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Encore: Dennis Kucinich to Change Health Care Vote to Yes; Interview with Betty White; Interview with Aretha Franklin

Aired March 20, 2010 - 21:00   ET



BETTY WHITE, ACTRESS: He thinks I'm meaner than hard salami.

LARRY KING, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, TVs golden girl sweetheart, Betty White. A half million Facebook fans helped land her a very special hosting gig.

WHITE: Live from New York, it's Saturday night.

KING: She has just signed to do a new TV series.

WHITE: I don't like you.

KING: And she scored in a Super Bowl ad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're playing like Betty White out there.

WHITE: That's not what your girlfriend said.

KING: What is the secret of Betty White's long success?

Plus, exclusive -- Democratic Representative Dennis Kucinich.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), OHIO: I've taken a detour.

KING: His first interview since announcing his flip on health care.

Why did he change his mind?

And then, one of the all-time musical greats, Aretha Franklin, "The Queen of Soul," joining us from the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington.

All next on LARRY KING LIVE.


KING: Good evening.

Yes, she's here, comedian, actress, TV's golden girl, Betty White, is right here with us tonight.

But before we speak to her, we want to talk about the big news of the day. Congress -- and she's ticked that she's not on before him -- Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Democrat of Ohio. He made headlines earlier today by announcing that he has changed his mind and will vote for health care reform.

Was there -- Congressman, was there any arm-twisting involved here?

KUCINICH: No. You know, the president and everyone else I spoke to was -- they made their case. I provided the counterargument as to the changes that I wanted to see in the bill. But now we've moved beyond that. I think that the things that I want to see eventually in health care, we can move toward over the years. I described it this morning, I'll say it again, Larry, this is -- was a detour.

You know, if you hit a roadblock, you've got a choice, you can go straight and maybe go over a cliff, or you can take a detour and eventually get to the destination that you hope to get to. And I'm hoping someday America will have a single-payer system and that -- I'm hoping that, as I work with the president on the next step, we can deal with the issues like diet, nutrition, complementary, alternative medicine, things like that.

KING: Knowing you for a long while, though, did you ever think to yourself, am I copping out on my values?

KUCINICH: No, because, you know, I've been very strong in the Congress in -- in arguing that if we can't have a single payer, at least we should have a public option; at least we should protect the rights of states to pursue a -- a single-payer plan.

And I -- you know, I've been, basically, the -- the last person to -- to say well, you know what, this is the best we can do. But I will tell you this, that I'm not stopping, Larry. I'm going to do everything I can to help nurture those efforts that are happening in states across the country to move toward single-payer.

I will work with the president in getting this bill passed and the president has committed to work with me in seeing further health care reforms after this bill is...

KING: Do you...

KUCINICH: ... is out of the way.

KING: Do you think it will pass?

KUCINICH: I think it will, yes.

KING: How close a vote?

KUCINICH: I think it will be within a few votes. I think -- you know, this has been a big debate in America. But, unfortunately it has been a debate where there has been so many distortions. People look at the president's position and describe it as socialized medicine. Clearly not. I mean, I'm for Medicare for all. I am for having the government be the single payer. The president isn't talking about that. The president is talking about reform within the context of a for-profit system.

Well, you know what? That wasn't my way, but I'm not a "my way or the highway" kind of guy, Larry. I thought that when all was said and done, I made my point. I couldn't get my way. That -- that it was more important to see people get a chance to have some coverage, even if it's from private insurance companies, than to kill the bill. I -- I didn't want to be responsible for -- for killing the bill, even though I didn't get what I wanted out of the process.

KING: Despite your majority in both houses, did the -- did the president lose his way anywhere along the way here?


KING: Why is it so close?

KUCINICH: Well, it's so close because there's -- you know, it's a very contentious issue to begin with. The insurance companies are very powerful. And when you look at how insurance companies have basically lorded over health insurance in this country for so many years, now they -- in the last four years, they've raised rates by double digits, they have a lot of power. They have a lot of political power.

And the president took this on. He made it a central issue. He -- you know, he did it at some risk to his presidency. He understands that.

And so what we need to do is not just get this bill done, but we need to refocus on other issues in health care and on the broader issues of the economy that have to do with jobs, wages, helping people stay in their homes, education and peace. I mean these are things that -- that we can look to.

