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Rielle Hunter Breaks Silence; Interview With Todd Bridges

Aired March 15, 2010 - 21:00   ET



LARRY KING, HOST (voice-over): Tonight after years of silence, John Edwards' mistress speaks out in a sensational interview. Rielle Hunter talks about having sex on their first night together, the secret cell phone call that betrayed her affair, and whether John Edwards really wanted a baby.

We've got the inside scoop on this no-holds bar interview.

And then what does Jesse Ventura have to say about cheating politicians? He's here and ready to rumble.

Plus former child star Todd Bridges.


TODD BRIDGES, ACTOR: Arnold, you're a lot older on the inside than you look to be on the outside.


KING: The ugly secrets including sexual abuse by a former publicist behind (INAUDIBLE) his pain. His near deadly spiral into drug addiction and crime and being on the same cellblock as the murderous Menendez brothers and Richard "The Night Stalker" Ramirez.

How did he survive, all next on LARRY KING LIVE.


KING: Good evening. Old friend Lisa DePaulo is here. She's a "GQ" correspondent.

This exclusive interview with John Edwards' former mistress, Rielle Hunter, appears in the April edition of "GQ" magazine.

Lisa, it's a terrific piece. A very long, in-depth interview. How did you nail this?


LISA DEPAULO, GQ CORRESPONDENT: Wow, I dropped your name.

(LAUGHTER) DEPAULO: No, it really was a little bit of luck. We had a mutual friend who put her in touch with me a few months ago. There's nothing like getting that phone call, do you mind if Rielle Hunter calls you? That's kind of how it happened.

KING: Now let's run through some of the headlines from Rielle Hunter's interview with you. Slept with John Edwards the first night. Elizabeth Edwards confronted the husband after making cell phone calls which Rielle answered by saying, "Hey, baby."

Rielle believes that Edwards hoped she'd have an abortion. John Edwards feared the wrath of Elizabeth. He was emasculated. Rielle did not think Edwards should run for president.

What surprised you the most?

DEPAULO: Oh, well, just her candor in general. She didn't whitewash anything. She didn't sugar-coat anything. She answered everything. And I guess in specifically what surprised me was she's very much in love with him to this day.

And they have -- I don't know if you would call it a conventional romance, but they certainly have very, very strong feelings for each other.

KING: All right, Rielle told you she feels such compassion for Elizabeth Edwards yet she also says this about John Edwards. "Most of his mistakes or errors in judgment were because of his fear of the wrath of Elizabeth. The wrath of Elizabeth is a mighty wrath."

She comes in pretty rough here, doesn't she?

DEPAULO: You know, for better or for worse, she answered everything from her gut. Now I think in some ways I think anybody who's ever been in a situation like she's in, you know, this isn't a new, novel idea that you believe, you know, the man's version of what is terrible about his marriage that is not terrible about your wonderful romance.

I think there's a little bit of that. She is a very open minded person about a lot of things. But I think she is directly straight about how she feels about what he told her about their marriage.

KING: Does she have any remorse? Any remorse at all about --

DEPAULO: You know --

KING: -- what it might have done to the marriage?

DEPAULO: Remorse. You know, the remorse is like, you know, you did something criminal or terrible. I don't think she -- I think she feels -- she said, she feels compassion for Elizabeth. I believe that. She feels -- she said to me, you know, I always had such judgment about infidelity.

She comes from a family of infidelity. Both parents cheated. And so I think remorse is a weird word for her, though. Because I don't think she feels like she did a horrible thing by falling in love with this man. And she doesn't --

KING: She acknowledged -- I'm sorry. Go ahead.

DEPAULO: Yes, she does -- no, I'm sorry, Larry. She -- you know, she made a comment that, you know, she believes infidelity does not happen in healthy marriages and that she says the home was a wreck before I got there. I was not the home wrecker. And I think she really believes that.

KING: Rielle acknowledges that she -- she acknowledges that John Edwards was untruthful to a lot of different people on a lot of different occasions.

DEPAULO: Right. When I --

KING: But she told you, he doesn't lie to me. He discloses everything to me. Has no fear of lying to me. Doesn't lie to me at all. Does that surprise you?

DEPAULO: Yes. And I pressed her on that. I said, you know, Rielle, right now a lot of people in America think he's probably the most -- one of the most untruthful men in America. He -- we know he lied to his wife. You know he lied to his staff. And to the country. You don't think he lies to you? And she said, he doesn't lie to me. She believes that.

KING: She's -- she speaks in the present tense.


KING: Are they talking every day, in your opinion? Are they involved now?

