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CNN Larry King Live

Interview With Robert Wagner

Aired July 16, 2002 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight a rare in-depth interview with Robert Wagner. His star-studded career spans more than 50 years.

He's squired some of the world's most beautiful women. He's endured tragedy, been a tabloid target. R.J. Wagner, an intimate hour with your calls, next on LARRY KING LIVE.

And there's a new Austin Powers coming. We'll be talking about that. Yes, Number Two returns, a role he has put his own stamp on.

Robert Wagner was last with us in May of 1997. His show business career, as we said, spans more than 50 years. Today was a very big day in his life. Robert got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

And I was amazed -- not to boast, I got one five years ago and I couldn't understand how I would get one before him. They give you a replica of it. The Hollywood Walk of Fame presented to Robert Wagner. He spoke at that occasion today. Watch.


There's a lot of people that are not with us today that were my mentors, and they meant a great deal to me and to all of us. And so I'd like to thank all of my friends who are here today, all of you, the fans who have made this possible, and all of those people who have left us but I know are here today and with me in spirit.

KING: It was an honor to be part of that presentation along with Mike Myers. Who were you referring to?

ROBERT WAGNER, ACTOR: You were wonderful. Thank you for today.

KING: Who were you referring to? Who are those mentors?

WAGNER: Well, there's so many. You know, so many of my heroes are gone, Larry, you know. Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck.

KING: Knew them all? Worked with them.

WAGNER: Oh, yes. Knew them all.

KING: Spencer was your mentor, right? WAGNER: Yes, he was. But, you know, I have a lot of loved ones that have left me, and we all have. You don't get a tribute like that, receive an honor like that without having a lot of people touch that and be a part of it and make it possible.

KING: And we don't see Robert Wagner emotional very much, but that got to you today.

WAGNER: Yes, it did.

KING: Because you grew up here, right? I mean, that was part it.

WAGNER: Well, yes. And I was saying to some of the press down there, the media, you know, has also been very, very good to me. But I was saying to someone, I walked up and down that street as a kid, and all I wanted to do was be in the movies.

I would walk up and down that street and think that maybe somebody might see me walking down Hollywood Boulevard and say "Who's that guy," and all that kind of stuff. So to have that star put down and perpetuate my legacy in the world of entertainment and in Hollywood was indeed a big thrill for me.

KING: A lot of people, Robert -- or how did you get R.J.? Why is it R.J.?

WAGNER: Well, my name is Robert John Wagner.

KING: So everyone's always called you R.J.

WAGNER: And I was a junior, so my father -- it was very popular in those days to go by initials. So I -- they changed it to R.J.

KING: And he was a major steel executive, and you were a rich kid. I mean, there's no other way to put it. You didn't have economic need. You were expected to go in the steel business, right?

WAGNER: Yes, I was. He wanted me very much to follow this his footsteps. He was a very successful man, a self-made man, and I loved him very much, and he was very insistent that I follow or try to follow in his footsteps. And I wanted to be an actor. And of course, he said, he was very concerned...

KING: Is that mom and dad?

WAGNER: Yes. That's my mother and dad, yes. There they are.

KING: He didn't want you to be an actor?

WAGNER: Well, he was worried, I think, about -- there's a lot of fatalities in this business. You go so far and you're gone, you know. And -- but as it turned out, Larry, I think I fared out pretty well, because the steel business went in a different direction.

KING: It's gone. WAGNER: And I've been so lucky in my career.

KING: You've always worked, right?

WAGNER: Yes, I have.

KING: And 50 years in it, right?


KING: You're 72.

WAGNER: I am 72.

KING: That's hard to believe. I mean, you don't look 72.

WAGNER: It's great, isn't it? I love it.

KING: You like being older.

WAGNER: Well, it's such a privilege.

KING: Meaning?

WAGNER: Well, fortunately I'm healthy. I've met so many people. I've been blessed in my career, and I've had a chance to really, you know, it's better. It gets better all the time, you know. Really.

KING: You're a happy guy.

WAGNER: I'm doing all right, right now.

KING: Marriage is good with Jill St. John?

WAGNER: Very good with...

KING: How long has that been now?

WAGNER: That's been 12 years. That's amazing, isn't it? Twelve years.

KING: As Hollywood goes, that is amazing.

WAGNER: Yes, and then I have three wonderful daughters.

KING: All were there today. No, two -- one's away.

WAGNER: Yes, one's away. My middle one is working in London. I said thank God somebody in the family is working. It helps, you know. But she's very successful, Natasha. And Katie is on the -- she's a journalist, and she works for the TV Guide Channel. And my youngest daughter, Courtney, she's an artist and she's designing jewelry and she's doing great.

KING: Do you remember why you wanted to be an actor?

