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Susan Boyle's Breakdown; Examining Reality Shows

Aired June 6, 2009 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Susan Boyle's breakdown -- hospitalized for stress, exhaustion and the toll the spotlight may have taken on her mental health.

Did a TV show steer the singer to tirades, sending a fragile soul over the edge?

Reality shows -- what are they doing to the people on them?

Jon and Kate became rich and famous, but is the series using the couple, driving them to divorce?

What happens when the world's watching somebody else's private life?

Reality television -- out of control or just for ratings, next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening.

You probably know by now that Susan Boyle, the singing sensation and runner-up on "Britain's Got Talent," may have cracked under pressure of being on the show and all the surrounding publicity. She's in the hospital being treated for nervous exhaustion.

Joins us now is Amanda Holden, one of the show's judges, to tell us what she knows and if the show might have contributed to Susan's fragile state. She's in New York.

Thanks for being with us, Amanda.


KING: What do we know right now?

HOLDEN: Basically, we've spoken to Susan's brother. She -- he, in fact, spoke on the CBS early morning show this morning and -- which is breakfast television -- to say that his sister was very keen to come home as soon as she possibly could and that she was resting up in a clinic in London and that she was very much looking forward to coming out and seeing what was available to her when she -- when she felt better.

KING: Is the show, Amanda, paying for the hospital bills and are they taking care of her?

HOLDEN: The show -- I have no idea if they're paying the hospital bills. I would imagine that they are, to be absolutely honest. We're -- you know, we're a very loyal show. We love Susan very much. And, in fact, all the contestants that appear on our show are extraordinarily well looked after. So she is getting the best support she could possibly be getting at this time, yes.

KING: Your fellow judge, Piers Morgan, has said that there was talk of taking her off the show because of all the pressures on her.

Were you involved?

Were there any discussions like that?

HOLDEN: I wasn't involved in any discussions like that. And I think Pierce has a slightly closer relationship with her because -- well, the only thing I'm worried about with Susan Boyle is that she seems to have a crush on Piers Morgan. That's the only thing I'm worried about.


KING: Huh.

HOLDEN: And she...


HOLDEN: She spoken with Piers. And I think that Piers has kind of reassured her, in the last week, during the final, that, you know, that she was doing well and that she mustn't pay any kind of attention to the press and all the other stuff that was going other life.

So I think Piers is probably more qualified to answer that question than me.

KING: Yes, I guess.

HOLDEN: I had no real contact with her during that time.

KING: Despite all the tumult, there's no disputing that Susan sang her heart out during the finale of the competition.

Let's watch.


KING: I know the dance troupe was terrific and they'll be on with us later. But, frankly, why didn't she win?

HOLDEN: Honestly, I can't criticize the decision because it was the British public that voted in the end. I have no real idea, to be honest. I wonder whether it could be that -- well, Diversity, I have to say -- and you've probably seen it yourself and the rest of America will see it shortly -- that Diversity were utterly fantastic on the show that night. They decimated the show. They really, really were amazing. And I just wonder whether maybe younger people voted and were quicker on the texts than -- than the kind of people that were voting for Susan.

But as I keep saying, if Susan is a loser, then surely she is the biggest and best loser that we have in the world. And coming second is no bad thing.

KING: No, I know. She came in, though, with a small town amateur singer, learning disabilities due to suffering oxygen deprivation at birth.

Some say the program exploited her and her vulnerabilities.

Do you agree?

HOLDEN: I couldn't disagree more. You know, she -- she's a grown woman who applied to come on a talent show. She enjoyed every second of every moment that I met her or saw her behind the -- you know, behind-the-scenes. She was very excited. She was very proud to be taking part in the show.

And as you all could see through interviews that America was giving her and Britain was giving her in the kind of six weeks that she -- we've all got to know her, she was very excited about everything that was happening to her. And to be honest, it was really just in the last week that she -- I think the downturn in press in our country, I think, maybe stressed her out a little bit. And -- and I think she was just quite upset about all the exaggerated stories and the kind of falsehoods that were being written about her.

And I think that, you know, everybody gets upset about bad press when you're in this business. And she's somebody that's gone from anonymity to absolute worldwide, you know, phenomenon.

KING: Yes.

HOLDEN: So how -- how is she expected to handle that?

Nobody can handle that with the best will in the world. I've been in the business 15 years and I'm still not media savvy.

KING: Well, no question she was the favorite to win this weekend. She didn't.

Let's take a look at the dramatic announcement.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The winner of "Britain's Got Talent" 2009 is Diversity. Well, with every winner, there has to be...


KING: Diversity is going to be with us in a little while. Dr. Drew Pinsky has written the book on celebrity psychology. He's got a reality show of his own. We'll have insight into all of this.

