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CNN Larry King Weekend

Tribute to Actor Robert Urich

Aired April 21, 2002 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: TV star Robert Urich lost his long six-year fight against cancer this past week, at age 55. The best tribute: his own courageous words. Next, on LARRY KING WEEKEND.

Family, friends, fans are mourning the death of Robert Urich. He played Dan Tanna, the wisecracking P.I. on TV's "Vegas;" he played the title role in "Spenser for Hire," too, but his toughest role was in real life.

Battling a rare form of cancer with guts and grace, Robert Urich talked about this fight when I interviewed him in October of '96. He was optimistic about his prospects. He was also bald from chemotherapy.


KING: It's shocking first to see you. Are you aware when even friends see you for the first time, that you -- that haven't seen you...

ROBERT URICH, ACTOR: It's shocking for me to just -- if I walk past a mirror in the house, or catch a reflection, it's like -- oh, I've forgotten...

KING: Was it rapid loss?

URICH: It -- they told me it would happen in a couple of weeks. It lasted a -- it didn't really start to go for, like, three or four weeks. But then, you know, one morning in the shower, I started putting brushes through it and it was coming out in gobs and a huge chunk came out, so -- and my children hadn't seen me yet. They were away at a summer camp and summer school, and my son, especially, was very, very upset by it all.

And, he didn't want to come see me -- I wanted him to come to L.A. to see where we were going to be staying, until we went off to a little vacation together in Canada, and he said, "Do you have your hair?" And I said, "Well, yes, I still have it. But it's going fast."

So -- he came, and we made a game out of it; we sort of demystified it for him, and I sent him to the drug store to pick up some shears -- and, on a Sunday afternoon, I drank a beer and we sat by the pool and we got out the camera and the clippers and he cut it all off because it was going fast.

KING: Did you think about a wig?

URICH: Actually, I've done "National Geographic" just last week, and had a hairpiece made for it -- they felt that it would be a little bit too much of a shock for people.

KING: And you came in wearing one of these great -- Varsity Club hats -- let me show...

URICH: This was sent to me by my ex-coach, Bobby Bowden, who is still head coach at Florida State. But, I'm a member of the Varsity Club.

KING: But he said, "Let's show it as it really is, huh?" Why are you here; why are you willing to come on and talk about this?

URICH: Larry, a lot of people like me go through this -- well, not like me go through the experience, but like to keep it private, and I have probably received an -- conservatively, over 25,000 pieces of mail in the last six weeks. Many from people who have had -- or who have cancer now.

And, the word that they want to get out, and I think that if I can help do that, that's great, is that -- you know, people hear the "C" word, and they picture you curled up in the fetal position in a dark room, wasting away. And there are people who conduct normal lives; they have these little chemo packs that they wear around their waist. It's like the size of a little Walkman. And they go and they teach college courses, and they go to work in factories, and, I guess, the answer is that you can survive this disease and live a productive life.

It's never going to be the same for me. I'm now talking to people who want me to maybe do a television movie and the insurance people have to have letters from the doctors and the producers want to talk to the doctors...

KING: All of it saying, "will he live?"

URICH: Will he live? Will he die in the middle of our project? And the downside is, they're telling -- that you don't have to worry about your movie; yes, he'll be fine.

And the peculiar thing for me is that I have this very rare and virulent form of cancer that is very sensitive to chemotherapy. They tell me if I go through six months of chemo and radiation and this surgery that I have coming up in December, that there's a 95% cure rate, for me.

There are many people that don't have that kind of prognosis.

KING: So the odds are strongly in your favor?

URICH: Very strong. And, as a matter of fact, I saw this Chief Surgeon oncologist at U.C.L.A. and I said, you know, I have a feeling that if I did not come back here, that you'd never hear from me again. And he said, "Bob, I want you to go through this treatment but there's a 75 percent chance that if you did nothing else, that this would never come back," because the tumor has, in fact, been removed.

KING: So why, then, this -- why all...

URICH: Because if I go through it, if I go through it, it's 95+. So it means -- I'm just -- I have one more radiation treatment. I've had 20 of those. And that chapter of the book will be called X- Rated, I'm sure. And I am going to write a book about it.

KING: You feel, then, that it's important to go on, so that others know you can get through it...

URICH: That you can get through it and that there are plenty of people who have it now that live -- you know, full productive lives.

KING: We did a show recently with Michael Milken and Olivia Newton-John, Dave Brubeck and others -- and they talked about how there's a high cure rate, cancer is highly curable, a lot of people recover from it -- but as a government, this killer is not (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Presidential candidates are never asked about it.

