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Actress Natasha Richardson Dies

Aired March 18, 2009 - 21:00   ET



LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, breaking news -- actress Natasha Richardson has died. A fall while skiing has tragic consequences. Joan Rivers, an acquaintance of the late Natasha, joins us with the very latest.

Plus, women earning big money share their secrets for tough economic times. What you can learn from Kimora Lee Simmons (ph), Kim Kardashian and Joan, next on LARRY KING LIVE.


KING: Good evening.

A sad night. Liam Neeson, his sons and the entire family -- this is the statement released by the family: "are shocked and devastated by the tragic death of their beloved Natasha. They're profoundly grateful for the support, love and prayers of everyone. They ask for privacy during this very difficult time."

Joining us to begin things here in Los Angeles, Mark Steines, the co-host of "Entertainment Tonight".

Michael Fleeman, the West Coast editor of "The Natasha Richardson: Her Tragic Accident" is the cover story of the latest issue of "People," which will be out on Friday.

And Dr. Neil Martin, who was with us last night. The doctor is professor in chief of neurosurgery at UCLA Medical Center.

Mark, we can't say this was shocking after yesterday.

MARK STEINES, CO-HOST, "ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT": Yes. Well, this was a story that, you know, we have been following all day. In fact, on my drive over here, which I'm -- I'm just getting in, confirming the statement came out. I was all prepared to say let's not move too fast on this, let's wait to hear from the family. Sources were saying all along that it didn't look good, it was grim. But we were keeping, you know, our fingers crossed that something would come from this, some positive news. And that's not the case, as you just read the statement from the family.

KING: Now, Michael, you've got a story coming on what?

MICHAEL FLEEMAN, PEOPLE.COM: Well, we are sort of retracing the final hours and days of her life. And the tragedy here is that in the beginning, when this was a relatively minor ski accident -- she even laughed it off, didn't go immediately to the hospital and then everything just went downhill after that. And so it was shocking in that respect, that it started out the way it did and ended up so tragic.

KING: So the story won't have her death?

FLEEMAN: No, it won't. At the time that we went to press, we were certain that it was a devastating head injury and it looked like that she wasn't going to make it.

KING: Now, Doctor, you were with us last night.


KING: And you were very pessimistic last night, so obviously -- but the obvious question was, it was a small slope and she was laughing.

What do you guess happened?

MARTIN: In some cases, even a fall from a few feet -- from standing erect to hitting the ground -- can be enough to cause a serious injury if you can't protect yourself. If your head hits hard, then your brain collides with your skull and a serious injury can occur.

We have to be cognizant of the other possibility and that is that there maybe there was some preexisting condition that may even have triggered the fall and then snowballed.

KING: You mean a condition that would cause her to fall?

MARTIN: She may have had a minor leak from a brain aneurysm that then ruptured more severely several hours later.

KING: So we're not going to know anything until autopsy, right?


KING: You brought this -- this is, what, a diagram of the brain?

MARTIN: Well, this is a mod -- this is a model of the brain, life size. And you can see the blood vessels on the surface of the brain. And the blood vessels are what are vulnerable in even a minor injury.

So if the brain suddenly moves, the blood vessels can be torn or stretched. And they may leak or bleed more aggressively. And that can cause a collection of blood that puts pressure on the brain. And that can become life-threatening and even fatal relatively quickly.

KING: Dr. Black, who was with you last night...


KING: ...when we were walking out, he said the key here is when they didn't announce anything about surgery.

If they're not doing surgery, it doesn't look good, meaning?

MARTIN: If someone has lapsed into a coma after an injury like that, certainly a scan -- a C.T. Scan of the brain would have been done. If they saw a correctable problem like a local collection of blood, then a craniotomy -- brain surgery would have been done right away. In this case, there was no announcement about any surgery. And so one only has to guess that they either saw nothing correctable or there was such massive damage right from the beginning that surgery wasn't going to help.

KING: What's that over there?

MARTIN: Well, this is -- these are specimens from the pathology library to show what an actual injury to the brain looks like.

KING: Can we get a shot of this?

MARTIN: So this is bleeding over the surface of the brain. And this is the cause of the problem. You can see how this side of the brain has moved over, it's compressed, it's under tremendous pressure. And the progression of that problem is what causes brain damage.

KING: And when someone is brain dead, they're dead, right, even though the heart is beating?