But if this bill goes down, it will -- it will put the president in a bad way and I think the Congress may start to become less effective.

KING: You said your wife played a part in your decision. How so?

KUCINICH: Well, you know, I speak about these things with Elizabeth all the time. And I -- I -- you know, I asked her for her opinion. And she -- and laid it out to her. And I trust her judgment. She's somebody who has a -- a deep understanding, not just of the process, but of human nature and potential. And, you know, I laid it out and said I'm thinking of -- of supporting the bill, what do you -- what do you think?

And we talked about it and she supported it. And that meant a lot, because, you know, you don't -- you know -- you know, those of us who are in partnerships understand that, you know, you -- you want to -- you want to see if you can get the person you live with on board.

KING: Yes.

KUCINICH: And she -- she has been. And I appreciate that.

KING: When do you think it will go to a vote?

KUCINICH: I think we're talking about by the end of this week. And I think, you know, again...

KING: You mean the weekend?

KUCINICH: Yes. Yes, I -- yes, Larry. I think -- you know, and, again, this is the first step. By no means is this bill the bill that I wanted. I've been highly critical of it. And I -- I don't take back anything that I said.

KING: Yes.

KUCINICH: But what I do believe is we take a step, we go in the direction of -- of changing health care. If -- if the bill goes down, though, I doubt that this president or any president in the near future -- or any Congress in the future -- would want to touch anything remotely related to health care. So it's...

KING: Thanks...

KUCINICH: ... there's a lot at stake.

KING: Thanks for joining us, Dennis.

KUCINICH: Larry King, thanks for the chance to be on your show.

Thank you.

KING: Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Democrat of Ohio.

Betty White is standing by -- she's sitting by. She'll be answering my questions and yours. Go to and send them in.

We'll be right back.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The lovely Betty White.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get 'em, Betty. Get 'em.

WHITE: I could tell you stories that would break your heart.


WHITE: I actually know many of you and I've worked with quite a few, maybe had a couple. And you know who you are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the sparkling television star and great password player, Betty White.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the camera. When the red light goes on, that means that the camera is about...

WHITE: Ted, I know what I'm doing. Just cue me in and stick a sock in it.

Your curiosity is going to be so piqued, you'll beg for more.


KING: She's here. Betty White, Emmy-winning actress, comedian, also known as a strong voice for animal health and welfare. She's set to host "Saturday Night Live" on May 8th and to star in a new TV series, "Caught in Cleveland."

She's 88 years young. When you get to be that age, you're proud to say it. Boy, you...

WHITE: I don't know where the breaking point comes. We -- at first, you try to hide it and then you begin to brag about it. Now I'm to the point of hello, I'll Betty White, I'm 88.


KING: OK. By the way, do you have a thought on this health care issue?

WHITE: I think it's -- my opinion means nothing because I'm not politically-oriented. But I -- I really think it's wonderful if it does pass.


How did the "Saturday Night Live" thing come about?

It's going to feature a reunion of six former female cast members: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Molly Shannon, Maya Rudolph, Ana Gasteyer, Rachel Dratch, and you.

WHITE: Don't ask me. It all came out of nowhere. Somebody put it -- I think it's Facebook. And they began to get hits. And I -- I never years and years ago, I turned it down like three times because it's so New York and I'm not New York. And I was -- you know, I just thought the safe way to play it was not to do it.

Well, then all of a sudden, this thing came and the next thing I know I'm going to be doing it in May.


KING: Are you nervous?


KING: You're nervous?

And you -- all these years, the experience you've got in the position and you're nervous?

WHITE: Well, the -- the more years that go by, the nervouser you get.

KING: But you'll have a good time. And it was a Facebook campaign. A half a million people signed on.

I -- by the way, do you Twitter?

WHITE: No, I'm afraid I don't. I know what it is, but I don't use it.

KING: Lorne Michaels says he always wanted you to host.

WHITE: Well, I don't believe that or he would have asked me.

KING: So they -- but they asked you long ago.

WHITE: Long ago, three times, yes. But it's -- but they've been so nice. And I have no idea how this thing burgeoned.

KING: All right. I'll tell you an idea. The Facebook campaign to get Betty on "Saturday Night Live" was inspired by a Super Bowl commercial that she did.

Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mike, what is your deal, man?

WHITE: Oh, come on, man. You've been riding me all day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like, you're playing like Betty White out there.

WHITE: That's not what your girlfriend says.






KING: A Snickers commercial and you -- suddenly, the rejuvenation of Betty White.

WHITE: It's so silly. And we're all over the world with it. We're in Africa. We're in -- in the middle of Europe.

KING: Did you have fun doing that?

WHITE: Oh, great fun. It was cold. That water was cold. It was early in the morning, but it was great fun.

KING: Did they tackle a dummy?

WHITE: No. They tackled -- the stunt lady took that -- that dive into the...


WHITE: ... into the muddy water. And then I had to get in and lie down in it. She did all the work and I got the laugh. If that isn't an injustice, I don't know what is.

KING: We have a Facebook question: "What kind of skits do you want to do on 'Saturday Night Live?'"

WHITE: I have no idea. I'm not back seat driving. I'll do whatever they tell me to do.

KING: How did you -- where did you start in this business?

WHITE: It was 1949. I was on a local television show here with a local disk jockey, Al Jarvis. We were on five-and-a-half hours a day, six days a week for four years.

KING: That was your beginning?

WHITE: That was the beginning. No script, no nothing, you just sort of -- you just talked.

KING: How do you explain your longevity?

WHITE: Sheer, blind luck. I'm the luckiest old broad that ever drew breath.

KING: Just luck?

WHITE: Just...

KING: No talent?

WHITE: Well, I mean I think -- I think the reason for the longevity is that people have generations -- several generations have gotten to know me over the years. So I've become sort of part of a -- you know, you have relatives that you're not thrilled with -- sort of part of the family.

KING: You know, "Saturday Night Live," the general appeal is a young demographic.

WHITE: I know.

Well, what are they doing with me?

KING: It is a thought. Ah, you'll kill them.

WHITE: Well...

KING: They'll love you.

WHITE: We'll have fun.

KING: We'll be right back with more of Betty White. She has got a new TV series coming. Don't go away.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're playing like Betty White out there.

WHITE: That's not what your girlfriend said.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You work hard. You're in every movie.

WHITE: Well, I'm such a -- I'm such a whore, I can't say no.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does anyone else smell pot?

WHITE: What are you, a cop?


WHITE: Then what's it to you?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. My name is Ryan.

WHITE: Get me a cup of coffee.


WHITE: When Betty White says she wants a cup of coffee, you get her a (expletive deleted) cup of coffee.


KING: By the way, that Snickers commercial won the "USA Today" annual Super Bowl ad meter as the best commercial during last year's Super Bowl.

We solicited questions for Betty through the LARRY KING LIVE Facebook page.

Here's one: "Do you consider yourself a new sex symbol for the younger generation?" WHITE: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. I mean, I -- it's not that I consider myself that, I just have to concede the point. You know, it's so true.


KING: You were a loose woman, weren't you, Betty? Admit it.

WHITE: Oh, I was -- I was loose and -- but, well, gravity took over, you know.

KING: Were you easy? Would you say you were easy?

WHITE: No...

KING: I mean, not when married to Allen.

WHITE: No. No. I wasn't easy. I was -- I'm an incurable romantic.

KING: But you played easy on "Mary Tyler Moore."

WHITE: Oh, well -- oh, well, she was -- she was just this side of Hookerville.


KING: People -- oh, by the way, Sarah Palin. You stirred up a little fuss a while back when you called her on a late night TV interview "a crazy bitch."

WHITE: Well, that was written. It was -- it was Craig Ferguson and we all...

KING: He wrote that for you?

WHITE: Yes. He did. They wrote a lot of stuff for me.

KING: I thought that was an impromptu interview. I've done Craig. That -- they don't...

WHITE: Well, it was -- but we do little -- little sketches and I played different characters coming in. I was -- I was John McCain's speechwriter. And, so he -- Craig said, well, I understand he doesn't use a computer. Then -- then, well, oh, no he commutes by -- I mean he communicates by carrier pigeon. The only trouble is Sarah Palin keeps shooting them down, that crazy bitch.


KING: Good delivery.

We had this question Tweeted to "King's Things." We get Tweeted. We get Facebook.

