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Interview With Sweat Lodge Victim's Family; Interview With Sherri Shepherd

Aired October 26, 2009 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: The family of a woman who died in the sweat lodge tragedy tells us why it happened. How their healthy daughter and sister perished in a 120-degree death trap and what role they think the self-help guru, James Ray, may have played in their heartbreak.

Plus, "The View's" Sherri Shepherd, on public pain, sharing her very private pain and the shocking secrets in her past that's now out in the open next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening, with us tonight are Virginia Brown, the mother of Kirby Brown. Kirby's brother, Robert Brown, and her sister, Jean Brown. Thirty-eight-year-old Kirby is one of three people who died after being overcome during a sweat lodge ceremony earlier this month at James Arthur Ray's Spiritual Warrior Retreat in Sedona, Arizona. Authorities are investigating the deaths as homicides.

Virginia, how did -- this is so tough. How did you get news of Kirby's death?

VIRGINIA BROWN, SWEAT LODGE VICTIM KIRBY BROWN'S MOTHER: On Friday, October 9, at 8:15, a trooper came to our door to tell us that Kirby had passed at the sweat lodge in Sedona.

KING: Where do you live?

V. BROWN: I live in Westtown, New York. So I knew she was in Sedona. We were waiting to hear from her when she finished the retreat.

KING: And so you knew she was doing the retreat?

V. BROWN: Yes, we did.

KING: Did you know she was doing a sweat lodge?

V. BROWN: No, I didn't know she was doing a sweat lodge. She had talked about doing a vision quest, so I knew that there was going to be some physical challenge, which, you know, she would have been very much prepared to do.

KING: You've written notes. You kept notes of all of this?

V. BROWN: I did because I started talking to some participants and talking to the police. And I wanted to keep my information straight, so I started to keep a journal.

KING: Also to figure it out probably for your sanity.

V. BROWN: This is just unbelievable.

KING: Was that something Kirby was prone to do? Was she attracted to things like the secret and retreats?

V. BROWN: She was a real spiritual seeker. But she was also a person who loved experience, very physical. She was with a surfer, mountain bike.

KING: And a beautiful girl.

V. BROWN: Yes, beautiful.

KING: How old was she?

V. BROWN: She was 38.

KING: Thirty-eight. What did she do for a living?

V. BROWN: She was a decorative painter in Cabo in Mexico.

KING: Beautiful.

V. BROWN: Yes. And did some beautiful work.

KING: Married?


KING: All right, Robert. Did you know she was taking part in this program?

ROBERT BROWN, SWEAT LODGE VICTIM KIRBY BROWN'S BROTHER: Yes. I knew. She had talked about it a little bit. I wasn't sure, you know, exactly what it entailed.

KING: You didn't know what a sweat lodge was?

R. BROWN: No, I didn't know. You know, I hadn't really heard of one until after this.

KING: Did you know about James Ray?

R. BROWN: I did. She had talked to us a little bit about James Ray and, you know, some of the teachings. You know, I had known she had gone on some of these, you know, kind of smaller weekend retreat type things that seemed, you know, pretty harmless. It seemed like they were just, you know, classroom type settings, seminars, networking events, that type of thing.

KING: How did you find out of her death?

R. BROWN: It was the hardest phone call I ever got. It was my father who could barely speak. I had just walked into my office at work and...

KING: Back east?

R. BROWN: Yes. I mean and...

KING: What did he say?

R. BROWN: You know, he just said, you know, through the tears and everything else, there was an accident and Kirby's gone.

KING: Virginia, did you have to tell your husband?

V. BROWN: The trooper came to the door and I think I started screaming. And he came into the hallway to find out what had happened. Then when the trooper came into the house, he gave us the number of the detective to call in Arizona. And the two of us got on the phone together to talk to the detective in Arizona.

KING: Did you ever go to Arizona?

V. BROWN: No, we didn't. We had to make all the arrangements to have Kirby's body brought back east. And because they had to do an extensive autopsy, that took a little bit of time.

KING: Jean, where were you when all this was going on?

JEAN BROWN, SWEAT LODGE VICTIM KIRBY BROWN'S SISTER: I was working. I actually live in Canada. And so, I was working in Ottawa and...

KING: Who called you?

J. BROWN: Well, they didn't want me to be alone when I found out, so they actually told my husband. And he came to my office. He drove two hours to come and tell me what had happened. So I was in front of my office building and, you know, he had me go into the car with him and he told me. And I got out of the car. I couldn't believe it. I thought I was going to throw up.

KING: Did you know your sister was inclined to things like that?

J. BROWN: Yes. I had actually -- I knew she was going on the Spiritual Warrior Retreat. I didn't know that much about it. But I actually have done a fast with her before.

KING: So she was interested in things?

