

KING: Playwright?

PERRY: Playwright, yes. I was watching "The Oprah Show" and she said it was cathartic to write things down. So I started writing my first play in 1992. Performed that show from '92 to 1998 and had the rent payment, car payment and everything tied up into it and rolled the dice one too many times and ended, you know, out on the streets and sleeping in my car back in about '96, '97.

KING: For how long?

PERRY: It was only a three month period that I was actually out on the streets and sleeping in the car. And when I couldn't afford the pay by the week hotel, I would go and sleep in the car. And it was -- it was character building, I think.

KING: What -- what got you out?

PERRY: Just faith. I complete -- I'm a man who has always faith in God and always had faith in what I do. And I always believed that it would work. No matter what happened, it would one day come to pass. And in 1998, I had one last chance. This was going to be my last show.

So I did it at the House of Blues in Atlanta. And that show sold out. And from that show to -- I came off the road about two years ago with "Madea Goes to Jail," the play. I was seeing about 30,000 or 40,000 people a week. I was playing arenas by the time I came off the road with the play.

KING: So you write plays?

PERRY: That's where I started, yes, writing plays.

KING: What was a play doing in the House of Blues?

PERRY: Yes, right? Well, the thing about it is what happened -- the House of Blues had -- was there for the Olympics in 1996. And there was this church that they had turned into the House of Blues. And I got an opportunity to rent the place because it had like 1,100 seats. And it was just the perfect size for what I was trying to do at that time.

KING: What kind of plays do you write?

PERRY: They're called gospel musicals. They've been called urban theater -- chitlin' circuit theater, which is a thing...

KING: Chitlin' circuit?

PERRY: Chitlin' circuit, yes, which is a thing that I'm really, really proud of because, you know, at first I used to be really embarrassed by that term. But then I found out the history of it. When black people could not perform in establishments, you know, such as Marian Anderson and, you know, you name it. You can go down the list -- Della Reese, Billie Holiday -- they would go on the circuit where black people would -- right. There would be chitlins there. And they would sing and perform. And that's how they supported their families and became famous.

So long before anybody knew my name, I was doing really, really well on this circuit. And -- and, you know, that's why I'm able to do the movies and be in the position I'm in now.

KING: Well, what are you first?

Because you perform, right?

PERRY: I do.

KING: You write.


KING: You do a lot of things.

What are you -- are you a playwright who does the other things?

PERRY: I'm tired, that's what I am first. I'm tired.


PERRY: I'm tired first. No, I think every part of my brain has to work because I started doing plays and had no money, so I did everything. And when you train yourself to do everything -- you know, drive the car, load the set, turn the sound on, turn the lights on, pay the people, I didn't know how to let that go when I got into film and television. So I'm still doing everything. I don't know what to call myself.

KING: What do you like about writing plays?

PERRY: You know, these shows were my catharsis. You know, they were the thing that -- because I had a lot of forgiveness to do in my life. And I had some crazy teenage years and 20s. And trying to get myself together and find out who I was, I would write after, you know, the Oprah advice on her show.

And what I love about it is that I can take this work, can do a silly character like Madea or Brown -- which is another character -- really silly, really broad, really ridiculous -- and I can put these great messages inside of them and so that when children see it or when families see it, they walk away with something they can use.

KING: What were you angry at?

PERRY: Oh, my -- well, I -- I grew up in a household where my father -- and I really don't want to make him a villain here. But he was a person who was really, really abusive. And I was really upset about that until I found out who he was and why. He was found in a drainage canal at two years old in rural Louisiana with -- and a white man found him there and brought him to a 14-year-old to raise, who -- the woman who became my grandmother. And her parents were a couple of generations out of slavery. So all they knew is to beat. If the child did something, beat that out of them, beat that out of them.

So he brought that. I'm his first son and that's what was, you know, done to me.

KING: You were raised in New Orleans?

PERRY: I was, in New Orleans, yes. A great town.

KING: Like growing up there?

PERRY: You know what, it's -- there's no better backdrop in New Orleans for the stories I tell or for anything that I have been able to do, because you learn and you meet all kinds of people and all kinds of situations. So, yes, I really did like it.

KING: They all, Tyler, Christian-based?

PERRY: They are -- they are faith-based, yes. They are -- because of my own faith and my own beliefs, I wanted to -- when I have a character who has a problem, if I don't know how to solve it, that's what I go. That's what I go to for myself, so that's what I go to in the script.

KING: How do you handle making all the money?

I mean here you're a kid a guy living in a -- you're a guy living in a car not too long ago.

PERRY: Yes. Yes.

KING: Making all this money -- how do handle that?

PERRY: What do you mean, the money?

KING: Yes. I mean how you deal with poverty to the opposite of poverty?