WHITE: Uh-huh. KING: If asked, would you do "Dancing With The Stars?"

WHITE: I have been asked. And I've thanked them very profusely. And I said, no thank you. I think Cloris Leachman took care of that whole department.

KING: You don't think you could -- but it's really testing, isn't it?

I mean the...

WHITE: It is.

KING: ... they work you out pretty good.

WHITE: It would be fun and I would love it. But I think there comes a time when I -- I don't want to embarrass the audience, but Cloris -- Cloris did it and she did fine. So I think she's taken care of our age bracket.

KING: You had a great marriage to Allen Ludden, didn't you?

WHITE: Oh, it was the best. He was the love of my life.

KING: He left too -- too early.

How old was Allen?

WHITE: Allen was 64. And it -- it -- he said that blooming big C got him. But he was -- what you saw was what you got. He was one of the nicest, dearest people.

KING: And a great game show host.

WHITE: Oh, yes. A great game show host. And what I fell in love with -- what got us together was his enthusiasm. He was interested in everything. There wasn't anything that he didn't want to know more about and hear about. That's fun to live with.

KING: And you never remarried?

WHITE: No. When you've had the best, who needs the rest?

KING: This animal thing...

WHITE: Oh, well...

KING: Have you always been an animal lover?

WHITE: Since the womb. My mother and dad were...

KING: The womb.

WHITE: ... just as bad as -- as I was on the subject.

KING: You're an advocate, too, right? WHITE: Well, I'm not so much an advocate. I'm just -- I work for animal health and well-being. I'm not into politics. I don't demonstrate. I'm not an animal activist.

KING: You're not in PETA?

You're not in PETA?

WHITE: No. No, I'm not. Those people do fine things and we need those things. But I'm just an animal -- I've been with the Morris Animal Foundation for 45 years.

KING: Do you object to -- based on the recent killing, do you object to whales being kept in big pools?

WHITE: I -- I've also worked with the Los Angeles Zoo for 46 years. I -- of course, for that individual whale -- and I'm going to get in trouble for this -- of course, I would love to have him swimming free.

But the only way we can make the public aware of animals, what they are -- you can read about them, you can see them on film forever. But unless you come to the zoo and see and smell and -- and touch the real animal, you don't know that elephants are in trouble. You don't know why they're in trouble. And I think it's crazy to think...

KING: So those in the zoo are paying a price, in a sense, to educate us?

WHITE: To educate us. But they're not paying a price. They're getting such tender loving care and safety and all that. But it's not freedom. And it's so easy for the outside people to say, oh, but they should all be let free.

What we're doing to their environment and what we're -- we're taking away their environment, there's -- pretty soon there's not going to be any place to set them free.

KING: There ain't no free.

WHITE: Exactly.

KING: We'll be right with -- back with more of Betty White on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE.


KING: We're back with the adorable, delightful, talented, beautiful Betty White.

WHITE: Oh, I love all those things.

KING: A Facebook question from David. This is serious: "Betty, what are you doing Saturday night?"

WHITE: What did you have in mind? KING: A date proposal.

WHITE: Well, that sounds like...

KING: When was the last time you went out on a date?

WHITE: Probably about five years ago.

KING: What was it like?

You were 83...

WHITE: Oh...

KING: ... bouncing along.

WHITE: Well, I wasn't bouncing as much then as I am now.

KING: Where did he take you?

WHITE: To dinner. You know, we -- we had a -- had a nice dinner. And he -- he's a very nice man. But somehow, I just -- dating is work now. It used to be fun, but dating is kind of work now.

KING: Oh, so you -- you never got over Allen?

WHITE: Never.

KING: Yes.

WHITE: I never will.

KING: All right. Your upcoming series on TV Land is called "Hot in Cleveland".

We have a sneak peek. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm Melanie. I -- I will be leasing the place.

WHITE: I've been the caretaker of this house for 50 years. But you can kick me out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, gee, I wouldn't.

WHITE: Oh, no worries. If you can escape from the Nazis, you can handle anything.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You escaped from the Nazis?

WHITE: Escaping from the Nazis was the least of my worries.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, you don't hear that very often. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So what are you, like 100?

WHITE: I don't like you.


KING: What's the premise of "Hot in Cleveland?"

