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CNN Larry King Live

How Did Steve Allen's Life of Laughter End in a Mysterious and Tragic Death?

Aired April 25, 2001 - 21:00   ET




STEVE ALLEN, ENTERTAINER: Don't worry, Molly. Here I come. I'm off to the rescue.



KING: Tonight, he was one of the world's most brilliant comics. But how did a life of laughter end in a mysterious and tragic death? Joining us to talk about her late husband for the time since his passing, Steve Allen's wife of more than 40 years, Jayne Meadows. Also with us tonight, his son, Bill Allen.

And later, born into a life of crime, his mother is convicted killer Sante Kimes. He says she taught him to lie cheat and steal. And his half-brother, Kenneth Kimes, is doing time for the same murder as their mom. How did Kent Walker escape their tangled web of deception and death? He will share a blood chilling story of survival. It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Steve Allen died October 30 of the year 2000. He died at his son Bill's home. It was Halloween eve. He had been in good health, even had given a concert the night before. And then suddenly he went in, as you remember, Bill, calling in, he called in to the show and we did a tribute to him. And just went down to lie down and passed away.

BILL ALLEN, SON: Yes, he had come over to carve pumpkins with the children and brought another one of his grandchildren, my brother, Brian's son, Michael, to visit. And he just seemed a little unsteady and asked if he could go in other room and lay down for a few minutes and he slipped away from us.

KING: Now you are the only son of the marriage of Steve and Jayne, right?

B. ALLEN: That's right.

KING: Steve was married before that, had three sons who you're very close to as well?

JAYNE MEADOWS, WIDOW: Very, very close.

B. ALLEN: Steven (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Brian and David.

KING: How did you find out, Jayne, that Steve had passed?

MEADOWS: Bill called me and said dad is very ill. And I said, "Oh Bill, with what?" And he said, "Mom, the paramedics working on him now." And I said, "Bill, tell me the truth. Is he still with us?" And Bill said, "No." Well, I -- everything stopped in my brain and I just went to pieces and then Bill came and picked me up.

KING: Now you went in to check on him on the couch what, to have dinner or something?

B. ALLEN: Yes, just to see how he was. He had actually originally stopped in the den to visit my son, Bradley, who was doing his homework and his ironic last words to Bradley were, "Bradley, you have a lifetime to visit with your grandpa, but only one night to finish your homework." And he stepped into the other room to lay down.

KING: And he was -- did you know he was dead?

B. ALLEN: When we got to him it was pretty apparent that he had slipped away from us.

KING: And everyone thought what? Heart attack, right?


B. ALLEN: Yes, yes. and it seemed so peaceful. We thought that was the case.

KING: When, Jayne, did you discover otherwise?

MEADOWS: Well, I won't say it is ESP, but I said to Bill, "I want an autopsy." Because there were no doctors there, you see. They just said over the phone he had a heart attack.

KING: Usually that's automatic, right, when a physician is not present at death, they do an autopsy?


B. ALLEN: It was relatively...

MEADOWS: They called the coroner, which is what they do if there's not a doctor. And so the coroner came and we were with him in the hospital until the coroner took him away, and so I said to bill, "My whole family have always been cremated. I want Steve cremated. I had wanted to know if it was heart." Because he had been -- he finished his last back that afternoon.

KING: Book just out, by the way, "Vulgarians at the Gate." Now in bookstores. It's not a novel. It is about his ongoing war with things he didn't like in popular culture, Steve Allen's last book, his 733rd book.


KING: OK, so the -- now it took two months, right?

MEADOWS: Two months, yes.

KING: And you find out, they disclose two months later, that a minor traffic accident triggered the death. How?

B. ALLEN: Apparently it caused a rupture in his heart that caused bleeding in the heart, and the heart filled up with blood, and ceased to beat.

KING: Did he tell you he'd had a minor traffic accident?

B. ALLEN: No, I was holding my 6-year-old daughter, his granddaughter, in my left arm, and her carved pumpkin in my right arm as he arrived. And I think he decided probably not to say anything about it.

KING: How did you find out, Jayne, that there was a car accident?

MEADOWS: Well, there was a darling grandson who had just come to visit us from Oregon. And he was in the car with Steve, and he said that the man was perfectly lovely, and...

KING: He sideswiped like, or something, or?

B. ALLEN: Yes, apparently just backing out of a neighborhood driveway someone wasn't looking and hit him.


MEADOWS: And hit him. And Steve was driving and he hit him on this side. And if it hadn't been for the autopsy we would have never known. Four ribs were broken on this side. He was black and blue all the way down on this side, and whether it was a rib I don't know, but something pierced the heart, you see.

KING: Do you think something might have saved him had he sought medical attention right there?

B. ALLEN: Well, it's possible. We have been told by doctors that it is possible, that had they known what had transpired they might have been able to do something to relieve the pressure on the heart from the bleeding.