PERRY: Yes. Well, that's been my life. My life has always been -- there's never been a middle. Either I had or I didn't. Either I was up or I was down. So the thing about it -- what's great about it is being on the road for all of those years -- for 10 years, gaining a little bit at a time, prepared me to be in this situation. And I've got good people around me who tell me, you know, try this, do this, do that and do this. And, you know, I respect their opinions.

KING: Do you fear it all coming down?

PERRY: Do I fear it coming down?

KING: Yes.

PERRY: No I'm working too hard to come down. I just -- I'm going to keep working, keep working and keep working. And I really believe you reap what you sow. So if you keep working, it's going to come to you.

KING: Tyler Perry is with us.

What's it like dressing in drag?

That's ahead.



KING: And also ahead, Dolly Parton.

Now this is a coupling tonight.

Stay with us.



PERRY: ...a Ph.D. you have (INAUDIBLE) Dr. Phil.



PERRY: Dr. Phil's not going to come, stop his show and come down to Atlanta to shoot this thing. Just hang it up, man. Just put the cameras on and just roll and just let us go. And we went.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why do you feel the need that you got to get somebody all the time?

PERRY: Well, when you're getting got, then somebody done got you and you go get them. When you get them, everybody is going to get got.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, but you're getting the gotters when they didn't do anything to you to get you.

PERRY: Yes, but if the gotters get me, I'm going to get my Glock.


KING: All right, who is Madea?

PERRY: Madea is a cross between my mother and my aunt. And she is the PG version of those ladies.

KING: Uh-huh.

PERRY: Yes. You know, I was doing my old man character person and I wanted to try something different. So I saw Eddie Murphy do the "The Klumps."

And said I wonder if I've got a grandmother character I can try?

That's what I came up with and she's pretty outrageous.

KING: What's it like to, first, dress in drag?

What's that like?

PERRY: You know, I look at it as a -- as a costume. You know, people at Wal-Mart are standing there with their uniforms on. I feel like I'm putting on a uniform to do a movie. I don't feel like it's dressing in drag.

You're embarrassing me, Larry.

But, no, I don't...

KING: I think you -- I think you look cute.

PERRY: Oh, cut it out.


KING: Does Madea only appear in movies?

PERRY: You would. You would think Madea's cute. That's awful.



KING: All right. Never mind.

PERRY: Only in movies?

No, stop it. Stop it.


PERRY: Only in movies?

You know, well, you know, she's been -- and the plays.

KING: Do you make personal appearances as...

PERRY: No. No, no. I never have. Just -- it's only been the plays and only been the movies. It has to be an environment where -- that I can control and I feel safe. So it's -- that's what works for me.

KING: How did you name her?

PERRY: Madea is a Southern term. It's short for mother dear. So there are a lot of Madeas out there. So a lot of people have -- especially in the African-American culture, they have -- they know the name already, so, yes.

KING: Are there a lot -- is there lots of comedy in your plays?


PERRY: Little girl, I'm going to count to one. If you don't get in this house, mwwwww.



PERRY: What the hell are you doing out there?

Who was you out there with?


PERRY: It better not be our Kelly out there. And I know that.



PERRY: Sure. Yes. Comedy is a big part of it. I found myself laughing through situations in life that, if I wouldn't have laughed, I don't know where I'd be. So, yes, laugh -- comedy is very important to me.

KING: Now you also put -- you've got a new TV show, "House of Payne".


KING: What's that?

PERRY: Well, "House of Payne" is a show that I did with TBS. I did a -- they did a 100 episode order. KING: Our sister station.

PERRY: Yes. Yes. A couple of -- about a year-and-a-half ago. And we shot 100 episodes in a year. And then we just -- we signed on to do 70 episodes of "Meet the Browns," a television sitcom -- a half hour sitcom. It's on TBS on Wednesday nights.

KING: Are you thinking all the time about projects?

PERRY: Yes, I am. Yes. All the time. And it's -- it's -- my mind never stops. Like Dr. Cosby -- Dr. Bill, Cosby said to me, people don't know that every time you're around them, they're being studied. You're learning. You're soaking up things.

So, yes, I'm in writer mode all the time.

KING: Is it hard to write?

PERRY: You know, it depends on what where I am in life. Like, everything in my life, I pretty much take it to the screen.

Why did I get married?

I was just coming out of an interesting relationship. And every woman in the movie was some part of that relationship.

So whatever's going on in my life is -- is -- you know, that's -- those are the experiences that I write about

KING: The Christian aspect of your life...


KING: The faith...


KING: How did you get it?

How did you find that?

PERRY: Well, my mother was -- you know, Friday nights were tough in our house and Saturday nights, because my father would go out and get drunk and come home and there would be hell to pay. But every Sunday morning, she'd wake me up and take me to church. And this was the only time I saw her smile, the only time I saw her laugh and happy. You know, I was looking through some photo albums the other day trying to find pictures of her smiling. I couldn't find one. It made me really sad.