WHITE: It's three -- three gals, wonderful gals, Valerie Bertinelli and Jane Leeves and Wendy Malick. And they are all not having any action in Los Angeles. So they decide to fly to Paris for -- maybe for some romance. Well, there's a plane problem and they are grounded in Cleveland.

And as they walk through to get another flight, all the guys in the airport are hitting on them and eyeing them and all that. And they say, why are we spending all that money to go to Paris when we're hot in Cleveland?


And what are -- you are the caretaker of the house they live in?

WHITE: They moved into the house and I kind of go along with the house. And, of course, I'm the proverbial pain in the ass. It's so -- but it's -- it's great fun. And the girls are wonderful together. The chemistry together is -- is great.

KING: Why do you -- you don't have to work. Why do you keep doing this?

WHITE: It's such fun. Larry, why should you stop something you enjoy so much?

My life -- half animals and half show business -- the two things I love the most. Why should I quit?

KING: Are you -- are you at all surprised that you are suddenly very hot again?

WHITE: Oh, I'm not hot again, but, I mean, I'm surprised...

KING: No, you're hot again.

WHITE: ... to still be working -- what did you have in mind, Larry?


WHITE: Well, but...

KING: You can't get over that, can you?

WHITE: No, I can't. But I'll try everything I can get. I just -- I just am amazed and I'm -- I'm thrilled and I'm -- I'm going along with it and enjoying it. KING: You did a movie with Sandra Bullock, right?

WHITE: Oh, yes.

KING: "The Proposal?"

WHITE: Oh, yes, "The Proposal."

KING: What did you think of her and the Academy Award?

WHITE: Oh, I was so excited. I couldn't be more thrilled. It was (INAUDIBLE). And it's not easy to root for somebody when Meryl Streep is also in the contention. But I -- I just was delighted. And what's happened to her is she is one of the nicest, greatest most human beings that I know. She's just a delight.

KING: And a talent. She's a hell of a talent.

WHITE: Oh, tell me about it. She really is.

KING: It took "Blind Side" for people to realize it, though.

WHITE: Yes. Yes. But -- but they did realize it in time to give her the award, which was great.

KING: Some more moments with Betty White, when we come back.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Don Lemon at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. I want to update you on tomorrow's crucial vote on health care reform. Over the past several hours, listen up, President Obama has lost vital support from fellow Democrats on his health care reform bill. As of now, 26 Democrats, is the latest count, 26 Democrats still undeclared. That means they have not said whether they will vote yes or no on that bill, undecided.

So what we know right now though is 32 Democrats have already announced that they will join 178 Republicans in voting against the bill. If Republicans can persuade just six more of them to vote no, then it will be defeated.

President Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress have a lot riding on this vote. The outcome could affect, even define the rest of his presidency. Mr. Obama was upbeat but impassioned as he spoke to the Democratic caucus about the historic vote before them.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Don't do it for me. Don't do it for the Democratic Party, do it for the American people. They're the ones who are looking for action right now.


(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: A bit of a reminder for you, CNN's special programming begins tomorrow, 9:00 a.m. Eastern. We'll be covering it all day long, so make sure you stick with us for up-to-the-minute analysis from the best political team on television.

I'm Don Lemon, I'll see you back here in about 29, 30 minutes at the top of the hour. LARRY KING LIVE continues next.

KING: By the way, you've had two -- three enormous hit television shows, right, "Mary Tyler Moore," "Golden Girls," and what the other one was?

WHITE: "Mama's Family," you know, still goes along. How lucky can you get to have that?

KING: You've had an extraordinarily successful career, in a business that it's tough to be successful in.

WHITE: And that they say when you reach a certain age, women can't get a job. I'm hoping they don't discover that in my department. You're celebrating an anniversary coming up.

KING: June 1st, 25 years, this show, in this slot right here.

WHITE: That's -- it's the only show --

KING: It's the longest running show -- the longest running show starting at the same time, on the same network, hosted by the same person.

WHITE: Congratulations, Larry. That's wonderful.

KING: If you let me -- if you tell me I'm going to be 88, I'll take it.


KING: Did you ever think you would be 88? Or you don't think about it?