KING: Has that made it any easier for you, Jayne?

B. ALLEN: It hasn't, but the lesson for people in car accidents is, go get medical attention. Be sure you are fine, particularly at 78 years of age. KING: Which is something Steve would be on this program raving about if it were a friend of his. Why didn't he get medical attention?

MEADOWS: Exactly. And I actually felt guilty and sad and bitter that I wasn't with him, because I felt I could have saved him. I guess we always feel that way. I thought, "Oh, if I had been there he would never have died." But I have been told that that wasn't a possibility.

KING: Was he ever seriously ill?

MEADOWS: He had had two minor strokes, years ago. And he had had colon cancer about 15 years ago.

KING: Did he get surgery for it?

MEADOWS: Oh, yes, and it was very successful. Absolutely. In fact the day before he died he had done a program, he had, two days before, come from being on the road, very successfully, and he was home one day, and did a big concert, and had this grandson with him, and he turned to the audience -- packed house -- and said, "Well, I have to give you all a intermission now." He said, "I don't want to take one. I'm having fun. I want to go on." He said, "But you all better go." And they all screamed, "No, no, no." He did 2 1/2 hours without -- no intermission, and left, died the next day.

KING: He traveled a lot, too, didn't he?

MEADOWS: Oh, yes, loved to do it.

KING: What -- was he -- what made him special as a father?

B. ALLEN: Well, he was really a devoted father. For all his travel requirements and all his demands from the public, he made a commitment to be there as a father. He was my little league coach, he would drive me to school when he could, he would help me with my homework. He was really a devoted father.

KING: And you run his companies, right?

B. ALLEN: Yes, I do, Meadowlane Enterprises and Meadowlane Music. Meadowlane Music owns the publishing for the 8,583 songs he wrote in his lifetime.

KING: Eight thous -- and this is his 54th...

B. ALLEN: Fifty-fourth published book, "Vulgarians at the Gate."

KING: And is that you as a boy?

B. ALLEN: Yes, it is. That is at a birthday party, absolutely right.

KING: We'll be right back with more of -- more on the passing of the late Steve Allen, finding out whole story. And their first public appearance -- Jayne's first public appearance since the death. We will talk about life after the death of someone you lived with that long, who was that special to the public.

Tomorrow night, Commander Scott Waddle will be with us, fresh from the submarine inquiry that led to his not court-martial but leaving the United States Navy. Scott Waddle, his only prime time live appearance, tomorrow night on this program. Friday night, Vice President Dick Cheney. We will be right back.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: You think that you will bring a nice yakkety yawn to Billy Allen?

S. ALLEN: Certainly, my dear.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Well, thank you very much, Santa. And now, Billy, dear, you say good-bye to Santa.

S. ALLEN: Good-bye, young fellow. You are a fine boy. A fine upstanding boy. So stand up, boy.




S. ALLEN (singing): We met at 9:00.

MEADOWS (singing): We met at 8:00.

S. ALLEN (singing): I was on time.

MEADOWS (singing): Oh, no. You were late.

S. ALLEN (singing): I yes, I remember it well. We dined with friends.

MEADOWS (singing): We dined alone.

S. ALLEN (singing): A tenor sang.

MEADOWS (singing): A baritone.

S. ALLEN (singing): Yes, I remember it well. That dazzling April moon.

MEADOWS (singing): There was none that night and the month was June.

S. ALLEN (singing): That's right. That's right.


KING: What's it been like? Hard? MEADOWS: Hard is not the word, Larry. I couldn't -- I couldn't answer the phone for over two months. And it's still hard. It's very hard. But there's one thing that's helping me. I have been traveling all over the country, accepting awards, honorary things, for Steve, and having Bill -- oh, I couldn't -- if I hadn't Bill as a son, I couldn't make it.

KING: Were you watching the night he called in when we did the tribute to Steve?

MEADOWS: Oh, yes, yes. That was the most beautiful -- and Jay Leno was so beautiful. And Johnny Carson wrote me the most gorgeous letter in his own handwriting. You know, he's a recluse. He doesn't go anywhere, And David Letterman -- David Letterman is coming out to do -- I think it's in June, a big -- they're turning over the Retinitis Pigmentosa people have a big building they've bought. And it's going to be the Steve Allen clinic. And Colin, you know -- Conan, I mean, Conan O'Brien. From the beginning, Bill, you tell me that he's kept a photograph over his desk, of Steve.


KING: And they're going to do a special tribute to late night talkers on...

B. ALLEN: NBC is going to do a 50th anniversary of NBC late night and include a lot of the early "Tonight Show" footage, and a lot of the examples of what Dad created that's still on the air each night.

KING: And he started that show before he met you, right?

MEADOWS: No. No, no, I was there the very first night.

KING: Very first...

MEADOWS: Absolutely.

