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Larry King Live

Don Imus Discusses Getting Back in the Saddle

Aired July 12, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, the I-man back in the saddle after a fall from a horse that nearly killed him. Don Imus for the hour, and we'll take your calls, next on LARRY KING LIVE.

It's great to have him with us, and I mean that literally, Don Imus, from the Imus Ranch in Ribera, New Mexico, where the accident occurred. This is the ranch that opened this year. It takes care of kids who have cancer or are related to kids who died of SIDS. There we see the I-man. What -- is that oxygen you're getting?


KING: What's the reason for that?

IMUS: Well, I had a lung operation about five years ago. Then they fused my right lung to my chest, to the wall of my chest, and then when I got bucked off, I had punctured my left lung, and that went down, and they got it back up, but we're at about almost 7,000 feet here, so, it makes it easier to breath. Plus I've got -- I kind of like it now. It feels good in my nose, so.

KING: Yes, it's a nice look, too, Don. It's fist the I-man.

IMUS: Thank you. Thank you very much.

KING: Before we talk about the ranch and everything thing else, take us through this. What -- the simplest way to put it, is what the hell happened?

IMUS: Well, it was Father's Day, June 18, and I had a couple horses out. One of them was named Destiny that I've ridden for a couple of years. And you know, he's a spirited quarter horse, but it's a horse that I've had my son on 50 times, who is Wyatt, who is 2 years old. So I saddled him up, and I guess I cinched him a little too tight, because I got on him, and it was right outside of the horse barn, and it was kind of a -- not a concrete area, but a very hard surface, not -- it wasn't packed dirt, like in a round tent or in the inside arena or something, and for some reason, he started bucking, and he bucked like you've seen horses buck in a rodeo, and he bucked me off, and...

KING: Almost immediately?

IMUS: He bucked immediately. As soon as I got on him, he started to buck, and...

KING: How long did you stay on?

IMUS: Not the required eight seconds where I would win a ribbon in a rodeo. I was on about six seconds, and I was up off, and when I got bucked off, I knew immediately that I had -- that my lung had collapsed, because I couldn't -- I literally couldn't breath at all. But I didn't realize that I had broken all of my ribs or that I had broken my collarbone and my shoulder, and just generally gotten beaten up, but they moved me inside because it was about 90 degrees. And I was -- they were afraid to move me, and it was before any of the kids were here, any of the doctors were here. So by time we could get ambulance out here, I was on the barn floor there for a couple of hours. And when the ambulance people came -- I have these shirts made by a friend of mine in New York, Bob Davis, and other than my big concern was they had to cut my shirt off, so I was whining complaining about that, but.

KING: Did you ever lose consciousness?

IMUS: No, I didn't.

KING: Never lost consciousness.

IMUS: No. Not any more than normal, but I -- they took me to Las Vegas, Mexico, which is about 20 miles from here, and they put a hose in my chest, I guess to try to get lung back up, and I was in so much pain, and they gave me so much morphine and whatever else they gave me, and then they got a helicopter to fly me to Albuquerque, and I figured I guess I technically died in the helicopter, and they revived me, and then that Sunday night, in Albuquerque, I apparently died again, and they must have, much to the dismay of some people, they brought me back again.

So that's essentially what happened. Just I got bucked off on pretty a hard surface is why I got hurt so bad.

KING: Against a horse -- so do you think it was the tightening of the saddle? Are you mad at the horse?

IMUS: Well, no, but you know, there is a thing about -- you develop a relationship with horses, you know, and it -- you know, a real good horse wouldn't have done that. It's not a bad horse, but it's unacceptable behavior on part of a horse, and I can see him bowing up or -- I've had them do that on me, but it's odd why he would buck like that. It's strange for horse to do that, particularly a pretty well-trained horse.

KING: Is he still there?

IMUS: No, we had him for dinner -- yes, he is still there.

KING: All right.

IMUS: He's still here. KING: When you're lying on the ground now and in your all this pain, the horse goes skirting off, one would imagine. Are you thinking -- the logical thing to ask -- are you thinking Christopher Reeve?

IMUS: Well you know, no, I didn't think that at all. My wife actually saved my life, as you -- on a couple occasions, and there just happened to be -- I actually would have died here, but there happened to be a bottle oxygen here that we had had from some -- from last year, and she got that, and so that lasted for the couple of hours that I was here.

But no, I didn't have any of those kinds of thoughts. Believe me, I thought about that later, though, you know.

KING: Were a lot of people around when this happened, I-man, when you fell?