Does she have a future in show business?





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You had the guts to come back here tonight, face your critics.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have never heard such powerful, confident vocals.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You should win this competition. I loved it.



KING: Speaking of entertainment, I know you've heard about my book, but this may shock you. I am going to be in Las Vegas -- appearing in Las Vegas at Steve Wynn's Encore Hotel on the night of Friday, June 19th. My wife Shawn will precede me with her songs and delightful patter. And I'm going to do an hour of comedy. Yes, the other side of Larry King. If you'd like to make reservations, we're going to give the proceeds to the Larry King Cardiac Foundation. Just go to -- Hope to see you there.

Amanda Holden remains with us. She's in New York.

Joining us here in Los Angeles, Dr. Drew Pinsky, the host of VH1's "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew" and author of a terrific book, "The Mirror Effect How Celebrity Narcissism is Seducing America."

What do you make of this Susan Boyle thing?


CELEBRITY NARCISSISM: Well, first of all, the first thing that jumped out at me is how the press reports these things.

The idea of nervous exhaustion?

That's not a term that exists in medicine. That's not a diagnostic category.

KING: There's no such a thing?

PINSKY: The problem here is that here's a woman that's suddenly under the scrutiny of the spotlight who, as you said when you went out to break, maybe has some -- some developmental issues, who is under tremendous stress and now has had a psychiatric decompensation and is in a psychiatric hospital.

The question is, did the show harm her?

KING: Did it?

PINSKY: It's hard to say. You know, how did -- this is the first time these kind of experiences have really been undertaken by people. People that come out of nowhere all of a sudden are international superstars.

KING: But we've always had talent shows. Radio had "Major Bowes," "Horace Heidt." Frank Sinatra was on "Major Bowes." He was discovered there. I mean that's always existed.

PINSKY: Well, it's interesting. And yet I would imagine people that developed international fame through that kind of programming developed -- had -- had very distinct talent and had careers as a result. It wasn't people who flash and then are expected to just go back to their normal lives.

KING: Should we be, Amanda, concerned about that?

HOLDEN: First of all, I just want to say that -- that Susan's brother said on British television this morning that, yes, Susan has experienced learning difficulties. But in actual fact, when she was at school, she did as well as any of her other siblings. But throughout her childhood, always before an exam or anything else, she was of kind of a nervous disposition and always got quite anxious about kind of big exams.

And so I think that with a show like this, she's a performer. I actually spoke to her the night -- the day before -- hours, in fact -- sorry -- before she went on stage for the final and ex -- you know, I said to her that nerves, I believe, as a performer myself, are actually a good thing; that Barbra Streisand, in fact, always throws up, I think, before she goes on stage every night.

And Susan, you know, she was feeling nervous. But she went out there and she nailed it. You know, she did the best performance that we've seen. And let's not forget, this is actually only the second or third time we've heard her sing. And she's, you know...

KING: Yes.

PINSKY: But she's (INAUDIBLE)...

HOLDEN: I think that she will have a...


KING: Yes.

HOLDEN: She is in -- she is in a place where celebrities go when they are burnt out. Now, I am obviously not a doctor.

I'm not you. I have no factual information to give to you. I can only say to you what her brother, who, obviously, has been spending time with her and who has the best information, because he's recently seen her, has said, which is that he believes that she wants to come home within a matter of days, rather than weeks...

KING: All right.

PINSKY: That's excellent.

HOLDEN: And that she is excited about the prospect of seeing what's out there. And, of course, you know, our show...

KING: She should be.


HOLDEN: Yes. But she is under no pressure to do anything.

KING: Let me get a -- let me show something here.

She was a guest on this show shortly after her amazing audition video was posted on the Internet.

Here's a little bit of that interview.


KING: How did you feel, by the way, Susan, when you came onstage?

SUSAN BOYLE: I felt -- it felt very daunting at first. But I gradually picked up enough courage. I was very -- I was very confident with the title.

KING: Now, people laughed, though, when you walked out. Some even rolled their eyes. They made faces -- who is this lady? Didn't that hurt you a little?

BOYLE: It didn't bother me because I knew I had to get on with my act.

KING: So you had no question about your singing?

BOYLE: Well, I wasn't sure how it would be received. So I just thought I'd give it a whirl.


KING: Would you guess, Dr. Drew, that she still has a career in front of her?

Wouldn't you bet she does?

PINSKY: Oh, I bet she does, absolutely. And she will learn to become accustomed to this kind of stress, I am sure. But let's make sure she has the care she needs. Let's call this what it is. And let's be sure that -- I mean it's really -- it throws open an interesting question -- should we be making sure that everybody that goes on shows like this has access to things that help them deal with the stress of these kinds of environments?