WAGNER: I was so fascinated by the first films that I saw. And I -- my father had moved out to California...

KING: From?

WAGNER: From Detroit. He was in the automobile business then. And he moved here and when I grew up, I grew up with a lot of young children, you know, and daughters and sons of directors and producers and writers, and they were all talking about the picture business and I was amazed...

KING: Did you go to those high schools here and college?

WAGNER: Oh, yes, sure. I went to high school here, I went to military school here, I went to a few military schools.

KING: So you knew sons of people and daughters of people.

WAGNER: Yes. George Stevens Jr. and I were roommates together in school. And so we'd go over to his house after school and look at the outtakes of Gunga Din, which was the big movie then, you know, with Cary Grant. We're all going around doing Cary Grant. You know, we're doing this -- yes, you too, bugler -- we're doing all of that stuff, playing, and I just loved the movies, you know. They just fascinated me.

To me it was magic. It still is. It's magic how it all comes together. I mean it truly is magic.

KING: Did your looks, did you ever think that they got in the way, in a sense? That you were -- I mean, let's be obvious, you were a very handsome guy. Do you think that sometimes when someone is really handsome, it curtails people looking at how well they act?

WAGNER: Well, you know, Larry, I was dealt a great card, I was really dealt a great card with my looks.

And, you know, when I was young I had a lot of hair and I was a good looking kid, but there was a dozen guys like us. There was a dozen guys...

KING: Look at that, though. Yes, there were a lot out there like you, right?

WAGNER: Oh, yes. And what really kind of took me out of that, you know I just had a lot of hair on my head and was trying to get as many girls as I could, you know. And when I met Spencer Tracy, you know, Spence put his arm around me and he said, you know, you really got it. You could really go someplace in this business. That's when I did "Broken Lance" with him. And then he asked for me. There I am in "The Mountain." He asked for me to co-star with him in "The Mountain" and he gave me co-star billing above the title, which...

KING: Unheard of.

WAGNER: Unheard of. Which elevated me into a whole different kind of position. And there I was, you know? I was in the movies and I was with Spencer Tracy and it was terrific. KING: What was he like?

WAGNER: He was a marvelous man. He was a marvelous...

KING: Would he have come on this show?

WAGNER: Oh, yes. He would have liked you.

KING: Thank you. But he would have come?

WAGNER: Yes, he would have, definitely. Yes, he would have. But, you know, when he was doing movies, there wasn't a show like this.

KING: Yes. He drank a lot, though, right?

WAGNER: He didn't -- I don't know whether he drank a lot, but when he drank, it was a different person.

KING: Oh, yeah?

WAGNER: He became a different -- he was one of those what they refer to as shanty Irish.

KING: Was he a kind guy?

WAGNER: Yes, he was. He was a very kind man and he was very generous to me, very much so.

KING: Robert Wagner, he's embodied forever on the streets of Hollywood today, streets he used to walk as a kid and dream. What a story. Lots to talk about, your phone calls, too.

As we go to a break, a scene from "The Mountain."


WAGNER: Tell me, is this the way? At least tell me that!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. No, it's not safe that way.

WAGNER: You're lying! You want me to stay up here and die. I'm coming with you.



KING: We're back on LARRY KING LIVE. The new "Austin Powers" will open in a couple of weeks, right?

WAGNER: July 26.

KING: July 26. Here is a clip from "Austin Powers III: Goldmember."


WAGNER: Dr. Evil, while you were in space, I created a way for us to make huge sums of legitimate money and still maintain the ethics and the business practices of an evil organization. I have turned us into a talent agency, the Hollywood Talent Agency.


WAGNER: By charging A-list clients nine percent rather than the traditional 10 percent, we've been able to sign such stars as George Clooney...

MYERS: Ooooh!

WAGNER: ... Julia Roberts...


WAGNER: ... and Leo DiCaprio.



KING: How did you get this part?

WAGNER: I love playing that part. It's just great.

KING: Why?

WAGNER: It's so much fun. You know, I'll tell you how I got the part. I did -- I went -- I was asked to be on "Saturday Night," to be the guest star on "Saturday Night Live." Turned out to be the best Saturday night of my life.

KING: Really?

WAGNER: Sure. I'm in this movie, right. I'm in all three of these movies. I met Mike. I liked him very much. We became -- you know, I did some of the skits that he -- he saw some kind of comedic quality in me that he really thought worked.

KING: But you had never been cast much in comedy?

WAGNER: Well, not in something like this, you know. And he wrote the part of No. 2 for me and sent me the script, and he said, I wrote this part for you and I want you to play it. And I said, oh, Mike, this is wonderful.

KING: You liked it right away?

WAGNER: Oh, I loved it, yes. And I couldn't -- I mean, he's such a wonderful, brilliant young man.