J. BROWN: Yes, she was interested in different types of, you know -- yes, experiences like that.

KING: Beverly Bunn is a survivor of the sweat lodge tragedy. And according to her, James Ray pretty much abandoned his followers. Here's some of what she said in an interview last week on ABC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BEVERLY BUNN, SWEAT LODGE SURVIVOR: After the incident, he never came back. The next morning we were given a note on the table that was written by his staff saying that James was in prayer and meditation. And to this day, I've never heard from James Ray. I've never talked to James Ray.


KING: All right, Virginia, Beverly was Kirby's roommate at the spiritual retreat. And you've spoken with her and other survivors. So what have you learned about this?

V. BROWN: Well, I've learned that there was a tremendous amount of confusion and chaos and that during that event, people were struggling to try to get through it. And he was controlling the door. He wasn't allowing -- would ask people to wait until a particular round of chanting was finished before they would be taken out. People were calling people's names.

And it's just so unbelievable to me to think that, you know, when people were struggling that things weren't stopped and...

KING: Was Beverly near Kirby?

V. BROWN: She was initially near Kirby and then my understanding was at one point she attempted to move. She was going to leave the tent and she had missed the period of time when he was allowing people to leave. And then she wound up staying in a place where she had a little more room and there was a little more air. And she remained there.

KING: This is hard. Did Kirby die right there or in the hospital?

V. BROWN: I don't know. I don't know. I don't know exactly what happened. There's some conflicting accounts. We don't know...

KING: And an investigation is still going on?

V. BROWN: Well, yes.

KING: Concerns for the sweat lodge survivors, Kirby's family is worried about the lasting effects on them. We're going to talk about that next.


KING: We're back with Virginia, Robert and Jean Brown, the mother and siblings of the late Kirby Brown.

How long after the death did James Ray finally contact you?

R. BROWN: No, contacted -- you know, I was at my parents' house. And he contacted...

KING: He called?

R. BROWN: Called my mom, you know, five days after this happened.

KING: Were you there, too?

J. BROWN: Yes, I was.

KING: What did he say, Virginia?

V. BROWN: Well, first he talked about how sorry he was that something like this had happened and that this was the most difficult thing he's ever had to deal with in his life. He cried. He talked about what a beautiful person my daughter was and how well he knew her. And he asked me, "What can I do?" And I said, "You can cooperate with the authorities." And he insisted that he had. He said, "Oh, I have." And then he went on, again, to talk about Kirby and what a fabulous spirit she had.

And told me that she had given him a gift of a crystal and asked if I would like to have that. And I said, "Surely, you can send that to me if you'd like." And then again, he asked if I -- oh, then he told me that he was hiring a team of private investigators because he needed to get to the truth. And I said, "Just cooperate with the local authorities". He had not yet spoken to the police. This was five days later. He had been...

KING: And you knew him, right?

V. BROWN: He had been detained that night. And I think people who were there thought he was cooperating with the police. He was refusing to speak to them.

KING: You knew him, right?

V. BROWN: I had gone to a Harmonic Wealth two-day seminar with my daughter in March and was extremely impressed by his intelligence -- seeming intelligence, his, you know, charismatic presentations, his ability to synthesize concepts from the east and the west and different religious traditions. And I was very impressed with him.

KING: You're also familiar with trauma, right?

V. BROWN: Yes. I'm a licensed clinical social worker. My husband and I have a private practice in Middletown. And my husband worked with the FDNY post 9/11.

KING: Why do you think he didn't just let everybody out? There was obviously some panic developing. Why not open the doors and go?

R. BROWN: Good question.

V. BROWN: It's a good question. I think he -- it isn't just what happened in the sweat lodge that needs to be examined. The whole week needs to be examined. What happened that -- there was this confluence of factors that influenced both his behavior and the behavior of all the participants.

KING: We reached out to James Ray, requesting a statement for tonight's show. We were referred to a statement on his website, which says in part: "I want to use this forum to address the families of those whose lives were lost, James, Kirby and Liz. I have reached out to all of the families personally, but feel the need to say more. I feel your pain. I accept your anger. And I pray for you all to have some measure of peace and comfort. I want you to know that I too want to know what happened that caused this horrible tragedy. My team and I are working with the appropriate authorities and have even hired our investigators to find out the truth."

Want to comment on that, Robert?

R. BROWN: Well, I think that, you know, you hire your own investigators. Why would you do that? Something tragically happened. If you want to know the truth, you were there, tell us what happened.

KING: Jean?

J. BROWN: As far as we know to date, he hasn't really been cooperating with the authorities. They've said that they want a statement from him, but he hasn't really made one yet.

KING: How do you feel about him, Mr. Ray?

J. BROWN: It seems like he's a pretty arrogant person who, you know, has built up a lot of success for himself and he felt that he could do whatever he wanted. He believed in what he could do, but it went really wrong and he wasn't paying attention to the signs around him.

KING: Do you think he's acting above it all, Robert? Do you think he's sincere?