KING: Interesting point.

We've got the winners of "Britain's Got Talent" next -- the dance troupe Diversity, in 60 seconds.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All bets are off.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This will be the only performance tonight I would give a 10 to.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought you nailed it.


KING: That was Diversity, the dance troupe from Essex that won "Britain's Got Talent" this weekend, scoring an upset win over the singing sensation, Susan Boyle.

Amanda and Dr. Drew are still with us. But now we have the 11 members of that group as our guests. We'll try and get them all in the short time.

The other three, by the way, are under age. And because it's already the wee hours of Wednesday morning in London, they were not able to join us.

Let's meet Ashley Banjo, who is the leader and choreographer for Diversity; Ike Ezekwugo is with us, as well as Matthew McNaughton, Jordan Banjo, Terry Smith, Ian McNaughton, Sam Crest and Warren Russell.

Ashley, were you surprised -- even though you were terrific, were you surprised that you won?

ASHLEY BANJO, CHOREOGRAPHER, DIVERSITY: We -- the shock still hasn't, you know, hit us yet. We were so surprised. We didn't think there was any chance of beating Susan Boyle.

KING: OK. It's no secret that a lot of people thought that Susan would win. Bookmakers only rated the guys the sixth favorite.

Let's take a look at the big announcement.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The winner of "Britain's Got Talent" 2009 is Diversity.


KING: Ike, how long have you guys been together?

IKE EZEKWUGO, MEMBER, DIVERSITY: We've been together as a group for about two years now. But obviously, most of us have known each other for about 17 years.

KING: Where do you perform mostly, Matthew?

MATTHEW MCNAUGHTON, MEMBER, DIVERSITY: Mostly we used to perform around shopping centers around England or malls -- yes, malls, as they say.

KING: Well, you're going to do a lot more than that.

Jordan where do you go from here?

JORDAN BANJO, MEMBER, DIVERSITY: Well, obviously, we have the Royal Variety performance coming up. And I don't know. Our minds are still open to whatever can come our way, to be honest.

KING: Terry, do you feel a little sorry for Susan?

TERRY SMITH, MEMBER, DIVERSITY: Yes, I do feel sorry for Susan. I mean she's -- she's superb. She's actually great. And I -- well, we all think that she's going to have an absolutely brilliant career.

KING: Ian, how would you describe what Diversity does?

What kind of dancing is it?

IAN MCNAUGHTON, MEMBER, DIVERSITY: It's street dancing, but it's really unique in a way that we perform it, because there's a kind of theme to everything. There's a kind of story behind what we do.

KING: Is it -- Sam, is it a kind of ballet?

SAM CRASKE, MEMBER DIVERSITY: Is it a kind of ballet?


CRASKE: Nah, nah, nah.



KING: Warren, who came up with the outfits?

WARREN RUSSELL, MEMBER, DIVERSITY: Ashley's mom and Ashley, actually. But we sit -- well, they sit down and we think of a theme for our routines. And then we think of the costumes of the routines to go with that theme.

KING: Ashley, is this an easy group to choreograph?

A. BANJO: Yes. Purely -- purely because we are so close as a group. It's not easy as far as the fact that we're all different heights, we're all different ages. So it's hard to make the group look uniform. But because we're all like brothers and friends and we're all so close, you know, the routines come easier when we get into the studio, because everyone understands exactly what I'm saying so.

KING: That's terrific.

Why don't you guys do a little twirl for LARRY KING LIVE?

Show us -- just off the top, do something.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. We'll do a little something.



Let's go.

So we've got five, six, seven, eight.



KING: Hey, thank you, guys.

Best of luck.

We'll be seeing you everywhere. A guaranteed big tour.






KING: OK. Before we go to break, Amanda, what did you make of them?

HOLDEN: You know, they reflect everything that's brilliant about British youth culture today. We get such -- you know, I think a lot of young people get such a lot of bad press. And I just think they're a fantastic example of everything that's good about -- about young people in Britain and young people across the world. They're a really, really good bunch of boys.

KING: Well said.

Andrew Firestone, he was the bachelor some years back, wants to know what it's like to live his private life in front of the cameras. He'll tell us, next.


KING: Andrew, Amanda Holden, judge of "Britain's Got Talent," remains with us in New York.

Here in Los Angeles, Dr. Drew Pinsky, author of "The Mirror Effect

How Celebrity Narcissism is Reducing -- is Seducing America."

Joining in Los Angeles, Andrew Firestone. You remember him. He was the bachelor in the third season of the ABC reality series "The Bachelor."