URICH: They never seem to talk about it. You know, there are always people coming on shows and talking about their particular cause -- this is the battle I'm fighting and it seems that there are reasons to support all those causes, but I think personally -- you know, I drive down the street now and I see people smoking cigarettes and I just want to grab them, and shake them by the collar -- I mean, it's just -- I want to yell "Stupid. You are stupid! Put the cigarette out!" And teenagers, it's an epidemic in our country.

KING: It's insane.

URICH: And we all kind of say, well, you know, it's -- I mean, there are those political candidates who say -- well, you know, it's not really addictive. I mean, it's nonsense. You know? It's killing Americans. At an alarming rate.

KING: Tell us how you discovered -- first of all, the name of your cancer is synovial sarcoma?

URICH: Cell sarcoma.

KING: How did you discover it?

URICH: A lump. And a lump is a lump is a lump. And I was working on "The Lazarus Man" in Santa Fe and I thought maybe I'd pulled a muscle or maybe I had a hernia. And...

KING: In the groin area?

URICH: Yes. And I went and I saw my doctor and he said, "I don't see anything there, Bob." And so a few months later, this thing started to grow. And then I knew that there was something wrong, so I called him again and I had about three weeks before "The Lazarus Man" was completed filming.

So, my driver -- this old fella from Seminole, Oklahoma -- he was always -- he'd driven guys like Henry Fonda and Kirk Douglas, and he'd -- anybody who'd ever come to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to do a Western, he had driven them. He said, "Bob, you gotta look out for Number One, and you gotta take care of that right now, boy."

And so as soon as we finished filming, I took Billy's heed, and I flew to Los Angeles and we were waiting to hear about a pickup, and they wanted me to go on a tour around the country, and come to Washington and see you, and talk to all sorts of people, and I said, "I want to do this doctor thing first."

And I went in and I had a doctor -- a physician -- do an aspiration, and they took tissue and fluid and they said, "Bob, you're fine. This is not life threatening. Ten percent of all adult males in America get a lump in this part of their body." I talked to my urologist; he said "you're fine." So I went off and did the tour...

KING: And you're feeling fine?

URICH: Yes, and then something happened -- we didn't get to talk because something -- some big news -- breaking story...

KING: We were booked.

URICH: Yes, we were booked, and then something happened. So...

KING: Hold it right there. Let's pick up -- that's called the grabber (ph), as you know. Robert Urich is our guest. We'll be back.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ...I've never been to bed with a celebrity.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was dead, many times. Spenser...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we didn't miss, we could do you any time we feel like it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know you did.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're guilty.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your word against ours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a professional hero.



KING: We're back with Robert Urich. We will shortly be going to your phone calls. This, of course, is a story that has gained worldwide -- were you surprised at all the attention it's gotten?

URICH: Well, I was. It's been absolutely amazing. And like I said earlier, maybe 25,000 pieces of mail. And it keeps coming. And from many people who have cancer, or who have had cancer -- and not just -- you know, a Hallmark greeting card. We're talking 12-page letters. And books. And tapes. And every cure imaginable. Everything from bovine cartilage to shark cartilage -- the (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KING: Where do you write, just Robert Urich -- uh -- Turner Pictures?

URICH: It wound up on the web, on the Internet, somehow, my agent's address was published -- through a P.R. firm -- it's coming from everywhere. Diane Sawyer...

KING: Did she give an address out?

URICH: A lot of them came just to her. You know, at ABC. So...

KING: And if people wrote to us, we'd forward them to you.

URICH: Absolutely.

KING: Now, OK, so you're feeling fine. They tell you your diagnosis is OK, a lot of people have this. Then what?

URICH: So I go off and I have my nice summer vacation, and they said if it gets uncomfortable, then we should take it out. So, three weeks before I need to go to work, I thought -- I told my wife -- you know, maybe I should just do this. It doesn't belong in my body anyway, so I called my doctor in Los Angeles who said, yes, we know it's nothing -- no trouble -- so come on and let's do it.

So, I flew to Los Angeles and they removed it and he came back into my room the next morning and he said, "Uh, we're going to have the pathologist look at it, but there's something not quiet right about it." And they came back in and they were like, "Oops. We've had an 'oops' -- you know, the first diagnosis wasn't right. And this is a strange."

KING: How'd they tell that to you?

URICH: He said it looked like it was a cancer. And, "we're going to verify this, but" -- so meanwhile I'm staying at the Bel Air Hotel, and I don't, I don't live in Los Angeles -- I'm just staying here.


KING: Where do you live?

URICH: My home is in Deer Valley, Utah. I've taken a home here now, while I'm doing the treatments.

KING: So you're in the hotel, and...

URICH: And I get this call, and he said, "We've called Juan Rosai who literally wrote the book on this kind of cancer at Sloan- Kettering and he concurs that this is a cancer. That we need to address right away."