B. ALLEN: Premiered on her birthday.

MEADOWS: And it premiered -- the network show premiered on my birthday, and Louis Nye said, "Oh, Jayne, well, you know. this show was so great. We were all so free, and now we're on the network. It's not going to work."

And I said, "Louis, this show will run forever." And it's the longest-running show in the history of television. But I have to tell you, Larry, when you say, "Was it hard," it was hard because the world -- well, you know Steve. But for the world, they know him as this funny, silly man with a cackle, who is so creative. But I know the man that cared about society. I know the man who, when I said to him, "Steve, be careful, dear. You're involved in all these causes. You're involved in early civil rights...

KING: First peacenik.


KING: The first "ban the bomber."

MEADOWS: Absolutely. And long before that, the civil rights, and crime, before that, you know.

B. ALLEN: Prison reform, rights for the migrant farm workers.

KING: Now, to his death, still adds fighting obscenity on television.


KING: He hated "Jerry Springer," he hated all that.

MEADOWS: Yes. And he hated violence. He hated violence. He was a man who seemed to be always sensing whatever was the problem, because his book is just expressing, as Bill will tell you...

KING: The new one.

MEADOWS: It's in the front page every day, of the trades.

KING: He was writing it -- in fact, he was editing it when he died...

B. ALLEN: He was literally editing it on the day he passed away. He had completed it just in the weeks before his death, and was editing the proofs on the day he passed away, It was very important to him, Larry.

He had spent 50 years in the entertainment business, was very proud of his own contributions, and a big fan of some of the best that television and film and music have offered. But he really didn't feel that the industry was living up to standards it was capable of, and respecting its audiences the way it thought the industry should.

MEADOWS: What is -- Bill, what is the magazine that today came out, and is the front page of all the New York papers?

B. ALLEN: Just today, "Family Circle" magazine revealed a poll that said 70 percent -- 77 percent of Americans feel there's far too much sex and filth and vulgarity on television today.

KING: Your father, a very liberal person, politically. In fact, one of the early great liberalists...

MEADOWS: That's right.

KING: Took off on this -- a lot of the liberals were dismayed when he really took off, because he was coming close to saying, almost, "ban it."

B. ALLEN: Yeah, he was coming close, because he was trying to get the attention of his colleagues in the business. And he was invited to a number of industry conferences and luncheons, and he spoke directly to his friends, who were studio executives, network executives, writers, producers, actors, and said, "Show more respect for the audience."

KING: Did you hear, Jayne, from all the people he helped, because I bet more people started in the business through him...

MEADOWS: Yes, absolutely.

KING: Comics and singers, and...

MEADOWS: Oh, absolutely.

KING: Steve and Edie...

MEADOWS: Oh, well, Steve Laurence is the only person that was on the first "Tonight Show," right to the end. He was a little high school boy, 14 years old.

KING: Jefferson High School, Brooklyn, New York.

MEADOWS: Yes, that's right. And, you know, on the book jacket of the book, Joe Lieberman, Grant (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and that wonderful...

B. ALLEN: Dolores Tucker.

MEADOWS: That African-American woman.

B. ALLEN: National Congress of Black Women.

MEADOWS: Yes. She fought Warner Brothers.

KING: Did they do notes for the...

MEADOWS: They wrote the most beautiful -- in fact, Bill saw Joe Lieberman the other day at USC, and...

B. ALLEN: He was giving a wonderful speech down at USC, primarily on foreign policy, and I gave him one of the very first copies of the book. I knew Dad would want him to have it. And he gave me the biggest hug and said, "God bless you and your mother and your dear, dear father. He was a wonderful man, and a partner with me in this fight to improve the culture."

MEADOWS: Oh, Steve loved Lieberman, and Lieberman, Steve.

KING: We'll be right back with Jayne Meadows and Bill Allen. At the bottom of the hour, Kent Walker, a very different kind of story. Don't go away.


S. ALLEN (singing): That carriage ride.

MEADOWS (singing): You walked me home.

S. ALLEN (singing): You lost a glove.

MEADOWS (singing): I lost a comb.


S. ALLEN (singing): Ah, yes, I remember it well




KING: Won't the "Tonight Show" be in the first paragraph?

S. ALLEN: Depends on the age of the observer. I'm sure the show will still be around, so young people will be impressed, that, oh, did he do that? I didn't know that.

But, so much does depend, as I say, on the age of the observer.

KING: To you, what would be?

S. ALLEN: Well, my primary gift is for the composition of music. I'm a good lyricist, too, but I'm a better composer...

KING: And that's what you would think first when you think of Steve Allen. I would think television host...

S. ALLEN: Oh, of course...

KING: And introducer of new comedians.

S. ALLEN: Yeah.

MEADOWS: And you know what I think? I think it's wit. You ask anybody, red buttons always ask for him to emcee because of his wit. They will all say, "the wittiest man in show business." That's number one.