R. BROWN: No. I mean, I think he's acting above it all. I think that he -- he got caught up in the power that he had over people. And I think that the sincerity is certainly not there when he's telling my mom that he's cooperating with authorities and he never spoke to them.

KING: I'm going to ask you what your thoughts are about the survivors.

More with the family of Kirby Brown in 60 seconds.


KING: We're back.

I want to talk about your concern for the survivors but tell us -- you told me during the break about something James Ray sent you.

V. BROWN: He spoke to me Tuesday night and then at the first day of the wake, which was Thursday, we received an overnight package from him with a letter saying that he had made a donation to the Surf Rider Foundation in Kirby's memory. To date, there is no record of any donation being made by James Ray for Kirby Brown.

KING: He also sent you money?

V. BROWN: This past Wednesday, on the 22nd, we received a sympathy card. And in that sympathy card was a note that said, "Please accept this financial assistance. And on the check, he wrote, "In honor of Kirby Brown."

KING: And it was for how much?

V. BROWN: Five thousand dollars.

KING: How did you react to that?

V. BROWN: It's laughable. It's laughable. My daughter paid twice that to go to his event. We had to bring her body east. We had to bury her. Nothing is going to bring her back. That's not the point. But this man hasn't...

KING: What are your concerns for the survivors?

V. BROWN: I'm very concerned about the survivors because when I spoke to the first participant on Sunday, I could tell -- the whole conversation with him, was flat, pretty unemotional.

KING: A survivor?

V. BROWN: A survivor.

KING: You mean they're whacked out from this?

V. BROWN: Well, I think they're traumatized. You can't go through an experience like this, see people die around you. You survive, so you're going to have guilt that you've survived. You're going to have guilt that you couldn't help someone that was there. How many people walked past my daughter in her last moments, trying to gasp for breath and didn't help her? How do you live with that?

Someone was working to revive her outside the tent and I don't know that they were even trained to do CPR. How do you live with that? That's really serious trauma. And these folks who were there are not being given the help to understand survivor guilt, collective guilt in this situation and maybe some of the shame that they may feel in having participated in this, because for some of them, they may have had a really good experience up until then. And it's difficult for them to process what happened.

KING: We have not obviously heard the last of this.

Just briefly, Jean, what was your sister like? You're the youngest. She was the oldest, right? There are four siblings.

J. BROWN: My sister, she's just an amazing person. We kind of joked that she had a lot of best friends, you know. She made friends wherever she went and she was memorable. She'd be the person in the restaurant who would get everybody dancing and then bring the tip jar around to help the band out, you know. And so, we're really fortunate to have had her in our lives. KING: Good big sister, Robert?

R. BROWN: She was the best. She was the best. She was like Jean said, you know, everybody's best friend. She was the type of person, you know, you'd go into a room with 30 people, everybody knows her, you know. She was very special. She was that person that always took the time to get to know you.

KING: Virginia, we know about fathers and daughters. How's your husband handling it?

V. BROWN: This has been obviously very difficult for both of us. He's planning to go out to Arizona to help with the investigation. We want to make sure that this proceeds appropriately.

KING: Are the authorities on top of it, in your opinion?

V. BROWN: I think so. We've had a lot of contact with the police.

KING: They're treating it as a homicide?

V. BROWN: Yes, yes.

KING: Thank you. We've not heard the last. I know how hard this was. Thank you all for coming, Virginia Brown, Robert Brown, Jean Brown.

James Arthur Ray, by the way, has been a guest on this show in the past and has a standing invitation to return anytime to discuss this.

Sherri Shepherd is here and she'll tell us like it is. She does that all the time. Stick around.


KING: Sherri Shepherd is co-host of "The View." She's the star of the Lifetime TV comedy series, "Sherri," author of the new book, "Permission Slips: Every Woman's Guide to Giving Herself a Break."

Just a couple of days after joining "The View" as a co-host, Sherri said something she declared will be the only thing she'll be remembered for. Let's take a look.


WHOOPI GOLDBERG, CO-HOST, "THE VIEW": Is the world flat?

SHERRI SHEPHERD, CO-HOST, "THE VIEW": Is the world flat.


SHEPHERD: I don't know.

GOLDBERG: What do you think?

SHEPHERD: I never thought about it, Whoopi. Is the world flat, I never thought about it.

BARBARA WALTERS, CO-HOST, "THE VIEW": You never thought about the world was round or flat?

SHEPHERD: But I'll tell you what I've thought about, how I'm going to feed my child, how I'm going to take care of my family. Is the world flat has never entered into-- that has not been an important thing to me.

If my son, Jeffrey, asks me, "Is the world flat," I guess I will go and...



KING: Okay, was that a put-on? What was that all about?

SHEPHERD: No, you know what it was, Larry, it was like my third or fourth day on "The View" and I was really nervous, you know, because before that, I did stand-up comedy. I was in sitcoms. I'd never been in this forum with women talking and debating. And so, I just zoned out. I heard a lot of voices at one time and I think I zoned out. And I was trying to figure out how my check had bounced and my mind was everywhere.