And in New York, is Kate Coyne, senior editor of "People" magazine.

By the way, the June 15th edition has Jon Gosselin of "Jon & Kate Plus 8" on the cover. There you see the cover. Also, an article about Susan Boyle's breakdown.

Let's ask Andrew what he makes to this whole Susan Boyle thing. You were a major celebrity for a while.

ANDREW FIRESTONE, "THE BACHELOR," SEASON 3: Yes. It's kind of interesting.


FIRESTONE: I mean the -- no. Someone laughed at that.

HOLDEN: Sorry.

KING: He was, though. He was a celebrity.

HOLDEN: No. It's because he said for a while.

FIRESTONE: There was...

KING: Well, for a while.

How many weeks?

FIRESTONE: Yes. Well, that was -- it was six years ago that I did it and...

KING: How many weeks were you a celebrity?

FIRESTONE: Not very many.


FIRESTONE: I mean, it was, I think, like 14-and-a-half minutes.

KING: OK. All right.

FIRESTONE: I think I got gypped in the last 30 seconds.

KING: What do you make of this?

FIRESTONE: But, you know, it's interesting, because when I did my show six years ago, when reality TV was kind of just showing up and no one knew what to make of it. And now, with these sort of shows that are more produced and, you know, you're looking for a reaction. You're looking to almost to prompt a reaction. Sometimes it's good and sometimes it can be really bad.

KING: Yes.

Kate, what do you make of it?

KATE COYNE, SENIOR EDITOR, "PEOPLE": You know, I actually think that, in a way, the show is being unfairly blamed for any issues Susan is having right now. I mean, I think a lot of what this is, is the level of stardom that you can achieve now, thanks to the Internet, thanks to, you know...


COYNE: ...everything that goes on with YouTube and every camera -- you know, every cell phone has a camera, you cannot live your life, you know, with any degree of normalcy once you become famous.

So I really think the crushing pressure of everybody watching her has contributed to the issues she's having now far more than being on the show.

KING: Her brother John spoke to CNN about his sister's participation in "Britain's Got Talent" and what might be next for her.

Take a look.


JOHN BOYLE: Would it be probably better in hindsight to say, well, guys, come on, you know, we've got a unique situation here, we need to handle it in a unique fashion and maybe she could have been a bit more (INAUDIBLE). The best thing for her, I think, at this stage, is to come back to Scotland, sit and have a cup of tea, meet Pebbles the cat again, and then, you know, just regroup her thoughts and think where do we go from here?


KING: Dr. Drew, let's elaborate a little on development -- early development...


KING: ...and what this can do to you.

PINSKY: All right.

KING: What's your -- what -- explain this a little to us.

PINSKY: Well, you know, we really don't know what Susan particularly has, if any, developmental issues. We just don't. I think what I wrote about in my book is the developmental issue narcissism, which tends to -- people with narcissistic traits, which really is -- in America now, it's really all about...

KING: She doesn't appear to have that.

PINSKY: No, no. She really doesn't. But it can be stimulating and gratifying in ways that are sort of almost overwhelming. And to lose that then becomes a shattering experience. It's both the stress of contending with new stressors and then finding a way to maintain that, as well. People really want to hang onto the fame they find, many times, in these kinds of programs.

KING: All right. When -- are development -- the stages, when we go through something traumatic at 10...


KING: ...what's the effect at 30? PINSKY: Well, true trauma can cause developmental arrest. The way I think of it -- because in the addiction field, we see traumas all the time. If you watch "Celebrity Rehab," you'll see that virtually all of our patients have major childhood traumas.

And what it does is it causes you to exit the interpersonal frame -- the ability to trust and be present emotionally with other people that gives you what you need to develop an integrated emotional landscape.

Does that make sense?

KING: Yes.

PINSKY: That's a -- and so, if you exit that frame, you stay back where you were when the trauma occurred and you try to look for more primitive means to regulate. And the kind of things you look for are things that the culture offers you -- I'll be on a reality show, I'll drive a fast car, I'll do drugs and alcohol, I'll find sex, I'll do lots of -- get lots of money. Those things end up filling the hole and regulating but do nothing to really help the person.

KING: What's reality show done to Jon and Kate?

And what effect did it have on Andrew?

That all next on LARRY KING LIVE.



KATE GOSSELIN: Where are all the kids?


GOSSELIN: They're good.


GOSSELIN: I miss them.


GOSSELIN: It's been a couple days.

My kids were the reason that I wrote the books. And it's always about them. And I know that it looks, you know, like it's all about me all the time and whatever.