KING: He is a genius, isn't he?

WAGNER: Oh, no question about it. No question about it.

KING: You put him in Chaplain's place, right?

WAGNER: I compare him to Chaplain and Lloyd and Buster Keaton. I've done that several times. Right.

KING: Right. That character, do you break up on set?

WAGNER: Yes, I have broken up a couple of times. I mean, it's hard not to. But, you see, he's defined these characters so well that you have a lot of character behavior going on within you. And once he gets set up and starts to do these things, you know, and he's gotten in the makeup and everything, you can't start to crack up. I mean, if one person goes out, I mean, we're all out, you know. So he's a joy to work with. And I'll tell you he's one of the most wonderful young men I've ever met.

KING: And he can really write.

WAGNER: He created this whole world.

KING: Why does "Austin Powers" succeed? And he told me today that this is better than the other two put together of the three.

WAGNER: The press -- I mean, I like this script. I like this script a lot. But all the characters have evolved. In each one, there's a different setup. But I'll tell you why I think it succeeds. The most important character of all is Austin, and he plays that character so great. People love him. They laugh when they look at the poster. You know, they love -- they just find so much joy from his innocence and his behavior and his kind of getting in the way of everything, and his brashness. I think he just -- everybody identifies with that guy.

KING: And you spoke before we went on the air with our executive producer's daughter...


KING: Wendy's (ph) daughter is Amaya (ph), age six, who is a freak fan of Austin Powers and of No. 2. How do you explain it going to age levels that widespread, six to 60?

WAGNER: Isn't that great? I love it. You know, the people that are 60 years old are watching this picture and they're seeing me in it and they're saying, hey, he was in "The Pink Panther." He was in these pictures. He's sending this thing up. He's sending it up. And so they're getting joy out of that.

The six-year-old kid, Amaya (ph), right?

KING: Yes.

WAGNER: She's seeing me for the first time. She gets on the phone, she says, are you No. 2? And I said, yes. And I said, Amaya, I want you to do me a favor. I want you to behave, baby. Behave. She said, oh, I will. I will. I'll behave. I said, well, I'm going to talk to Dr. Evil and I'll let him know about you. She said, you will? I said, yes. I said, right. Right.

KING: You like doing comedy?

WAGNER: Oh, I love it, particularly this. I mean, this is really -- I mean, this is a world all of its own. And Jay Roach, who directs these, and John Lyons, I mean, these people who produced it, they're so professional. You know, these are professional, marvelous people and...

KING: It's become a franchise like "Pink Panther," in a sense.

WAGNER: A bit, yes.

KING: Because that succeeded in all the levels it ran.

WAGNER: You know, Larry, I got the same thrill out of going to work on this picture -- on these pictures with Mike as I did when I went to go to work on "The Pink Panther." And that's 40 years ago. To have that feeling again, you know...


WAGNER: Yes. Oh, Peter...

KING: Another genius.

WAGNER: Oh, yes. Peter was marvelous. And he loved -- you know, to see Blake and Peter put that character together of Clouseau, that was so exciting. That was so much fun. You can't imagine what that was like.

KING: Has this all been a ball, a ride for you?

WAGNER: It's been a terrific ride, a great, great time. You know, but like every actor, you know, your career goes on levels. It goes ups and downs and ups and downs.

KING: But even when your movie career was down, you had television hits.

WAGNER: You know, that came about by Mr. Lou Wasserman (ph), where we were the other day for that tribute for this wonderful, wonderful man. And Lou was my representative at one time. And when he went to MCA, I was under contract at Universal, I walked in there. He said, I want to see you. I went upstairs to his office. He said I want you to be in television and I want you to be in this show.

And he gave me "It Takes a Thief," which was Alexander Mundy. It was written for me by Roland Kibbie (ph). He said, I want you to meet Roland Kibbie. I said, Lou, I don't want to do this. This is not for me. I don't want to become a television actor. And I was scared to death about crossing over into television from pictures because that was heavy time, you know. So, he said I want you to go and meet him. I think you and Kibbie will get along great. If you don't like him and this doesn't work out and it doesn't sell, I'll make a movie out of it for you. I said OK. So, I went and I met Kibbie. We became fast friends and I loved the part. I loved the character of Alexander Mundy. It put me on the map all over the world. I came back and the pilot didn't sell. It didn't sell. And Lou made a movie out of it for me with every great guest star you can imagine. They saw the movie and they bought it like that. So, you know, if I hadn't listened to him and been kind of definite about that...

KING: Did you ever turn down something you regretted?

WAGNER: No -- yes, a couple I have, yes. Yes, a couple.

KING: Look up on the screen when you see it finish and say, oh?

WAGNER: Oh, yes. But...

KING: You know, you did one of my favorite movies.