MARTIN: Exactly. When the brain is gone -- we can sustain a heartbeat with life support, but that doesn't mean that the person is there. When the brain function is gone, the person is gone.

KING: Mark, you interviewed her, did you not?

STEINES: I -- yes, my first -- I believe it was my first interaction with Natasha was in 1988, a "Parent Trap" premier. And, you know, she was very much like the -- like the family. She was a star. She, you know, she was captivating on the red carpet. And, you know, it -- this is such a tragic, tragic story. It leaves so many of us in this community in shock. They were so well-respected, this couple. There was such a great history with her family, because of her mother and her aunt and her sister all in the business, her father and mother both Oscar winners, as well.

KING: Yes, her mother was...

STEINES: Vanessa Redgrave.


STEINES: And Lynn -- Lynn Redgrave...

KING: Lynn and...

STEINES: ...her aunt.

KING: Michael. STEINES: So the family goes on and on.

What's really interesting about the couple itself is as you look at the romance that happened between them, back in 1994 I think is when the relationship and the marriage occurred, you really had Liam, who is a self-made actor, who was a forklift operator, a truck driver, an amateur boxer and then transitions into making these great films.

KING: Was "Schindler's List" out already when they met?


KING: So right after it.

STEINES: So, yes. So it's almost like she was at the start of this big surge for him as an actor.

KING: She was also a major figure on Broadway, was she not, Michael?

FLEEMAN: Yes. Of course, she won the Tony award for "Cabaret"...

KING: Right.

FLEEMAN: ...the revival of that. And much of her career was spent on the stage. It wasn't just a romance, it was an endearing marriage. This was a successful marriage -- two children, two sons, ages 12 and 13 who have been left behind. And in every interview with both Liam and with Natasha, you would always hear them talk about their sense of family, their need for privacy. A dignity comes out. They would never exploit anything for -- for cheap gain. And I think people have responded to that and respected them very much.

KING: And she was as much theater as film, right?

FLEEMAN: Definitely.

KING: Yes.

FLEEMAN: Yes. She spent many years on the stage.

KING: We're going to take a break and come back and keep our panel here.

By the way, if you have any calls or blogs coming in, we'll be happy to entertain your questions, on this sad night edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

The women in business part, which we promised you, because this is all business week, will come later.

Don't go away.


KING: We're back discussing the tragic death of Natasha Richardson.

It was quite a family this young lady came from.



BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Natasha Richardson was a London native who had entertainment in her blood. She hailed from an acting dynasty. Her mother was the Oscar winning actress, Vanessa Redgrave; her father, the late director, Tony Richardson; and her sister, actress Joely Richardson. She was also the niece of Lynn Redgrave.


NATASHA RICHARDSON, ACTRESS: No, I absolutely love it.


ANDERSON: The 1998 remake of "The Parent Trap" among the movies in our four-decade long career in television and on the big screen. She appeared in a variety of other films, including "Patty Hearst," "Made in Manhattan," "The Handmaid's Tale" and the film "Nell," where she co-Starred with Liam Neeson, who became her second husband in 1994.


RICHARDSON: Mommy loves daddy, really.


ANDERSON: Her stage resume was also lengthy in both Britain and the U.S.


RICHARDSON (SINGING): Maybe this time, for the first time...


ANDERSON: She won a Tony Award and several other honors in 1998 for playing Sally Bowles in the revival of the musical, "Cabaret."

Natasha Richardson leaves behind her husband and two sons. She was 45.

Brooke Anderson, CNN, Los Angeles.


KING: We're back with Mark Steines of "Entertainment Tonight," with Michael Fleeman of "People" magazine and Dr. Neil Martin, professor in chief of neurosurgery at UCLA Medical Center. I asked the doctor during the break if there's pain involved when we have a brain injury. And you told me that you sometimes operate on the brain without anesthesia.

MARTIN: In some cases, when there's a tumor in a critical location, we have to test the function of the brain continuously and the patient has to be awake to respond verbally to questions or to move an arm or a hand. So in some cases, yes, the patient is actually awake during the surgery.

The brain doesn't have any nerve fibers, so they don't feel any work done in the brain.

KING: Therefore, can we guess maybe she had no pain?

MARTIN: If she had...