KING: What kind of cancer -- it's rare -- what is it, where is it, what does it do?

URICH: It's a cancer of the joints -- of the tissues in the joint -- of ligaments and that kind of tissue. And it can metastasize, it can move to the lungs and other parts of the body.

KING: But right now, it's just in your groin?

URICH: It's just in the groin. We did a complete MRI, and -- which was really a trip. You know?

KING: You lie down and...

URICH: And, yes, it's a magnetic resonance imaging. So I go in there and they say, "Bob, you have to fill out this whole questionnaire," and I didn't have my glasses so I said, "Can you just read this to me?"

And he said, "OK, do you have a pacemaker?" And I said, "No." Cause of the metal in the pacemaker.

He said, "Do you have any kind of metal implant -- medical implant?" And I said, "No."

"Any bridges in your mouth?" "No."

"Do you have a penal implant?" I said, "Excuse me?" He said, "Well, it's a..." I said, "I know what it is! No! Can we go on to the next question?"

He said, "What about tattoo eyeliner?" I said, "What?" He said, "Well, some people have tattoo eyeliner, we can make your eyes kind of water and get red and irritate the eye." I said, "Maybe you should ask the fellow with the penal implant! No, could we just deal with this test already?"


KING: Then they -- that's scary, isn't it? It ain't painful, but it's scary.


URICH: Yes, it is. No, but it's in there and it's noisy and -- they're taking these minute pictures of your body. And they found nothing else; it was just located in the one spot, so...

KING: What was it like the moment the guy said, "Oops?"

URICH: Yes, well -- you...


KING: We all fear it; everybody has -- what is it like -- everybody has to think about it.

URICH: It -- in a strange kind of way, it was sort of a self- fulfilling prophecy. I've never told anyone this but I had thought about it months before -- I was walking late at night, after I was filming, with my wife, and we were talking about our future and what we were going -- where we were going to live -- and maybe, retirement and why did I have to work so hard.

And I realized that it was of my own doing, but I had created a life-style that was predicated on me working all the time. And I thought, what happens if something goes wrong. What if I have a heart attack? You know -- because, that's what I was thinking, mostly. My father died of a heart attack; my mother's had a triple bypass and my older brother's had some problems with his heart -- and I thought, what if something happens to me?

In this huge kind of -- corporation that is known as Robert Urich, Inc. -- is dependent upon me working all the time. So, we were talking about scaling down. We at that point put our house on the market -- I have a big home in Utah, and I was thinking that I wanted to -- you know, scale everything down. And then, lo and behold, this happens, you know -- I had a reason...

KING: So when you were thinking of scaling, and having heart problems, you were thinking of death.

URICH: Well, I was thinking about my mortality. And I was thinking of -- about wanting to -- I mean, I think of the hundreds and hundreds of hours, maybe thousands of hours I've spent in -- you know -- dressing rooms, in motor homes -- and how many hours of makeup and touchup and wardrobe and all that -- and it's just been -- it's gone on for 25 years now, you know, so...

KING: Did you ever -- did you get scared, for want of a better term?

URICH: Well, because they'd given me such a positive prognosis that it was going to be all right -- but now I'm in halfway through the treatment and your hair falls out, and you feel punk from the chemo treatment, and -- the radiation, and that plays havoc on your -- on your reproductive -- your system and your bowels -- and you start to feel a little bit like a patient and a victim, and I promised myself I wasn't going to allow that to happen.

And so you start -- late at night, when it's dark and everyone is asleep, and I'm not sleeping and I get up and I walk through the house -- yes, you -- it's easy to be a little bit afraid of it.

KING: Well, you had chemotherapy today, right? URICH: I finished the third course on Tuesday, so it's been 48 hours since I've had this stuff pumping through my veins and it's...

KING: What do you do? What happens? You went to the hospital today; what did they do?

URICH: Well today I went in and I had a radiation treatment, which is like a big x-ray -- and, but instead of having -- when you have an x-ray of a tooth or your chest, it's -- they count the rads in thousands of units -- but in this kind of treatment it's in tens of millions...


URICH: Just -- they have it isolated in this little spot in a big lead kind of -- template -- that keeps it from going through the rest of your body. And it's painless and it's not too bad.

But -- and then, I had a shock to bring my white cell count up -- when you're taking the chemo, you go in in the morning for four hours. And I go in early. I want to be cured first. So I'm in there at 5:45 a.m. and they pump in this stuff in your veins -- I have a port in my chest -- and it goes right into my chest and they send in -- they put in potassium and they send in bicarbonate soda and anti-nausea medicine.

Then after that I'm ready to go into chemo. It's a little pump, it looks like a Walkman, and they put this chemical in there and then they take the tube and they plug it in and you walk away. I mean, that's how people live with cancer.