WAGNER: ... you see, you never know what's going to happen. You never know.

KING: It's always a guess, right?

WAGNER: It's like this. It's like with "Austin Powers."

KING: You did "A Kiss Before Dying."

WAGNER: Oh, yes.

KING: Ira Levin.

WAGNER: Yes. That was his first big piece.

KING: He wrote it when he was like 18.

WAGNER: Yes. It wound up in a magazine. My sister gave me the magazine and I took it to Fox.

KING: That's where it was first printed?


KING: Our guest is RJ, Robert Wagner. He's got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame today. And as we go to break, another scene from "Austin Powers III: Goldmember."


MYERS: We've been designing a tractor team. It's powerful enough to pull the meteor -- Midas (ph) 22 -- into a collision course with the earth. Upon entering the atmosphere, the hot ball of magma will strike and melt the polar ice caps causing a polar flood. But enough of my technical mumbo-jumbo. Allow me to demonstrate. WAGNER: Aye, gavelt (ph).

MYERS: Lower the globe.


MYERS: Ow! ow! Well, congratulations. You've succeeded in turning me into a freakin' jack in the box. Get it off. Get it off. It's dark. It's dark. OK. I'm OK.




WAGNER: First, you jump in my bed, then you push me up a mountain, then you practically seduce me on the dance floor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now look, you're terribly attractive and (UNINTELLIGIBLE), but not here.

WAGNER: Where?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, I don't know, but not tonight.

WAGNER: You know what your trouble is? You just can't make up your mind.


WAGNER: And where's your husband? Out in 12 feet of snow chasing a panther.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, that was your idea.

WAGNER: Sure, it was. But if he was any kind of a man, he wouldn't have gone.


KING: Robert Wagner in the...

WAGNER: Blake Edwards. Half a scene, what a wonderful girl. Did you ever meet her?


WAGNER: Oh, she was a wonderful lady. She suffered terribly from depression, you know.

KING: Really?

WAGNER: Oh, yes. She took her life.

KING: Really? WAGNER: Yes. At a young age, too. And all of us who knew her, she was...

KING: Speaking of lost life, the Natalie Wood episode. I can't talk to you without asking about it. What did you make of that book that came out and the story in "Vanity Fair?" And I know the police -- the chief investigator said it was all distorted. Did you read it?

WAGNER: You know, Larry, I didn't read it. I didn't read the book. The woman had approached me on doing the book. I'm sorry, she did not approach me on doing the book or my representatives. And the problem with this today is, as you know, they can write anything they want about anyone and you don't really have any recourse, particularly about somebody who's gone. They can write anything about anyone that's said, that's gone. Isn't that extraordinary?

KING: How long is she gone now?

WAGNER: She died 21 years ago. Yes, 21 years ago.

KING: Do memories recur?

WAGNER: Oh, always. Oh, of course. You know, we were young together and I took her out the first time when she was 18 years old. As a matter of fact, I took her to see the mountain, the clips that you saw there. Spence loved her. You know, people...

KING: What a talent she was.

WAGNER: She was a major -- she was such a gifted woman. She was so gifted, you know. And she did so many wonderful, wonderful pictures. And she was a marvelous...

KING: How did you emotionally deal with that tragedy that night, the drowning?

WAGNER: Oh, my God, Larry. I mean, I was in shock, you know, total shock. What really, really saved me were my children, you know? I went to a doctor, an analyst that I know, that I'd been with and I said, what do I do? You know, tell me what I do. And he said don't minimize it. Don't minimize it. Don't do anything like that, just it's what it is. And together, we stuck with each other. I think if I'd had been alone and didn't have that responsibility to my daughters and my family, I don't think I would have made it, you know. And then Jill came into my life, which was a very fortunate thing.

KING: You've had some great women.

WAGNER: Yes, I've been involved with some wonderful ladies in my lifetime, yes.

KING: Wasn't it doubly tough that not only had you lost her, but then the tabloids are making hay of how did you lose her, what happened, was there murder involved? How did you deal with all -- it's one thing to have a loss, and then it's a loss that's a public loss, and then it's a loss with rumors. WAGNER: You know what happened for me, Larry, I was involved and had a very, very dear friend that was very close to both Natalie and myself whose name was Paul Zifferin (ph). And he was our adviser and our lawyer. He came to my house and he sat there, and he said, I'm not going to leave here until you promise me one thing. I said, what is that? He said, that you will not read these things and that you will not answer them and I'm not leaving until you give me that promise.

And I said, Paul -- he said, believe me, I want that -- that's what I want you to do, and I want you to promise me. And I loved Paul and I respected him so very, very much. And he was so meaningful in my life. And so I said, all right. And I think it saved me.

KING: You had to gut it out. Once you make that decision, no comment is what?