MARTIN: ...if she had a hemorrhage in the brain, she may or may not have had pain initially. But progression of bleeding in the brain tissue itself may not be associated with severe pain.

Generally, as it gets worse, there will be an increasing headache. And, really, that's one of the signs that indicates that you've got to get to medical attention right away.

KING: Now you gather from the fact that she was talking and apparently kidding around after this, that it might have been something pre or it could have been post?

MARTIN: She may have had some sort of minor trigger that caused her to fall. And the fall may not have been the primary problem, although there's a chance that it was.

KING: The autopsy will tell us that?

MARTIN: Well, it -- the C.T. Scan that certainly was done will give some indication as to what the underlying problem was and the autopsy may answer further questions.

KING: One more thing I'd like you to show us, the normal brain. And I understand this is what is taught to medical students?

MARTIN: This is what our pathologists use to teach anatomy to the medical students. So this is a preserved slice of a brain. And these are fluid cavities within the brain and the infolding of the giruses (ph) on the surface of the brain are -- are illustrated there.

KING: This is a healthy brain?

MARTIN: This is a healthy brain.

KING: Are these stories tougher to do, Mark?

STEINES: Yes, absolutely they're tougher to do. I remember getting the call at about 2:00 a.m. When Sonny Bono hit a tree in Tahoe and being sent out and being the first one to climb the mountain and be there. But it's very similar in a sense, Larry, where I stood there and I couldn't believe it was this tree near the top of the mountain. I don't ski, but I have. And I -- and it just seemed so bizarre to me that something so minor and whatnot could claim a life. And, in this case, it's the same thing, where we (INAUDIBLE).

KING: Do you ski, Michael?

FLEEMAN: No, I don't.

KING: Is this hard to write about?

FLEEMAN: It's very difficult. And I have to say, I'm -- I'm a little bit surprised at how this has resonated with the public. There is a real emotional bond between this couple and the public and a deep respect and the calls and the e-mails that we have gotten and the deep concern that people have had, it strikes a cord on a number of levels.

KING: Well, isn't -- the husband, frankly, while she is extraordinary talented and her "Cabaret" performance was amazing -- is more famous.

FLEEMAN: Well, "Taken" is probably the biggest movie of the year right now. I think one of the most touching and poignant parts of this story is how as soon as he heard that she was in the hospital, he was in Toronto and raced to her side. And he has been there ever since -- on the plane ride back to New York, in the hospital in New York. He has not left her side.

KING: Similarity of Travolta in that sense. While Travolta's was the son...


KING: ...that devotion.

STEINES: You know, you never get used to that feeling when you hear the news. You streech -- you stretch out and you try to find every source you can to confirm the information before you go with it. And the whole time you just -- you feel for the family.

You know, we've had a relationship with celebrities for so long, with the show and myself -- you know, especially with John and Kelly, in this particular situation.

One thing I want to say, though, if I can, about these two is that, you know, they did have a very high regard amongst the people here in town, in this community. And one of the things that Natasha was known for is her great cooking. So she would have these great dinner parties up in their estate in New York. And from Laura Linney to Meryl Streep and the list goes on and on, they would come by and she would entertain and they'd have a great time.

So as much as Liam may have been that big, big, you know, headline getter, if you will, she was the one who really seemed to keep -- keep that reputation (INAUDIBLE).

KING: Have you had to treat celebrities?

MARTIN: I have on occasion. You know, what this story drives home -- and we've talked about the medical aspects of trauma here. But the trauma that a family experiences from such a sudden event is immense. And it really takes some compassion on the part of the medical team to -- to provide support.

KING: Does a doctor get training in that -- what -- how to deal with -- you have this and outside the door is the family.

Are you trained?

MARTIN: It's very tough to provide classroom training for this. It's real word training. It's experience over time. And it's having gone through it before. And, unfortunately, part of neurosurgery is dealing with life-threatening and sometimes fatal problems.

KING: We're back with more of this outstanding panel on this very sad night.

Don't go away.


KING: Natasha Richardson and her husband, Liam Neeson, appeared in the movie "Nell" in 1984.

Take a look.


RICHARDSON: So what are we going to do now?

LIAM NEESON, ACTOR: We're going to have to take her to court tomorrow morning.


NEESON: So that's it?

I could take it if she'd say something to me, anything. But this silence.