But what you don't see is down deep inside, it's a desperate desire to provide for my kids.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So now I'm like the stay at home dad thing. And Kate's the career woman, so it's different for me. And I think it's different for a guy. We're not moms, nor do we try to be. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We thank Amanda for being with us.

We're joined now by Sharon Waxman, editor-in-chief and founder of, an entertainment news Web site. Before we get into the other story we're concentrating on tonight, we've not asked Andrew about what attention did to him.

FIRESTONE: It was weird going on the show, because I didn't have any preconceived notions. It was a long time ago. But I think Dr. Drew kind of touched on it. It's instant fame. You don't build into it. It just happens right away. You are on the cover of magazines and people are, all of a sudden, digging through your trash.

But the way that I approached it was that I wasn't -- my intent was not to be on TV. My intent was to go and chase girls around and see if I found one, I don't know. You know? So, I think a big question is the intent of the participants. At "American Idol," the intent is to get a record contract. On "Celebrity Rehab," the intent is to hopefully get better.

But then you get on a show like a "Kate and Jon Plus 8," and what's the intent? What are they looking for? I think they have not found what they're looking for. I don't think they know what it is. And it has a sad ending, unfortunately.

KING: Sharon, ending up in a psychiatric clinic, as Susan Boyle has, but is reporting a number of reality show participants have committed suicide.

SHARON WAXMAN, THERAP.COM: Suicide. We've done an investigation. We've found 11 cases that seem -- appear to be directly related to reality shows. It's very sad.

KING: Why?

WAXMAN: Because you have people who are not -- remember, they're not only on the show. They're being subject to the whole landscape of media out there, especially the Internet, which can be very vicious. So you're having feedback from people. I mean, they left suicide notes in some cases that said, I'm getting 20 hate mails a day. I can't stand it. In some of the cases, you have producers on reality shows who are egging people on to be mean. And then they see what they've done on television. In one case, you had somebody whose sister had lost weight, was on "Extreme Makeover." The sister felt so terrible about the things she'd been sort of goaded in to saying about her sister that she committed suicide afterwards.

I'm not here to say -- I can't draw a direct causal link, but they're chronological close in time.

KING: Certainly interesting.


KING: Kate, what do you make of that?

COYNE: I think one of the things you have to bear in mind is that very often the people who are seeking fame on certain types of reality shows -- I'm talking about your "Big Brother" type of shows, the shows that are driven to be scandalous and nasty and mean and have a real sensationalistic bent.

Those people very often are not hugely emotionally stable to begin with. They are setting themselves up for a life in which they are so desperate for 15 minutes of fame that they will debase themselves and demean themselves in order to get it. I think they, most likely, had some significant emotional problems heading into those shows.

And, you know, certainly a reality TV show is not a great way to deal with those problems.

KING: We're going to talk about Jon and Kate in the next segment. But what do you make, Dr. Drew, of this suicide aspect?

PINSKY: I think it's fascinating. It bring the up the point we were making going out of one of these segments, where there may be real consequences of being on these shows. We might have to prepare for that. Right now, really all there is basic psychological screening, and to make sure that somebody isn't so unstable that they will hurt themselves or somebody else while on the filming on the show. After that, they are pretty much left to themselves.

WAXMAN: The other thing is that what psychologists are finding -- first of all, there are some people who are treating something called Truman Show Syndrome. Are you familiar with this?

KING: Sure, the movie.

WAXMAN: It's one of the consequences of being on reality shows. It's not only the losers, sometimes it's the winners.

KING: Begin to believe this. Believe your own reality insight.

WAXMAN: Exactly.

FIRESTONE: We look at all these shows, and it started out it was sort of interesting to watch people, "The Truman Show." But now as it's evolved over the last ten years, the shows need to get more and more interesting. They need to provide more drama, because it's like the rubber neck syndrome. If you see one fender-bender, you look at it for a minute. But after the 50th fender bender, you need something dramatic to catch your eye. And these shows are trying to create a dramatic scenario.

KING: All right, we'll talk about Jon and Kate next. Don't go away.


KING: At the same time as Susan Boyle story's been making headlines, Jon and Kate Gosselin of "Jon & Kate Plus 8" have become prime tabloid targets. The apparent meltdown of their marriage has sent the ratings of the show soaring. Here's an excerpt from the latest episode.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Happy birthday, mommy!

KATE GOSSELIN, "JON AND KATE PLUS 8": Jon's away, so it's kind of sad. I'm going to bake my own birthday cake, which I do every year anyway. But I just want to still make it fun for the kids. And we'll just have a little birthday party.

JON GOSSELIN, "JON AND KATE PLUS 8": I went out to Utah for, like, five more days. And I just want to get back out there and actually just ride and just ride with my friends. It just happened to fall on Kate's birthday.