WAGNER: Yes. So I just -- I never, you know, I mean -- you know, it's all conjecture. And, you know, the thing is, Larry, it's not what if, it's what is. You know, she was gone like that. In an instant, our lives changed. Amazing.

KING: Why did he give you that advice, by the way?

WAGNER: I think that he felt that it was just a futile thing to try to answer those things.

KING: No win?

WAGNER: It's an absolutely no-win situation. It's an absolutely no-win situation because you're explaining, you know, what these people are -- and they can take and do whatever they want to with it, you know. And they have.

KING: What do you make that they still write -- that a book would come out 20 years later (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

WAGNER: Well, this is another situation. This book is -- you know, this woman has fabricated, you know, those things that are all these things that she talks to these different people and she says she knows this and that. You know, it's -- there have been other books written besides that one, you know. And there's absolutely nothing you can do about it.

KING: How well does Jill deal with the fact of how much you loved Natalie?

WAGNER: Well, you know, Jill and Natalie knew each other. Their mothers knew each other. They were all kids together. You know, there's a famous, famous picture of Stephanie Powers and Jill and Natalie all taking ballet class.

KING: I didn't know that.

WAGNER: Yes. And they all knew each other. All the mothers were sitting there, you know, clicking the needles and watching the kids do their stuff, you know. And Jill, by being in our work and knowing was very sensitive to my situation. She had been married before to Lance Reventlow. And Lance Reventlow was...

KING: A football player.

WAGNER: No, no, the race car driver, the son of Barbara Hutton. And he was lost in an airplane accident. So Jill had, you know...

KING: Death around both of you.

WAGNER: ... felt a lot of the pain that (UNINTELLIGIBLE). But she's been absolutely wonderful to me. And it was a great break that she came into my life, believe me.

KING: Finality is hard to deal with, isn't it? And, therefore, death, the ultimate finality.

WAGNER: Yes, it's -- I think when all of our friends, which you and I have had many together, they leave you, it definitely takes something away. I mean, it's gone. You know, but they're in your heart. They're in your soul and I know that they're around somewhere.

KING: You hope or you know.

WAGNER: I got a great feeling that they're around.

KING: Yes? I hope Lou Wasserman (ph) is around.

WAGNER: Yes, me, too.

KING: A great guy died, too, this week Gigi (ph), the maitre'd at the Palm restaurant in Los Angeles...

WAGNER: Our friend at the Palm, I know. Yes, we lost him.

KING: ... died of cancer.

WAGNER: I was so surprised to hear that. And my friend, Stephen Goldberg (ph), called me and he said, you know, we lost Gigi (ph), because everybody loved him. He was a great guy. He was the best man.

KING: Tomorrow night, Art Linkletter is 90. He'll be with us. Back with more and your phone calls for Robert Wagner, RJ. Don't go away.


KING: There it is, the scene today. That's me behind Mr. Wagner along with Michael Myers as he gets his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Beautiful day today in Hollywood, California. There's the honorary mayor, Lou Johnny (ph).

WAGNER: Oh, he's so great.

KING: He is something. Let's take a call for Robert Wagner.

And we go to Augusta, Georgia, hello.

CALLER: Hello.


CALLER: How are you, sir?

KING: Fine.

CALLER: The question is: What role did you do that most reflects the person you?

KING: Was there ever a role you played that most reflected you, or that you felt the closest to in character?

WAGNER: You know, that's a very interesting question. I think that when you do a television series like I did with "Hart to Hart" and with "It Takes a Thief," you use a lot of yourself.

Because I never felt, for instance, with the character Jonathan Hart or Alexander Mundy, that I would ever be playing a part that long in my life. You know, I played Jonathan Hart for five years. So a lot of my behavior and a lot of my personality came -- I used in that. And I think that that -- in that case I would say it would be Jonathan Hart, yes.

KING: So it wasn't Prince Valiant?

WAGNER: Larry, it wasn't Prince Valiant.

KING: To Eldorado Springs, Missouri, hello.



CALLER: I was wanting to -- it's such a thrill -- I just love Robert Wagner. I'd stop everything for him.

WAGNER: Oh, thank you.

CALLER: I want to ask him, first of all, what is his most prized winning achievement, or pride of his life. And also, does he have any advice for young people growing up in a world that's so different from what he grew up in?

WAGNER: Well, the first part about what do I have that I have such great pride in, obviously, are my three daughters. That's my family. I have great pride in that.

What advice would I give to young people growing up? I think that anything you can do to help your self-esteem and create an inner life for yourself and create a confidence within yourself, that is the most important thing.

And maybe it's also a good idea to look around and you'll find that you'll have a mentor in your life. And if you pick the right one, it can help a great deal.