DEPAULO: I don't know how -- if they talk every day. And -- but there's no question they have an on going loving relationship.

KING: Did you ask her why doesn't he get divorced and they get married?

DEPAULO: Well, he's apparently on that path. I did say to her, you know, Rielle, I mean, come on. He's separated. You obviously have a great relationship. He adores his daughter. Why not just be together?

And her answer was, ah, you want the fairytale ending. And I said don't you? And she said, I want whatever life brings me. And that is her attitude about life.

KING: This affair was instantaneous, right? They meet at the Regency and sleep together that night?

DEPAULO: Yes. You know the way she describes the meeting -- I'm laughing just because I'm sure nobody's ever done that before. But anyway, she -- the way she described it was just this instant, amazing connection that, you know, they have -- there was just this spark, the crazy thing.

And then she was outside the Regency and he walked around the corner and it was just this magical thing. And he said please call me. Please call me. I'm only here one night. Please call me. And then she talks about, you know, how it, you know, progressed to his room.

KING: She calls him Johnny.

DEPAULO: She does. She does. She said she -- the first week of their relationship that she said, you know, I -- I just can't call you John. It doesn't come out right. Can I call you Johnny? And that his response was, that's my name.

And it's very funny. I never knew that. That his actual birth name was Johnny. I guess we needed this to find that out.

KING: I didn't know.

DEPAULO: Johnny --

KING: By the way, we asked John Edwards and Elizabeth Edwards for their reactions to Lisa DePaulo's "GQ" interview with Rielle Hunter. Both declined to provide a statement.

Elizabeth's sister Nancy told us enough has been said. The "GQ" photos speak a few thousand words.

Speaking of that, I know you talked to Rielle last night. What's her reaction to the photos? The writer has nothing to do with the photos.


KING: On "The View" today, I understand that Barbara Walters said she's spoken to Rielle, cried for hours about the photos. Thought they were repulsive. Didn't she pose for them?

DEPAULO: Yes. And you know what? I think this is a little bit hysterical. I think what really happened here was, you know, when this first hit, today we have everybody making comments on the blog. I mean they were pretty were brutal.

I think it did get to her. And I think she said, ooh, you know?. But I think in the days to come she is going to be fine with them. She is a -- she's a beautiful, sexy woman. I mean, you know, the funny thing, I'm shocked by all this who-ha over the photos.

First of all, it's "GQ," it's not "The New Republic." But I don't -- you know this racy photo thing, I mean she's not in a bikini standing on her head.

KING: But why is she hurt by them then?

DEPAULO: I don't -- I think she was more hurt by the reaction to them. But, you know, you ever -- you know, go on and read all the comments. So I think that's what probably this is about. And I think she'll come to see them as -- and obviously at the time she was photographed she liked the photos. So I hope she --

KING: What do you make of the Andrew Young thing? His book is a major best seller. And he said he told Anderson Cooper that -- what may be the differences here of all the parties talking about his book are minor little things. Nothing in essence.

DEPAULO: Well --

KING: Seriously discounts what he says.

DEPAULO: Well, there's a major thing Rielle hunter claims which is different and that is that it was Andrew Young's idea to claim paternity. And she claims she has -- she overheard that conversation. So -- but here's the deal. I mean there is so many versions now and people have to come to their own judgments about who is telling the truth on what thing and what they -- but I'll say this about Rielle Hunter.

She is not making a nickel. She has nothing to sell. And in the course of this entire interview, she didn't sugar-coat anything for better or for worse.

KING: You're not kidding.

DEPAULO: Yes. Yes.

KING: And you liked her, I gather.

DEPAULO: I do. I do. I mean I like fascinating people who have really interesting things to say. But I do. She's -- she's much different than the caricature that has been out there for years. You know, of this flaky, new age home wrecker. She is a complicated, interesting, warm person.

KING: Lisa, you got a hell of a piece. Terrific interview.

DEPAULO: Thanks, Larry.

KING: Long piece. Did a great job. Known you a long time. You're top of your game.

DEPAULO: I'll meet you at the Regency.


KING: I've seen Lisa there many times.


KING: Lisa DePaulo, the article in the April "GQ" out now.

Jesse Ventura, standing by. He's back. What does he think about all this John Edwards mess. We'll ask him next.


KING: With us now to talk about the Rielle Hunter interview and all the political news of the day, Jesse Ventura, the former independent governor of Minnesota. The host of TruTV's "Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura," and best-selling author of a terrific new book, by the way, "American Conspiracies: Lies, Lies, and More Dirty Lies the Government Tells Us."

