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King on walkoff: 'I have seen it all now'

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  • Plastic surgeon's walkoff leaves Larry King scratching his head
  • "As crazy a night as you can imagine," King says
  • Letter from Donda West's family asked surgeon not to appear
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By Victor Hollingsworth
CNN
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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- It was a moment tailor-made for live television: The plastic surgeon who operated on Kanye West's mother agrees to talk to Larry King but then walks off the set almost as soon as the interview starts.

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Dr. Jan Adams pulls out his earpiece as he begins to walk off the set of "Larry King Live."

The bizarre turn of events had even CNN's King scratching his head. In his 50-plus years in broadcasting, King has never had a guest agree to appear but then disappear while still on the air.

"It was as crazy a night as you can imagine," King said Wednesday from New York. "I have seen it all now."

The interview-that-never-was almost didn't even begin. As showtime arrived Tuesday night, Dr. Jan Adams -- who arrived late at the CNN studio due to airline delays -- told King's producers that he had received a letter from West's family. Adams said the family was asking him not to go on the air.

So, after the show had begun, Adams came on to the set -- to say he would not be doing the show.

"I'm going to respect their wishes," Adams told King. "And I'm going to apologize to you, because I think I'm taking up your airtime, but I will not be on the show."

And then Adams pulled out his earpiece, disconnected his microphone and stood up.

King recalled the moment he realized his guest was walking off.

"I was thinking, 'This isn't happening ... I see it, but I don't believe it,' " King said.

"I have had fires in the studio. I have had people fight. I have had people hit each other on the set ... punch each other," he added. But this was a first. Video Watch King discuss the strange scene »

The interview with King was supposed to be the plastic surgeon's first on-air interview since the death of Donda West, the 58-year-old mother of the hip-hop star.

West died November 10 after she was found unresponsive and in respiratory distress at her home, the Los Angeles County coroner's office said. Her funeral was held Tuesday in Spencer, Oklahoma.

CNN entertainment correspondent Lola Ogunnaike was backstage at the King show. She and others were expecting to appear briefly later in the program to discuss the Donda West case.

And then Adams walked off the set.

"We were all stunned," Ogunnaike said Wednesday. "We had no idea that was going to happen." Video Watch Ogunnaike describe the backstage drama »

Ogunnaike said she was particularly surprised because Adams has spoken about the case in the past.

She said the letter from West's family apparently gave the plastic surgeon pause. "I think this letter really spooked him," Ogunnaike said. Video Watch the surgeon walk off the set »

Wendy Walker, senior executive producer of "Larry King Live," said the turn of events was "almost like being in a fire drill."

Show staffers were already on edge as travel delays threatened to scrub Adams' appearance, Walker said. But then, just minutes before airtime, word came that the surgeon was in the building.

"There was a huge sigh of relief," Walker said. "And then all of a sudden I hear he's not doing the show."

Walker said she asked Adams if he could appear on the show and explain why he would be unable to discuss the case. He agreed.

"We didn't know how long he was going to stay," Walker said. "But we certainly didn't think he would take his earpiece off and walk out."

King said Adams was courteous despite his abrupt about-face on the air.

"He hung around for the whole show," King said. "And at the end of the show, he hugged me."

Adams did tell King that he would "make it up" to him.

Walker said Adams "really wanted to do the show. He really wanted to answer the questions. And we are hoping that he will come back at some point."

CNN will rebroadcast the program Saturday at 9 p.m. ET.

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Summing up Tuesday evening's show and its surprising twists, King said: "All you can do is all you can do. The only way you can act is the only way you can act."

"Technically, nothing happened last night" to shed light on the Donda West case, King said. "But it wasn't dull." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Michael Squadron contributed to this report.

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