But I thought about those days when she was at church and she'd be singing and she'd be happy. And I wanted to know the God that made my mother happy. So that's why I started this journey then. And I don't think I fully came to understand it up until the time now, when I'm -- you know, in mid-30s going into 40. I'll be 40 in about seven months so. KING: Why is the church so central a part of the black culture?

PERRY: When we were brought here, we had nothing but faith, you know. And I think as we have grown, there -- we don't -- we don't -- as, in general, just as African-Americans, as black people, we don't have therapy. We don't have or can't afford the therapists or the release. So we go to the church. And the pastor becomes that for us. So that's why it's so important.

KING: Because it's been said many times that the black woman is the strongest individual figure in America.


KING: The black mother.

PERRY: Wow! And you know what, I agree with that. I absolutely agree with that -- the strongest individual figure, yes. Yes, because the things that they have to take on, it's just -- it's unreal. And it makes me proud to, you know, wear the skin.

KING: Did you ever, by the way, think of giving up?

PERRY: Oh, yes.

KING: Lots?

PERRY: Yes. Yes. But the thing that kept me going was the faith. There was always this little bit of a spark of light that said it's going to be OK, just keep going, just keep moving.

And the thing that I had to do and what I tell people now, going through what we're going through in this country in these economic times, is to keep moving every step, no matter how small. Some days you don't even want to get out of bed. But if you just take one step every day, you get there. Yes.

KING: When he speaks, Hollywood listens -- Oprah, Tyra Banks, T.D. Jakes -- they're all his friends. And we're getting to them.

More with Tyler Perry and the secrets of his success in 60 seconds.


KING: We're back with Tyler Perry.

And when he makes a movie, audiences go see it -- guaranteed. His latest film, "Madea Goes to Jail".

Here's a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All rise. The Honorable Judge Mathis presiding.

You may be seated.

The first case, DeKalb County calls Mabel Simmons.

PERRY: Is that who the hell I think it is?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm looking at this case and your record is ridiculous, ma'am. I don't even know how you're still on the street.

PERRY: Your Honor, the reason I'm on the...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm talking. You should have been locked up a long time ago.

PERRY: Like he talking to. You all better shhhh -- like be quiet.


PERRY: Shhhh.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you is to say for yourself?

PERRY: Oh, now it's my turn to talk?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've heard the saying, "speak when you're spoken to or otherwise shut up."

PERRY: Oh, it's time to say it. That's how it is going to happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's time for some sentencing.

Bailiff, what time do you have on your watch?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five to 10, judge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five to 10, that's your sentence.

PERRY: Five -- you gonna give me five years?

You ain't going to take me.


PERRY: Come on here, what you going to do?


PERRY: I ain't going. I ain't going. I ain't going. I ain't going. I ain't going. I...


PERRY: They could have found a different clip to show.

(LAUGHTER) KING: We'll be back with the mega talent that is Tyler Perry, right after this.



PERRY: You saw me getting ready to take this spot.


PERRY: My God, look at your car.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I seen they already told you, I run this prison.

PERRY: Young man, I guess nobody told you that I'm Madea -- ma to the damn D-E-A.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you see "Basic Instincts?"

What, this ain't that kind of movie?




KING: That's the first parody I've ever seen of that.

That's going to be a big hit, "Madea Goes to Jail".

The guest is Tyler Perry.

You were spotted with Oprah last year in Italy.

PERRY: Oh my goodness.

KING: Are you now a power couple?


PERRY: I love it. Listen, Oprah is very, very, very special to me. She's an amazing woman. And my life has come full circle from her inspiring me to write my first script to me knowing her and us being personal friends.

But, no, we're not a power couple. She's just a very good friend of mine.

KING: You were inspired by watching her, right?

PERRY: Yes. Yes. So to have her as a friend is really great.

KING: And one of your plays is the staging of Bishop T.D. Jakes' book, "Women Thou Art Loosed!"


KING: And it was an immediate hit.

PERRY: Yes, it was.

KING: Are you friends with the bishop?

PERRY: I am. I am. He's somebody I call -- I call for inspiration all the time. See, that's what I mean. You were asking me like how do I handle it?

Those kind of -- knowing those kind of people -- knowing Tyra and knowing Oprah and knowing him, they can give me advice. They can help me navigate through all of this stuff.

KING: So you're not afraid to say I need help?

PERRY: Oh, no.

Are you kidding me?


KING: Because some people get big and then they say hey, I'm the third largest grossing -- in dollars -- black man, black person in America. I don't need help.

PERRY: That's -- that's an idiot. That is a complete idiot because walking through this life, I think that there are people who have gone before us who we need to really pay attention to so they can -- because they have things that can offer. Like I talk to Cicely Tyson all the time and Sidney Poitier. They all help me to deal with this. Yes, absolutely.