Also actor and Democrat Sean Astin. Sean is -- was a civilian aide to the secretary of the Army from 1995 to 2005. He also served on the President's Council on Service from 2003 through 2004.

And in Washington, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, Republican of Minnesota.

First, what do you make of this whole Rielle Hunter-John Edwards thing, Jesse?

JESSE VENTURA (I), FORMER MINNESOTA GOVERNOR: Well, it's as simple as this, Larry, you know, they all think they'll never get caught if they go out and cheat when they're high profile people. And you'd think they'd learn a lesson and realize they will. Because in today's world of media and everything that goes on in media, you're not going to get away with anything anymore.

KING: Congresswoman Bachmann, it happens to Republicans, too, Sanford and others. What do you think -- what -- do you think it's the drive for power that attracts this?

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: It probably is. And I think people are in very high pressure situations and they give in to a temptation. It's just horrible. It makes me sick to watch it. My heart is broken for John Edwards' children, for Elizabeth. It's just -- it's bad all the way around.

KING: Sean, what do you -- what's your read?

SEAN ASTIN, ACTOR AND DEMOCRAT: Well, I think the congresswoman is absolutely right. It's just -- there's a lot of pain. There's a lot of pain for a lot of people. And you know, this article is -- the woman has every right to speak out. And, you know, it's a great piece, I guess, for "GQ."

But to me, we have one of the most important public policy discussions and votes coming up.

KING: And we're going to get to it.

ASTIN: No, no, no. I know, but I mean, not just for our interview but just in the national conversation. It's just like we really can't afford the time to talk about that right now. We have to be focusing on something else, in my feeling.

KING: What's going to happen this week, Jesse, with the health bill? VENTURA: Well, if the Democrats can ever get their act together, I mean they have the president. They have the House and the Senate. I can't -- I'm sitting here amazed that it's taken this long.

KING: Michele -- if I can call you Michele, you've been on so much and I've known you a long time.

BACHMANN: Yes, please. Yes, sure.

KING: When Reagan came in, one of his strong policies was to cut taxes. They passed that bill. They did it the same way the Democrats want to do this, by a vote. Only the 51 votes to pass it, doing through some parliamentary procedures.

What do you have against this president taking his number one policy mode and doing it the same way?

BACHMANN: He has every right to go ahead and push his policy that he wants to. The problem is the American people have soundly rejected this job killing government takeover of health care. And for that reason, I think it's very important that we listen to the will of the people on this, Larry, because after all, it's people, their loved ones that will be hurt, the health care system, the economy.

There's a lot at stake right now. And I think it's really important that politicians listen to the voters.

KING: But you're there to lead not to follow.

BACHMANN: That's true. And based upon what my research has been on this issue, I think there's a better way we can do it. I'd love to see everyone be able to buy any health insurance policy they want anywhere in the United States. Buy it with their own tax free money and deduct the rest on their income tax return. That's bringing cost down. That's really what people want.

KING: Sean Astin, he ran on this, though.

ASTIN: He absolutely did. You know, this is an amazing country. Everybody's got a voice. There are lots of voices screaming that they want things done their way. The people did speak. The people voted overwhelmingly for this guy. The people have voted consistently. And the Democrats are in power.

It's a big issue. And there -- it has full of complex ideas. I think a lot of --

KING: Are you saying they gave Reagan what he wanted, they should give him what he wants?

ASTIN: I'm saying the people are represented. And right now there's a choice being made. And there's some good stuff in this bill, stuff that everyone agrees on. You shouldn't have your insurance premiums raised out of, you know, control quickly with no reason. You should be able to take your insurance with you if you get -- you know, you leave your job. You should -- you know, there's like -- there's a bunch of good stuff in here. We should be celebrating it.

KING: Pick up on that in a minute. The president slammed the insurance companies today, again demanded a vote on his health care bill. Will he get it? More when we come back.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know about the politics. But I know what's the right thing to do. And so I'm calling on Congress to pass these reforms. And I'm going to sign them into law. I want some courage. I want us to do the right thing, Ohio.


KING: Jesse, what do you make of how Obama is doing at this?

VENTURA: Well, he's got to. He's got to get out there and be high profile to push the agenda. But what I'd like to know, Larry, is this. A question that they won't answer for me.

If -- now there's been government-run health care in the state of Hawaii for 40 years. And it seems to do very well. My other thing is if government-run health care is so terrible, then why do we have government-run health care for our veterans?

And we've done that since World War II. Does that mean we're screwing the veterans over with bad health care?