KING: We're back. That was an interview that I did in 1996 with -- remember, at the piano, with Jayne and Steve. I had the honor of interviewing Steve many times. Being interviewed by him. Following him as abbot of the Friars Club, here in California. Considered it an honor to know him.

B. ALLEN: He used to say, "Thank God for Larry King," because of the serious treatment you give subjects that were fascinating to him.

KING: You were regular viewers, right?

MEADOWS: Oh, not only regular viewers, but I can remember word for word what you said that night at the Friars. You went on after Steve and you said, "He has been my hero, Steve Allen." And of course, you won yourself with me, my dear.

KING: Elko, Nevada, let's take a call for Jayne Meadows and Bill Allen. Hello.

CALLER: I'm a poet. I'm calling Elko, and I met Steve in Buffalo many years ago, and my question is: How will both of you continue his campaign, as well as Joe Lieberman's wonderful idea of getting our culture back somewhere where he would really appreciate, that we're continuing, what we could do for him?

KING: Well, this book is a big part of it. They're really promoting this thing.

B. ALLEN: The first step is being here to talk to you and your audience about this book.

KING: This may be the biggest book he ever wrote.

B. ALLEN: It could be. I think it's the definitive work on this subject. He really analyzes the complexity of the subject. This is not an easy problem we've gotten into, and it's not going to be an easy solution. But he gives some very specific suggestions of what each of us can do, individually, to try to improve our popular culture.

One of the appropriate steps for our industries to take, our government to take, it's really something people should read if they want to know how we can improve it.

KING: The book is just out; it's in every store, wide first printing, called "Vulgarians at the Gate." He was always involved in something, right?

B. ALLEN: Always.

MEADOWS: Always.

KING: To Staten Island, New York. Hello.

CALLER: Hello, I would like to know how many years, Steve and Jayne were married, and I also would like to know if their marriage was as beautiful as it always appeared to everybody.

KING: OK, how many -- you didn't hear. How many years were you married? And, was it always as great as it appeared?

MEADOWS: It was greater every year, oh.

B. ALLEN: He used to write poem to mom every birthday, every anniversary, every Mother's Day, every Christmas.

MEADOWS: Every Valentine's Day, I'm going to bring out the book of poetry, just the most beautiful poetry. You know, when you're first married, it is all very physical, you know, love, but, it got better and better that is why so hard for me, because we were so close. KING: You got him on "What's My Line," right?

MEADOWS: Yes, how did you know that?

KING: Someone told me.

MEADOWS: I didn't know that.

KING: He also did many movies, including the "Bennie Goodman Story."


KING: Noel Coward once said of Steve Allen: the most talented man in America; other than that, nothing much.


KING: We'll be back with Jayne Meadows and Bill Allen.

Don't forget: Commander Scott Waddle tomorrow night, his only live prime time -- first live, prime time interview. We'll be right back.


S. ALLEN: Gosh, that is cold! Oh, that is sickening!


This program goes into saloons, oh, all over America.

Another what? A gravy train? Gravy train. Why would I...




S. ALLEN: Where else but in America can a grown man run down the street trying to fly a kite -- I will be right out.


Millions of TV viewers look on and say to themselves, what's on the late show?


OK! Let her rip!


KING: See, nothing is new. Letterman does it now, it's done 50 years ago. Only kidding! Nothing against Letterman, but Steve invent the form.

MEADOWS: Oh, and Letterman always admitted it. He was -- he was the most vocal about, I have copied my show after...

KING: For the benefit of viewers who want to stay in touch with Jayne, there is a Web site. You can contact...

B. ALLEN: Thousands of people have e-mailed us since dad's passing to tell us beautiful stories about what he meant to them, and people who had been touched by him, worked with him, known him, or just watched him on television and were moved, and...

KING: So, you can log into and it comes to you.

MEADOWS: And to Audrey. It's all of us.


MEADOWS: Bill worked it all out. It's marvelous.

B. ALLEN: It's the way people can find their old movies, their books, their records, anything you want to know about...


MEADOWS: The biggest seller, outside of Steve's books and CDs, is our old (UNINTELLIGIBLE). There are people that, all over the...

KING: Great show.

B. ALLEN: All over the world, people write in.

KING: You said even you were surprised some of the things he had done around the world for charities and the impact he had on people.

MEADOWS: Things I never knew, Larry. I am getting letters from people, England, you name it, Paris, all over the world. There was a young man, that he came out of the jungles and he got a scholarship at a university, had no shoes, he went to the university with Brian, one of the my step sons.

And after the first year, he couldn't afford, so Steve paid his, you know, tuition, and a few years later, he came back here, to America, and when Steve met him at the airport, the man got off and he had rings, big gold rings -- he's now one of the richest men in Africa.

He invited us on a trip to Africa, all expenses paid; we could go on to Paris, England, everything. He has helped more people that I never knew about.

B. ALLEN: People he loaned money to buy their homes when they were ill and had no other way to do it.

MEADOWS: Couldn't make the payments.