KING: You talk about the aftermath -- the nausea and the like. Our guest is Robert Urich. We'll be going to your calls soon. This is Larry King Live. Don't go away.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't make the call. I didn't take the money. I didn't plant the story.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, you didn't do zip to me, right? I mean, you and me is such good friends and all...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're a murdering piece of filth. And if I could, I'd work day and night to see to it that you rot in this cell for the rest of your life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's nice to see ya'll are making up.


KING: We're back, with Robert Urich. What about nausea? We keep hearing about chemotherapy and baldness and nausea. URICH: Well, it's not pleasant. It's something you try to manage the whole time. There's one chemo that lasts eight days, and like you said, you walk around with this, like a Walkman, and you hear this pump sound going -- you know, 24 hours -- so you leave the hospital -- I leave at 10 o'clock in the morning. And then I return at six in the morning and they plug me in again after a wash, when they flush your system and plug it in again.

But basically, what you're doing most of the time, all day long, day and night, is managing nausea and trying not to be sick. So, that's a problem...

KING: Now you mentioned when you came in and sat down that you had a bad day today.

URICH: I didn't have a great day today.

KING: Because?

URICH: The nausea just...

KING: You're nauseous now?

URICH: I mean, there's a taste in the back of my mouth. And I -- you know, you lose your appetite. And I think my taste -- they tell me the taste buds will come back. But the taste buds are just shot. I mean...


KING: I mean, what do you -- what don't you use?

URICH: Well, I used to drink five cups of coffee a day, and that was probably not good for my heart, but -- you know -- from grinding it to going to the emporiums and picking out the perfectly roasted beans and -- oh, yes, one of those kind of guys. And, now -- now the thought of coffee even brewing -- being brewed -- is enough to make me sick. So, I haven't had any coffee, which is really kind of good in a way...

KING: What about life at home? How's your wife and kids? How are they all?

URICH: Heather has been at my side the whole time and it's -- you know, it's a -- you don't just have cancer; the whole family has to deal with it. And Heather is there for me all the time. And there are days when I'm so sick in the morning that she drives me to the hospital.

And what happens is that friends have come out of the woodwork. People that I hadn't seen in years -- old acting friends and they all come to the house -- and football friends. I've heard from Tom Selleck and I've heard from Michael Apta (ph), the director and Suzanne Sommers, and Jay Leno, and Steven Canal (ph), and producers, and Duke Vincent from Aaron Spelling's office, and on and on and on...

KING: But the television series was cancelled -- "Lazarus Man" was cancelled?

URICH: It was cancelled immediately. It makes me very upset -- it seems like it was a little premature -- and, we didn't know how I was going to react to this. But after the first eight days of the chemo, the doc gave me -- my white cell came up, and I still had some hair, and they said, "Great, see you in two and a half weeks." I said, "What?"

They said, "Yes, go and do whatever you want to do." And so I went to the next -- so I called my friends at Turner and said, "Do you think we jumped the gun here a little bit?" And we had this whole creative plan to keep the thing alive and now I go for eight more days and they say, "See ya in two and a half weeks."

And now I just -- this last one lasted 48 hours and they said, "See ya in December." So I think we could have done it. And so it's very -- it's been very upsetting.

KING: They love you at Turner, so what's -- this was a business decision?

URICH: I think we got caught up in this Turner/Life and Time- Warner kind of thing, and I don't know -- the dynamics in the -- in corporate America change -- you know, so quickly. And I don't know if I'll ever know the whole story why, but...

KING: Would you go back if they brought it back?

URICH: Of course. I mean, I got a call from Ted, you know? He calls me in May and he said, "Bob, hey, how you're doing? Love that show, Bob. Love it. You know we lost some money this year, but, you know, we're gonna lose less this year then down the road we make 50 million."

So, it's like, "OK, Mr. Turner, sir. See ya."

And I thought we were there. And it just seemed like we just -- were just a little premature in canceling the show.

KING: What about this "Boatman's" thing? "Boatworks?" For PBS?

URICH: Oh, it's just a -- it's something to bide the time.

KING: You're going to host a series on boating?

URICH: Yes, it's -- you know, it's a very quick -- I mean, it's going to take four days a year. I'll do the intros and outros and it's a, kind of a, magazine show.

KING: How about your dog commercials?

URICH: They have -- we got word today that they're sticking by me, and they're going to run the commercials as we shot last season. I'm going to do some -- you know -- voiceover work for them and when the hair comes back, I mean, I still love dogs, I still own dogs, and -- I mean, I've gotten 25,000 letters -- 24,000 of them mention the dog food commercials! I mean, after all the work I've done -- it's Ralston Purina -- you know -- Purina One.