ASTIN: We have Medicare and Medicaid and Social -- I don't think you -- I don't think -- we're talking about government-run health care. I think he's talking about insurance reform. I think that's the big thrust of this bill.

KING: We'll have more on this --


KING: Michele, at a rally in Minnesota over the weekend, you said people shouldn't have to pay for this. You're not saying people don't have to pay their taxes, do they, if this bill becomes law?

BACHMANN: People do have to pay their taxes. I'm a former federal tax litigation attorney and I think we all know you go to the slammer if you don't pay your taxes. You certainly have to pay your taxes.

KING: In this case, isn't it more insurance reform than government-run?

BACHMANN: Well, I think what we'll see happen on insurance is we'll see a lot of the little guys go away. We'll end up having a few insurance companies. They'll turn into something more akin to public utilities.

Government would tell insurance companies how they have to conduct themselves. And they'll be just very few. So there'll be very few choices. And, actually, insurance premiums will increase probably 35 percent for the younger people, especially. So it will be a big change in insurance.

KING: Sean?

ASTIN: Well, I just -- that's a huge crystal ball that's being read, you know? I think that -- that it's a start. That these exchanges, the state-run exchanges, are a way to create a way for people to, you know, trust that their -- that the groups of the insurance providers that they have to choose from are -- you know, going to be fair and that they're going to get, you know, the best possible deal for themselves.

I don't think that's like, you know, it's going to weed out -- I don't -- I have no idea if it's going to weed out the little guy. This is America. We're people are entrepreneurs. They're going to find --

KING: You could say, couldn't we, Jesse, there's no reason for a country this rich for someone not to have medical coverage?

VENTURA: It's a shame.


KING: The only industrialized country in the world.


VENTURA: It is shameful that people can't go to the doctor and, I mean -- and I know this is kind of beating the horse. But if we have not been misled into the Iraq war, imagine the money we'd have. We could provide that health care. And I'd rather have health care than the Iraq war.

KING: We'll --

ASTIN: Larry, it's a moral imperative that we absolutely have to deal with in this country. Yes.

KING: I want to ask Michele in a minute if she agrees with that. We'll come right back.


KING: We're back with Representative Michele Bachmann, actor Sean Astin and Governor Jesse Ventura.

Once again, Jesse's new book is "American Conspiracies: Lies, Lies, and More Dirty Lies the Government Tells Us." There you see its cover.

Michele, do you agree with Sean that it's a moral imperative that we take care of our citizens less fortunate?

BACHMANN: Well, we do. Anyone who needs to go to a hospital today in the United States has full access. But under President Obama's bill, $500 billion will be cut out of Medicare, 30 million more people will go under the system --

KING: Are you --

BACHMANN: -- with no more doctors so --

KING: Are you saying that people who need medical care in -- every person in America who needs medical care gets it?

BACHMANN: Well, what's going to happen, Larry, is we're giving people --

KING: No, are you saying that's the case today?

BACHMANN: Today, anyone who goes to the hospital, whether you're here legally in the United States or illegally, you have a right to go to a hospital in the United States.

KING: You have a right to go, what if you're not insured?

BACHMANN: Well, but remember, under this plan --

KING: I know they have to see you.

BACHMANN: Remember under the plan people have a right to go on a waiting list. But that doesn't necessarily mean they'll get the high quality health care that they're getting today.

ASTIN: The emergency room thing is part of the cost problem. Instead of getting the preventative treatment, the early treatment, the right care they need, people are uninsured and they show up at hospital rooms and cost us -- we're already got -- we're looking at universal health care. We're just paying -- we're overpaying for it in terms of hospital, you know, stays.

KING: Jesse?

VENTURA: Yes, you know, that's what happens. They go to the emergency room where it costs even more instead of just going to the doctor's office. You know? And so you'll save a tremendous amount of money by eliminating all these people being forced to go to the emergency room.


KING: Michele, you do agree there is a problem?

BACHMANN: There's no question there's a problem. That's why the solution that I offered was to bring costs down. That's the real problem in health care today, is the high cost. We need to attack that.

Unfortunately, President Obama's plan will increase costs about $2.3 trillion. And that's not going to help anyone because we're looking at massive tax increases. And President Obama's own numbers say we'll lose about 5.5 million jobs. That won't help the economy right now.

KING: The Congressional Budget Office, Sean, says the Senate bill will reduce federal deficits about $118 billion. That's --

ASTIN: Over 10 years and a trillion over 20. Now is that true? I don't know. What I do know is all the stuff that I've looked at on the bill -- and it's a long bill, it's hard to get through. It's a lot of repetition and whatever.

