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PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT
Interview with Harry Connick, Jr.
Aired October 24, 2011 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PIERS MORGAN, HOST: Tonight he plays the piano and he sings a bit. And he's a matinee idol who's often compared to Frank Sinatra. Harry Connick, Jr. Always a success in the big apple, Harry's heart still belongs firmly in the Big Easy.
Tonight a surprising and emotional look at a guy who seems to be living the dream. How he overcame childhood tragedy.
HARRY CONNICK, JR, ENTERTAINER: I was a piano recital and it was in the intermission when my Aunt Jessie came and said, your mother just died, and brought me home and it was I kind of realized for the first time, you know, she's not there anymore.
MORGAN: And the traumatic brush with his idol.
CONNICK: And I said, Mr. Sinatra, I have to ask you, you hit this high eight flat on this one song at this -- how did you do it? I just opened my mouth and it was there. You know?
MORGAN: This is PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.
Harry Connick, Jr., welcome.
CONNICK: Thank you.
MORGAN: You are a man of so many hats, it's almost ridiculous -- a singer, a pianist, a big band conductor, a composer, an actor, three Grammys, 25 million albums sold worldwide. You starred in a Broadway musical, "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever," which opens in December. And you have your first children's book.
You're not content with dominating every other genre of entertainment, you're into the kids' market.
CONNICK: Well, I guess what makes me want to do this stuff is that -- I guess what drives me is, there's real interest in all of these different areas. And it was never really about -- I know you were joking about dominating these areas, but it's never been about that for me.
You know, things kind of happen organically and, you know, Broadway sort of happened out of a career in performing and -- which happened out of practicing piano when I was a kid. And this just seemed like a natural sort of transition after this -- we did a children's musical. And it just seemed like a fun thing to be a part of.
MORGAN: Do you like to think you're sort of part of that dying breed, an all around entertainer? There aren't many of them these days.
CONNICK: Yes, I don't know how many of them there are or aren't. I just -- I do think I'm -- I like to think of myself as kind of an all-around entertainer. I just don't know how many opportunities a lot of those entertainers have anymore.
Being on Broadway, like we're rehearsing for this show now, Piers, this room is filled with the most talented people in the world. I mean these people who work on Broadway, in my opinion, are the most gifted of everyone. I mean they really know how to dance. They really know how to act. They really know how to sing. They know how to perform.
And outside of a Broadway context, you have to wonder, because things are so compartmentalized now, how many opportunities do these sort of all-around performers really have so --
MORGAN: What is the thing you most enjoy doing? If I cut off your cord to everything else and left you with one thing, what would you do?
CONNICK: I guess play piano, you know, because that's the thing I started doing when I was a little kid. So that goes back to when I could think, you know, sitting at the piano when I was 3 and 4 years old. It would be unfortunate to have to --
MORGAN: You were playing Mozart at the age of 5, right?
CONNICK: No, I was playing "When the Saints Go Marching In" at the age of 5.
CONNICK: But that's Mozart for me, man.
MORGAN: That's the modern Mozart. That's the modern Mozart. But what was the moment -- I mean, obviously, your parents realized, I think, quite early on, that you were very gifted musically.
When was the moment you thought, this could be more than just a hobby, this could be -- this could be my lifetime thing?
CONNICK: Well, my dad was the district attorney of New Orleans for about 30 years. And when he opened his campaign headquarters back in the early '70s, when I was 5 years old, my mother wanted me to play the national anthem. And they got an upright piano on the back of a flatbed truck and I played it.
And I think it was from that minute, when I kind of looked over the piano and saw people were interested, probably more in the novelty of a 5-year-old playing than anything great that was happening musically. But the feeling I got of sort of being the center of attention because of something I loved to do, it was from that moment on when I said everything else is going to come second to that. I mean it was just -- I had blinders on to be a performer.
MORGAN: And you were brought up in New Orleans, the sort of home of music. I guess everywhere you go there, you're surrounded by people entertaining.
(CROSSTALK) . CONNICK: It's incredible.
MORGAN: It must -- it must be a great inspiration to anyone in that business.
CONNICK: Oh my gosh. I mean it's unbelievable. Not only is it inspirational, but it's so functionally instructive, I mean, to have the great -- some of these musicians that I grew up playing with were playing with Louis Armstrong in the '30s, you know, and --
MORGAN: It's amazing.
CONNICK: Yes, it really is. And so, you know, to be there, as a, say, a 6-year-old, in a club on Bourbon Street and have them say, oh, Harry, Jr., come on up and play with us. And I'd play whatever song I'd play. And then the next week, they'd call me up and I'd play a different tune. And on the break, they would show me, hey, man, this is what you're doing right, this is what you're doing wrong.
I mean to have that kind of tutelage sort of from, you know, firsthand --
MORGAN: You can't buy it, can you?
CONNICK: No, you really can't.
MORGAN: I mean it's an extraordinary experience.