RICHARDSON: Donna Kay (ph). Donna Kay Missa Chicapee (ph).


KING: Now we said '84. That movie was '94 and they were probably just married or getting married right at that time.

We'll talk to Natasha's friend. He'll join the panel. Kenneth Cole, right after this.


BLITZER: Our panel is still with us.

And joining us on the phone is Michael Riedel of the "New York Post." He covers theater and performing arts.

But first, Kenneth Cole, the famed retailer. Kenneth Cole shoes are known, I guess, everywhere in the world. And you know his ads everywhere. And Kenneth was very close, as we under -- how close were you to Natasha?

KENNETH COLE: Well, I was -- I was a good friend of Natasha's, as were so many of us, Larry. But -- and she -- and I worked -- I had the pleasure to work very closely with her, in her commitment, devotion and tireless efforts on behalf of HIV/AIDS.

As you -- as you, I think you know, she lost her father to AIDS. And -- and she was absolutely open and comfortable after a period of time in allowing others to benefit from her loss.

And so for 15 years she was on our -- on our board at AMFAR. And she was an eloquent spokesman -- a tireless advocate. She was relentless in her devotion and commitment to talk about the perils of HIV/AIDS. And she told her story and through her life's example how other people can -- can learn a life's lesson.

And so -- but she was great. She was always there and always had a wonderful, optimistic, can-do attitude and spirit. And she's so badly missed already.

KING: Kenneth you're obviously very upset, just by the tone.

What -- what was she like as a person?

COLE: Natasha had this wonderful way of looking at everything. And there was nothing that didn't seem to make sense or couldn't find a rationale. And she sought to get things done her way. And she lived a very low key lifestyle. But -- but everybody revered and adored her. And -- and she just made herself available to efforts and opportunities where she felt she could add value and she felt she could make a difference. And she did that with her friends and she did that with issues that she cared about.

KING: Were you ever blessed with a chance to eat one of her meals?

COLE: I did. And she's very passionate about everything she does, including her preparation of fine food and fine conversation.

KING: Also on the phone, Kenneth, with us is Michael Riedel.

Michael is with the "New York Post".

Theater and performing arts is his -- what kind of...


KING: How would you rate her talent, Michael?

RIEDEL: She was a terrific stage actress. I saw most of her performances here on Broadway.

And why would she not be?

It's in the genes. Her grandfather was the great British actor Michael Redgrave. Her mother, Vanessa Redgrave, is, arguably, the greatest living actress in the English speaking world today. And her father, Tony Richardson, directed some very important plays and movies in the '50s and '60s in England.

She started, I think, about 1985. She was Nina in "The Seagull" and "The West End" and got good reviews. But what really established her was a production of O'Neill's "Anna Christie" here on Broadway. And I think she was 30 at the time playing a 19-year-old in the play.

And she was so beautiful and so fiercely charismatic on the stage. It was in that production, in fact, where she met and fell in love with Liam Neeson. And the two of them together had amazing chemistry.

And that's really where she was noticed by those of use who cover the theater here in New York.

KING: Was it known that she could sing and dance before "Cabaret" opened?

RIEDEL: No. No. In fact, I don't believe that she could sing and dance before she starred in a terrific revival of "Cabaret" in 1999 on Broadway. I was talking to Joe Masteroff just yesterday. He wrote the book to "Cabaret."

And he said that she went over to John Kander's house -- John wrote the music for the show. And John Kander rehearsed her and played her through the score. And she was learning to sing from John Kander. And Joe said that the rumors they were hearing was that she was a terrible singer and she was going to be awful.

And then the first -- the first day of rehearsal, she opened her mouth to sing some of those famous songs and Joe said that she just knocked everybody out. And I saw that performance and it really was one of the -- one of the greatest musical theater performances I've ever seen.

KING: Like her mother, was she politically involved?

RIEDEL: I never got the sense. No. I think she very carefully navigated those treacherous waters. She was never in the -- in the limelight, shall we say, the way her mother -- her mother supporting the Palestinians and so on.

She certainly, as Kenneth Cole said, was very active in fundraising for good causes, especially AIDS, because her father, Tony Richardson, died of AIDS.

But I -- I did not know her to be publicly political -- publicly political in any way.

KING: All right.

Kenneth, were you ever upon occasion with her and her husband?