But it represents the hard work of hundreds of people working incredible hours. And there's good stuff in it. So if people -- if opponents, good willed opponents of, you know, instruments in this bill, they disagree with, let's have a smart conscientious discussion throughout November and -- or throughout the summer and in November elect the people who are going to make the right adjustments over it.

But right now, how long are we going to ask people to wait? People are suffering right now. They've been suffering since November when (INAUDIBLE).

KING: Jesse, if the public is against it, then Democrats' heads will roll in November, right?

VENTURA: Absolutely. But let's remember, the public is educated today by sound bite news. You know? And -- so how good is it when -- you know, when you got FOX out there who's certainly has an agenda, and I might add, you know, they're cowards. They won't let me on and yet they'll criticize me behind my back and won't let me on.

But that's here nor there. But the thing is that I agree with Sean. You got people out there that need help right now. And they've needed it for a long time. And we should be ashamed. Every other industrialized country in the world has --

ASTIN: Let's be excited.

VENTURA: Health care.

ASTIN: You know, we talk about how the government doesn't do stuff. The government is doing stuff. Right now. They've -- it ain't pretty to look at. But there's good stuff in this bill that everyone can agree on. And let's enjoy that and then work on what needs to be fixed as we go forward.

KING: Michele, you get good health care, don't you? Members of Congress?

BACHMANN: Yes, we do.

KING: Why should you get better than John Jones? BACHMANN: Well, I'm an employee and I work for the health care coverage that I get, and it's a part of my benefit package. I'm just like any other federal employee.

KING: But you're an employee of us.

BACHMANN: That's right.

KING: We employ you.

BACHMANN: That's right, I am. And I get a benefit package that is the same as any other federal employee. And I pay 29 percent of my premium. And one thing that Governor Ventura ran on for governor that the people loved in Minnesota, he ran on personal responsibility.

That resonated with the people in Minnesota. And it's important that people understand, too, that all of us have an obligation to add to the system and to pay for the services that we consume.

KING: OK. We got some more coming, and then we're going to meet Todd Bridges. Don't go away.


KING: Get in a couple calls. New Freedom, Pennsylvania, hello.

CALLER: Hello. Good job, Larry. This question is for Senator Bachmann.

KING: Congresswoman Bachmann. Go ahead.

CALLER: Hello? I'd like to know where they're getting their polling numbers from, because no one ever polled myself and a lot of other people. And, also, would she be willing to give up her insurance since the citizens of this country pay for her insurance so she can see how it would feel to be --

KING: Congresswoman?

BACHMANN: Thanks so much. The poll that I cited was CNN's poll. I think that's pretty reputable, a CNN poll. And also I've been without insurance, my husband and I, when we've had little children. And so we just lived without it and, you know, tried to take care of ourselves the best we could. And we --

KING: Did anyone get seriously sick?

BACHMANN: We had a little bit of money set aside. But frankly, we were pretty poor at that time. We were putting ourselves through graduate school.

KING: No one got seriously sick?

BACHMANN: Well, we had to take money out when we took the children to the doctor. That's what we had to do. But that's also part of being responsible parents, getting a job that offers health insurance. And so we bought our own insurance by ourselves. But then we also got jobs that offered insurance, too.

KING: You wanted to say?

ASTIN: I would say the congresswoman works incredibly hard and is entitled to the benefits she receives. I think, similarly, every citizen of a great nation should be entitled to something. Not to freeload, but to some sense of fair play. If they are trying to work, that they, you know -- and are in between jobs, that they don't have their entire economic fortune wrecked because somebody gets an illness and they're not covered. It's just -- it's just good government. Yeah.

VENTURA: Well, I agree. Sean said it all, Larry, again. We're the only industrialized nation in the world that doesn't provide health care for our citizens and it's high time. I thought we were supposed to lead the world instead of follow the world.

KING: Naples, Florida, hello.

CALLER: Hi, I have a question. First of all, what happened to the transparency that is supposed to be in Washington, that he was supposed to be so transparent about what's happening, and the back room deals that are going on? And what about for one whole year, he's not even concentrating on any job? How about those people, Jesse, about those people that are suffering that are out of work? And there's no stimulus jobs for anybody out there. They're just concentrating on passing their own agenda. I hope you can you answer that, Jesse.

VENTURA: Well, you know, when you look at the situation, they're passing their own agenda like George Bush didn't? They all have agendas. They all work to pass their agendas. That's nothing new in the world of politics. They all have agendas. You're going to take away agenda?