So I heard -- it was like I was under water and I heard round or flat. I'm still underwater. I hear round or flat. I'm trying to figure out, okay, I've got to get my son in school. What am I going to do? And I said, "I don't know, I'm trying to take care of my baby."

Then, when the show was over, Barbara Walters looked at me and she said, "Dear, the earth is round." And I said, "I know the earth is round, Barbara." And she said, "Well, you said you didn't know."

I didn't think about it. I thought it was a brain fart. I went down home. I took care of my kid. But I didn't know that I was the second most Googled person in the country. My website crashed. Everybody hated me. They said I was going to get fired.

I had a lady send me an e-mail. She said, "I wouldn't want you in third grade with my kid." And I typed back, "I don't want to be in third grade with your kid now." So it was just...

KING: Columbus didn't call though?

SHEPHERD: Who didn't call?

KING: Chris Columbus.

SHEPHERD: No, he did not call. I mean, you know, it was a brain fart. But, you know, I wrote the book because I came in the next day and I was so depressed and discouraged. And all of the ladies gathered around me and they said, "You know what, we are supporting you and we love you."

KING: Well, that was fun. Why do women need a -- what is a permission slip?

SHEPHERD: A permission slip is -- you know, I just think that women, we take on a lot of guilt, like the mistake that I made about the earth is round or flat. It bothered me for so long. And I feel like -- so many women e-mailed me and said, "I don't care if the earth is round or flat either. I'm trying to take care of my kid, I'm trying to get health insurance. I don't care about the earth being round or flat."

And I feel like, women, we take so much on. We try to be the perfect friend, the perfect wife, the perfect thing for everybody. And we've got to let go. We've got to give ourselves permission to cut some slack for ourselves. We've got to let go of the guilt.

KING: How do you learn this, though?

SHEPHERD: You know what, it's a day-by-day thing. For example, my child, a lot of people -- I'm in Manhattan with my son. He's in preschool and I hear a lot of women at the park say, "You know what, we don't own a television. My child knows Italian, French and all these languages." I just taught my son English and he doesn't even know that very well.

But I started feeling guilty because, you know, in New York, you've got to find a private school. And they want to know, you know, what activities are your child involved in. And I'm like he plays with a ball and a stick. And it's okay. We used to do it and we're fine.

So it's like we've got to give ourselves permission to let go of that guilt because we're not raising our kids the way somebody else does.

KING: Have you succeeded in doing it? Are you a student of your own book?

SHEPHERD: You know, I'm still learning every day. I'm a single mom. I work. So I have two jobs. So I go through the same guilt as other single moms. When my son says, "Where you going, Mommy?" And I've had to let go of the guilt and say, "You know what, I'm taking care of you." And hopefully, when he gets older, he will realize that.

KING: You talk about your son a lot on "The View." Any concerns about doing that as he gets older more and more? Are you kind of making him famous?

SHEPHERD: I am, but I never show his picture. So he has his privacy. You know, I don't know at 18 if he's going to like those stories of me talking about how successfully I potty trained him or how he's got to show me his poop, which is what he does now. So we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. But I'm happy. I'm talking about it. You know, he got potty trained. And I'm really excited he's not peeing on the floor. So hopefully, it won't, you know, mess up his development. KING: Jeffrey came close to not being here. We'll talk about that in a while.

CNN's got a great new website. Check it out at It's brand new. I think it started today.

Hulk Hogan will be here tomorrow night.

And more with Sherri and her once secret past after the break.


KING: We're talking with Sherri Shepherd. Her new book is "Permission Slips: Every Woman's Guide to Giving Herself a Break." She's featured in the forthcoming movie "Precious." Shepherd had nothing but great things about Mariah Carey, one of the stars of that movie will be on that program next.

You're right there at one point. You and your then husband were prepared to pull the plug on your baby son because of a prognosis that was so terrible.

What was that about?

SHEPHERD: Right. My son -- our son, Jeffrey, was born at 25 weeks, which is about 5-1/2 months. He weighed 1 pound, 10 ones. He had severe brain bleeding on both sides of his brain. He had a hole in his intestines. A hole in the artery near his heart. He was going to have to get shunts in his brain. The doctors predicted severe cerebral palsy, severe mental retardation, loss of his left side. And they thought that the quality of his life would be severely affected.

So my husband and I had done fertility treatments. So we had twins. We had lost his little sister. And we decided we were going to let Jeffrey go home, because there was so many things that were going on. And we didn't want to keep him here just being selfish. So I prayed.

KING: By go home, you mean, to his maker.