CONNICK: It was incredible.
MORGAN: Tell me about your parents.
CONNICK: Well, my mother, I knew until I was 13. She died when I was 13. She was from New York, a Jewish background, and met my dad when they were working for the government in Morocco. And they got married in 1953, moved back to New Orleans. My dad was from Mobile, Alabama and then grew up in New Orleans.
So they came back to New Orleans. They both were lawyers. And they had a record store in the '50s, about 10 years before I was born, to sort of make money to put themselves through law school. And by the time I came around in '67, they were both practicing law.
And my mom and I were super tight. I think she really wanted me to be an artist, you know? She used to like to tell people she wanted to be Beethoven's mother. That was her thing. She wanted to be the mother of this person.
And my dad, although he was very busy politically, always found the time to support me, to set the right example for me and my -- I have an older sister, too, who is another hero of mine. And you --
MORGAN: But how did they like -- in your family, you were brought up not in a strict way, but just taught to be very respectful. If somebody older than you walked in the room, you should stand up?
CONNICK: Yes. It's a Southern thing, though.
MORGAN: And so on.
CONNICK: Do they do that in England? Is that a big deal, like when you --
MORGAN: You know what, England used to be a bit like that. I think it's lost its way in the last 25 years. It's nowhere near as polite. When I go down to somewhere south here, if I go to Dallas or Houston or something like that, I'm always struck by people calling me sir and --
CONNICK: Oh, yes.
MORGAN: The level of natural politeness.
CONNICK: It's true.
MORGAN: Much more pronounced here than it is in England anymore.
CONNICK: Is that right?
CONNICK: I remember the first date I went on with my wife. And I pulled the chair out so she could sit down. And she said, "Oh, no, I would like to sit there." I said, I --
CONNICK: "I know, I'm pulling it out for you, baby. That's what I'm," you know, that's the way were taught, but it was, you know, the guy walks behind the girl when she's going up the steps and in front of the girl when she's going down. And, you know, you never give a one-word answer. You don't say, say, Harry, did you do your homework? Yes, I did.
I mean you say, "yes, sir" or "yes, ma'am." I just would -- that's just the way we did it. But it was also -- I mean when your dad is the DA and your mother is a judge, it wasn't about be respectful. I mean you --
MORGAN: You've got to behave yourself.
CONNICK: Yes. I mean you -- there wasn't a whole lot of room for messing around. MORGAN: A lot of pressure.
MORGAN: For a young man, I should imagine, growing up in New Orleans.
CONNICK: That's right.
CONNICK: That's right.
MORGAN: You've spoken very movingly about your mother, because it's an awful age to lose a mother, I think, 13.
MORGAN: I've got a son of that age now. And it's just -- you know, you're becoming a young man. To lose this woman who was so close to you must have been a really huge blow at the time.
CONNICK: Piers, it was the worst thing probably to this day, that's ever happened to me. And there were years and years and years when I didn't want to talk about it, when I was in my '20s. And I started to accumulate some -- I was more in the public eye.
People started to know who I was. I would never talk about it. I'd get angry with journalists if they would even bring it up. It was just off limits, you know. And it took me a long time to finally realize that it's OK to talk about it. And, you know, she was my mom. I had her for 13 years.
Before I was born, she started a diary to me and a separate one for my sister. And she didn't know what sex we were going to be because we hadn't been born yet. So she said, "Dear baby," you know, "you're in my tummy right now," and from that moment until I was 13, man, I have every birthday party, every gift that was given to me, every piano recital.
Everything was documented. And I look at that now and I think, God, I had her for 13 years. That's all I had her for, but, man, it was profoundly impactful to me.
MORGAN: She had cancer?
CONNICK: Yes. Ovarian cancer.
MORGAN: Did you realize that she was dying or not?
CONNICK: I knew she was not feeling well. But at the time she got cancer, I was 10. My sister was 13. And we were a little bit young, I think. Maybe my sister might have known. I knew she had cancer, but I thought, you know, I mean she's going to get through this, she can get through anything. And it wasn't until the day she died -- she came home from the hospital. Everyone knew that she was going to die and I'm sure she wanted to die at home. And I remember her sitting in this little recliner chair. And I would go into the other room and we have this -- she had given me a seven-foot Yamaha grand piano. And you mentioned Mozart. It was a Mozart concerto that she loved for me to play.
So I would play that and I'd go and run in, and what did you think, you know. And I'd go run and play some more, what did you think? And then the day she died, my Aunt Jessie -- my dad had sent us out. I think everybody knew that was going to be the day. I was still oblivious to it.
And I was at a piano recital and it was in the intermission where my Aunt Jessie came and said, your mother just died and brought me home. And it was then I kind of realized for the first time, you know, she's not there anymore.
MORGAN: Your father obviously had to carry on the family. I mean it must have been incredibly tough for him, too. And you developed a very strong bond with him subsequently.