KING: You had quite a night last night -- or recently -- the NAACP Image Awards here in Los Angeles. You and cast members with trophies in nearly every category you were nominated in.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the image award goes to Tyler Perry's "House of Payne".


KING: And you co-hosted with Halle Berry.


KING: Let's take a look.


PERRY: Sit down. Sit down. All of that walking up and down the aisle, we are on TV.


PERRY: Oh, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. We're live. We're live.

Dr. Maya Angelou wanted to be here, but she couldn't. So I said I'd do this for her. We have gathered tonight to celebrate...


PERRY: ...the power and the influence our images have had on the worldddd.



KING: What was that like for you?

PERRY: It was really great. You know, this is the 100th year for the NAACP.

KING: Yes.

PERRY: And 100 years ago to the day was the night of the show. And to stand there, you know, with Halle Berry and to have Dr. Wangari Maathai there and Al Gore, it was just, it was -- and for the show to win, it was just all so surreal. I had to take it all in.

KING: The election of Barack Obama has had an emotional effect on many people. For example, Colin Powell cried on camera.


KING: What did it mean for you?

PERRY: You know what, Larry, I've got to tell you, I was beginning to see the world as black and white, because I had opened this studio and we had, you know, a major -- the biggest thing that has happened in film in a long time and had no coverage of it. There was like -- there very little. You know, CNN did something, of course. And -- but I was just surprised.

And I started to think, well, why is that?

Is it because I'm black?

Is it because -- so I began to like see things as in black and white.

The night he won, I sat the night he won, I sat -- the night, you know, he won, I had fallen asleep and I heard screaming. And I opened my eyes and was looking at the television and it's -- it's the church. They were going crazy on CNN.

There -- it was Ebenezer. And -- and that moment for me meant its content of your character it is how -- that's how he was judged. If you see the world in black and white, then that's what it will become. But for me, now, because he won, I realized that we're all human beings, we're all people. And our experiences are all similar.

KING: That multi-million dollar studio, it's in Atlanta, right?

PERRY: Yes, it is.

KING: Tyler Perry Studios.


KING: So all of your work is done in there?

PERRY: Yes. Everything is done there. We've got five sound stages there and a back lot -- a New York City street back lot and 200,000 square feet, 30 acres, a five acre pond. It's really -- it's really an amazing place. And it's good to be able to go to work somewhere where you feel good.

KING: And that's home, then, Atlanta?

PERRY: That's home. And I've got a house in L.A. and a place in New York. But Atlanta's home. Sure.

KING: We'll be back with more of Tyler Perry.

What a guy.

Don't go away.


KING: We're back with Tyler Perry.

Let's take a look at a scene from the new winning comedy series, your new TV series, "House of Payne".



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, Curtis, can you help us?


Name two great kings.

PERRY: Oh, I got that. I got that. I got it. I can do it. Two great kings for $200. OK. The first great king is smoking and the second one is drinking. Smoking and drinking. Write that down on the paper.


(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: She's a character.

PERRY: Smoking, drinking, Larry King, see?

Great king. Great king.


KING: It's an African-American household with three generations of family in it, right?


KING: Pure comedy?

PERRY: Pure comedy, but we -- we put a lot of drama into it, too, because, you know, again, it's really important for me to leave a message. So we've talked about everything from breast cancer awareness to HIV and AIDS. And we -- I mean we've covered so much in this show.

And the great thing about it is having this show -- and what people don't know is that the ratings among African-Americans are higher than "CSI" Miami. They're higher than "Oprah." They're higher than "Desperate Housewives," higher than "American Idol".

So it's a -- it's a fantastic thing to have, you know, and to have people appreciate for what it is.

KING: It's been around, right?

But now it's new in syndication on TBS.

PERRY: Yes. It's been around for a year. It was a year on TBS and now this is the first year that it's been in syndication and it's doing very well.

KING: All right. You're only 39, right?


KING: You've got all this success.


KING: What -- where do you go from here?

PERRY: You know, opening the studio -- I got really depressed after it was done, because that was a huge goal of mine. And once I had gotten it, I was like, oh, what's next?

And I really had to search myself for a minute. But -- but I want to own a network.


PERRY: Yes. And I give myself five years to do that. KING: Which?

You got one in mind?

PERRY: Yes. Well, I've got -- I've got my eye on something. But to own this network so that every time you turn it on, no matter if it's five minutes or five hours, you're totally inspired -- understand everything. The commercials are inspirational, the stories are inspirational.

So that's my plan

KING: A cable network?

PERRY: Yes, a cable network.

KING: Does making money come easily to you?

PERRY: You know, I don't think about it. I honestly don't think about it.

KING: You mean it's just an after thing...

PERRY: Yes, because you know what...