SHEPHERD: Like go home to heaven. You go home, yes, because we figured you know your sister is up there, your grandmother is up there. You got a host of brothers and sisters up there, so you'll be much better in heaven than you would down here. But I prayed. My faith is very strong. And I write that in the book. I remember saying a prayer to God, please, let my son, we're going to send him home, but if you could do a miracle, that would be so great, Lord. And we went to the hospital the next day and my son said, Jeffrey, mommy's here. Now Jeffrey was so sick, he couldn't move for days. But his hand went up and gripped the ventilator tube and then fell back down. And I was quoting a lot of Bible scriptures over him. I just -- I'm a big believer of miracles.

KING: And he made it?

SHEPHERD: Yes. Right before they pulled the plug to let him take his last breath in my arms, the head of the neonatal unit intensive care unit came in and said the hole in his intestine is healed. So where it was once black and blue was a nice pretty chocolate brown and I just knew that that was godsend to me. You don't get to decide when he comes home.

KING: How is he doing now?

SHEPHERD: He's great. He does not have cerebral palsy. He does not have mental retardation. He has developmental delays and he goes to wonderful schools sponsored by the YAI Organization.

KING: How old is he?

SHEPHERD: He's 4-1/2. And he was only able to say two-word phrases now. I'm going to tell you, he went into Barbara Walters' office, the day before the inauguration, and Barbara said to him, "Dear, do you know what a monumental day this is?" And Jeffrey looked at her and he went, "Uh-huh, Obama!" He's doing great.

KING: You're also -- this book is quite candid. You write about you and men, making many bad choices in your life.

SHEPHERD: Oh, gosh, what woman hasn't made a lot of bad choices with men?

KING: Are you prone to be attracted to bad guys?

SHEPHERD: Well, I just like a little crazy, thuggy, like you, Larry. You got to have a little crazy. In fact, I can see it in your eyes. You got a little crazy going on. It's coming out of me like in waves, and it's turning me on, but you are married so I'm going to leave you alone.

KING: I deny nothing.

You also write about having had a number of abortions.


KING: Something you first revealed in an interview in a Christian magazine.

SHEPHERD: Absolutely. You know, a lot of people are --

KING: Why did you lay all that out?

SHEPHERD: Well, you know, I've always been really open about my life, because I feel if I can lay out any kind of painful things that I've gone through and it will help somebody, then here it is. So, yes, I've had a lot of abortions, and I've forgiven myself for those. And a lot of women go through that. They go through a lot of shame of abortions. I was very responsible when I was younger. This was more than 15 years ago. But I suffered from a lot of guilt and shame about the abortions. And I just was in church one day, and a woman said to me, you know, Sherri, when you get to heaven, all your babies will be there with their hands opening saying, hello, mama. And I wanted to share that out. That was so profound for me about, you know, forgiving myself and giving myself permission to let go of that guilt of having abortions. So if that can help, I don't mind if people ridicule me. Because if it will help some young girl who's going through the shame and the guilt because she's had abortions, then, hey, look at me, I've had a few.

KING: So you support the woman's right to choice.

SHEPHERD: I would never want to take away a woman's choice. Now I don't believe in abortion, because I'm going to say to people, you can have as many abortions as you want but it does tear apart you inside. There's ramifications. But I would never want a woman's choice to be taken away from her.

KING: Sherri's got something to say about cheating husbands and boyfriends. She lowers the boom -- next.


KING: OK, we're back with Sherri Shepherd, co-host of "The View," star of her own TV show. She'll be in the movie "Precious," and she's the author of "Permission Slips: Every Woman's Guide to Giving Herself a Break."

All right, what's your gripe about cheaters?

SHEPHERD: About cheaters? I don't like them, Larry. Do you? I mean, you know, if you're married and somebody goes against their marriage vows and says I want to go to Argentina, and he told you he was going hiking and he's over in Argentina with another woman, would you like that?


SHEPHERD: Well, that's the problem I have with cheaters. It happened with me. It was a little infidelity with my husband. I sound like a politician.

KING: You were the one cheating?

SHEPHERD: No, I don't cheat. I'm pretty loyal.

KING: He was the one.

SHEPHERD: It was my husband who had an affair with another woman and she got pregnant. And I had to deal with that. We got divorced. And through that it was very painful dealing with that, especially when you have another baby involved in the mix, because we were trying to have another baby. So I had to now face life as a single woman and as a single mom. So that's been -- but it's been pretty good.

KING: Is he a good father at least?

SHEPHERD: He's an amazing father. As a matter of fact, my son is with him now while I'm here. He's an amazing father. He sees his son. He's a great father to both of his sons. And I have a beautiful stepson. My son's brother. And that's what my show "Sherri" on Lifetime is about. It kind of chronicles that.

KING: How do you balance all this? You write books, you're in a movie, you're on "The View" every day and you got your own sitcom.

SHEPHERD: You know what, it's not work, Larry, when this is something you've dreamed about for years. I used to sit at a law firm. I used to be a legal secretary, and I would daydream, and the lawyers would wake me up and go, did you file that document? And I would daydream about this moment. So it's not work. What, I should complain because I'm doing something that I love.