CONNICK: Yes. Yes, my dad is my hero. I mean he's 85 now --
MORGAN: He still lives in New Orleans?
CONNICK: Mm-hmm. Still lives there and he's in great health and he's handsome and strong and got an incredible moral and ethical backbone. And I just am -- I couldn't have been luckier with my parents.
MORGAN: What would she have made of what's happened to you, your mom did?
CONNICK: Oh my gosh, man. I mean --
MORGAN: I mean having been the driving force for you to live your dream --
MORGAN: She never got to see you realize that dream.
CONNICK: I know. Well, I like to think that she's seeing it now in some capacity, you know, in some way that I don't understand. But I feel her. Obviously, she's not really here. But, you know when I -- where I really see it, Piers, is in my kids, man.
I was at rehearsal for this Broadway show the other day and my oldest daughter, Georgia, came. And I think Georgia looks like my mom a little bit and has some of the sort of -- my mother was -- had -- it was almost like she had a sixth sense about her and she was very kind of gypsy like in her ability to understand people and situations. And my oldest daughter has that in her personality. And she came into rehearsal and, "Hey, dad." And, you know, I'm -- I couldn't go over to her, because I was in the middle of a scene. And David Turner, this brilliant actor who I'm lucky enough to share the stage with, said, "I've never seen like a daughter show -- as a 15 -year-old, show that kind of love to their -- to their dad."
And so I think my mom, she has to be manifested through them some way. I don't know. I just feel -- I feel -- more happy than sad. And I think it's because of my wife and my children.
MORGAN: Yes. You've had an extraordinary marriage. And I want to talk to you about it a bit later. And you're surrounded by women.
CONNICK: I wouldn't have it any other way.
MORGAN: You wouldn't -- the same for all of us.
Let's have a break and I'll come back and talk to you about another very difficult time for you, which was Hurricane Katrina, obliterating the place that you grew up and how you played a big part, actually, in helping it rebuild itself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONNICK: This was like some freak accident, you know, with the -- with the levees breaking. And that's where I grew up. Where that breach in the levee was is my neighborhood. Then it was just -- how can you -- how can you -- I mean the storm was over and then the -- and then this started.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: That was Harry Connick, Jr. in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit. I mean you went pretty well straight down there.
When did you hear about it and how quickly did you realize how bad it was?
CONNICK: I heard about it on -- I knew the storm was coming. And I mean we get storms all the time in New Orleans. I mean -- I mean I was worried, you know, that -- you know, my dad's house wouldn't lose power and things like that. But I mean who would have predicted that that type of devastation would have occurred?
I got down there, let's see, the day after the levee broke. And that -- that's what freaked everybody out. I mean we grew up right there by those levees. I mean we played on them. That was just -- it was just like a big old hill with a concrete barrier on the top. And that was just the place we hung out. We -- and you just couldn't conceive of those levees actually breaking.
But that was a -- it was a -- a mess, I mean just unbelievable. It was scary.
MORGAN: And when you got there and saw the scale of devastation, I mean as someone who had been born there, raised there, what was going through your mind?
CONNICK: It's hard to articulate, Piers. I remember going to -- past the cemetery where my mother is buried. She's buried with my grandparents. And it was literally a lake. And, you know, people who don't know New Orleans, I mean it's below sea level. So -- you can't bury people underground. You have to bury them above the ground.
And those tombstones and whatever monuments that they were marking the gravesites were underwater. I mean the entire thing was a -- I'm thinking like everything from -- this is my -- my mother's bones, you know, where is my dad? Like where -- you know it was -- it was like a nightmare, man.
And the fact that it happened in New Orleans was really strange. Going down the -- to the convention center and seeing thousands of -- Piers, there were like 15,000 people at the convention center, not at the Superdome, where all the press was, but like man, they -- there were people having seizures.
There were people without medication. And I'm not talking about poor black people. I'm talking about everybody. I mean there was -- there was just people who did not have the means of getting out of New Orleans. They were all there. And I showed up and a lot of people know me.
I remember this old white woman came up to me and said, I haven't had my heart medication in three days. They told us to come here. They said they would pick us up. Do you know anything? And I'm saying oh my God, like this is -- we're not in a -- in a third world country here. This is --
MORGAN: And yet the authorities seemed to behave like they were in a third world country. I mean the speed of reaction was scandalously slow.
When you look back on it, why do you think that was? Why was it not just obvious there was this awful disaster unfurling?
CONNICK: Well, I'm not privy to all of the details that unfolded and led people to make certain decisions. I do know that we -- off the air, we were talking about my manager, Anne Marie Wilkins.
CONNICK: I've been with her for a long time. And she said, this is not the time to blame anyone, at least for you, Harry. She said don't blame anyone. Just do what you can. And I realized as time went on, I never did -- I didn't need to blame anyone. I mean the problem was there. What do we do to fix it?