COLE: You know, I have met Liam once or twice. But -- but she really -- I mean her personal devotion and dedication to things she cared about, she almost -- she kept, it was almost a separation of church and state at home. And her -- when she committed to -- her efforts to public service and to AIDS advocacy, she -- it was something she really gave of herself independent of her family.

But I know that she adored her kids and I know she adored Liam. And she talked about them all the time. And I had the privilege of meeting them on a few occasions.

KING: Do you think, knowing Broadway, the dramatists will do something special, Michael, in the way of a theater kind of memorial?

RIEDEL: Yes. I'm sure they -- I'm sure they will. Tonight, for example, they have dimmed the lights for Ron Silver, who died just yesterday. And I think tomorrow night you can expect that all the lights on the marquis on Broadway will be dimmed for her.

She was very, very popular in the Broadway community, she and -- she and Liam. They came back to the theater regularly, even though he was a big movie star there. Their hearts really were in the theater. They were at many opening nights. They had many very close friends -- Broadway producers and writers and directors. And I know that the theatrical industry today is -- is really shaken by her death.

KING: I'll tell you what we're going to do. We're going to hold Michael Riedel. We're going to hold Kenneth Cole and get back to our panel, as well, in another segment.

Then Joan Rivers will be coming up in a little while in the segment right after that.

And then we'll get her and keep Joan as we discuss business and women.

Don't go away.


KING: We're back.

CNN has received statements via Twitter from Martha Stewart and Demi Moore.

Martha Stewart said: "I just -- " she just heard the tragic news about poor Natasha Richardson. "Her family must be devastated. My sincerest condolences to all." And Demi Moore: "I'm sending out prayers for Natasha Richardson and her family -- a real reminder of how precious life is and how quickly it can be gone." She added: "Remember to tell the people around you that you love and appreciate them. Find one good thing in everyone and soar with gratitude."

A very good idea.

We were talking again during the break, Mike, they didn't make the tabloids, didn't they much, ever? Or did they once?

STEINES: They really were kind of -- not off-limits, they just never addressed personal subject matters when you sat down and talked with them about their films. They were just a very private couple who just said, here's my work and I let it speak for itself.

KING: They sued a tabloid?

FELDMAN: Natasha sued. It was the one time that they sort of broke out of -- that there was trouble in their marriage. And it was one of the few times that sort of put personal life on the front burner. She was victorious in that action, got money from the tabloids.

KING: Before we go back to Ken and Michael, have we, doctor, made a lot of strides in brain and brain surgery since you began?

MARTIN: The practice of brain surgery today is radically different than it was when I trained 25 years ago. There's been tremendous technological advances, the medications we use. So it's radically different. It's a constant learning process to keep up with the advances.

KING: You cure brain tumors too?

MARTIN: Many benign brain tumors are cured by surgery or focused radiation therapy. The worst kinds of tumors, the malignant brain tumors, we're still struggling to find a cure.

KING: Kenneth, what are you going to remember the most?

COLE: I'm going to remember an extraordinary human being, Larry, and I'm going to remember an individual who made a big difference in the fight against HIV/AIDS. She was an important component of what we stood for and she had been for 15 years. And I'm going to remember a good friend and just a tireless, elegant human being. And we're going to miss her and our hearts go out to Liam and the kids.

KING: Michael, how will the theatrical world remember her?

RIEDEL: Well, she really was one of the great leading ladies of the stage. She was a very interesting actress in the sense that she had an analytical intellectual mind. She could really analyze a play and analyze the characters she was playing. But when you saw her on the stage, she was playing it emotionally to the hilt. And she could really hit you in deep and profound ways. She was a real artist of the theater.

KING: And Mark, from your standpoint, how will she be remembered?

STEINES: Lost too soon, a star that -- you know, that set an example that you can have a marriage, you can have a career in this town and make it work for some 15 years. Those are long years in this town. And I think seeing the way they did it set the standard.

KING: Michael?

FELDMAN: The fragility of life that you can have everything -- you can have fame, money, happy family and children, and just like that, it can be gone.

KING: Doctor, do you take your work to the operating room? I mean is it a brain? Or is it Joan's brain or Phil's brain?

MARTIN: You know, we get so engaged in the technical elements of dealing with a problem that that becomes all consuming. The emotional attachment to the patient and the family fades away when you're dealing with the problem at hand that has to be fixed.