KING: Michelle, the stimulus plan seems to be working. It kicked into jobs. The banks paid back most of what they were loaned. Don't you think that's kind of working?

BACHMANN: No, not at all. The stimulus has been a miserable failure. The president said if we pass the trillion dollar spending, that the unemployment rate wouldn't go above eight percent. It's now been hovering at 10 percent. So it's really been an abysmal failure.

And it's actually added to the overwhelming debt burden. That's part of our problem. We have Social Security and Medicare. This year, we're putting out more money for Social Security than what we're taking in. Seven years ahead of time, Medicare will be broke in seven years. So I don't know where we're going to go to get all the money to pay for all these entitlement programs.

KING: Hold on.

VENTURA: Larry -- first, the stimulus package, the bailout started with president bush.

BACHMANN: That's right.

VENTURA: Obama just followed that. So to come on and say what he's doing isn't working, well then obviously -- and who ran the debt up more than anybody? George Bush and the Republicans.

KING: We're running out of time. Sean, is it going to pass? Is it going to pass?

ASTIN: I hope so. I mean I think, you know --

KING: You think so?

ASTIN: Well, President Obama -- Senator Obama, when he was a candidate Obama, said it at every campaign stop, I'm not going to be able to do this on my own. I'm going to need the American people. I'm going to need your support to get this done. Now it's a moment for anybody who supported him who thinks that maybe, you know, he's telling the truth and is doing what he said and is trying to deliver some health insurance reform, to stand up and call your senators, call everybody and say, good job, I think this is great. I hope you get it over the finish line.

KING: Thank you all very much. Governor Jesse Ventura, Actor Sean Astin and Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann, Republican of Minnesota.

He played Willis on the '80s sitcom "Different Strokes." Actor Todd Bridges is standing by to tell us about his battle with drugs, physical and sexual abuse he says he suffered growing up, and how he has now stayed clean for almost 17 years. That's next


KING: Joining us now, Todd Bridges, former child star, known to millions for his role as Willis on the hit TV series "Different Strokes." After that show ended, he spiraled downward into a life of drug addiction and crime. He writes about what happened and his return to sobriety in a new book "Killing Willis, from Different Strokes to the Mean Streets to the Life I Always Wanted." There you see its cover.

By the way, what do we mean by the term in the title "Killing Willis"?

TODD BRIDGES, FMR. CHILD STAR: Because I was trying to kill myself. And because Willis is a part of me, I was trying to destroy that whole part of me.

KING: You were on a suicidal path?

BRIDGES: Yeah, I was definitely on a suicide path.

KING: You're lucky to be alive.

BRIDGES: I'm not lucky, I'm blessed to be alive.

KING: What happened to you after the show?

BRIDGES: After the show, what happened -- the show actually kept me sane. During the show -- when the show ended, I was 22 years old. When the show ended, I basically have found that I lost all my money. My accountant had ripped me off. I was suffering from sexual abuse, suffering from physical abuse.

KING: As a child?


KING: Who abused you?

BRIDGES: My father abused me physically. And then my publicist abused me sexually.

KING: Your publicist?


KING: Did you ever charge him?

BRIDGES: No. We never charged them. What happened was -- the bad part it was when we -- I finally came out and told my mother what happened, and my father -- and my father took his side. And he talked to my dad.

KING: So you had problems during the run of the show.

BRIDGES: Yeah. But it never was effective while I was on the show. It happened as soon as the show because then I had all the problems on top of me. I didn't know how to rationally do them, and how to fix them. My mother told me I should go to therapy. I thought back then, in the early '80s, going to therapy meant you were crazy. So that's something I didn't want to do.

KING: How long were abused?

BRIDGES: My father, all my entire life I lived with my father. I was my father's remote control changer. He would wake me up in the middle of the night to change the TV for him. My father took out a lot of aggression on me. He would slap me in the back of the head or he would say really cruel things to me. Growing up as a 12-year-old kid, that stuff really hurts. You don't understand that stuff.

KING: How long were you on the show?

BRIDGES: I was on the show eight years. I was on shows before then. I was on "Fish." I was also on "Barney Miller." I was on -- I did a show with Denny Thomas. I was in "Roots." I was the first black "Little House on the Prairie," the first black on "The Waltons." I did 15 episodes of "The Waltons."

KING: Child stars have difficulties later on.

BRIDGES: Well, I would say all kids have difficulties when going through such enormous pain and suffering. I can't really pin-point and say child stars. It is a very small percentage of us that have had problems. Look at Sean Astin. He hasn't had any problems. It's a very small percentage of us.