B. ALLEN: People who he put through schools, people who he provided...

KING: So, one of your purposes then is to keep this legacy, which I had asked him about, alive, right?

B. ALLEN: Absolutely. Both the creative legacy and the legacy of social activism. The man left 54 books, and 36 unfinished, unpublished books, some of them are substantially finished and will someday make it to the marketplace. Some of them I wouldn't want to try to complete without him here.

KING: He was thinking then all the time about something.

MEADOWS: All the time, he never wasted a moment. The kids would kid him because he always had, you know, what do you call...

B. ALLEN: Pocket dictating machines.

MEADOWS: Pocket dictating machines in his bathrobes on every table.

B. ALLEN: A joke, a song, a thought, a book chapter. All the books including "Vulgarians At The Gate" were essentially spoken into this dictating machine.

MEADOWS: He has been working -- working on that book for years.

KING: You ought to be both so proud.


B. ALLEN: Extraordinarily proud.

KING: Thank you, Bill.

B. ALLEN: Thank you, Larry.

MEADOWS: I just want to say this is Steve Allen, he was so proud of this young man and this young man has saved my life. Saved my life.

KING: Your baby.


KING: Your boy.

MEADOWS: Yes, although I'm very close to the other boys. To my stepsons.

B. ALLEN: He raised four terrific sons.

KING: Jayne Meadows, Steve Allen's wife of 46 years, and his son, Bill. We will take a break and when we come back, Kent Walker.

I'm Larry King. Don't go away.


KING: Joining us now from New York is Kent Walker. Kent is the author of the new book "Son of a Grifter" -- there you see the cover -- "The Twisted Tale of Sante and Kenny Kimes, the Most Notorious Con Artists in America." It was co-written with Mark Schone.

Kent's mother is Sante Kimes. Sante Kimes is in prison in New York on a sentence of more than 120 years for the 1998 murder of the elderly socialite Irene Silverman, a body yet to be found. She faces extradition to California for the 1998 shooting of a business associate where her son, Kent's half-brother, Kenneth, already has been extradited to California in that case. Like Sante, Kenny was convicted in the murder of Irene Silverman as well. Kent Walker and Kenny are half-brothers and you are the older, right, Kent?

KENT WALKER, AUTHOR, "SON OF A GRIFTER": Yes, I'm older by about 13 years.

KING: OK, we're going to play a clip in a minute, but before we do that, why not just go off? Why did you write this?

WALKER: You know, my intention when this all started just to stay as far away from this as possible. I had a good friend by the name Larry Garrison (ph), who saw some potential in this project, and thought that it could help some people out there. We're hoping that if there is a young man or young woman out there who is in anything remotely like this, that maybe they can have a beacon of hope.

I know that if I had a book like this when I was kid, it might have made things a little bit easier for me, might have been something different for my brother.

KING: So, you're glad you wrote it?

WALKER: Yes, I am. I'm proud of what the result. It's a good book. It's not a true crime book, it's a book about a tragic life, three tragic lives, actually, and I'm very proud of the result

KING: You include your own in that tragic life description?

WALKER: I've got a shot for a good life now, but there is some tragedy there also.

KING: What have you been doing, Kent? What's your occupation?

WALKER: I sell bathroom cleaners.

KING: And your father was whom?

WALKER: My father was Ed Walker, a very honorable man.

KING: And was he Sante Kimes' first husband?

WALKER: Actually, he was my mother's second husband. My mother had a brief marriage back in the '50s to a man named Lee Powers (ph).

KING: And then Mr. Kimes, Kenneth's father, was the third husband?

WALKER: Ken, my stepfather, was mom's third husband, and they married in mid-'70s, after the millionaire chase, what we call it.

KING: Let me give you a clip of our interview with your mother at Rikers Island. This was before she was sent up to prison, Upstate New York. This was the holding cell, sort of, where they held people before they go on to prison. Watch.



SANTE KIMES, CONVICTED MURDERER: The biggest injustice is that there is no crime. They don't know where the woman is. They manufactured a crime. What happened is, I'm sure that the world knows, that New York is one of the most corrupt law systems in the world. This is the premeditated murder of my own son, who has done nothing. They had no crime, Larry.


KING: Kent, do you think your mother committed that murder?

WALKER: There is no doubt in my mind. It is difficult to watch that. It is kind of flashback for me. She spins herself into this altered state and I mean, I watched that when she did that show, when she got on your show, and I couldn't believe it.

Here she is just convicted of murder, and she is on LARRY KING LIVE. It just personifies what Sante Kimes is all about. It's the middle of an election year, and here is a convicted murderer that everyone knows she did it, and she is still on her proclaiming her innocence. This is classic Sante.

KING: Do you love her?

WALKER: Very much, you know, the book we try to show it, but 90 percent of time, it was a fantastic life. We lived in great places. We had a lot of fun. She had charisma. You know, that 10 percent of the time was just horrible, but, 80, 90 percent of the time was wonderful. We had a lot of fun.