KING: All right. Kate Coyne, Jon is on your next cover. What do you make of all this?

COYNE: You know, I think it's really clear, certainly from our upcoming story with Jon, you know, that he is really hurting. Both Jon and Kate are dealing with some serious pain and they're really struggling to figure out what they're going to do about their marriage.

KING: What puzzles me -- I'm sorry, go ahead.

COYNE: No, you know, I think what is the hardest problem for them right now is that they're really at an impasse. You know, she doesn't know what to do. He doesn't know what he wants. It's -- it's really a difficult situation.

KING: Why do you think, Andrew, they're doing this? Why?

FIRESTONE: Well, let me be clear. First of all, TLC is showing this dramatic scene of her baking a cake while she's gone. They are playing it up. That's their story line. That's one aspect.

The second aspect, the fact that she is gone or their work is driving a wedge through their family, then you get a different line of work. If I have a son and daughter -- or wife and son in the other room, and if my job was causing me to cause a rift, I would get a different job. And I think that they need to focus on those eight kids, which is the premise of the show.

And it's just sad that this is driving forward, that TLC is playing it up to the point that they're showing him snowboarding and her making a birthday cake.

KING: Why are they doing this? Why are they doing this?

WAXMAN: Right, that's a good question. And you also think about the fate of the children, who don't have any choice --

KING: They are pawns, right?

WAXMAN: I thought you said porn. Like tabloid porn.


WAXMAN: Yes. They're pawns and part of the spectacle. I don't know. Is there not going to be some kind of impact on them as they grow up?

KING: Drew?

PINSKY: We don't know what it means to be an octuplet. I'm a triplet parent. And I will tell you is that when we were preparing to have triplets, the first thing they said is don't do this, because, A, triplet and above, the marriages do not survive. The mental health of the kids are affected.

We made a decision to throw everything we had at it. It was a great decision for us. I have an amazing wife. But if you throw cameras in our house with triplets, no way.

KING: Why do they do it?

PINSKY: Kate's desperation -- in a couple segments ago, there's a clip of her talking about the desperation. That's the way you feel when you're a multiple parent.

KING: The question I keep asking is why.

PINSKY: We can't look into their minds. Maybe they felt like, oh my god, how are we going to afford all this kids. Maybe this will give us a way to get them educated, get them what they need. I don't know.

COYNE: Everything about our culture today teaches the most important value is to be famous. Isn't that really what the message of reality television is?

KING: We've got lots more on walking the reality TV tightrope. But first out, "Fall Out Boys'" Pete Wentz is here and we'll be back with him in 60 seconds.


KING: Time now for Impact Your World. Our next guest is certainly doing that. They're three friends from southern California, Jason Russell, Lauren Poole, and Bobby Bailey. They have made a documentary called "Invisible Children." It's a story of war and murder, but also one of hope over adversity in Africa. "Fall Out Boys'" famed leader Pete Wentz is a supporter of that group. And he's with us, too. Now, how did you get involved, Pete?

PETE WENTZ, FALL OUT BOYS: I had a couple friends who were from San Diego who told me about it. And I saw the movie, and then I went to kind of an event they had where they had displaced themselves in Orange County, and decided that I need to actually see it for real on the ground in Uganda, and went to Uganda and shot a video over there.

KING: How did you even get in to this, Jason?

JASON RUSSELL, FILMMAKER: Well, actually, I went to Sudan. That's where I originally wanted to go, and ended up in northern Uganda, where there was this hidden war. Children running for their lives --

KING: From?

RUSSELL: From this man named Joseph Koney, who is the first International Criminal Court Indictment for crimes against humanity. He abducts children and forces them to kill their own families.

KING: For what purpose?

RUSSELL: There's no real purpose behind it. It's a blend of politics, of spirituality. But truly, at this point, he has been in the Congo. He has been abducting children from northern Uganda for 23 years.

KING: How long did it take to do, Bobby, this documentary?

BOBBY BAILEY, FILMMAKER: Well, we went over there for the first time in 2003. But since, we've built a nonprofit, which is changing lives on the ground, but also fuels a movement, which is trying to end the longest-running war. So, I mean, we've been at this with different documentaries and events for six years.

KING: Where do we see invisible children?

RUSSELL: You can see it on our website. Buy the movie. But we also we've got a lot of videos on the site, which allows people to get informed about the situation and become a part of that change.

KING: What's the website?


KING: Were you shocked at all, Lauren?

LAUREN POOLE, FILMMAKER: Yes, I mean, to see kids, nine -- and you're a father yourself -- to be taken from their families and turned into child soldiers, to put a gun in their hand, was overwhelming for me to see. And to come from a place like America, where we have such an emphasis on our children, that this could happen -- 30,000 kids have been abducted.