And since then, you know, we've established, along with Habitat for Humanity and my dear friend, Branford Marsalis, the Musicians Village and the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music, and all that was done without saying, look what you did, look how you messed up so --
MORGAN: President Bush, in his own memoirs, which I read recently, you know, he does accept criticism for quite a lot of his actions, not least of all looking down from the plane and being photographed looking down and stuff like that. But he sort of lays a lot of the blame -- on a more local level, that he was prohibited from sending in the National Guard and stuff.
I mean I sort of read it and thought, well, if you're the president of the United States and you've got so many of your people dying in such horrific circumstances, you just throw the rule book out, don't you? You just do what it takes.
CONNICK: Well, you know, you'd like to think so. But that -- it was a traumatic time for everybody. I was down there doing some -- the only way I could get down there is Bob Wright, the former president of NBC, was kind enough to get me down on his plane. He said, would you do some correspondence work down there for us to let us know what's going on?
I said, heck, yes, I'll do whatever it takes as long as you get me down there. And I had a satellite phone. And when I was at the convention center, I stood up on a chair because it wasn't about trying to figure out who did what wrong, I was like, hey, you all need to send some people over here. There's people who haven't had food and water for a number of days.
There were dead bodies there. There were people seizing. There were people without medication, without any kind of plumbing or electricity. No utilities at all. So it wasn't about -- it was about people stepping up and doing what they could. I -- you know, at this point, what good is it going to do to blame local or state or federal government?
MORGAN: Some people, you know, said it was kind of surreptitious racism, that it was the fact that there were so many poor black people meant that the authorities didn't respond in the way, if they had all been middle class white people.
CONNICK: Well, I mean my dad is not poor and black and, you know, he had a hell of a time getting out of New Orleans. My Aunt Jessie and my Uncle John were on their rooftop. And the last time I checked, they were as white as I was. So I don't know -- you know what, the really -- at this point in my relationship with that event -- and this may -- this may upset some people to say, but who cares?
Like, we just need to move forward, you know what I'm saying? Because people mess up all the time. They messed up then. They -- whatever. We need -- what can we do? All I know is that we built 80 houses and brought a lot of musicians back.
MORGAN: Let's -- let's get -- have a break and come back and talk about how you helped rebuild New Orleans after Katrina, because it's a fascinating story. I also want to know what it's like now down there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONNICK: With regard to trying to bring some of the people who were displaced back to New Orleans, namely the musicians -- you know, New Orleans is so known for its musical culture and heritage, we wanted to make sure that they'd have a future here. So we teamed up with Habitat for Humanity and came up with the idea of the Musicians Village.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Harry Connick, Jr. in New Orleans after Katrina struck.
The rebuilding process was obviously very, very difficult. There was complete devastation in large parts of the city. You were there for a lot of this process and have been very integral to helping New Orleans get back on its feet.
How hard has it been? I mean and where is New Orleans now? Do you feel like it's recovered?
CONNICK: Right after the storm, I called my dad and I said, we have to rebuild the city, you know, and he says, what are you talking about? I said, well, we need to put a coalition together of people and have a think tank. And he says, have you forgotten, like, what your grade point average was in high school, and have you forgotten that you're a piano player?
No, no. He wasn't quite that abrupt. But what he was saying was that's not what you do. You know, figure out something that you do. You're not going to be able to rebuild the city. So my manager, Anne Marie Wilkins, and myself and Branford Marsalis said, we know musicians.
So I can't take credit for trying to rebuild New Orleans. But I can take credit for being a part of the Musicians Village, which I think is a great prototype and an example of how, when people really focus, they can sort of bypass the bureaucracy and make things happen.
And we ended up building 80 houses in a very short amount of time. They're all inhabited now. Eighty percent of the people living there are musicians and their families. And we just built a multi- million dollar community center right in the middle. So --
MORGAN: And what is New Orleans like these days?
CONNICK: Awesome. I don't know how much --
MORGAN: But back --
CONNICK: Oh, yes.
MORGAN: You know I've been. CONNICK: Oh my god.
MORGAN: And I have to correct this, I've never been to New Orleans.
CONNICK: Oh, well --
MORGAN: I always wanted to.
CONNICK: Maybe I could show you around one day.
MORGAN: I'd love that.
CONNICK: Maybe we could even do something, you know, for the show.
CONNICK: It's an incredible place. It's my favorite city in the world. I've been all over the world. I love New York, I love Paris, San Francisco, so many places. But there's no place like New Orleans. It's got the best food. It's got the best music. It's got the best people. It's got the most fun stuff to do.
It's got the French Quarter. It is just like no other city in the world. And it's back. And people always say, well, should we go? Is it time? It's time. This is definitely the time. Mardi Gras is back. The jazz festival is kicking. It's a party. It's a great, great town.
MORGAN: What did your dad make of the last few years in New Orleans? He sounds a wise man.