KING: What would you say to a young kid walking down Hollywood Boulevard today, walking past your getting your star, he's 17, wants to be a movie star? He's a young RJ

WAGNER: Well, I would tell him to get up there and do it, and try it out, and try...

KING: Knock on all the doors?

WAGNER: Absolutely. Just get up there and stand up there and do it, and keep trying and keep trying and keep trying, because somewhere along the way something's going to happen.

I mean, you know, we were talking about this before. Look what happened in my career with me now. Mike Myers writes this character for me, Number Two, and I'm talking to this 6-year-old kid on the phone -- huh?

You never know what's going to happen. You just never know what's going to happen in this work.

KING: Boy, are you right. Keep knocking on the doors.

WAGNER: Just get up there and swing.

KING: Before we take a next call, here's a quick scene from one of my favorites films. Robert Wagner in Ira Levin's "A Kiss Before Dying."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "A Kiss Before Dying")

WAGNER: It's true darling, it really is.


KING: That was Joanne Woodward. She dies early and she comes back as her twin sister, and Robert Wagner plays a sociopath.

WAGNER: That's one of the nicest ladies I've ever known in my life, Joanne. She's just one of the most wonderful people.

KING: When you tossed her, where did she land? I mean, you did toss her, right? I saw...

WAGNER: You know, I think, as I remember, that was the tallest building in Tucson, we were shooting there. And it was the bank building. And they had her -- they had a strap around her leg. And there was a little bit of a ledge out on the end. And when I let her go, you know, she went back. You could just see her in that one clip.

But that was one of her first pictures. Great lady. KING: Yes, one of your first pictures.

WAGNER: But she's a great lady.

KING: Cincinnati, Ohio for Robert Wagner, RJ, hello.

CALLER: Hi Larry, how are you?


CALLER: Robert, I love you. I love everything you do.

WAGNER: Oh, thank you. How sweet.

CALLER: The question I have for you is, if you could go back to any point in your life and relive it again, what would it be?

WAGNER: Go back at any point of my life and relive it again? I don't know. If I'd -- I don't know. I don't know what it would be, if I could relive...

KING: Well, one obvious is you wouldn't go out on the boat that night.

WAGNER: Well, yes, but...

KING: But that's obvious.

But is there a career thing?

WAGNER: Yes, and I think that's what you're referring to, is it a career situation?

You know, I think that if I had listened a little bit more to a few people at different times in my life, I may not have made some of the mistakes that I made that seemed to cause me to stop living my life -- you know, that got in the way of me.

And, you know, that can happen very easily. You know, sometimes you can speak to someone and they can kind of get you straightened out. And at other times can you get completely -- you can take too much time on something that isn't that important.

And does that answer your question at all?

KING: Could have been a contender.

WAGNER: I could have been somebody, Charlie.

How about that?

KING: We can't show this clip without mentioning Sidney Sheldon -- what a guy -- who created -- we'll be right back -- "Hart to Hart."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "Hart to Hart")

WAGNER: Keep it left.

Are you all right?

STEFANIE POWERS, ACTRESS: I'm fine. Boy, when you said blast it on out of here, you weren't kidding.



(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "Hart to Hart")

WAGNER: Take the wheel!

POWERS: I thought you wanted me to stay down!

WAGNER: Take the wheel!

Wow! It looked easier when John Wayne used to do it.


KING: You did your own stunt there?

WAGNER: Yes, on that one. That...

KING: A lot of people thought you were married to Stefanie, right?

WAGNER: Yes, the relationship worked great, didn't it?

KING: It did.

WAGNER: You know, I'd worked with her before. She worked with me on a series I did, "Switch."

KING: I remember "Switch."

WAGNER: Yes, I was crazy about her.

And when this came around to the casting, you know, I said -- and the man who really, you know, directed the first one and kind of created "Hart to Hart" was Tom Mankiewicz.

And Tom and I both said, got to have her. She's the one.

KING: Related to the Mankiewicz's?


KING: Aaron Spelling produced that, right?

WAGNER: Yes, Spelling and Goldberg. They're very good producers. That was...

KING: And you were part of "Charlie's Angels" with Spelling, but you weren't on the show?

WAGNER: No, I wasn't on the show. But we -- Natalie and I did a picture for Spelling and Goldberg called "The Affair." And as a result of that they gave us development deals at ABC, three of them. And one of them came up, and it was "Charlie's Angels."

And Leonard came to me and he said, I got this great idea, I got this great script -- I read the script, I said geez, I don't think this is such a good script. You know, I don't think this is going to work.

So I said, believe me, it will be a big hit. These girls will be on the cover of "TIME" magazine. And they were were. Extraordinary.

KING: Jackson, Mississippi for Robert Wagner -- you'll see him next in "Austin Powers 3: Goldmember" -- hello.