KING: Let's talk about some other things. Mariah Carey is going to be here next week. It's been a while since we've had her on. We're looking forward to that.


KING: Tell me about "Precious."

SHEPHERD: Precious is the --

KING: It's a girl in Harlem, right?

SHEPHERD: It's about a girl named "Precious," who lives in Harlem. She was sexually abused by her mother.

KING: True story?

SHEPHERD: I believe it's based -- it's a fiction story, but it's based on a lot of true stories. But she was sexually and mentally abused by her mother, who's played by Mo'Nique, and her father. And it's the story of how she rises above those circumstances despite all of the negative stuff in her life that happens. Mariah care plays her social worker, and I played a part of Cornrows. I'm the receptionist at the alternative school that Precious attends.

KING: Have you seen the film?

SHEPHERD: I have seen the film.

KING: Is it that good?

SHEPHERD: It's so good. It's so intense because I think a lot of us have gone through sexual abuse. And it affects everybody in the audience very, very differently. I was supposed to go to dinner with Lee Daniels who directed the film, and I couldn't even move after I saw the film. You know, I'm very grateful to him because, you know, I'm a comedian. So this is my very first dramatic role. I think Mo'Nique and Gabby who plays precious.

KING: How did they find a girl, a 300-pound actress?

SHEPHERD: Well, unfortunately, we -- you know, Hollywood doesn't employ a lot of 300-pound actresses, which is really unfortunate. And Lee had to do an open call. Gabby was working, I believe, as a receptionist somewhere. She attended this open call. This is her very first job, and she was amazing. That's me. You can't even tell that's me.

Lee wouldn't let me wear my hair. I had to wear Cornrows. He wouldn't let me wear any of my wigs.

KING: And that's Gabby?

SHEPHERD: People can't even tell it was me. Look at me.

KING: And that's Gabby. That's you?

SHEPHERD: That's me.

KING: Come on.

SHEPHERD: Larry, look at me. Lee wouldn't let me wear a lot of make-up and my hair. Even Oprah, who produce the film, Larry. She saw the film. Can I tell you what Oprah said to me?

KING: I would be interested. SHEPHERD: She looked at the film, and she said I saw the movie and I looked at you and I said that girl looks familiar. And I asked Lee Daniels who directed the movie, who is that girl? And Lee Daniels said that is Sherri Shepherd and I said, of course.

KING: You do a great Oprah. You're the first person I've heard do Oprah.

SHEPHERD: I love Oprah when Oprah said, hello and I'm Oprah Winfrey. I practiced that a lot when I was a legal secretary, too. I've always wanted to be Oprah.

KING: Don't we all?

Anyway, we'll get a break and we'll be back with Sherri Shepherd.

Michael Jackson's good friend, Miko Brando, has seen "This is It." He attended a screening with Elizabeth Taylor, and he writes about it on our blog. Go to Read all about it. And Miko will be our guest tomorrow, live from the premiere.

Back with Sherri in 60 seconds.


KING: We're back with Sherri Shepherd. We want to clear something up. Were you sexually abused? That wasn't clear.

SHEPHERD: They go through the topic. You know, yes, I've definitely gone through sexual abuse. Absolutely, so --

KING: At all ages?

SHEPHERD: At all ages? KING: I mean, was it young?

SHEPHERD: It was a time when I was young. Absolutely. It's not something that I, you know, put out there, but at some point in time it will be something I talk about.

KING: OK. I'll respect your privacy.

SHEPHERD: Thank you so much.

KING: By the way, in addition to everything else. She stars in an autobiographical sitcom called "Sherri." It's on "Lifetime."

Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God, quick. Can you smell the liquor on my breath?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That better not be you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's the matter? You know that woman?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What the hell are you doing here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, ma. I was just talking to this nice lady. That's all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't you like to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I came here to fill out a job application, but the man said they're not going to hire right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: you know they're not going to hire you. You're 17.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why did you hit my boy?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He told me he was 21.



KING: Malcolm Jamal Warner, huh?

SHEPHERD: No that actually is -- it's Texas Battle. Malcolm Jamal Warner, he plays my husband, Theo from the Cosby show.


KING: What's it like to be the star, executive producer of a sitcom, a stand-up comedian and author, as well as panelist on a hit show?

SHEPHERD: I don't know who that girl is. It's hard to feel like a celebrity when you just potty trained your kid, but he had an accident on the floor and you got to clean up his poop. You don't feel like much of a celebrity at all, Larry.

KING: You don't?

SHEPHERD: No, you don't. And when your son is going, mommy, I'm scared of the mask is lay with me. You don't feel like that big author and executive producer.

KING: Do you like -- do you enjoy recognition?

SHEPHERD: Sure. Everybody enjoys recognition or we wouldn't be doing what we do. I'd still be a legal secretary filing documents down in the basement. So, yes, I like it. It's fine. Plus, I'm getting -- people think I'm Star Jones. I have a really good time.