WHITE: I think I learned at my mother's knee, we never thought age. Everybody else is so age conscious. You go for a long time -- no, not wanting anybody to know how old you are. And then you pass a breaking point. I can't tell you where that comes, where then you brag about it.

But I just don't -- I don't think it's my health and my energy that I'm so blessed with and so grateful for, that I'm busy being grateful for that, rather than worrying about how old I am.

KING: What do you do your romantic urges?

WHITE: I have a golden retriever, but in a nice way. No. No, I'm an incredible romantic and I get crushes.

KING: You do? WHITE: Oh, do I get crushes.

KING: Do you have a current crush.

WHITE: No. Well, I mean, only a private one. Nobody knows about the ones, but I have -- I fantasize and I have a great time.


KING: Last night was terrific, right?

WHITE: Absolutely.

KING: Another Facebook question: "Who is the funniest person you know, besides yourself?" You know you're funny. Who makes you laugh?

WHITE: I just -- my agent, Jeff Witjas, is -- I mean, he and I -- he calls me on a business call and the next thing you know, we're into schtick and we're laughing ourselves silly. That's a lovely relationship to have with your agent.

KING: It's great, especially your agent, because agents aren't generally funny.

WHITE: No, they're not. But he's a funny agent. He's not a good agent, he's a funny agent.

KING: What haven't you don't that you want to do? Who is on your to-do list?

WHITE: My answer to that, my standard answer, is always Robert Redford. But that doesn't get me anywhere.

KING: Have you ever met him.

WHITE: No, and I never want to. I just want to enjoy it from a distance. No, oh, I would be panicky if I ever met him. I've taken his name in vain for so long.

KING: All you've got to do is go up to Utah and he's there.

WHITE: I know. He's also in Santa Monica.

KING: He's not -- he don't hide. He's public.

WHITE: I just don't ever want to meet him. It would spoil all the fun. I just want to fantasize and talk about him behind his back.

KING: I'll tell you, he looks just as good as he looks on screen and has ever looked. He has aged very well.

WHITE: Oh, I -- tell me about it.

KING: Is there something you would like to do, though, professionally you haven't done?

WHITE: Professionally, no.

KING: Have you done Broadway.

WHITE: No, not Broadway. I've done theater. I did eight productions of "King and I" and "South Pacific" and all those. So I had the fun of doing it in big outdoor arenas, like Kansas City and St. Louis, Minneapolis. But I've never had the desire to do Broadway. Isn't that silly? I just enjoy -- I've been a television kid all my life.

So recently, in the past few years, I've done big screen movies, and that was very exciting.

KING: One other thing, the secret in television, in all those great sitcoms you did, is the writing, right?

WHITE: You can't do it without the writing. Actors will take all the credit, but it has got to be on the page or it doesn't work.

KING: And "The Mary Tyler Moore" show was the classic example.

WHITE: Oh yes, it was wonderful. And so was "Golden Girls," the greatest writing staff in the world. You would go in for the Monday morning read around the table.

KING: You would laugh at the read arounds, right?

WHITE: You would have trouble getting through the script because it cracked you up.

KING: Great seeing you, Betty.

WHITE: Wonderful always seeing you.

KING: We can't wait for "Saturday Night Live," May 8th.

WHITE: Thank you, and happy anniversary June 1st.

KING: Thank you. Don't forget the show. It's called "Hot in Cleveland." It's going to air on TV Land.

WHITE: Thank you so much.

KING: Aretha Franklin, joining us from the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington, next.


KING: It's our great pleasure to welcome to LARRY KING LIVE one of the all-time musical greats, Aretha Franklin, "The Queen of Soul," the multiple Grammy-winner, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Got a new CD coming out soon called "Aretha: A Woman Falling Out of Love." And she was in Washington to appear at the Larry King Cardiac Foundation, our charity, and we're so indebted to her and we so adore her for doing this.

What do we mean by "A Woman Falling Out of Love"?

ARETHA FRANKLIN, SINGER, MUSICIAN: Well, that's just the opposite of falling in love, Larry. Actually, it's just the phases that one goes through when it's not happening or it's not going to work or it was happening, and then it stopped working, just are the phases that a woman goes through.

KING: We can never explain how we fall in love, but is it harder to explain falling out?

FRANKLIN: Actually not. I have some of it documented on my new album.