KING: Yes. But it's there, right?

MARTIN: It's absolutely there, and it's a critical part of the preparation for surgery. It's a critical part of the post-operative recovery to support the patient and the family. But when you get focused through the surgical microscope on clipping an aneurism or removing a tumor, it's all consuming.

KING: Thank you to all of you. Thanks Ken. Thanks Michael. We appreciate it very much. Joan Rivers is going to join us now. We'll talk with Joan a little bit about Natasha, and then move into the main reason Joan was booked tonight, and that's to talk about women and business. This is business week on CNN. And then she'll be joined by two other terrific panelists. Don't go away.


KING: I'm now joined by an old friend, we go back many moons, Joan Rivers. She'll be part of the business panel in a little while. A businesswoman and comedian, currently a competitor, by the way, on "Celebrity Apprentice," and the best selling author of two books. We'll talk about them later.

You knew Natasha Richardson. What was your reaction?

JOAN RIVERS, "CELEBRITY APPRENTICE": Oh, shouldn't have happened. We were more acquaintances than friends. But we spent one amazing day on a boat with my whole family and she and Liam and the boys and Joey. And they were such a family.

KING: What was the occasion?

RIVERS: We were all in the Caribbean, and we all kind of knew each other from dinner parties and so forth. And we met at the airport and we said, oh, let's get together, with the kids. And it was one of those wonderful days. We laughed and talked and had lunch and the kids were jumping off the boat and we were drinking wine. She was just amazing and darling.

KING: Have you seen her work on Broadway?

RIVERS: I've seen her work. I love actresses who go back and forth. I always have such great respect for someone who goes to Broadway, and then film, and goes back again. And musical -- and sang beautifully, and danced. I saw her in "Philadelphia Story" years ago in London when she won an award. She was very young in a musical version of that.

KING: What was your read on them as a couple that day?

RIVERS: Totally happy, totally devoted to each other. That's what kills me. I mean just shouldn't have happened. Should not happen. Totally devoted. And they made such a good-looking couple too. He doted on what she said, she doted on -- it was just perfect.

KING: How did you learn of this yesterday?

RIVERS: One of our mutual friends called me and said, do you know about -- I just saw them recently in the thing that Prince Charles gave in England, and a mutual friend said, did you heard about what happened to Natasha? I said, what are you talking about. And he said, she's brain dead.

KING: So you knew yesterday?

RIVERS: I knew yesterday. And I knew yesterday that she was brain dead. And I was told, which is, again, so dear, that they kept her alive purposely to bring her back to New York, so that the boys could say goodbye to her before --

KING: Really?


KING: That's both beautiful and sad.

RIVERS: Look at this, it gets me crazy. It's sad.

KING: Do you ski?

RIVERS: I had a terrible fall about 12 years ago. And I lay there in the snow and I said to myself, if I get up, I'm not coming back and I got up.

KING: You're like goodbye.

RIVERS: Goodbye. And I swear to you, I laid on the ground and I go, if everything works, that's it. That's it.

KING: You've heard the doctor. What do you make of this? There must have been something previously. It was a slight fall?

RIVERS: You don't know, you hit your head wrong. You walk out of your house and it's over. We all know that, especially at this age. You understand that it's over, it's gone. It's just not that age, not with a good marriage, not with two young boys. It shouldn't be.

KING: John Kennedy said life isn't fair.

RIVERS: It isn't. It isn't. And anyone who doesn't get up in the morning and say how lucky I am is an idiot.

KING: Joan Rivers will remain with us. Two other prominent ladies will join us and we'll talk about women in business, our original plan for our entire evening tonight.

Your blogs about the death of Natasha Richardson in 60 seconds.



KING: We're now talking to three women who are all business. Kimora Lee Simmons is president and creative director of Phat Fashions. She's the star and executive producer of "Kimora, Life in the Fab Lane." Kim Kardashian is the co-owner of the boutique Dash. She has launched an online shoe company called "Shoe-Dazzle." She stars in "Keeping up With the Kardashians." And Joan Rivers remains with us, the very definition of a businesswoman.

Here's a look at her in action, by the way, on "The Apprentice." I think -- I'm sorry, you were in action on "The Apprentice."

How how has the economic downturn affected your business.