CALLER: My question is very brief. Thank you Larry. And thank you, Robert, for a career that challenges me with your mind.

But I wondered if there was any chance of you and Stefanie doing anymore "Hart to Hart" because, as a disabled fan, that does challenge me. And since Raymond Burr is gone, you're the chance we have to figure it out before it ends.

KING: Oh, "Hart to Hart" returns. Can you do a...

WAGNER: Well, you know, the pilot was made in 1978. It went on the air in '79. We were on for five years. We were off for 10, and then I -- we came back and we made six two-hour movies and...

KING: I remember that. I had Stefanie on to discuss it.

WAGNER: Right, yes, you did.

And I don't know. There might be a chance of a reunion somewhere down the line. I've learned never to say never.

KING: Why did that show work?

WAGNER: I think because of the relationship and the chemistry between Stefanie and myself and Lionel Stander, who was absolutely wonderful. Oh, he was wonderful.

He polished our luster and made us look great.

KING: But -- I mean, it's hard to associate with two rich people with their own airplane chasing criminals.

WAGNER: You know one of the things about this show, Larry, that always fascinates me? We never played kitchen-sink drama. We never got involved with another -- I never looked at another woman, she never looked at another man. There was never any sense of jealousy.

We were in love with each other. And we went to all of these different places, and we took the audience with us. KING: San Antonio, Texas, hello.

CALLER: Hi. Mr. Wagner, first, I've got two things for you. First, I think you're very sexy and have a great voice.

WAGNER: Thank you. I like you right off the bat. You're terrific.

CALLER: Thanks. I wondered if you have any hobbies, and I wonder what it was like to work with Fred Astaire on "It Takes a Thief," which you were very sexy in that as well.

WAGNER: Thanks.

KING: Hobbies are horses. I'll talk about that in a second, because we have some pictures I want to show.

But tell me about Astaire.

WAGNER: He was the best. Fred Astaire -- first of all, I knew Fred Astaire from the time I was a little boy because I went to school with his son.

And I always looked up to Fred. I never knew that Fred Astaire was Fred Astaire. I never knew he was a dancer; I never knew anything about him. I just loved him.

KING: As the father of your friend?

WAGNER: Yes. I mean, and he was always great to me. He was always terrific to me.

When it came up for the time for someone to play my father, I said, the only man in the world that can do that is Fred. So I went to him and asked him, and he said, I'd love to do that, I'd love to be in that with you. And we had a great time.

And I spent a lot of time with him, you know, personally. I went to the racetrack with him a lot.

KING: Bet a lot?

WAGNER: Yes. And then he, you know, he played a lot of pool. You know, we played a lot of pool together, we played a lot of golf together. So I had a chance to be with him on a one-to-one basis in areas that were very, you know, personal and...

KING: He was class.

WAGNER: Oh, believe me.

KING: Did he walk like he danced? Did he sort of float?

WAGNER: Yes, he moved along great. He moved along great. I had the privilege of dancing with him. I'm one of his dancing partners. As a matter of fact... KING: In what?

WAGNER: In "It Takes a Thief." We did a number. We were dressed up as clowns. And I'm telling...

KING: What was that like?

WAGNER: Oh, he moved -- I couldn't keep -- I was out of breath. I was practically passing out half the time. I was in this costume, I couldn't keep up with him.

KING: Tell me about the horses.

WAGNER: The horses. Well, like a lot of horse people, I've gone through many manifestations with horses.

KING: You love them.

WAGNER: I do. I got away from them at one time, and then I got back into it because of my daughter Natasha and now my wife Jill. She rides all the time. She really rides a lot now.

KING: My daughter rides and owns horses. Can't get them away -- girls and horses.

How many do you have?

WAGNER: I now have four. I used to have about 40. But you know, they eat when you're asleep, Larry.

KING: It's costly.

WAGNER: Yes, but I really loved it. I got into it and I was breeding. I had a good mare band (ph) and I was really going pretty good. And I loved it a lot.

And then I just -- I was in the thoroughbred racing business, too, for a while.

KING: Owned horses...

WAGNER: Yes, that was fun. That was fun.

KING: We'll take a break, come back with our remaining moments with Robert Wagner.

Here's a scene from "It Takes a Thief."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "It Takes a Thief")

MALACHI THRONE, ACTOR: I've got a whole agency to protect, and I'm not going to let one ex-con shoplifter cut us up.

WAGNER: Shoplifter?

THRONE: All right, twisted criminal mastermind. WAGNER: Thief Noah. Thief. Thief, plain and simple like my father and my grandfather. I don't take the credit; it's a gift. Some people have got it; I have it.



KING: As we come back in our final segment, we're going to show you a scene from Austin Powers II with someone who looks remarkably like Robert Wagner. Watch.


ROB LOWE, ACTOR: That was yummy.