KING: It's an occurrence from what you do?

PERRY: It's an occurrence from doing what I love. And from day one, I've never ever chased the money, never even thought about money. It's always been about how is this going to better serve humanity, how is this going to better serve me as a person?

And the messages that I'm leaving with people -- is this something that they can use?

It is something that -- you know, because everything I've done, this Tyler Perry branded stuff, everything with that brand on it means faith, family, forgiveness. And that's what's all of my things have been about. And that's what the bottom line is.

So the money the money is -- you know, the money comes.

KING: A great pleasure meeting you.

PERRY: And you, too, Larry.

And thank you so much for having me here.

KING: Tyler Perry.

What a story.

Dolly Parton's here. She's got a message for all of those people tearing into Jessica Simpson.

Dolly will shoot from the lip next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: What a great pleasure to welcome Dolly Parton to LARRY KING LIVE. The entertainment legend, she has sold over 100 million records. She's the winner of seven Grammys, 11 CMAs, a Kennedy Center honor and two Oscar, five Golden Globes and an Emmy nomination.

Her new show, "9 to 5 The Musical", is about to hit Broadway. She's in Washington on to New York. What are you doing in Washington?

DOLLY PARTON, ON OBAMA, JESSICA SIMPSON, TABLOIDS AND MORE: Well, I'm here all day doing press because I'm going to be the international ambassador for the 75th anniversary of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park this coming year, and so I'm out just talking about that, trying to get people to come down to the Smokies.

We've done a lot of wonderful work today, getting people aware of that, and just got lot of fun stuff going. I've actually done a CD. I've written a musical for the Dollywood opening about the people in the Smokies and what it was like for them being moved out of the mountains to build the park.

And so, anyhow, it's just a fun thing. We've got all the Cherokee Indians and everybody in East Tennessee involved in it.

KING: It's a great place, the Smokies. I've been there. Never had a better time without the Smokies and they couldn't choose a better ambassador than you. You're a businesswoman. Have you been hurt in these times?

PARTON: Well, I think everybody's a little scared right now with Dollywood, our theme park, we were down some last year. We did a lot better than most, but of course, we're very concerned about it and we've put a few little things on hold until see we what the economy is going to do.

But we still got our big plans, our big dreams. And we're trying to get people to come down and certainly at the Smoky Mountains it's all free. So you can come and have a good time there, then if you've got a little money left over, you can come see me at Dollywood. All of my places of business.

KING: You -- everyone knows how poor you were growing up. Life right now is kind of a "Hard Candy Christmas," your great record, for a lot of people. Do you have advice for people down on their luck?

PARTON: Well, I know that people are very scared and I know it's hard to be poor. I have been poor, as you mentioned, so I know what it's like to be without it. And I know what it's like to have. And a lot of people who were poor to begin with, you know, they're having a harder time.

So I'm just hoping that things work out good. I think we have to keep our faith and not be so scared and have to lean on our faith a little bit. And pray a little bit, and hope a little bit. And hopefully, things are going to be OK. KING: One thing good in times like this, I guess, families spend more times together.

PARTON: Well, I think that's true because I think these kind of things do draw you together if nothing else, just out fear and concern. And we take so many things for granted. And when times like these happen, I think it does draw us closer to our family and to our faith, and kind of, you know, make us go inside a little more.

So it's natural, I think, for people to react and be scared, and justly so. I mean if they don't know what's going on in Washington, D.C., well, you know, people like us, we really don't know what to think.

KING: What do you think of President Obama?

PARTON: Well, I'm very excited about the fact that we've got someone new in the White House. I think Obama's going to be a great president. And like I said today at different times when they asked me, I think we all need to get behind him, pray for him, support him, and hope for the best. This is great country. We've been through hard times many times and we've come out ahead.

So I'm hoping that things are good and I really hope that he knows what he's doing. He seems to. And we all need to -- you know, to have faith in this whole new change that we're going through.

KING: Would you serve in Washington if asked?

PARTON: Me, no. I'm not a politician. And I don't want to be. I make jokes about it all the time. In fact, I think they're showing some clips I did today where I was talking about me not running for president because I asked me if I would. I told them I think we've had enough boobs in White House so...


And they don't need mine.


KING: Do you ever worry about being poor again?

PARTON: Well, I don't say that I don't sit around worry about it, but I give it some thoughts. I do remember how it was to be poor. I do remember that in my early years, we had to grow and raise all of our food, even our animals. And I remember in my early life, we didn't have electricity. So it was very, very hard times then.

So I still remember how to do those things. If I had to go back, I think I would. I would hate to have to give up my nails to clawing the dirt, but I think I would know how to do it if I had to. I think I would have a, you know, a little bit of a head's start over some people who's never grown up that way.