KING: Last night, Tom Hanks on -- I know you said you were watching. Said "Turner & Hooch" was the hardest movie to do. Because he had to work with a dog.


What is it like to do commercials with dogs? (UNINTELLIGIBLE). You don't need it every time. Come on, Robert...


URICH: Highly professional dogs -- I mean, I don't know how they get them to eat -- my dogs eat it -- I mean, uh -- but...

KING: There must be some funny days.

URICH: There are days when -- they do a lot of that when I'm not around. You know? I do some of the stuff and they come and they eat and they lick my face and that's all well and good...

KING: Do they deliberately hold food back from the dogs, to make them...

URICH: You know, I don't know. I would think that they don't do that. I would hope that they don't do that. What if they did and I knew that, I wouldn't tell you.

KING: What keeps your -- all right, you've got a good prognosis, you've got a high cure rate -- what's the surgery going to be?

URICH: The surgery -- I mean, they removed the tumor -- but they want to go in and just clean out any tissue that they -- that might be suspect. Because the tumor was not removed by an oncologist surgeon. It was just my urologist thinking, well, it's a little cyst -- the diagnosis that I wasn't in any danger. So now we're going to have an oncologist go in and clean it out.

KING: Some people have said after chemotherapy -- I've had people say to me who've had cancer -- if I'd of known what the chemotherapy was like, and the radiation was like, I'd of passed. I'd of rolled the dice. You ever think that?

URICH: Well, I don't, but I see people every day in the hospital who I think, my God, how are they going to survive it? You know, older people, and people who are not -- I mean, I was a healthy guy and worked out and ran and was aerobically fit and the thing I also don't understand is when you see little children -- you know, it's like, how is there a God who allows that to happen?

And then you start looking to the theologians who tell you that, well, you know it's manmade -- I mean, we've created all this waste in the world and the pollutants and so we have to look to ourselves to solve the problem. But to see little children in pain and -- you know with no hair -- and it's terrible. KING: Are there days you think, maybe I shouldn't have taken this chemotherapy? You got a 75 percent shot doing nothing. You ever think, maybe I should of done nothing?

URICH: Well, when they say it's 95-plus -- 95-plus is still 25 percent better, you know -- so -- I -- sometimes I think maybe I should have just gone and finished six more episodes; eight more, nine more -- we were already going to film until November, anyway. And then gone and done it.

But they did tell me that if I hadn't done anything -- Gerald Rosen who is internationally renowned -- my physician -- he said, you know, you'd have two years. You'd be dead in two years.

KING: He didn't want to give us a statement.

URICH: He didn't?

KING: Do you know why?

URICH: I don't know -- maybe he's just thinking of my privacy and -- not go on record.

KING: How did the story break?

URICH: Well, we had an agreement -- we sat down with the people at Turner, and they said, you know, it's important that you be in charge of this announcement and they really thought that there were only two courses: to cancel the show or recast me. And, it seemed a little harsh. I thought there's something in the middle there, you know? There's some, you know, maybe we can make this work. And then, for awhile, it did look , in fact, like we could make it fly. And then, they decided to go ahead and cancel it.

KING: You made the announcement?

URICH: I made the announcement, yes.

KING: Was that a tough thing to do?

URICH: Very difficult. And we came through the Turner Program Services. You know, they expressed their faith in me and they felt they wanted me to go on and finish National Geographic and be involved in that. And, maybe down the line, we'll do some movies for them.

KING: You defeated me in an Ace Award. We were both nominated for specials and yours won.

URICH: Maybe that's what I ought to do. I don't know. Something in television.

KING: And you enjoy doing it, too. Anyway, we're going to take a break, and when we come back, we'll go to your phone calls for Robert Urich. His brother, Tom, very familiar face, working actor, will join us later, as well. Don't go away.


KING: Welcome back. We're revisiting our 1996 interview with actor, Robert Urich. He lost his fight with cancer, this past week, at a very young age -- 55. During our conversation, Urich talked about the treatments he was trying, and his involvement in pushing the cause of cancer research.

URICH: I got plenty of mail from groups that are raising money for children's cancer, breast cancer, Valtano (ph). What was his name -- the basketball coach?

KING: Valvano.

URICH: Valvano, yes. Jimmy V. I heard from that group. And, you know, if it's all possible, yes, I would be happy to come...

KING: Saint George, Utah, hello.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. I was wondering if you ever considered any natural forms of healing, as an additive to your current treatment?

URICH: I've probably received every possible natural cure imaginable -- from compound black X sap, to bovine, to shark cartilage, to special teas and herbs and vitamins. And, I have received tapes and books, and it is just impossible for me to begin to digest all the information that's coming. I have people helping me read all this, but ...