KING: Let's take a look at one of the moving stories in "Invisible Children." Hard to believe this goes on, but it does. Here's one boy's incredible account. Watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My brother tried to escape and then they killed using panga.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What does Panga mean? Machetes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. They cut his neck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you see it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw. I tried to cry, but they say that when I cry, they are going to kill me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You would rather die than stay on Earth?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even now. How are we going to stay in our future? There is no one taking care of our us.


KING: How could anyone, Pete, in your imagination -- you haven't gone over, have you?

WENTZ: I have.

KING: You have? How could anyone kill, bother, disturb children?

WENTZ: It's really shocking to me, and horrifying, especially having a son now. Someone put it in really great terms, was that how can a child ever grow up and have a normal life if they're forced to be soldiers or they're tortured?

KING: Forgive me, Jason. Why doesn't the world know about this?

RUSSELL: Well, you know, I think it's hard to swallow.


RUSSELL: People watching television, people, you know, they don't want to look at the realities of it. But what's been crazy about this story and our journey is that the youth of the world have really taken to the story. And they've said, I want to be involved, and I'm going to do something politically. I'm going to raise money. I'm going to fight for the rights of those children.

KING: What can you do, Bobby?

BAILEY: We are having an event in June, in DC, to take the message of apprehending this warlord, Joseph Koney, to our Senate and Congress. They just issued a bill, you know, so we're going to pressure our Congressmen and senators to sign off on that bill, to allow the Obama administration to actually apprehend Joseph Koney. And that's June 22nd and 23rd.

KING: Where?

BAILEY: In DC, yes.

KING: Two days, two-day event.

BAILEY: Two-day event. And we're also asking to have people give to this rescue fund. Even after it's all said and done and Joseph Koney, which we hope will be apprehended, we want people to give so that these kids can get proper rehabilitation.

KING: Has anyone, Lauren, to you knowledge, talked to Joseph Koney, interviewed him?

POOLE: We've talked to him on the phone. There's a few people who talked to him.

KING: What does he say?

POOLE: He said he's fighting for the Ten Commandments, but it's just a lie. He's a power hungry terrorist. No one knows about this because it's been kept invisible. Nobody is talking about it.

KING: Well titled. What's your website again?

POOLE: You can see the movie and find out what you can do there.

KING: We thank you guys. There's more about "Invisible Children" on our website,, where there's a shocking web exclusive about the dire situation you've been hearing about tonight. If you'd like to hear more from these guests, my conversation will continue with them at More of an interview that you'll only see on our website.

We'll be back after this with the reality show controversy. Are everyday people in them paying too high a price for fame? click on the website after we're over and don't miss it.



KING: All right, guys. Our panel is back. Reality TV isn't just tabloid fodder. It provides punch lines for late-night comedy shows. Watch.


JAY LENO, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": When we saw the show, Jon and Kate were both eight. Did you know that? They were eight.

DAVID LETTERMAN, "THE LATE SHOW": Susan Boyle, I think, is her name. Well, they had the competition last night. She finished second. Yes, finished second. Well, don't kid yourself. The talent, the competition, pretty tough. For example, Prince Charles, you know Prince Charles? Played "God Save the Queen" on his teeth. LENO: Jon and Kate say they're angry at the media for invading their privacy. Apparently photos of their children showed up on the Internet before they had a chance to sell them. Yes.


KING: Where's it all going? We'll start with you, Sharon. Is this going to get worse before it gets better? Are we going to see more shows?

WAXMAN: I think we'll see more shows. I hate to see it, I think we'll see more suicides, more suicide attempts, more depression and more Truman Show Syndrome. I don't see any end right now to the reality show -- you know, network television has been gorging itself on it. Now all the cable shows are on it. It's cheap, easy and can get big ratings.

KING: Andrew, where do you think it is going?

FIRESTONE: I don't know. In the last ten years, it's gone from watching somebody live their life to producing a show that is encouraging drama. So who knows? I mean, as long as it has ratings and it sells advertising, I suppose that the sky's the limit.

KING: Does that concern you, Kate?

COYNE: You know, I think, obviously, it concerns me to think that there will be shows out there that will just, you know, always aim for the lowest common denominator. But I do like to have a little bit of faith that there are some reality shows that can be done responsibly, that can be done, you know, in a way that provides enjoyment without doing harm.

KING: And Dr. Drew, what's your thought on the future?

PINSKY: I agree with Kate. They are not going away, and we need those people that are concerned about this to climb in and change it. Make them responsible. For instance, Jon and Kate, we could have a therapeutic element in there, where people learn how to manage these things and keep marriages together.