KING: Sherri wouldn't mind by the way having a nice guy in her life. She never met a nice guy in her whole life. Why doesn't she meet the one? Why can't she find one? We want to know -- next.


KING: Anderson Cooper is off tonight. My buddy, John King, will host "AC 360" at the top of the hour.

What is up this evening, Jonathan?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Larry, we have a packed show tonight. Bailed out banks lobbying Congress. They got taxpayers' dollars, now they're trying to shape reform legislation about their behavior. Are you footing the bill? We're going to keep them honest.

And Congressman Barney Frank joins me for the big "360" interview.

And when it comes to health care in this country, a double standard. Women are paying more and are being turned down a lot for health insurance. One woman's story will shock you. We're digging deeper tonight.

Plus the fall out from the sex scandal at ESPN. Both employees fired after having an affair. Analyst Steve Phillips has checked himself into rehab. A lot of celebrities taking this route over the years. Is rehab just an excuse for behaving badly? Those stories and a lot more ahead on "AC 360" tonight, Larry.

KING: Thank you. That's Mr. Phillips when he was general manager in the New York Mets. And that's John King. And he will host "AC 360" 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 Pacific.

Sherri, you're nodding.

SHEPHERD: You know, I was going to flirt with you, but now that people are getting fired, I'll just take the mug.

KING: Do you think rehab is an excuse, sometimes?

SHEPHERD: Rehab for like sex addiction?

KING: (INAUDIBLE), you know, do this.

SHEPHERD: Yes. You know, I think when people go to rehab it's because they can't keep their bleep in their pants. But, you know, if you think it will help you, that's great. And hopefully he can get his marriage back on track. But, you know, you can't flirt anymore with people. I was trying to flirt with you.

KING: Not in the same place you work.



KING: You can flirt here.

SHEPHERD: Like I can flirt with you if I thought I could get your job. Then I can flit for long with you if I thought I could, you know, fill in for you.

KING: That's right. Well, you could.

SHEPHERD: Well, then, let the flirting begin.

KING: You don't have to flirt.

SHEPHERD: Oh, shoot, give me another dress.


KING: How is your search going for Mr. Nice Guy?

SHEPHERD: You know, it's really interesting because I've been married so long. I'm kind of just out of the loop. So when people talk to me, I'm not quite sure how much to reveal. Like some guy asked me, you know, if I wanted to dance at a club. And I said, you know, I really don't want to dance. I want a relationship. I want to get married because I have a 4-year-old son, and I just went through a divorce and my husband is kind of crazy.

KING: You give him all --


SHEPHERD: I give, yes. He left before I even got the whole spill out. People are saying, I'm telling too much. So right now I'm just kind of sitting back and relaxing.

KING: How does your ex-husband feel about the way he's being portrayed on your sitcom? SHEPHERD: Oh, my sitcom, "Sherri," which is on Lifetime, by the way, Tuesdays at 10:00. He actually -- I think I portray him very well. Malcolm Jamal Warner plays my husband and he plays a husband who made a bad choice. The girl got pregnant, but he's trying to get his marriage back together, and he's a great father. And even in one episode he's there when she gives birth to the baby. So we're really trying to --

KING: And as a good Christian, the first concept of your faith is forgiveness.

SHEPHERD: It's forgiveness. Is it not? Every day it's about forgiveness, forgiving the other woman in my life, in Sherri Shepherd's real life, because like I said, my son has a brother and they don't need to know about any of the ugliness.

KING: You never hold a grudge?

SHEPHERD: You -- you never held a grudge?

KING: Never in my life. When you forgive, you feel better.


KING: The forgiver feels better than the forgiven.

SHEPHERD: You feel better. It's never for the other people, it's with you.

KING: Correct.

SHEPHERD: Absolutely.

KING: Yes. It is for you.

How did you work with a cast on "Precious?"

SHEPHERD: The cast was really great. I actually didn't have any scenes with Mariah or Mo'Nique who was phenomenal. My scenes were with Gabby who played Precious and with Paula Patton who played her teacher.

KING: And you are telling me that Gabby is nothing like the person she is on screen.

SHEPHERD: Gabby is nothing like Precious. She is, you know, Precious is very intense and introverted. Gabby is full of life and funny, and she gets her little crushes on guys. And she loves to dance and sing. So she's -- she did a great job. Like I said, I believe her and Mo'Nique will be nominated for an Oscar. If I can get a sixth episode arch on "Law & Order," I'd be happy. I was good. It was nice having a dramatic role.

KING: You were on "Law & Order," right?

SHEPHERD: No. I want to be on "Law & Order." My whole family gets its demo real right here.

KING: What are you -- you're pitching stuff here tonight.

SHEPHERD: Larry, what am I supposed to do?

KING: This is a job search? You need a job?

SHEPHERD: I always need a job. I'm a single mother with a 4- year-old. I'm all for the job.