KING: Did you try anything?

URICH: I am currently just taking a vitamin regimen, that was put together for me by the Weider Corporation. And it has helped, it's made me feel better. My white cell count has bounced up. They have never seen anybody react to this chemo the way I have, and come back so quickly. I think some of that has to do with the vitamin course.

KING: But, you don't think of, like, going around the world, looking for miracle cures?


KING: Boca Raton, Florida, for Robert Urich.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi Robert. Jo Knowles (ph). How has this changed your outlook on your life?

URICH: Well, I do know that I have spent a lot of my years trying to make a career go, and trying to raise a family and all those things that we all go through. And, as I look at what has to be considered the second half of my career and my life, I really am looking to God to give me some kind of sign to tell me what he needs me to do. And, it can't just be another TV series, or another television movie. I want to make some kind of impact in the second half of my career, and I just don't have the answer yet. I think it's OK not to know yet, but it's still early, but I'm looking to find what it needs to be.

KING: Are you all a little bitter, a little why me?

URICH: No, not at all. I mean, I can not spend a second of my time -- I mean, placing blame would make me a victim. And, I'm not going to place any blame and I'm not going into any -- woe is me. This is where I am. If it has to be me, if it's going to happen to me, how can I find a way to make this a positive thing? And, that's where I am right now.

KING: Do you think one of the ways is speaking out?

URICH: Speaking out, I think, is one way I can do that.

KING: Has it affected beliefs?

URICH: Well, I have prayed every day of my life, Larry. I think maybe the prayers now are a little more specific. And, I am trying to listen a little more ...

KING: Do you feel let down?

URICH: Do I feel let down? No, because I really think, I mean -- I have been blessed. I mean, I have been a very lucky guy and I still have a family who supports me. With all this mail, my brother, my mother and father, they are all right there with me. My kids, they go to a boarding school and they call all the time. And, we are going back to see them.

KING: How old are they?

URICH: My son is 17, about to be 18. My daughter is 15, and they're both wonderful kids, going to school back east ...

KING: So, they have a pretty good comprehension of this?

URICH: Yes. I know they are troubled by it. I know they worry about their father. My son called me the other night, and said, gee, I just don't want you to hurt, dad. And, my daughter called me the other day, and they are going through this too. And, I hope to be, I am trying to behave in a manner that makes them proud, and ...

KING: You are. Saco, is it Saco, Maine?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. Yes. Mr. Urich, I was diagnosed with synovial sarcoma three years ago, this coming November. And, I was told at the time that I was the 72nd case. I just wonder, did they tell you how many other cases there were?

KING: By the way, let me ask you this first -- are you OK now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I am. I do go for checkups every six months.

KING: Do you have the same regimen as Robert had?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I did not have chemotherapy, but I had radiation therapy.

KING: And, you were only the 72nd case?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. And, as a matter of fact, mine was in the head and neck area. And, they told me that it was even more rare there. I was number 24 in the head and neck area.

KING: Robert, did they tell you?

URICH: Well, they say that there may be 60 or 70 cases a year, out of hundreds of thousands of people. The doctor said I had a better chance to win the lotto, than to get this kind of cancer. So, I'm going to start playing the lotto...

KING: But, this is important, ma'am? Are you still there? You still there, ma'am?


KING: You are OK, though?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I am. I keep going for checkups, and they do check me for my lungs, because they said if it were to spread, it would probably go there, but I -- every six months, clear, x-ray, and I am fine.

But, Mr. Urich, I never thought I would ever know anyone else by name, who actually has this. And, when I first read it in the paper, I was going to try to write to you. I thought, the letter will never get through. You have no idea what a thrill it is for me to actually say this to you. I have been saying it almost every week. I am going to write to him, but he may never get it.

URICH: Well, we are talking now, so don't write. We have so much mail now, you know?


KING: How old are you, ma'am?

URICH: Thank you very much.


KING: And, you are 48?

URICH: I am 49. It happens in the 40's and early 50's.

KING: Thank you for calling, and thanks for sharing that.

URICH: That is good news.

KING: Tom Urich will join us -- Robert's brother -- right after this. Don't go away.





KING: We thought it might be a nice idea to get the reaction of a close family member of Robert Urich. So, we have his brother, Tom, here. An actor in his own right, you've seen him -- you have one of those faces where the people stop you on the street and say, I know you. I've seen you. You were just here playing a newsman at CNN.

TOM URICH, BROTHER OF ROBERT URICH: Yes, I was. Yes. About three or four weeks ago.

KING: You have done lots of them. You are what is known as a character actor.

T. URICH: I am a character actor. Of course, I have only been here in Los Angeles six years.

KING: From?