Let's move in that direction and also with a good deal of after care for these people.

KING: More coming with the panel. Tonight, in connection with my book, tonight's remarkable question comes from Ray Martin in Niagara Falls. Ray asks, in all your years of interviewing people, have you ever asked a question and as soon as you asked it, wish you could have taken it back? And also what that question was.

Well, I'll tell you. I had just started radio. This was really ridiculous. I was a neophyte. I was doing a show in a restaurant in Miami Beach. And we had a priest on, Catholic priest. I was going around for questions, and I asked, how many children he had. I would take that one -- I'd take that one back. The book is everywhere, "My Remarkable Journey." If you have a question for me, go to If I answer it on the air, you'll get an autographed copy of the new memoir, "My Remarkable Journey."

That's not all, you have a chance to win a trip, big prize, coming to Los Angeles, meet me, see the show live. Good luck. Back with the panel. Love to see you here.


KING: You know, panel, Laura Nauta (ph) did a show once. It was semi-reality show, also kind of a talk, in which a murder occurred. Do you think that could come to this?

PINSKY: Do I think so?

KING: Yes.

PINSKY: If we're not careful, it sure could.

KING: Let's put the biggest fear of all. And they'd milk it.

PINSKY: I don't know about the milking it. I have met very, very responsible producers of networks. And I've met not so responsible, really not understanding the potential impact of what they're doing. Of course that could happen.

WAXMAN: What we found when we were investigating the suicides, that they were actually boasting about it, with a Las Vegas Elvis show. I think it was a pilot. I don't know that it never made air. They were boasting about the fact that somebody -- it was such a dramatic show that actually somebody had committed suicide as a result.

FIRESTONE: There's also a lot of reality shows that are a lot of fun. And they're harmless and they're great entertainment. There are some reality shows that do a lot of good, "Whale Wars." There's a lot of shows out there that do a lot of good.

KING: We've got "Whale Wars" on Thursday night.

FIRESTONE: They're coming on. I don't want to put a blanket statement that all reality TV is bad.

PINSKY: I make them. I'm part of them. I wouldn't be able to do that if I really believed it.

KING: Kate, do you have a fear about them?

COYNE: You know, I think it's only natural when you see some of the worst-case scenarios, and the worst possible outcomes, to have some fear about what's the worst that could happen if a show is hell bent on exploiting people. But, you know, sort of like what was just said, I don't think, you know, some bad apples spoil the whole bunch. There are definitely shows that can do this right.

And beyond just having faith in the reality shows, I think we need to have a little bit of faith in the viewing audience. There are definitely shows that have been attempted, that have been put on the air and gotten yanked after two or three episodes, because people just didn't want to tune in. When it's too gross, when it's too ridiculous, the people will vote with their remote controls.

KING: Doesn't it have to, Dr. Pinsky, by its nature, have conflict?

PINSKY: Sure, it has to have conflict. You know, again, I always think about a bait and switch. My thing is I need to change people, educate people, and I have to meet people where those kinds of people are. And they're watching reality shows.

KING: But a reality show, you couldn't have father knows best, right?


KING: It ain't going to work.

WAXMAN: No, you need drama.

PINSKY: And dramatic people behave --

KING: Producers induce it.

PINSKY: No, sometimes it's a selection process. The people that behave in dramatic fashion --

WAXMAN: That is producing. Choosing the people for the shows is half the producing of the shows.

KING: Andrew?

FIRESTONE: Let's say --

WAXMAN: And then you can also edit -- of course, the editors afterwards go in and they heighten things that may have seemed like a very minor thing on the set.

FIRESTONE: If there is conflict, we should do like on my show, and just figure it all out in a hot tub. And I think that is really the way to solve the world's problems. If we could get all the world leaders in a hot tub, lots of champagne, some roses, let them work it out that way.

KING: Problems are over.

WAXMAN: I think there's one other point, which is that since the dawn of reality shows, the arrival of the Internet in full force has added another layer to this. It's not just on the producers and on the networks and on the cable shows. This idea where you have this Internet chatter and this culture on the Internet where people are so nasty and they feel empowered through the anonymity of the Internet to constantly be railing on people or weighing in and judging them, and there's that immediate feedback that you wouldn't necessarily get if you're a contestant; that's something else that has to be considered. KING: Thank you all very much. We have not heard the last of this. Dr. Drew Pinsky, Andrew Firestone, Kate Coyne, and Sharon Waxman. Remember when Manny Ramirez came back to the Dodgers and said I'm back? Well, tomorrow night, he's back. The former governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, will be our guest. Right now, let's go up to the roof, Anderson Cooper and "AC 360." How's it going?