CONNICK: With regards to --
MORGAN: I guess with regard to how he dealt with -- he'd lived through the walls and --
CONNICK: My dad is very hard core. I think if my dad were still the district attorney or political in maybe some other capacity, he would be very, very helpful to that city. I mean he loves New Orleans.
MORGAN: Was he scathing of the authorities?
CONNICK: You know, we never really talked about it. I think he has his opinions and I certainly wouldn't want to speak on his behalf. But we never really got in -- into that. We never -- never really did. It was about -- I know he must have felt something, as I did. But we were all concerned with what could we do to make it better?
And he did what he could and I did what I could and we were very sort of encouraging of one another during that time.
MORGAN: Let's take another break and come back and talk politics. CONNICK: OK.
MORGAN: Because you -- I think you're quite political --
CONNICK: Are you sure about that?
MORGAN: -- underneath this gentle cheery exterior. I reckon you've got some pretty strong views.
CONNICK: Now the viewers -- it's time to go to the kitchen and make a sandwich.
MORGAN: How many people do you think have made love to your music over the years, Harry?
CONNICK: I don't know if I want to think about that.
MORGAN: I mean literally hundreds of millions, I suspect.
CONNICK: Oh, God.
MORGAN: It's probably happening as we speak.
CONNICK: Hey, could be. It could be. I'm glad to be a part of it.
MORGAN: How do you feel about being the -- the world's great seduction vehicle?
CONNICK: Well, I -- can you come home with me and tell that to my wife?
CONNICK: Because when she makes me put out the trash, seduction isn't part of that order, you know?
MORGAN: When I thought you couldn't get any more sickening in terms of the perfect life and career, I remembered that you actually married a Victoria's Secret model.
CONNICK: Well, that's my girl, man. Yes.
MORGAN: How did you wangle that?
CONNICK: I don't know. I -- I -- I was in Los Angeles. I was doing a -- a recording. I was 22. I saw her walk past. I was swimming in the pool at the hotel and I saw her walk by. I recognized her and introduced myself and asked her if she wanted to have lunch with me. And she says, I can't, you know, I'm -- I'm late to a photo shoot. And I said, "Please, you know, 10 minutes?"
And she said, all right. And I couldn't believe I was sitting across the table from this girl. I just couldn't get over it.
She was from Texas and she likes Bud, you know. And she was laid back and just funny. And she had a strong handshake. And I said, man, this is too good to be true.
And we just -- we just fell in love with each other. We've been together 20 -- 22 years.
MORGAN: And you are like hopelessly in love with her, because every interview I read with you -- I read a Q&A with you yesterday you did for a British newspaper. There were 30 questions. Your answer to half of them involved your wife.
CONNICK: Oh, is that right?
MORGAN: Yes. And I was very moved by that. It was like a --
CONNICK: I think it's Pavlovian at this point. I just --
CONNICK: -- I'm afraid I'm going to get in trouble for it.
MORGAN: No, but it actually read like you meant it and like this guy just really loves his wife.
CONNICK: She's my best friend, you know?
I got really, really lucky. And -- and you know how it is, man. You know, you meet someone and you have kids and -- and -- and in this particular situation -- some -- some people fall out of love, you know. And I get that and it's very sad. And some people never find the right person. And I -- I have a lot of dear people in my life who sort of are in all of these situations.
And some of them share what I am going through, which is I got really, really lucky. And I would -- I would be crazy to ever think there was anything better than that.
MORGAN: Do you ever even mentally succumb to temptation, given the trillions of women --
CONNICK: You mean like --
CONNICK: Oh, no.
MORGAN: -- throw themselves at you?
CONNICK: No. MORGAN: You're Harry Connick, Jr. You know, you get up on that stage, you start crooning about love --
CONNICK: Man, I've been with some of the most -- most incredible women ever of all time, like when I -- I get to work with Hilary Swank and --
MORGAN: When you say been with, what do you mean, Harry?
CONNICK: Doing movies.
CONNICK: You talking about another way?
MORGAN: I wasn't quite sure if I was losing a bit of --
MORGAN: -- a bit of translation though. I thought you were coming out with some extraordinary boast.
CONNICK: No. I wouldn't -- I wouldn't do it.
CONNICK: I wouldn't do it here. I'd -- I'd have to do something --
CONNICK: -- I don't know, I'd have to figure out another way to do it.
No, I've been with these incredibly great women. And I've seen -- like, I mentioned Hilary Swank, Renee Zellweger, Sandy Bullock, the -- you know, I have been -- Ashley Judd. You can't get more extraordinary than -- than -- than these people. And beautiful -- Debra Messing. I mean, the list goes on and on.
But my girl is my -- is my girl. I -- I worked really hard for -- for this ring, you know? And -- and I'm -- I'm not going to -- that -- this is what works for me. I don't mean to pass judgment on anyone else. I have a lot of good friends who love dating many, many people at the same time. And just what works for me is that I -- I go home to my girl.