T. URICH: I have lived in New York City for 29 years.

KING: Working plays?

T. URICH: I did five Broadway musicals and off-Broadway, and soap operas, and lots of commercials.

KING: What brought you down here, films?

T. URICH: Well, Bob did. He said come on out.

KING: Are you close brothers?

T. URICH: Well...

R. URICH: I never liked Tom.


R. URICH: Never liked him...


R. URICH: He's the reason that I became an actor. He was an actor working on Broadway and regional theater. I remember, as a kid, going to – literally -- going to the rehearsals and seeing him in shows -- with Anna Maria Alberghetti, and Lauren Bacall, and the applause. I said, that is what I want to, I want to be like my big brother.

KING: Well, were you surprised at how successful he did? T. URICH: No. I always knew he would be. Because he's -- Robert is probably -- I don't know how to quite -- it's taken a long time. I was always on the East Coast, and he was on the West Coast, so we are just getting to know each other now. This has brought us together.

KING: What were you going to say, Robert is what?

T. URICH: Robert is probably, in my estimation, a man for all seasons. I mean, he is the philosopher of the family. He is the -- he is the spirit of the family.

KING: How much older are you?

T. URICH: I am eleven years older.

KING: Is it shocking to see him like this. Are you accustomed? How are you handling it?

R. URICH: I play bad guys now.

T. URICH: It is interesting, because personally...

KING: You could do -- Surviving Picasso Two!

T. URICH: Probably could. It is interesting watching actually -- the family is probably more bothered, than Robert is. Our mother is 84 and she starts every morning, at 8:00 in the morning, opening the little letters, and tearing off the stamp. She saves the stamps to give to the schools, because they buy computers for the schools. And then she will split them, and she will put them on a pile for him to look at this one, and a pile for this. But, she's, twelve hours a day she's doing that. All those letters have to be answered.

KING: How did it hit you?

T. URICH: I don't think it still has, to tell you the truth. Because he has always been invincible. See, I don't, I guess I don't even recognize this illness. You know, it is just something that is, he is doing it for a character. He is losing his hair -- it's for the part, right.

I don't think he is sick. I don't think of him as being sick or ill.

KING: There is a younger brother?

R. URICH: Five years younger.

T. URICH: One other younger brother -- David. He's back home now, in Ohio. He moved back to our home town to watch over mom.

R. URICH: He is in construction.

T. URICH: Driving truck.

KING: He's in close touch, too?

T. URICH: He was a caterer.

R. URICH: He calls.

T. URICH: He was going to fly out last week, but then, I don't know what happened. But he couldn't make it.

KING: What has this done, vis-a-vis you dealing with brother, mother, other brother?

R. URICH: It is tough to watch my mom go through it. You know, when she's -- but, like Tom said, she is diligent. We were going to answer all these cards and letters. And, Mass cards, and prayers cards, and sometimes I tease her and say -- well, are the Lutheran prayer cards more powerful than the Baptist prayer cards? Or, the Catholic ones -- are those the strongest?

KING: Are you Catholic?

R. URICH: We were raised Catholic, yes. But we've heard from, everything from Zen Buddhist, to -- I mean every denomination.

T. URICH: Well, I knew that Bob would not be able to read all the letters, so I have been going through them. And, I have been putting them into -- there is probably about five different kinds of letters.


T. URICH: Well, there's the cancer patients, who want to just express, you know, their good will, and share their problems with him. There are the curers, you know. There are still the young kids who want autographs. And, then these strange, strange curers -- the odd ones you know.

KING: And then there's just the loving, the good wishes.

T. URICH: But, the bottom line on all that -- they are all caring for him. They are all good wishes.

KING: That has got to move you.

R. URICH: Well you know, I have done plenty of shows where the ratings are certainly not indicative of how good the shows were. And, this is in some way, sort of like a redemption. You know, to get -- I mean, they say if one person writes, that means three or four thought about writing. And, I don't know how you measure that, but there has just been thousands of people who have sent good wishes. I want to just say thank you to everybody for doing that. It means a lot.

T. URICH: A lot of those letters start, I've never written to a celebrity before -- but they were moved.

KING: Take a break, and then we'll take some more calls. Robert Urich, his brother Tom, this is Larry King Live. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

R. URICH: You're missing the point, buddy, they want to show their viewers what's behind the apron.

EMERIL LAGASSE: What, are you crazy? You know what's behind the apron. We went camping together.



KING: We are back with Robert Urich. We certainly thank him for doing this, and his brother, Tom Urich. And, let's get some more calls. Altus, Oklahoma, hello.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, Larry, this is Altus, Oklahoma.

KING: What's your question?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't hear you.