But the public -- the media wants to make it out to be all of us. It's a great deal of us and that we all have problems.

KING: We'll ask in a minute how this turned to crime, how you wound up in jail. Our guest, Todd Bridges. The book, "Killing Willis." We'll be right back.



KING: Back with Todd Bridges, the author of "Killing Willis." You wrote that your co-star, Dana Plato, who died of an overdose in 1999 introduced you to sex and marijuana, while you were shooting the series.

BRIDGES: Yes, but actually it came at a critical point in my life, where I was suffering from sexual molestation from my publicist. When that happened with her, it actually got me back online, realizing that was OK with girls, and what is happening to me wasn't really my fault. But I still couldn't stop blaming myself.

KING: She came on with you?

BRIDGES: Yeah. It was -- I was asleep one night, and we were all taking a nap in the teacher's room. And I woke up and she was down there doing something to me that I had never experienced before in my life. But I realized that it was -- you know, that I didn't feel dirty. It didn't feel wrong, you know?

KING: How about Gary Coleman?

BRIDGES: Gary Coleman, you know, I really love Gary. But he is suffering from just the whole thing of physical, you know -- he's -- health-wise, he's not great. And he's very mad at the world. And I understand that.

KING: Did you talk to him?

BRIDGES: I tried talking to him. But he doesn't want to communicate very much with us.

KING: How about the drinking and drugs? How did that start?

BRIDGES: For me, it was a way to -- I never thought that doing that would make me addicted. They really didn't explain to us about addiction back then. It was a way to cover up the pain I was going through. And never felt that I would become addicted. But I was wrong. And my brother used to tell me drugs will lead to harder drugs. I didn't believe him. And it did.

KING: What about all the girls in your life? Janet Jackson one of them.

BRIDGES: Yeah. She is a great person. We -- she was good. I loved Janet. And she is still the same. I talked to her a few months ago. She is still great. And I love those kind of people in my life.

KING: How did you end up in jail?

BRIDGES: I made stupid mistakes. I did some things I shouldn't have done, like, for instance, using drugs, carrying a gun in my car with drugs in my car. And, you know, I just -- like I said, it's detailed in "Killing Willis." It explaining the whole turmoil of transformation. I felt that while doing drugs it could make me feel better. But what it did is tear me down and send me to jail.

KING: How long were you in jail for?

BRIDGES: When I was -- the first case in 1989, when they blamed me for shooting somebody. I did nine months in county jail. That is -- when I was there, I was next to there next to Eric and Lyle Menendez. I was there next to Richard Ramirez. It's all in "Killing Willis."

KING: The Night Stalker?

BRIDGES: The Night Stalker. I said something to the Night Stalker one day. I asked him, if you had one this to do all over, what would it be different? And he said, this time it wouldn't be old ladies. I was like, wow, many, you're really a bad person.

KING: What about the Menendez boys?

BRIDGES: When I would talk to my mom, Eric Menendez would get really sad. It's weird because they really thought they could get out. They thought they could win this case and get out. I never thought that they would ever get out. I knew I would get out one day, because I was only there for really drug addiction.

KING: Johnnie Cochran was your lawyer?

BRIDGES: Sure was. He's one of the best lawyers ever and he was a great guy to me. My last case, he actually told me, if I didn't straighten my life out, he would no longer want to represent me or help me.

KING: How much time did you do in all?

BRIDGES: I did nine months in county and I did eight months in Chino Correctional Facility.

KING: What straightened you out?

BRIDGES: God, and I wanted a different life. I wanted to feel -- not feel the pain anymore of all the suffering from what I was putting myself through. And, you know, once an addict gets sick and tired of being sick and tired, he wants to straighten his life out. I remember going to court one last time, mother, help me out one more time. She wasn't a caretaker. She told me that if you continue using drugs, I'll never help you again.

And I remember going to court and I was sitting in court, and I realized that I was tired and I was ready. But at that particular time when I was ready, I still didn't know how to go about it to really change my life. And God put the right people in my path to really help me find freedom.

KING: Where'd you go? Rehab?

BRIDGES: I went to rehab. But this time I went to rehab and shut my mouth and really listened, and really realized that I had to change the heartache and pain I was feeling.

KING: Was it tough to lick it, to beat it?

BRIDGES: You know, I would say it was very tough to lick it, but not to lick drugs and alcohol. It was very tough to lick forgiving myself, because I was so angry at myself and so mad at myself for even allowing myself to go through that, I didn't know how to forgive myself. And in "Killing Willis," it details how a person learns to forgive themselves. Because if you can't forgive yourself, you can't forgive anyone else.