KING: I'm looking forward to it.

This is your first studio CD since 2003 when you had "So Damn Happy."What took so long? Why seven years?

FRANKLIN: You know, when you're in concert, and I'm in concert, most of the year, with the exception of the early months when it's inclement weather and the highways are too bad, because I drive, I don't fly. Myself and John Madden, right?

KING: Right.

FRANKLIN: And I just -- the time just gets away from you. I can't believe it has been this long.

KING: You wrote several of the songs, right?

FRANKLIN: Yes. One of them, "How Long I've Been Waiting." And that has to do with a woman falling out of love. And "I Adore You and I Abhor You," a woman falling out of love, those kind of things. Mixed emotions. Vacillating.

KING: I know the scene.

Is it different, Aretha, when you sing a song you wrote than when you sing a song someone else wrote?

FRANKLIN: Not really. I think -- well, perhaps, yes, it would be more personal with things that I write. But depends I think on how you relate.

KING: But once you're singing, you're singing, right?


KING: Now, I understand two of your sons...

FRANKLIN: But when it's personal, it is more personal.

KING: I understand two of your sons...

FRANKLIN: It's a little more -- it's a little more personal.

KING: Two of your sons worked on. Eddie Franklin sings, and your young son, Kecalf, he wrote a song called "New Day," right?

FRANKLIN: Yes, "New Day." That was written my son Kecalf. He has a Christian hip-hop group. We're looking for a deal for Kecalf and his family. It's a family-oriented group. And my grandson Jordan, who is a terrific rapper as well as Kecalf. And my son Eddie is singing "His Eye Is on the Sparrow." And Eddie is going to be a vocalist to be reckoned with. He's wonderful. He's genuine. He's so genuine.

KING: By the way, besides the new CD, Aretha is getting a lot of buzz for a candy bar commercial. We're going to show it to you now. Watch.


FRANKLIN: Can we turn the AC up? I'm dying back here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's on. Can't you feel it?

FRANKLIN: Can you feel that?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jeff, eat a Snickers, please.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every time you get hungry you turn into a diva. Just eat it so we can all coexist...





LIZA MINNELLI, SINGER, MUSICIAN: Will you get your knees out of the back of my seat?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not you when you are hungry. Snickers satisfies.


KING: Some of the best commercials on television.

You had to have a lot of fun doing that with Liza?

FRANKLIN: Oh, I did, I did. When I walked in the studio I walked into Patti. Patti was there doing one. I love that expression Liza had on her face. And more than -- more than that, I really had fun with the guys in the car. We had a ball. But the little boom, I had to talk to him after it was over. You know, I said, you know, this is script, right? This is nothing personal. He said, oh, I'm a professional. I said, OK, that's wonderful and I'm just glad to hear you say that.




KING: We're back with Aretha Franklin, joining us from the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington.

That diva reputation, is it fair? Are you a diva?

FRANKLIN: No. would I be a diva? No.

KING: No, you're not. You're too down home.

FRANKLIN: I'm really very down-to-earth. I really am.


FRANKLIN: ... in the middle.

KING: By the way divas can be fashions icon. And a while back, the Smithsonian asked you to donate that amazing hat that you wore when you sang "America the Beautiful" at the Obama inauguration. Have you turned the hat over to them?

FRANKLIN: I have not and I'm seriously considering the hat for the Franklin museum instead of the Smithsonian museum.

KING: Why?

FRANKLIN: I would have loved to -- well, we just couldn't really come to terms concerning the hat. And when I thought about it, I said, well, wait a minute, I have enough artifacts and things to go into a museum myself and I have my father's things as well. So why not consider something like the Motown Museum, I can have the Franklin museum.

KING: Why not -- hey, good point. By the way, how do you like -- what did you think of Michelle Obama?

FRANKLIN: I think she is quite fashionable. And I think -- as we all have seen, I think some of that comes -- well, I'll get to that later. But she is a very gracious lady and what else? Let's see. I think she is one -- I think she's one of the president's -- how should I put it...

KING: Biggest assets.

FRANKLIN: Well, definitely. Definitely. And that is the word I was looking for. She is one of his greatest assets.

KING: You won the Presidential Medal -- you were awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. First, what was that like?