RIVERS: We have learned to become a lean, mean machine. I -- about a year ago, I thought we've got to trim. We have also learned to think outside of the box. I know it sounds silly, but we've gotten into not just jewelry now, we're doing other things. We're doing sun glasses. We're doing any accessory we can that will keep our business floating.

KING: Have you had to lay off people?


KING: How many?

RIVERS: Four. It killed me, killed me, killed me.

KING: Kim, you are a co-owner of the boutique Dash? I guess Robert Shapiro is involved too, right, in Shoe Dazzle.

KIM KARDASHIAN, SHOEDAZZLE.COM: Bob Shapiro is my partner in, yes.

KING: Has that helped offset this economic downturn?

KARDASHIAN: I think it has benefited what's going on right now. We started this company, or had it in talks for about a year. It just so happens that it's the perfect idea for people right now. You can get a great affordable shoes for 39 dollars.

KING: Is it doing well when things are bad?

KARDASHIAN: It's doing extremely right well.

KING: Overall, how are you doing?

KARDASHIAN: In my store, Dash, I definitely see a change. And my sisters and I have definitely been buying the clothes differently, buying less trendy pieces and more classic pieces, to help with the economy and people just wanting to buy pieces that they only need. I think people now -- you know, I have learned the difference between what I want and what I need.

KING: Kimora, what's all this affect on fashion?

KIMORA LEE SIMMONS, PRESIDENT AND CREATIVE DIRECTOR, PHAT FASHIONS: I think it's safe to say that -- we fortunately have not had to lay people off, but it's definitely an overall look at your business, in terms of lowering your overhead, really getting into your marketing and reaching your consumer. A lot of stores are closing and going out of business. Department stores are consolidating. So that means less product, less money.

KING: Have you had to lay off people?

SIMMONS: No, I haven't had to go that far. But fashion week, you have to downsize your fashion show, your invites. It's no more big glamorous parties. It's no more huge Christmas bonuses. You know, none of that

KING: Do you see any light at the end of the tunnel?

SIMMONS: I see a lot of light at the end of the tunnel. I think people have to sort of buckle down. I think it's about watching your overhead, watching your company, and sort of weather the storm. I definitely think one way to make money is to spend money. And I think it's about offering the customer quality goods for a great price. Value, it's all about value.

KING: Do you think women handle it differently than men?

RIVERS: Women are not -- Women think more. A woman wants to still feel good, so accessories are terribly important. You're not going to buy the dress. You're going to buy the beads that make the dress look good. They're handling it that way. They still want to look glamorous.

KARDASHIAN: Or the shoes.

RIVERS: Or the shoes. KING: They want the shoes, but they don't have the 220 dollars.


RIVERS: You don't need the 220 dollars.

KARDASHIAN: You really don't. And I think that as long as we have a quality product, which I think all of us have quality products, for really affordable prices, I think we're all ahead of the game.

KING: You still need that, though. The heel can't fall off when you bring it home.


SIMMONS: No, the heel can't fall off when you bring it home, but, being in fashion since I was 13 years old, and wearing a lot of 5,000 dollar heels down the runway that's all brick, it's not about the extra 4,800 dollars that you put into that heel that makes it quality or not.

KING: Do you think the stimulus plan is going to work, Joan?

RIVERS: I don't know. I have my own stimulus plan. I want to get 20 billion dollars for enemas for seniors. Enemas for seniors. They won't --


RIVERS: -- they're out, they're at that mall and they're shopping.

KING: Can't miss.

RIVERS: Can't miss. I hope --

KING: Do you have faith in the president?

KARDASHIAN: I do. I do. This is my first year of voting. My whole entire family -- the children of my family that are old enough to vote, we never have. And this is the first time all of us voted for Obama and I definitely have faith in the president.

KING: You talk about affordable luxury, right?


KING: That's not an oxymoron?

SIMMONS: Well, I hope not. It's something -- I've been in business over ten years. I started the business by finding and filling a niche. And that was offering a lot of fashion, great fashion, you know, hitting trends at a certain price. So now that all of this is upon us, I don't have to change that thought, so much as to make sure it's good quality while I'm doing it. KING: We'll be back with more moments with three outstanding ladies on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. More with Joan, Kimora and Kim after this.


KING: We're talking business with Kim Kardashian of Shoe Dazzle, Kimora Lee Simmons of Phat Fashions, Joan Rivers of everything, including authoring books like "Murder at the Academy Awards" and "Men are Stupid and They Like Big Boobs." They're both out simultaneously.