KING: After all of this, what's next for Todd Bridges? More when we come back.


KING: You write how the sixth time in rehab finally took. You get sent to Chino Correctional Facility. You write, getting arrested may be the best break in your life.

BRIDGES: Well, yeah. What I definitely say is that being arrested wasn't a hindrance, it actually helped me. It helped me discover that I really wanted to be sober. I remember the last time I was sitting in that jail, I really realized that something had to be different about me. But I had to stop listening to myself, because my own best decisions got me in that situation.

You know, like I said, I don't blame anybody in my book about what I went through. I accept full responsibility. I made some horrifying mistakes in my life.

KING: But no trouble with the law since 1992, sober more than 16 years.


KING: Yet people still hang that label on you.

BRIDGES: Yeah, they hang the label on me.

KING: Why?

BRIDGES: Well, because -- the way I look at it, they have nothing else better to say. And you know, I know that God's going to change all that now. And that's why I really wrote the book, not just to change the label, but to make people realize that there are a better way out.

KING: You knew Corey Haim?

BRIDGES: I knew Corey Haim and I tried to help, but he just wasn't ready. And that's the thing about drug addiction, either you're ready or not. And two things will happen with drug addiction, either you'll go insane or you'll have death. That's something a practicing druggy has to look forward to.

KING: What's next?

BRIDGES: I'm going to do my life story as a feature film. That's one of the things I want to do. I'm on a show called "Dumbest Criminals" on smoking gun TV.

KING: "Dumbest Criminals?"

BRIDGES: Yes, we talk about criminals who are doing things wrong, which is great because I'm so happy there weren't cameras around back when I was doing those kind of things, or I would be talking about myself. But I want to spread the message of recovery, spread the message of forgiveness.

That's the secret to life, forgiving yourself. And once I learned to forgive myself, forgiving everyone else was so easy. I forgave my father. I even forgave the guy that molested me. And in the book of "Killing Willis," I depict what it's like to forgive and how to do it, which direction to go.

KING: It's the basis of Christianity.

BRIDGES: The basis of Christianity, but also just the basis of life. Forgiving is in any --

KING: But it's hard, isn't it?

BRIDGES: Very much so. Because you want to continue to -- you know, most of you don't want to accept responsibility. That's the biggest problem in America. We don't want to accept responsibility. And I accept full responsibility for my terrible actions.

KING: What was "Different Strokes like?

BRIDGES: For me, it was a wonderful experience. It was a safe haven for me.

KING: A happy cast?

BRIDGES: It was a happy cast. But unfortunately the three kids had lives that parallel so much with the lives they were dealing with. Gary Coleman was dealing with the fact that he was adopted and didn't know who his real parents were. His parents made him work when he was kind of ill and not feeling well. Dana Plano was in a severe car accident. Her mother wasn't around that much. So we had these things that were going on, but it's a small part.

KING: How about the dad?

BRIDGES: The father, I talk to him on a regular basis.

KING: How's he doing?

BRIDGES: He's doing great. He's 86 years old. And we communicate at least two times a week. He's like my real dad?

KING: Was he an important figure --

BRIDGES: Oh yes. He was important to me. He was better than my dad was. He actually went fishing me and took me fishing and hung out with me. My dad's idea of taking us fishing was to drop us off and leave us. But in my life, my mother was has been so influential, my brother, my sister, my brother James -- they've been influential in my life to really help me --

KING: Do they still show it late on night?

BRIDGES: They still show it. I still get checks from it. We don't get DVD money. But I still get checks from it. It's funny when those checks come in. I get checks from shows like "The Waltons." I see those checks, I'm blown away that I got like a 20 dollar check from that show.

KING: You were on "The Waltons"?

BRIDGES: Fifteen episodes of "The Waltons." I was one of the first black cast members on the show, where they actually said good night to me. My name was Bud. They said, good night, Bud. Good night, John Boy.

KING: I'm anxious to read this, Todd. You've come through extraordinary things. You deserve a lot of credit.

BRIDGES: Thank you. I really appreciate it.

KING: "Killing Willis" is the books, "From Different Strokes to the Mean Street, to the Life I Always Wanted," Todd Bridges. Touchstone is the publisher.

I want to remind you, one of my favorite people, Betty White will be here on Wednesday night. And Thursday night, Kirstie Alley. It's going to be a heck of a week. And we invite you now to stay tuned for Anderson Cooper and "AC 360." Thanks for joining us. Good night. Anderson?