KING: Did you sense that she had -- did you sense early on hat there was a con aspect to her?

WALKER: Well, growing up has always been the con. When I was before 10, it just -- con was a way of life. That's what she did. Everything was stolen. When I got into my teens, when Kenny came into the picture, and after she married Ken, that's when I started kind of rebelling against her a little bit, and she didn't like that. It made it where she had a fault within herself by virtue of her son, and it caused all of the conflicts. She has always been the consummate con artist, but until the '90s, when she took it up to the murder range.

KING: In your book, Kent, do you think -- you think that she actually didn't do the killing. You think Kenny did the killing, right?

WALKER: Yes, we point out in "Son of a Grifter" that it's sad, but Kenny in his early 20s was kind of the result of two mismatched parents. I mean, mom and Ken loved each other fiercely, but they both brought in a part to the relationship that Kenny didn't have a chance, and I think he had ideas of his own and actually made mom even more dangerous.

KING: How did -- we see a picture here now of you and your half- brother. How do you get along with him?

WALKER: Kenny and I were close at one time. We were brothers, and, our biggest source of arguments is I kept on trying to get him out of that grasp of my mother, and that is eventually what broke off our relationship. Now, since the conviction, he's been extradited, he is starting to get it now.

He's starting to realize why big brother was trying to pull him out of the situation. He's starting to realize now what I went through and stuff, but you know, it's amazing. We were as close as two brothers can get a lot of the time, and the only thing that drove us apart was the fact that I wanted to pull him out of his mother's grasp. And it's very frustrating.

KING: When you heard about the arrest and the like, were you shocked?

WALKER: You know, I just got back from a trip to Newport Beach where we lived when I was a young boy. I had just got through showing my family one of the about half a dozen houses we lived in, and I was really -- it was a time to reflect, and when I saw the newspaper article, I actually felt a sense of relief. And I felt horrible for it, but just to know that the waiting was over. It, you know -- time had come.

KING: One thing to be a con artist, another thing to be a murderer.

WALKER: Yes, I'm wrestling with that one right now, you know. And there's different types of murderers. It is cold. As it sounds, the other murders that they're implicated in, I can see how my mother can justify it because she's thinking she is protect the family. With the case of Irene Silverman, though, that had to be premeditated. I mean, that had to be part of the plan she had. So, yes, it just got worse and worse and worse and worse.

KING: How do you think your father would have dealt with this knowledge?

WALKER: My real father?

KING: Yes.

WALKER: He's been out of the situation for so long, I'm not sure, to be honest with you. He's lucky. he got out 30 years ago.

KING: You don't see him?

WALKER: I talk to him often. He's a very honorable man. He is a good dad. He's been very supportive of me with the book. He's been a good friend to talk to, and I'm real proud to be his son.

KING: We'll be right back with more of Kent Walker. This extraordinary book is "Son of a Grifter." To test your knowledge on the Sante and Kenneth Kimes case, log on to my Web site at We'll be right back.


KING: You don't like term grifters..

KENNETH KIMES, CONVICTED MURDERER: Larry, would you like the term grifters?

KING: Well, some people -- there was a movie about them. Some people might think....

K. KIMES: I don't gave a damn about any movie. That's unfair...

KING: Good grifters are con artists. Grifters don't kill.

K. KIMES: There is no such thing as good grifter, sir, and the term "grifter" is nothing more than an allegation that is an unprovable event. There is no proof of me grifting or conning or killing. I did not commit any crimes.

KING: So, media played this up.

K. KIMES: We're selling papers right now. We're hot stuff.



S. KIMES: I lived the biggest mistake I have made, throughout my live, is trusting the wrong people, believing the wrong people.

KING: You personally never did anything to your knowledge that was wrong?

KIMES: Oh, no. I would never say that. I was homeless when I was a young girl, I was running around the streets of Los Angeles trying to -- feed myself, so I stole things, like cheese or something like that. I then was rescued, and adopted. I married a fantastically wealthy man. His first relatives hated me, and right now, are trying to destroy me, all of over money.


KING: Kent Walker is our guest. He's the author of "Son of a Grifter." In it, you write: "My mother loved me fiercely, and I know that my comfort and well-being were vital to her. However warped her sense of what comfort and well-being were, to this day I believe there is nothing she wouldn't do for me."

Have you been in touch with her?

WALKER: The last time I spoke with her was last October, about two weeks after Kenny pulled a stunt, with the hostages in it.

KING: When he held the hostage, the reporter, and he held that hostage...


KING: ...went into solitary confinement. Were you shocked when Kenny announced, that, yes, we did the murder and I will find the body for you, and was never found?

WALKER: Well, that is a dilemma there also. Kenny did let me know that he was responsible for the two crimes that we are talking about. I went back and visited him in January, and I am not defending him, I'm not saying he told the truth or not, but he completely denied that he ever said that to any of the authorities up here.