Joan, by the way, calls the shots on this season's "The Apprentice." Watch.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Claudia and I would really love to be the people who go write the script, if that's possible.




Annie has totally taken over and decided she was going to write the presentation. I thought that was really stupid, considering I've had four plays and I've written on Broadway, two series and a motion picture.

You're an idiot.


KING: Donald Trump last night said that you are the best so far on this show.

RIVERS: I adore him.

KING: Are you enjoying it?

RIVERS: It was very tough. I enjoyed every minute of it.

KING: It's over and done. We haven't seen the end of it.

RIVERS: We don't know who won.

KING: Oh, you don't know?

RIVERS: You shoot alternate endings.

KING: I see.

KARDASHIAN: My sister won, Chloe. She's on it with Joan. She won. I'm just kidding. KING: We have an e-mail question from Linda in New London, Connecticut. What was the biggest business failure you've experienced and how do you recover and learn from it? Kim?

KARDASHIAN: The biggest business failure? Gosh.

KING: Have you had one? You're so young.

KARDASHIAN: Definitely, when I first opened my store Dash, we were buying for our personality types and what we liked, not for the customer of Calabasas (ph), where we first opened that. And we definitely had to learn the customer. So we've changed the way we buy depending on the customer, instead of our own personality type.

KING: Kimora?

SIMMONS: That's a good one.

KING: Haven't had any?

SIMMONS: I can't say I haven't had any, but I probably can't think of a specific one right now. I learn every day from the consumer and the market and the trends how to be better.

KING: A particular fashion that flopped?

SIMMONS Fashion flops all the time. I create it. It's on the runway. It's gone the next day. I'm thinking of an entire new collection.

KING: Joan among your 17,000 products?

RIVERS: We were so lucky out of the box. The jewelry just worked. It was great value for a great price. And thank god it's 20 years and god bless those ladies, and gay men. You don't know who is behind it.

KING: Can we say you're optimistic, Kim?

KARDASHIAN: I definitely think I'm optimistic. I think is going to be a very successful company. We've just launched it in March and so far the numbers have been extremely successful for us. I'm just excited to give affordable shoes. Everyone wants shoes.

KING: You, too, Kimora?

SIMMONS: I'm very optimistic. Like I said earlier, about weathering the storm and sort of hanging in there and giving the people what they need.

KING: I wanted to show the folks Joan's books. "Murder at the Academy Awards." It's a novel, of course. And "Men Are Stupid and They Like Big Boobs." She told us for our website that she got that title from something said to her by Marilyn Monroe when Joan was at college. Are you still with QVC?

RIVERS: Oh, yes, yes.

KING: That's been forever.

RIVERS: It's been 20 years and it's amazing and we're all over Europe and the Orient and --

KING: Where are your products made?

RIVERS: We try to make them here. We do a lot, because I believe America first. Help the world but take care of ourselves. So we do as much as we can.

KING: How much is what you're wearing?

RIVERS: This is 79 dollars.

KING: Seventy nine dollars?


KING: How much is a typical pair of shoes?

KARDASHIAN: Every single pair of shoes at is 39 dollars. That includes a stylist, celebrity stylist to pick them out for you, the actual shoes, and shipping, 39 dollars.

KING: What's the Phat dress?

KARDASHIAN: I'm actually wearing another line that I have, which is Fabulosity (ph) from JC Penney's. And from head to toe, you get it for 100 dollars.

KING: Thank you all very much. Delightful. We're going to have you back soon. Go to and tell us what you think. We're open 24/7 and we love hearing from you.

Before I go, I want to tell you about Joy Behar's great new kids book. She is some lady when she sits in for us. This one is based on her own dog's mis-adventures. It's called "Sheetzu Caca Poopoo." I can't believe I'm saying this. Max goes to the dogs. It is a humorous look at some serious issues, including separation, new friendships and overcoming obstacles.

Joy's first book was a "New York Times" best seller. Hears to another winner, Joy. The book, by the way, goes on sale tomorrow. Speaking of the economy, a man who knows his way around it, former Governor Mitt Romney is our special guest tomorrow night. The special guest now is turning it over to Anderson Cooper in Warren, Michigan and "AC 360." Anderson?