KING: I heard that.

SHEPHERD: And I'm going to tell you again.

KING: You're a single mother with a 4-year-old, no wrong, 4-1/2.


SHEPHERD: He's 4-1/2, that's right. So it's either that or a husband.

KING: The book --

SHEPHERD: You got a friend? I know you do, Larry.

KING: Go on our Web site. Click in and you got --

SHEPHERD: I'm not going. When I got you, I'm not going to the Web site. You're right there.

KING: Go to --

SHEPHERD: Do you have any good friends with good credit, Larry. Does your wife have good friends with good credit?

KING: Yes.

SHEPHERD: Then we need to talk. When is this show going to be over? Invite me over so we can get to talking. I'm just saying.

KING: Go to

What Miko Brando's take on the New Michael Jackson film.

Miko will be our guest, live, after the break.


SHEPHERD: Do you want to do a double date? You and your wife and one of your friends with good credit?

KING: OK, I'll arrange it.

SHEPHERD: Thank you. See, I came. I got what I came for. This is nice.

KING: We'll be back with Sherri and her job hunt after this.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was it there ever a time when you thought about maybe taking Kevin back?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you kidding me? Screw me once, shame on you. Screw a white girl, we're done.


KING: She's good. She's funny. She is Sherri Shepard. The book is "Permission Slips."

All right, let's talk a little bit about you and "The View."


KING: How do you get along with Whoopi?

SHEPHERD: I love Whoopi. Whoopi is like my big sister. She challenges me and she protects me. And, you know, she gets on me because I tend to run my mouth and I get in trouble for it a lot. Whoopi is always there.

KING: How about Joy?

SHEPHERD: Joy is funny. She tells dirty jokes when the camera is turned off. And she'll hit me when we were on the coach, and tell me a good dirty joke.

KING: Elizabeth, the conservative?

SHEPHERD: I love Elizabeth, because she is very encouraging. Her daughter Gracy is 4 and my son is 4. So Jeffrey likes to kiss Grace all the time.

KING: And Barbara?

SHEPHERD: I love Barbara, because she definitely is -- she challenges me to go to another level. And she's been so supportive of me throughout my three seasons on "The View." I love these ladies.

KING: Not long ago on "The View," Barbara Walters called you sweet and naive. Do you buy that?

SHEPHERD: You know, I am totally embrace naive if that's what people want to say, because I believe in the basic good of people. And I choose to believe in the positives in life instead of really going after the negatives. And I believe in prayer and God working a lot of miracles. If that's naivete, then I happily embrace it.

KING: When you have all these beliefs, what do you do when you get whacked in the head? SHEPHERD: You know what? If it doesn't kill you, it truly -- you can let it make you stronger. I've been through a lot. And I just try to learn from each experience. It was really cathartic writing the book, "Permission Slips." I mean, I've done a lot on "The View." One of my goals is to get into a bathing suit and lose a lot of weight. And that's just -- that was something I though was really going to kill me getting on that treadmill.

Have you ever been on a treadmill?

KING: Yes.

SHEPHERD: Oh, that mess hurts. You had a good trainer? I had a really good trainer. He was really cute. I call him the Evil One. And he worked me out really hard. Thankfully, I met that goal.

KING: You've been through so many trials. Yet, you're always up.


KING: What do you do with a down day?

SHEPHERD: You know, I cry. I cry. I go crazy, but then I pray. And I get a lot of strength from God. I really do. And I look at all of the blessings that I have. You know, like I said, where do I get all this energy? I'm blessed to be able to do "The View" and have a sitcom.

KING: Do you ever doubt the faith?

SHEPHERD: Yes, I did, when my son was born prematurely and was fighting for his life. And I remember God saying, Sherri, do you trust me? And I said, no. And that lasted for a little while. But then I said I'm going to trust you. And my son is here, and he's wonderful. When I found out my husband had an affair, God said do you trust me? And I said, no. But, you know what? Time heals. That's what I've learned. Time heals. And I continually just put my trust in God.

KING: Are you as happy as you seem?

SHEPHERD: I really am. I'm really happy. Don't get me wrong. I got my down days. I don't let too many people see them, but it's how fast you can, I think, bounce back. Are you going to let the down periods keep you down or are you going to bounce back and try to keep moving and keep going forward?

KING: You're a great lady, thanks, Sherri.

SHEPHERD: Thank you. I still want to do the double date.

KING: OK. All right.

SHEPHERD: Well, I'm just saying, because you know --


KING: What else do you want? You can have the cup, too. You can have the Larry King cup.

SHEPHERD: I don't need the cup now, because we're going on a double date.

KING: It's a great cup when they put the signature on the wrong side.

SHEPHERD: I just need a man with a FICO score, Larry. That's better than the cup.

KING: Sherri Shepherd, the book is "Permission Slips."

Hulk Hogan and Miko Brando tomorrow night. Right now, my man John King with AC360.