His version of the events was that there was no legal representation for him, so he wouldn't -- he didn't want to talk to them.

KING: Does Kenny lie a lot?

WALKER: Kenny is his mother's son, he lies -- very good at it also.

KING: What do you think -- and you are not a doctor or anything, Ken -- what went wrong with your mom? With this vivacious personality, pretty young lady, men liked her -- why do you think she went this route?

WALKER: You know, that is a question I have been asked so many times and the answer is this: you know, people always want to have to have a reason why she did this. Was it because of a bad childhood or, was it because of a mental illness, or was it because of she is evil?

You know, it is what she is. She was never satisfied, she was capable of doing anything, but she was intelligent and loving, Sante was Sante. I have yet to hear any type of description from either a doctor or from a behavioral therapist or anything that could actually explain this type of behavior.

KING: She was tough on your father, wasn't she?

WALKER: She was tough on all her men. My father -- destroyed him. Her millionaire husband, Ken Kimes, she destroyed him also. The only man I know who was part of her life who came through unscathed was her first husband, who offered congratulations, you're one of the few. You're the only one, actually.

KING: There were a lot of rumors, do you stretch yourself to believe any rumors about some sort of physical relation between your mother and your step brother?

WALKER: I saw the reports of the incest. And I know that their relationship was over the top, but I never saw anything or heard anything about any -- that would even lead me to even believe that in any way, shape, or form. I never believed any of those.

KING: What have you learned were her you didn't know?

WALKER: Well, I have learned a lot of things. It's sad actually, we want to make sure that the details in the book were accurate, and we spent a lot of time on that. How many people are actually hurt by this? You know, my own life, anyone who ever cared for me, has been damaged by this, and it's a huge regret. People who did trust her, you know.

It was kind of tough for us, because everyone in a way when this first happened, really didn't want to believe that she did this. They missed that Sante that was fun to be with in the restaurants and surprised them with a trip to the Bahamas, but as more of the evidence became more aware, and then they had to be more honest with the responsibilities, then they're realizing, yeah, she is capable of do this.

They start remembering some of the temper tantrums, they start remembering some of the things that just weren't normal. I learned that she was also very selfish, and I don't -- in a way, she didn't mean to, but her actions were always self-serving, and, this is a lot of bad stuff, unfortunately.

KING: What did you talk about the last time you talked to her?

WALKER: The mother I talked to in October wasn't the mother I grew up with. I believe my mother has spun herself in a little spot in her mind where she is believing -- the conspiracy theory she spent a half hour talking to you about, and you handled it pretty well, I got to admit.

You know, everyone is out to get her, you know, the NYPD was out to get her. Why? It didn't matter why; she believed it so, in her mind, it is true. I think she still believes that Irene Sullivan is still alive. I still believe that she thinks she is going victorious in this.

KING: We will be right back with more. We'll include phone calls for Kent Walker. The book is "Son of a Grifter" written with Mark Schone. Don't go away.


KING: What do you make of the stories that have appeared about you and your son, because that has added to this spice of this case, that you had some sort of incestuous relationship?

S. KIMES: I'm so glad you asked me.

KING: Where did that begin?

S. KIMES: OK, when I first heard this, I thought, you know, I thought I'd thought of all the slime that they could go into. But I guess I didn't realize, you know, how far they can sink. My son -- I held on my heart when he was born, he slept with my husband and I.

That is ridiculous -- it is so slimy and so ridiculous, that I don't even have to answer it.




KING: Your mother is very, very, very, very, angry. She says mostly for you.

K. KIMES: Well, my mom is -- is a wonderful caring mother, and her world is me. And she is my world.


KING: You, said Kent Walker, that they were over the top for each other. What did you mean?

WALKER: Well, you just saw what that clip with Kenny. It is not a normal relationship for the son would have with the mother, but in Kenny's defense, Sante Kimes was not a normal mother. She was able to -- she provided an atmosphere, when I was a kid, most of the time where you felt infallible, she -- nothing bad happened to you.

I mean, I got beat up by a kid who was a lot older than me once in Newport Beach and she beat his father up with a garden hose. You know, you get some confidence with that. That shows you that hey, not too many moms do that.

KING: How did you escape it, Kent?

WALKER: I was fortunate, that in several key points of my life, I believe, that I had a glimpse of what it was like on the outside. And all these people had been hurt by this, and I hate that. But when I was in grade school in Palm Springs, in high school, I was very fortunate to have some really positive people around me that cared for me, and enough so, when I got to my 20s where (UNINTELLIGIBLE) was saying, "You know what, Kenny is not getting this. I need to try to pull him out of this." And there was a battle for 15-20 years.

KING: So you could have been like Kenny.

WALKER: You know, I don't want to say yes to that, because I just -- I hate to be able to picture myself like that, but if -- to be honest, if it was in the same circumstances as Kenny, yes, it could have happened I guess.