MORGAN: I mean, you're -- you know, people call you the new Sinatra. And I'm sure you're sick and tired of that, because you're the first Harry Connick, Jr. But you're very different to him. I mean, he was, you know, hard-drinking, womanizing, tough guy, hanging out with the Mob, and all that kind of -- you couldn't be more different, could you?
And yet you sing in a very sort of familiar, similar kind of way to him.
CONNICK: Well, there may be a few ways that our careers kind of look similar, you know?
I mean we both did -- we both are singers. We both are actors. But I don't know that guy. I have no allegiance to him or --
MORGAN: Did you ever meet Frank Sinatra?
CONNICK: I did, on a few occasions. And it was fantastic. He was the greatest singer of American songs --
MORGAN: What does he think of you as the young upstart?
CONNICK: Oh, I don't think he thought of me like that.
CONNICK: I mean, this guy had 40, 50 years of people saying that they were upstarts.
CONNICK: I mean Tony Bennett was an upstart --
CONNICK: -- you know, and that -- you know, so how old is Tony, 80, 85 now?
So he's -- I -- all of that -- oh, he -- he didn't -- I don't think he even -- he didn't put much weight in me at all, because I met him when I was in my early 20s. And at that point, I hadn't done anything of any worth.
MORGAN: Did he give you any advice?
CONNICK: The closest thing to advice that he gave me was when I asked him how he hit this high A flat -- we did have a similar range. Like his highest note was very similar to mine and his lowest note. So we had a similar group of notes that we could work with.
And I said, Mr. Sinatra, I have to ask you, you hit this high A flat on this one song at this particular time.
How did you do it?
And he -- he said, "I just opened my mouth and it was there," you know, so I don't --
CONNICK: -- I mean there was -- it's not like he took me aside and said, here son, here's the -- here's the key to --
MORGAN: I mean, it's not great advice, because you need to be Frank Sinatra for it to work, right?
MORGAN: So -- but my father, who loved him, always said that Sinatra's great trick was in his control of his breathing.
Is that true? Is that -- was that a technical thing that he had over other people?
CONNICK: I don't -- I wouldn't say that was what made him great. He had great lung control. He could hold notes out for a really long time.
But I think what made him great, people talk about his -- when Tommy Dorsey would -- you know what circular breathing is?
It's when a horn player breathes in through his nose and breathes out through his mouth at the same time. And you can hold a note indefinitely, essentially. It's hard to do, but it's a skill you can apply.
Well, singers can't do that because of -- it's not applying pressure to a -- a horn. And they said that he would do these things.
Frank Sinatra was the greatest lyric interpreter probably -- probably ever. And he was also incredibly knowledgeable as a -- as a musician. He knew what was going on underneath him.
Without getting really technical, he could accommodate what the lyrics were saying over whatever was going on under him musically. So it was a chord here and a chord here, there are two different chords that the orchestra is play -- was playing, he knew what those were. So if he needed to change a lyric or the rhythm of the lyric, he could kind of find common things in both chords.
Putting it in sort of layman's terms --
MORGAN: That's unusual.
CONNICK: Highly. You have to be a freak show to do that. There were a few singers music -- like Louis Armstrong could do it, because he was a musician. Billie Holiday could do it. But rarely were singers able to -- to really -- to really do that.
MORGAN: And that one piece of advice he gave you, have you been able to do it?
CONNICK: I still can't hit that note.
CONNICK: Not even close.
MORGAN: You've managed to skillfully avoid talking about politics for the entire segment. And you'll be pleased to know I've noticed.
CONNICK: I'm sure you did.
MORGAN: And so we're going to have another break and we're going to get stuck into Obama, the Republicans, the election --
CONNICK: I can't wait.
MORGAN: -- in about two minutes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONNICK: Look at me. You think you've lost that. I can still see it. Bill can't see that.
SANDRA BULLOCK, ACTRESS: You don't know anything about Bill.
CONNICK: I know that Bill could let you go. Damn, Birdy, when are you going to face up to the fact that he ain't coming back for you?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Harry Connick, Jr. and Sandra Bullock in the hit movie, "Hope Floats".
Before we go any further, you've managed to do it -- you are actually a politician, ironically, because you've managed to skillfully distract me again with this brilliant story you just told me in the break about Sinatra.
Retell that story.
CONNICK: All right. I was singing for Mr. Sinatra at his 75th birthday party. And every great singer in the world was there.
MORGAN: I was there --
CONNICK: Were you there?
MORGAN: -- at the Beverly Hilton in LA.
MORGAN: I was there.
CONNICK: Do you -- do you remember that?
MORGAN: I was --
CONNICK: Do you remember how bad I was?
MORGAN: You were terrible.
MORGAN: You sucked. I remember that.
CONNICK: I didn't suck.
MORGAN: I was actually there. I didn't know it was that one.
CONNICK: Yes, that's the one. And, essentially, to -- to get to the more important part of the story, I messed up the song and I felt that I had blown a great opportunity to, at least in theory, impress my hero.