But Lord knows, you know, it's like, I don't want to have to do that again. But I've written many songs about that. That, in the good old day, when times are bad, like no amount of money could buy for me the memories that I had of then. But no amount of money can pay to go back and live through it again. I would only do it if I had to do, but I would if I have to.

KING: Quincy Jones wants the president to create a new cabinet level position, secretary of arts and the culture. What do you think of that?

PARTON: Well, that sounds like a good idea. I think -- I think, first, we better get our food on our table. Don't you?

KING: Yes, I guess. How many songs have you written?

PARTON: Well, you know, I don't count them, Larry. But I've been writing since I was a little big girl. I was probably 7 years old when I started playing the guitar and writing some serious songs. So, I know that I have at least 3,000 songs that I have written. I've got songs in boxes, drawers, stuff I carried from home when I left, that I still haven't gotten through. And I write something almost every day, list an idea down. But that's not to say they're all good, but that's what I do and it's what I love to do.

KING: Have you had to lay off people at Dollywood?

PARTON: Right now we're doing pretty good at Dollywood. We're going our best to not have to lose a bunch of people. And we're, like everybody else in business, we're shuffling around, trying to figure out exactly how to do it, putting some things on hold so we don't have to start, you know, running people off, and making them lose their jobs. So we're trying very hard to be considerate in all that because we're very proud of all of our people.

And as you know, it's not easy having that many people dependent on you.

KING: Yes.

PARTON: And you certainly don't want to, you know, have people lose their jobs.

KING: Dolly Parton has got a special blog you'll see only on our Web site. So go to and you'll read what Dolly has written exclusively for you.

Next, Dolly knows what it's like when your looks grab all the attention. Her advice for Jessica Simpson. We'll ask her after this.


KING: Welcome back. Dolly's been busy blogging for us. Check it out only our Web site, One thing you can always count on, Dolly is never dull. We'll take a look at some great Dolly moments from over the years.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PARTON: I have a special surprise for you tonight.


PARTON: Oh I'm always ready.


PARTON: Sam is still confused. You don't whether to scratch his watch or wind his butt. I'm going to get that gun of mine and I'm going to change you from a rooster to a hen with one shot. There are two kinds of people in this world, and you ain't one of them.


Now, we're that one to disappoint my little honey.


Hold your horses. (INAUDIBLE) things away. And besides I want to do it. Sometimes you just got to honk your own honk because if you don't nobody's going to know you're coming.

Go get them, animals. Go get them. I'm (INAUDIBLE) one-legged man and a butt-kicking competition. Howdy, boys.


KING: Classic Dolly. Still to come, "9 to 5 The Musical". Hey, don't go anywhere or you'll miss it.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Coming up to at top of the hour on "360", how safe are our banks. Hints today this country is on the brink of nationalizing the banking system. Even former Fed chairman, Alan Greenspan, saying it might be inevitable. The markets today, your 401(k) did not like the sound of that. Dropped for a while into territory not seen in more than 11 years. We'll talk about it with David Gergen, and what you can do about it with personal finance guru Clark Howard.

Also tonight, former president Bill Clinton speaking out about President Obama. Is Mr. Obama being too negative when talking about the economy? Find out what President Clinton had to say about that. And have the White House responding.

And are economic tough times having an affect on your sex life? Some new research has a surprising answer to that question. We'll tell you at the top of the hour on "360.

Now back to Larry King.


PARTON: Judge not lest you be judged. I always say that. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You always say that.

PARTON: Well, when I'm trying to get (INAUDIBLE) out of trouble.



KING: We're back with Dolly Parton. You are Jessica Simpson's idol. And Jessica's gotten a ton of attention about her figure lately, front cover of "People" magazine. What do you say to her?

PARTON: Well, I say people always treat her bad. They always talk bad about her. I just recorded a song with her a few months ago. And I've never had -- I've never been around a person any sweeter in my life. And she's great singer. And I've been fat and I've been skinny. And I'm not about to say something about somebody else's weight because I know how hard it is when you gain, you know, five or six pounds, and certainly 10 or 12.

I don't know how overweight she is. I have not seen her. But I know that Jessica is a good girl. She's beautiful to me. And I'm sure that she's going to get some weight off just because people won't leave her alone. She'll have to get skinny just to get people to shut the hell up.

KING: What do you say to people calling her fat?

PARTON: Well, I say that that is not a nice thing to say.

KING: On the heels of the weight controversy, though, things got worse for her and I know you like her so much. She had a bad performance in Michigan. Forgot lyrics, mumbled through songs, and fought back tears. That ever happened to you? You ever had a night where everything goes wrong?

PARTON: Yes. I think every entertainer's had nights when things go wrong. I mean you can't remember everything all the time, and especially if you're having hard times personally, things going on that you -- you know, and then people make it worse. And that makes you feel worse.