WAGNER: And you know what the best part is? Technically it's not cheating.


KING: Does Lowe come back in "III?"

WAGNER: That's my boy, Rob Lowe.

KING: Does he come back?

WAGNER: Well, he will probably in the DVD. We did a number together.

KING: So you put it in the DVD but not in the movie.

WAGNER: I don't think it made the movie. I don't think it made the cut on the move. I'm not so sure.

KING: Have you seen the finished movie?

WAGNER: I haven't seen it. I'm going to see it on the 22nd is the premiere and I kind of promised my daughter Courtney -- I said, We'll see it together for the first time, so.

KING: One more quick call. Baltimore, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry.


CALLER: Thank you for taking my call.

KING: Sure.

CALLER: Mr. Wagner, my name is actually Natalie (ph) and I've been a huge fan of your late wife's for many years, and I just wanted to say, first of all, congratulations on getting your star today.

WAGNER: Thank you very much. CALLER: And on a personal note, could you just share with me maybe one of your favorite memories of being married to Natalie and raising your three daughters together?

WAGNER: Well, you know, Natalie, she was a wonderful mother, I can tell you that. I mean, she was just an absolutely marvelous mother to our girls. And do you know, I could share so many moments with you but, as I was saying to Larry before, you know, I took her out -- I was very much involved with her in her younger life, when she was like 18, and to see her evolve into this wonderful woman and this wonderful actress and this -- such a wonderful, kind-spirited person, that was, you can imagine, a big joy.

KING: Yes. All right. Tell me about the Kidney and Urology Foundation. You're the honorary chairman.

WAGNER: I am the honorary chairman.

KING: Why are you involved?

WAGNER: Well, I'll tell you why I'm involved. Because I think I can make people aware of -- this is the premiere organization in America, and the Kidney Urology Foundation, when I got involved with them I didn't realize some the statistics, Larry. Did you know that 70 million people a year are affected by kidney or urology disease. You know, 60 -- 50 percent of men over 60 will get...

KING: Prostate cancer.

WAGNER: prostate cancer. And this organization gives you the opportunity of being able to get in touch with them, and they can help you through this.

KING: You never had problems with either one?

WAGNER: No, I never have. I never have so far.

KING: How did they get you involved?

WAGNER: I know this lady who thought that I would be the right kind of image for it, and she -- her name is Michelle Glickman (ph), and she had gotten an award from these people and they were looking for a spokesman and she said that I think this man would be your choice.

KING: So you do public service announcements?

WAGNER: Oh, absolutely. I'm very locked into this because I think -- what they've done is they've pulled all of these doctors together, all of them that are all in different areas of these diseases, and they brought them together, and they're all going for one thing, and that is to find a cure, because you know now, Larry, it's really escalated, because...

KING: There are many diseases. WAGNER: Oh, yes, but one of the things that's very apparent now is that they find that diabetes causes kidney failure, kidney disease. And that's because of obesity, and there's so much obesity in this country, that this has escalated like crazy. But you know, you can call these people. They've got an 800 number.

KING: Do you know it?

WAGNER: Yes, it's 800-633-6628.

KING: That's easy.

WAGNER: It -- people may not remember that, but if they are in some kind of stress or they need some kind of help, they can call this organization and they can get tested, and they can get tested for...

KING: Anywhere in the country?

WAGNER: Anywhere in the country.

KING: 800-633-6628.

WAGNER: That's it.

KING: And do you go around? Do you make appearances for them?

WAGNER: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. I'm very much involved in this, because I think that if people are aware -- I'm very much involved in preventive medicine, and if people can get in touch with these people early enough and they can detect something, it could save their life, Larry. Can you imagine, one out of every four Americans are going to be involved, have some kind of...

KING: Are you, at 72 and all of the things you have gone through and gone up and at, are you a happy guy today?

WAGNER: I am, Larry. I'm very happy. And, you know, today was -- I never -- I never expected that.

KING: We only got less than a minute.

WAGNER: Oh, trying to live in the moment, Larry. Just trying to live in the moment, and I've met so many great people and I've had so much -- such a ride in this -- in my life, it's been great.

And I want to thank you.

KING: You deserve it.

WAGNER: Wait a minute, I want to thank you very much for today, because you made that so special for me, and I really do appreciate it.

KING: Oh, my honor.

WAGNER: Thanks. KING: R.J., Robert Wagner.

We'll come back and tell you about tomorrow night right after this. Don't go away.


KING: Tomorrow night, Art Linkletter returns to LARRY KING LIVE. He's going to be 90 years old. That's why when people like R.J. and myself watch him, we feel like kids. Art Linkletter, tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE.

Tonight, though, it's time for "NEWSNIGHT" and who else but, in New York, my man Aaron Brown.