So after I got off-stage, I saw him walking through the lobby with his wife. They -- they couldn't find his car. His limousine had gotten lost somewhere. And he was very upset. And he went to the elevator to go upstairs, I guess to -- until they found his car.
And I was with Jill. -- we weren't married at the time. And I said I have to use this opportunity to explain to him that I'm better than what he just saw. I ran into the elevator and the doors closed. And he was very upset. And my wife -- my girlfriend at the time -- was saying you should probably leave him alone.
But there I was in front of him, two feet away from him. And I said, "Mr. Sinatra, I'm Harry Connick. I'm the guy who just sang for you and messed it up and blah, blah, blah." And the doors opened. And it would have been, in my mind, a perfect opportunity for him to sort of put his hand on my shoulder and say, young man, you know, you've --
CONNICK: -- you carry forth, you know?
But he went to my wife and sort of cradled her face in his hands and said, "you're beautiful."
Then he kisses her right on the lips and left.
CONNICK: And she still teases me about that, you know?
MORGAN: He didn't even reply to you?
CONNICK: He didn't even look at me.
MORGAN: I mean that's the greatest smack-down I've ever heard.
CONNICK: It was -- it was awful.
MORGAN: So not only did you suck, I just kissed your wife-to-be on the lips.
CONNICK: And it wasn't like some Joe Schmoe.
It was Frank Sinatra, you know?
That's like the time she got her picture in between Paul Newman and Robert Redford. And she just kind of pushed me out of the way. She doesn't do that. She's very cool. But she had, you know -- and she still says ah, I got my pic -- oh, yes, man, I can't compete with these guys.
MORGAN: What you should have done was smacked him straight on the nose.
CONNICK: Yes, right.
MORGAN: Something any real man would do, Harry.
CONNICK: Somehow I don't think I'd be doing this interview right now had that been the outcome.
MORGAN: Actually, I think you probably would.
Let's turn, as I've been desperately trying to do for some time now, to politics.
Where did you get that tie, Piers?
That's an ugly tie.
MORGAN: Are you political?
I mean, you were very motivated by what happened to your hometown of New Orleans. But, I mean generally, do -- do you get fired up politics, by what's going on to your country?
CONNICK: I like to watch sort of from afar and learn what I can, just as a citizen. But for me, there's a -- a very definitive line between having strong feelings about where our country is going and actually being vocal about it. I mean, I'm not going to lie to myself or anyone else and presume that I have a great wealth of knowledge like you or other people in the media have, or even a lot of private citizens.
There's times when I feel very confident about what I know and there's times when I think it's more appropriate for me to sort of try to learn.
So, yes, I do have opinions, but I would never go public with them. There's -- that's just not my place. I don't think anybody wants to hear it. And I don't think I really know what I'm talking about. MORGAN: I definitely want to hear it, particularly if you don't know what you're talking about, because it could --
MORGAN: -- it could remind me of some of the political debate I've been watching recently.
MORGAN: I mean --
CONNICK: Could be.
MORGAN: -- do you watch the debates?
CONNICK: I do enjoy --
MORGAN: Did you watch --
CONNICK: -- watching the -- the debates for --
MORGAN: So if you had to, I mean I presume -- actually, I'm not going to presume anything with you, because you might well be a Republican given your background.
Are you -- do you -- do you veer to either party or no?
CONNICK: I think, you know, right now it's -- it's interesting to -- to see what everyone has to say and what --
MORGAN: Who catches your eye?
I mean, from a -- from a pure theoretical point of view, who is the one that you think, yes?
CONNICK: Out of the Republicans?
CONNICK: Oh, gee. Well, I think a couple of them are -- are interesting. I don't know if I subscribe to everything that they're saying. It's funny because like what I saw with -- with, you know, Herman Cain and his 9-9-9 thing. And it seems that -- that Rick Perry is about to come out with something similar, perhaps.
And now it looks like maybe Mitt Romney will kind of have to come out with something like -- I mean it's interesting to see the -- the sort of political domino efficient. I find that interesting. But it's not necessarily because any of these ideas, I feel, are being initiated by one particular candidate as much as the -- the -- the power of the -- the political thing.
It's really kind of interesting to -- to watch how that unfolds.
MORGAN: Did you vote Obama last time? CONNICK: I did. I voted for him very proudly. You know, I had the very unique privilege of meeting him when we have a junior senator and was very impressed with him as a person. I liked what he had to say as a -- as a man, as a husband, as a father of girls, which I can relate to. And I felt like I knew a little bit about what kind of guy he was.
My manager, Anne Marie, who I mentioned, her husband, who is David Wilkins, who is a -- a professor of ethics at Harvard Law School, have known them for quite some time. And I felt like I had some information that maybe I wouldn't have had about him as a person and what he knows and --
MORGAN: And now I know why you're so squeaky clean. Your manager's husband is a professor of ethics.