KING: Did your mother want you to kill once? WALKER: My mother asked me to do serious damage to a friend of hers. And she didn't come out and say the word "kill," but the implication was there. And I went up and warned him instead.

KING: But she wanted him physically hurt.

WALKER: She wanted him physically hurt and finally hurt, is the way she put it, and it was all because of a fur coat case when she stole some fur coats from Washington, D.C., and the guy testified against her. And she wanted him to be quieted.

KING: Manhattan, New York City, hello.

CALLER: Yes, Mr. Walker, have you ever been arrested or convicted of a crime?

WALKER: I have been arrested one time, was at Halloween party. A guy took a swing at me, I swung back and they put us in the cool off period. But other than that, never had a problem.

KING: We'll be right back with more of Kent Walker, author of "Son of a Grifter." Tomorrow night, Commander Scott Waddle of the submarine corps of the United States Navy, who had that big hearing. He was not court-martialed, but he is leaving the service, his first prime time interview. Friday night, Vice President Dick Cheney. We will be right back.


S. KIMES: Let me tell you about Kenny. The only reason I think I'm alive is that I must prove his innocence. Being a parent is the most important thing in the world and that boy is as innocent and as wonderful a son as you could ever pray for. He is in hell, he has done nothing wrong.

And I will -- I will spend my last breath praying for the public to free my innocent son. He has done nothing to fight this corrupt system to bring out the truth.




K. KIMES: I was a UCSB college student. I had a lot of friends. I had a fun life. I had a great father. I'm very proud of my mom and dad.

KING: And you were raised fairly wealthy, right?

K. KIMES: Yes, in my opinion.

KING: Yes. So you had a good life.

K. KIMES: I did. KING: My gosh, to have all this come around you, must be mind- boggling to you.

K. KIMES: It is -- it is difficult.

KING: Unless you know you did something wrong, then it is terrible. I mean then you are just -- you know, getting away with something, but why would you do this?

K. KIMES: Well, Larry, I don't think that is fair interjection. I did not do this. I did not commit this crime. I was arrested at the Hilton. There were no eyewitnesses, there was no physical evidence. I have no motive to commit this.

KING: By the way, you can now tune in to my Web site, and the answer to King's quiz will be revealed.

We are in our remaining comments with Kent Walker, author of "Son of a Grifter," who writes: "Living with my mother and brother was like living with a time bomb strapped to my back. I was surrounded by wealth and comfort but knew something bad was about to happen." How did you escape?

WALKER: Like I said before, I was fortunate to have some really good glimpses of what the outside was like. Finally I wised up. I got older. My family started being victimized by the situation, and I finally -- I gave up, you know, or wore out, might be better word, where I realized that -- as melodramatic as it sounds -- it was battle for Kenny, basically. And he had turned into something else, and I wasn't going to be the sacrificial lamb for him.

KING: Now do you think there are other kids -- I mean this is such an unusual case, yet you say you might be able to help people. Help them what? Break chains away from tawdry relationships or bad atmosphere?

WALKER: Well, provide hope more than anything. I hope there is no one going through something like this. I really do. But, you know, I know what it's like to love someone who is, in all practical purposes, unlovable, you know, and a lot of emotions go with that.

And I'm afraid a lot of people will do bad things, break laws, and stuff like that. I'm hoping that they realize that, you know what, you do the right thing. Stand your ground, you know. Unfortunately the day's probably going to come where you have to get out, but hang in there. Do the right thing.

KING: You worried about your mother in prison?

WALKER: You know, I do worry about her, but she's getting older now and stuff, but I bet you those guards have their hands full with Sante Kimes.

KING: Meaning she does not go quietly into the night.

WALKER: There is no such thing as going quietly into the night with Sante Kimes.

KING: And what do you think Kenneth is like out in California?.

WALKER: Well, I worry about Kenny, you know. They're talking about the possibility of a death penalty out there.

KING: Yes.

WALKER: And I would like to see that avoided. It is -- there are situations sometimes, justice is served. He's going to spend the rest of his life in jail. And I'm not defending what he did in any way, shape, or form, but I don't want to explain to my kids why their uncle was executed.

KING: Good luck to you, Kent.

WALKER: Thanks for the opportunity, Larry.

KING: Kent Walker, from our New York bureau, the author of "Son of a Grifter: The Twisted Tale of Sante and Kenny Kimes, the Most Notorious Con Artists in America," written with Mark Schone.

Tomorrow night, Commander Scott Waddle, his first prime-time live interview will be on this program tomorrow night. We will share his experiences with the submarine, the accident, and take your phone calls. And on Friday night we'll have an hour on the hundredth day, or right around the hundredth day of this administration, with vice president of the United States, Dick Cheney.

Thanks very much for joining us. For our whole crew here in Los Angeles, stay tuned for "CNN TONIGHT." It is next. Good night.