KING: What's your question?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I would like to ask Mr. Urich if positive attitude is one of his main things, and prayer, that is mine. And, I wanted to also tell him that bald is beautiful. I am, too.

KING: You have a positive attitude, would you say?

R. URICH: Well, I like to think so, yes. Not at any point did I think that this was not going to come out all right. And, there are times when I feel bad, physically, but I know that if I can stick with the regimen of vitamins and eating properly. And, I pray too. I tell you, every day. And...

KING: What do you do with late nights -- bad mood? What do you do when you open the paper and you read about someone dying. Or, with somebody famous, or obituary page? What do you do with those moments?

R. URICH: I don't know that I do anything special with them. I, you have to think that there's some sort of, you know, natural cycle, and ...

KING: Like in prayer? You don't dwell on it?

R. URICH: No. No, I don't. I don't think you can.

KING: Is he the best in the family at this? If anyone in the family was going to get this, is he going to handle it the best?

T. URICH: Absolutely. Well, actually the whole family, I think, is pretty strong.

KING: Yeah?

T. URICH: We've always been -- my mom is.

KING: Did your dad live a long time?

T. URICH: He died when he was 69.

R. URICH: This is all blue collar, hard-working people, you know.

T. URICH: We all had to work in the steel mill for a few years before college.

KING: You worked mills?

R. URICH: I worked in the mills, of course.

T. URICH: So did I.

KING: You too?

T. URICH: Sure, three years.

KING: It's an odd name, Urich.

R. URICH: It's Slovak.

KING: Czech?

T. URICH: Well, the correct pronunciation, really is yuritch (ph).

KING: That's Czechoslovakian?

R. URICH: J, instead of...

KING: Get back to Prague, at all?

R. URICH: Never been to Prague.

T. URICH: Neither I.

T. URICH: We're actually Slovak, not Czech. It's a difference, you know. We're from the poor side.

KING: Boston, hello.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How you doing, Larry? Hi Mr. Urich. I was just -- I am a thirty year old woman and I was just diagnosed with synovial sarcoma, about three weeks ago. And, my question, Mr. Urich, is how do you, personally, deal with the fear factor of, dealing with this -- worrying about if this is going to spread to another part of your body. I'm kind of having a tough time trying to deal with it myself.

KING: Have you started your treatment, ma'am?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going through radiation right now. I had the surgical oncologist remove it from Mass General Hospital.

KING: Where was the tumor?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was in my upper, inner right thigh. But it was misdiagnosed by five top doctors at another Boston hospital.

KING: OK. Robert, what tips?

R. URICH: Gerald Rosen, my doctor, also practices in Boston. I know he is internationally-renowned. I think it is really important to believe in the diagnosis. But, more importantly, to believe in the prognosis. And, what they say is, that this kind of cancer is very sensitive to chemotherapy and radiation. So...

KING: You mean, good for it?

R. URICH: It's very good. I mean, this is a highly-curable form of cancer. As far as worrying and fear. I think it is quite normal to be afraid. I had an acting teacher years ago, who had this whole thing about worrying. And he said, if you take a pound of hamburger and you put it on the table, and you go to sleep -- when you wake up in the morning -- you can worry about it all night, but it is still going to be hamburger. So, worrying is a wasted kind of energy, you know? And, it is OK to be afraid -- let that in. That is part of the experience.

But, I think that this idea of prayer and positive thinking, and believing in the prognosis that you are going to get better. And the doctors say that is what is going to happen. They have treatments that can take care of this kind of cancer. So, I am sure you're going to be OK too.

KING: Getting another call for Robert Urich and his brother Tom. Minneapolis, hello.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello. Mr. Urich, I had cancer 14 years ago. I want to tell you your taste buds will come back. Don't worry, you're doing great.

R. URICH: Good, good. Because, right now, everything tastes like cleanser. It is awful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It will go away. Just trust me. My question for you is -- what have you learned through this, about your strength? And, what have you learned about your weakness?

KING: Only have a minute.

R. URICH: What have I learned about my strength? I am not sure yet. I am not sure I have learned the lesson yet. Every day I ask God to tell me what He really wants me to learn from this...

KING: Maybe that's better asked next year.

R. URICH: Yes. Ask me...

KING: What about weakness? Mortality?

R. URICH: I am not going to succumb to this, I know that. So, I never thought about weakness.

T. URICH: He is not weak. Never been weak.

KING: You say, he has never been weak...

T. URICH: He is the most positive person I have ever met. I am very in awe of my brother -- because he's really -- well, he is somebody to look up to. And this from an older brother. It should be the other way around, but...

KING: You bet. Amen. Hang tough, Lazarus.


KING: Our condolences go out to Robert Urich's family. He was a talented actor, brave guy, great guy. Thanks for joining us. Good night.