CONNICK: It's kind of hard to --
CONNICK: -- it's kind of hard to veer out of my lane, you know what I mean?
MORGAN: Now, I want to have another break and come back and talk to you about Morgan Freeman.
MORGAN: And there's a reason for this madness because when he came on my show recently, he was really effusive about you, really effusive. And I'm going to play you the clip when we come back --
MORGAN: -- and get your, presumably, very embarrassed reaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN FREEMAN, ACTOR: You know Harry, he's just a -- a regular guy who happens to have this incredible talent. And I -- I -- I'm an actor. That's really all I do. But I love to sing. So I'm always singing to myself. I sing to entertain me.
You know, and if you -- if you hear it and you say, oh, you sound good then I'll -- I'll entertain you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Morgan Freeman there on this very show.
I mean, you could be responsible for making Morgan Freeman do some albums. I'm not sure it was a good thing.
CONNICK: He should, man. The guy can sing.
MORGAN: Can he sing?
CONNICK: Yes, he really can. He's got like -- if you break down like some of the real simple elements of a voice, like the tone, he's got a very nice tone to his voice.
MORGAN: I suggested to him he could be the new Barry White. He's got that --
CONNICK: He could be.
MORGAN: -- he's got that love thing going down.
MORGAN: I thought he was brilliant, Morgan Freeman. I thought he was one of the most entertaining people I've probably ever interviewed.
CONNICK: He's a great guy. I mean he's a really great guy.
CONNICK: Really funny, really like off the charts smart. But -- and he's got like a nice vibrato when he sings. I had an idea to do a CD. And I'm thinking about calling it "The Act of Song," and getting Academy Award winners who aren't known as singers to sing, like to collaborate with someone like --
MORGAN: Great idea.
CONNICK: -- Morgan Freeman. Maybe he could write lyrics, I could write music or we could sing a standard or do something. And I asked some of my friends, like Hilary Swank and Renee Zellweger if they'd be interested in -- in doing it. Because I just think people would love to hear those great minds interpret lyrics, because they're so brilliant with -- with --.
MORGAN: Are you going to do it?
CONNICK: I'd like to do it.
CONNICK: I mean, you never know how those things pan out, but --
MORGAN: If Morgan passes, I'm available.
CONNICK: Um-hmm --
MORGAN: What -- what I lack in technique, I make up for in enthusiasm.
CONNICK: Where did you get that tie again?
CONNICK: I'm --
MORGAN: Tell me about the -- the new Broadway show you're in, because it sounds exciting.
CONNICK: Man, I am so excited -- I'm more excited about this than I've been in years about a project. It's called "On A Clear Day You Can See Forever." It's a wonderful musical that was done on Broadway. Barbra Streisand did a movie version of it with Yves Montand back in somewhere around 1970. I can't remember exactly when.
And Michael Mayer, who's a brilliant director, is -- is directing us. I'm surrounded by -- the only way I can put it is super freak talent. I -- I've got this beautiful young woman named Jesse Mueller (ph), who's from Chicago, who -- she will be a tremendous star after this. She's an incredible talent. And this -- this incredible young man named David Turner.
And then I'm just -- you know, I play a psychiatrist who hypnotizes a young man. And his former incarnation of himself is a woman from 20 years ago. And I fall in love with her. And the only way to get to her is to hypnotize him.
So it's this interesting love triangle. It's got some of the greatest songs ever written.
MORGAN: And when does it start?
When is it launching?
CONNICK: Previews start November the 12th. And about a month afterwards, at the St. James Theater, we -- we open, around December 11th, 12th?
MORGAN: And I'm assuming there will be some hot tickets for me here, Harry, right?
CONNICK: Absolutely. You -- you get --
MORGAN: -- all this dedicated work I've put into researching your life.
CONNICK: It's called SRO.
Are you familiar with that phrase?
MORGAN: What's that?
CONNICK: Standing room only. So you get to --
CONNICK: -- we'll have a nice spot in the back by the door.
MORGAN: No, no, I didn't expect you to sing for your supper tonight, but I've just seen this was produced by one of my researchers, which is my -- one of my favorite movies of all time.
CONNICK: It is a good movie.
MORGAN: One of my favorite soundtracks. And I thought it would be appropriate to just round things off with just a few bars of "It Had To Be You".
MORGAN: Take it away, Harry.
CONNICK: Should I sing to you or should I sing --
CONNICK: -- to America?
MORGAN: I think you should sing to me, because it will look more awkward.
CONNICK: OK. I'll do the first line to you and the second line to the rest of the country.
MORGAN: Do that. Then we're a wrap.
CONNICK: I like you better.
CONNICK: I can't --
MORGAN: You know what, this is actually painful for you and it's probably painful for the audience.
Harry, it's been a pleasure.
CONNICK: Thanks, Piers.
MORGAN: Thank you very much.
That's all for us tonight.
"AC 360" starts now.