And like I said, I think she's very sensitive because she's been treated bad. I've been treated nicer in my career. But yes, I've made a mistake here and there. In fact, last week we did just a charity show, I sang with Kellie Pickler. And we couldn't hear the sound on stage and the band was in one -- they were playing in one tempo and Kellie and I were singing in another.

But we were singing with each other and we were singing to an echo in the house. So everybody was doing something different, and that came out and made it sound like we couldn't sing. And we didn't sound like we could that night, but we sounded good, we thought we were together, and then we though back, and we thought oh my lord, what happened? We didn't realize we got out of time with the band. KING: At the Kennedy Center Honors when they honored you in 2007, Jessica sang a song and it was cut from the show. Do you know why?

PARTON: Yes, that song was "9 to 5". They had asked her to come sing because she was a fan of mine. She sang the song, she got nervous. She said she looked up in the balcony and saw me and then she got intimidated and she lost the words. But I should have my own butt kicked for writing so many words in the song. I told her that that song's even hard for me.

So she just got -- she just, you know, kind of lost track a little bit and couldn't get all of the words in. So she had asked to go back and sing it again after the show. And I have to tell you, several people went back and re-sang their songs. They didn't talk about that. They just talked about Jessica and how bad that was.

And, you know, it's not -- I don't know Jessica all that well, and I wouldn't say that we're friends or big buddies. I just go help her out when I can. She asked me to sing with her and when they've asked me things, you know, I say it. But I just think it's cruel to just hammer somebody to death.

KING: She gets hit a lot with the paparazzi. Have you been -- had trouble with them?

PARTON: No. I've never had that much trouble with the paparazzi, but I don't run the same circles that a lot of these people that do get hounded by the paparazzi. If I go out, and certainly they take pictures, and after a while, if you're weary and tired, it gets on you their nerves a little bit. But they don't run after me like that. I don't think I'm all that popular in that way.

KING: You make the tabloids a lot, though?

PARTON: Yes, I do. They're always saying something about me. I always try to read them so I can see what I'm up to now.

KING: You -- some people don't read them. Some entertainers don't want to read them. You read them?

PARTON: I do. Because I believe everything about everybody but me.


PARTON: I want to see who's doing what.

KING: You -- you're unusual in many respects. You're a great entertainer. And I mean, the Kennedy Center Honors don't happen to many. You also have a lot of gay fans. You've even dealt with gay rumors yourself. What is your appeal, do you think, to the gay community?

PARTON: Well, I think the gay people have always liked me because I have always been myself. I'm not intimidated by how people perceive me. I don't judge nor criticize people. I think that's another reason that they at least know that I'm sympathetic. I think all people have a right to be who they are. We're all God's children and God should be the one to judge, not other people.

So I have a lot of gay friends, lesbian friends. I work with a lot of people. I am not gat. I have been accused of that. But I have been happily married for 42 years to the same man. And he's not the least bit threatened, you know, by the fact that I may be gay. And he knows I have a lot of friends. But I love everybody. It doesn't matter to me.

KING: But your husband doesn't seek the limelight at all, does he?

PARTON: No, my husband would never in a million years dream of talking to you. But he watches you.


KING: What does he do for a living?

PARTON: Well, he used to be in asphalt paving for many, many years, he and his father, and he's retired now. He mostly just takes care of our farm, the things on the farm, and takes care of some of our business. He likes to do a little banking and all that sort of thing. But he really just does what he wants to. He doesn't have to do that much, but I like to work all the time.

KING: Is this the slimmest you've ever been?

PARTON: The slimmest?

KING: Slimmest.

PARTON: No. I -- actually a couple of years back, a year and a half, two years ago, I got smaller because I had a little bit of a problem. But I'm OK now, I just have a little bit of, you know, stomach ache here and there, now and then. I wasn't holding my food down as good as I should. But now I've got my weight in a good spot. I'm very tiny. I'm always 5 feet tall. And so 105, 110 is plenty of weight for me.

KING: You've had great plastic surgery, by the way.

PARTON: Well, thank you. You have, too, ain't you?

KING: No, I...


KING: Are you kidding?

PARTON: You haven't had plastic surgery?

KING: I'm too scared. PARTON: Well, you know what, I'm the kind of person if I need something, I just go get it done. I always make jokes and say if I see something sagging, dragging and bagging. I'll get it nipped, tucked and sucked.

KING: We'll be back in 60 seconds with the wonderful Dollar Parton who never disappoints. Stick around.


KING: We're back with Dolly Parton who is the ambassador for the Great Smoky Mountains. They couldn't have picked a better one. She has a CD out called Sha-Kon-O-Hey! and its proceeds benefit the Great Smoky Mountains park. It's available at or

Now can you sing a few bars of this?