FRANKLIN: What was it like? I was sitting at home and I was watching something happening in the East Room of the White House and just working on my paperwork. And I was saying, wow, one day maybe I'll get something like that. And I just finished and continued on with my paperwork. Maybe a week later the phone rang and they told me that I was going to be awarded the presidential medal of honor. I was, like, huh? What? Is this a joke? Is this a joke?

You know? It took a moment to sink in. And finally I said, wow, this is real. This is real.

KING: It has been eight months now since the death of Michael Jackson. I know you knew him in his younger days. You were neighbors with the Jackson family. What do you best remember about young Michael?

FRANKLIN: Oh, boy. His originality, I think. And the fact he was so precocious as a young artist. He was so mature beyond his years. I listened to him as a singer and I said, he is very, very mature vocally to be so young. But more than that, I think his kindness and his gentleness conveyed itself.

KING: Boy, he was that.


KING: What did you make of that "American Idol" when one of the contestants did a version of your song "Think"? Hit a high C note, the crowd went nuts. Were you watching?

FRANKLIN: No. I didn't hear it. Who was it?

KING: I forget her name. But have you seen it?

FRANKLIN: No. Occasionally, and I used to catch "American Idol." But with my schedule now I haven't been able to see it lately.

KING: Well, she was amazing and the crowd went nuts and the judges went nuts.


KING: Yes, it's a good song.

FRANKLIN: OK. I'll have to try to get a copy of that. I'm going to call my publicist and try to get a copy.

KING: Have you ever -- would you be a judge on "American Idol" if they asked you?

FRANKLIN: You know, I haven't been invited on "American Idol." I would love to go on "American Idol." I see so many young singers singing my things. I said, why haven't I been invited to come on "American Idol."

KING: Well, right now, after this appearance I can guarantee they are going get you over there.


KING: Guarantee you.

FRANKLIN: Sounds good to me. I would love to go over.

KING: What do you think of Susan Boyle, the Scottish singer who became that overnight global sensation? Now got the the number one CD in America.

FRANKLIN: That's what I was going to ask you, was that Susan Boyle that hit the high note?

KING: No. This was a new contestant.

FRANKLIN: OK. No, I'm just kidding. I think Susan Boyle is a very good singer. She was quite surprising to the judges, the audience, and all. And she is proof that that audience for good music is still right there and they're there in multiple millions, who really want to just hear some good music.




KING: You have had such amazing success, earned so many awards, multitude of Grammys. Anything, Aretha, you may think about this, you haven't done you'd like to do?

FRANKLIN: Is there anything I haven't done that I'd like to do? I would love to do a starring or supporting part in a movie. And I haven't been offered any scripts. What is wrong?


KING: Well, if Oprah is watching, she is next on (INAUDIBLE). She'll bring you in to do that. What is next for you, by the way?

FRANKLIN: Listen, I have been all over my agent about something supporting, something really meaty and just a really good supporting or starring character. I would love to do a movie. Haven't done anything since "The Blues Brothers."


JOHN BELUSHI, ACTOR, COMEDIAN: Ma'am, would it make you feel any better if you knew that what we are asking Matt here to do is a holy thing?

DAN ACKROYD, ACTOR, COMEDIAN: You see, we are on a mission from God. FRANKLIN: Don't you blaspheme in here. Do you blaspheme in here! Now this is my man, it's my restaurant. You two are going to just walk right out that door without your dry white toast, without your four fried chickens, and without Matt "Guitar" Murphy.


KING: You ever think of retiring?

FRANKLIN: Not really. No. I have no plans to retire. I'm in for the long run, Larry.

KING: Did you ever get tired of singing, ever? Have you ever been on stage where you wish you weren't on stage?

FRANKLIN: Definitely not. No. Only if I didn't feel well. Only if I didn't feel well. And that is a very, very rare occasion. There has been a time or two when I really had the worst cold, I really wanted to be at home but as they say, you've just got to hang with it and get through it and work on the cold.

KING: You are an angel. You are an American idol of longstanding. You belong right at the top where you've always been. You are sensational. I thank you for coming to Washington for us.

FRANKLIN: Thank you so much. It's my pleasure. Thank you for inviting and having me.

KING: Aretha Franklin.

Now here she is with an all-time classic "A natural Woman."