PARTON: The Sha-Kon-O-Hey, actually, it's Sha-Kon-O-Hey is a Cherokee word and it means land of blue smoke, which is the Great Smoky Mountains. So it's about the Cherokee Indian there and Indians in the Smoky Mountains and it's this kind of like, (singing).

I forgot.


KING: It's OK. It's good enough to get me interested.

PARTON: Anyway, it's such a fun thing. But anyhow, it's -- there's a lot of songs, that's the only Indian one, but there's a lot of songs about the Great Smoky Mountains, "My Mountains, My Home," and "My Tennessee Mountain Home," similar songs to that. And "My Heart Lives in the Heart of the Smokies," so there's eight songs in the musical and in the CD and all the money, as we mentioned, goes to benefit the park.

KING: Yes. Everyone, by the way, loves "9:00 to 5:00" one of the classic comedies every made. Let's take a look at a bit of it.


PARTON: Look, I got a gun out there in my purse and up to now I've been forgiving and forgetting because of the way I was brought up. But I'll tell you one thing, if you say another word about me or make another indecent proposal, I'm going to get that gun of mine and I'm going to change you from a rooster to a hen with one shot. Don't think I can't do it.


KING: Why did you, why did you never follow up that movie with "9:00 to 5:00 II"?

PARTON: I wondered about that myself. We talked about doing a sequel right after than. You know, we did that in the '80s and now after all this time, they're doing the musical which I've been fortunate enough to have gotten to write all the music for, the words and the music.

And it's to open on the 30th of April on Broadway. So we're going into rehearsals on the 7th of April. And - then hopefully everything's going to...

KING: This...

PARTON: ... work out good.

KING: Nervous time to open on Broadway, Dolly, with the economy.

PARTON: But it is. I think there's a lot of concern about it. I know a lot of the people that I'm working with are concerned because a lot of shows have closed on Broadway. Some of them were leaving anyway. But it is a tricky time, but what are you going to do? You've got to keep on. We're going to go right -- you know, we're going to go on with it as far as I know, unless something changes that I'm not aware of. But...

KING: As the whole -- has the whole original cast seen the musical?

PARTON: Yes, Jane and Lilly and Dad, they all came to Los Angeles, at the (INAUDIBLE), when we did the workshop out there, we were out there for about six weeks. They came to the opening night there and it was wonderful to see all the new people and then Dad, me, Lilly, Jane and I were sitting out in the audience, watching everybody. They've got a big kick out of it.

The musical, I think, is going to be good. I have a new single out called "Backwoods Barbie" which is one of the songs that's in the musical. And I have a video coming out on that, too, and that's going to be released in March to -- you know, just right after the show opens.

KING: Is the musical the story line of the film?

PARTON: Well, I actually tried to write -- actually the show is basically what it was in the movie. We just added some great music that -- well, I like to think it's great, I mean we added music and that was a great element to the story. And so it -- the characters are true to what they were in the movie and the people that we have, we have a wonderful, wonderful cast. And I'm just very proud to be part of it. And I would really hate for it not to get its just due so let's hope for the best.

KING: Last season you mentored the contestants on "American Idol." What do you think about that show?

PARTON: Well, I think it's a great show. People love that show. I can't believe the viewers that they had. I was very honored to get to be part of "American Idol" and they were all very nice to me and so I've had a lot of comments that I was on the show and maybe I'll get a chance to do it again. KING: Are the judges too hard on the contestants?

PARTON: Well, that's what they do. They're there to judge. They've asked me at different times, different places, different shows to judge people and their talent. It's just hard for me to do because I know how sincere they all are, I know that the ones that are great don't work any harder than the ones that are not so great. And I know the ones that are not so great are just as sincere, so it just breaks my heart to tell anybody they suck.

KING: Among the many, many things Dolly does, she also writes books. She has a new children's book available in June. It's called "I Am a Rainbow." What's the story?

PARTON: Yes. Well, actually, this is catered to little children. We have the Imagination Library, you know, where I give a book a month to every child from the time it's born until it starts kindergarten through my Imagination Library at the Dollywood -- through the Dollywood Foundation at Dollywood.

So this little book is called "I Am a Rainbow" and it is about all the different moods of children and it's very simple and very sweet and kind of done in rhyme and it's just talking about, you know, the colors and the moods of children.

KING: Dolly, you are ageless, you are a delight, you are an amazing, amazing performer, and I thank you for being with us.

PARTON: Well, always appreciate getting to talk to you. You've always treated me nice and thank you for letting me come on and tell everybody that I'm the ambassador for the 75th anniversary.

KING: That you are.

PARTON: Come on down to the Smoky Mountains and Dollywood, and give them my record, and do all that. I'm a walking commercial.

KING: Thanks, Dolly.

Have something to say about this show or any other? Go to Click on to our blog. You'll love -- we love hearing from you. Keep the comments coming.

Time now for Anderson Cooper and "AC360". Anderson?