IMUS: No, just Chicken Jack, was just one of the guys works here. He was the only one. In fact, he had -- because my because my arm was sore, he had cinched the cinch up for me. I said, "I don't know if that's tight enough," and it was tight enough, and I said, "Well, cinch it up another notch." So he cinched it up another notch, and then I got him, and I was talking to Terry Bradshaw, you know, the former Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback, who has a ranch down in Texas -- and by the way, he and Fox Sports just gave us five great horses for the ranch out here.

Anyway, I was talking to Terry, and Terry said, "Well, did you warm the horse up??" I said well I was I was taking him down to round pen to run him around get loosened up a little, and I said I decided to ride him down there. And he said well, "Isn't the point to go down and warm him up before you get on him?" And I said, "Yes, I guess it is."

There were just a couple people here. My brother was here, and then they immediately got my wife, and she was with me for every second for nine days. She never left the hospital. She never left the hospital room. There was a shower there. She took showers there, and she really saw me through this.

KING: Did Wyatt know everything that happened?

IMUS: No. He was here at the ranch with his uncle for the nine or 10 days I was in the hospital. He understands now. He likes to put his foot on daddy's oxygen hose, and say, "Daddy, breath, daddy, can't breath." I said, "Yes, honey, get off the hose." You know, he's two years old.

KING: Truthfully, when you were lying there, did you -- we know what happened afterwards in the helicopter -- did you think you might buy the bullet?

IMUS: Yes, I did. In fact, I said I thought I was going to die. I just -- I didn't see how I could last. It was more pain than I -- you know, I have a low pain threshold. If I split my finger I whine about it. But I didn't think I was going to make it, no.

KING: We'll be right back with more of I-man. It's great to have him with us. We'll be taking your calls as well. He's back on the air, too.

Don't go away.


KING: We're back with Imus.

All right, Don, what did save you? Twice near death, what did it?

IMUS: Well, the first time, they revived me in a helicopter, and I don't remember any of that flight, and from Las Vegas, New Mexico to Albuquerque must be about 150 miles, something like that, and my wife screaming her head off in the hospital, it was really I mean...

KING: Screaming like what?

IMUS: Well, screaming at the doctors. I had stopped breathing, and they had given me so much so many drugs stuff, and I was in the room by -- I guess a nurse or two in there, but I had stopped breathing, and she was -- she had tried to tell the doctors that I stopped breathing, and they said, no he's just relaxed, and she said no, no, I'm telling you, he stopped breathing. He's turning blue. His gums are blue. His tongue's blue. He's out of here if you don't, you know. So when, I mean, when I credit her with saving my life, I mean, I know it sounds lame, but I mean, man that's what happened. So if she had not raised hell, well, I wouldn't be here, so.

KING: What was...

IMUS: Somebody...

KING: Did you have any strange feelings? Did you, like, you know, any of the -- I don't mean the out-of-body experiences, but what does someone go through when they face this kind of -- what did you go through facing this?

IMUS: Well, that Sunday night, the first night that I was in the hospital after they flew me from Las Vegas, New Mexico, I -- all I remember from that night is just seeing nothing but just -- you know, I don't know whether it's because I have heard what people -- what happens to people, but all I remember is seeing this enormously bright light, and then I -- and the sensation of drowning and not being able to -- and screaming and clawing at the ceiling, which is what my wife said I was doing, and then I kept seeing image of, I guess -- I thought it was my brother, who looks a lot like Jesus, Larry. But you know, other than that, I mean, but it was a sensation of everything being white, and of not being able to -- of drowning, not being able to breath.

KING: Some people have said when they were in extreme pain, they prayed to die. Did you ever feel that way? IMUS: No. You know, I was talking to Pat O'Brien, you know, Pat from "Access Hollywood," and he said -- I was talking about Deirdre (ph), you know, and he said, well you know, a lot of women would have been calling the estate planners and the lawyers, and I said, well, she had a cell phone, with her so, but no. But, no, I didn't...

KING: Did you ever say this pain is too intense?

IMUS: No. Because I knew about pain medication out there, Larry, and I needed to get some of it.


IMUS: No. No. I...

KING: You've had experience with that.


IMUS: Yes. I mean, I knew we could go a step up from Percodan and -- I mean, I did when the horse (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I mean, when I was lying on floor there -- I mean, I don't want to be silly about it, but I did not think I could stand it. But I mean, you know, I also thought about it, and I don't mean to be corny, but I did think about -- you know, I missed the first day on the ranch, which is something that we'd all looked forward to for two years, you know, the first kids arriving on June 26, and I wanted to be here, and -- but I was lying in a hospital, and you know, and thinking, you know, there is a lot of kids who can't come to ranch, because you know, for whatever reason, you know.

KING: Too sick.

IMUS: And I didn't have cancer, you know, and I knew that at that point, I figured pretty much I was going to survive at that point, and so there were a lot worse things could have happened to me. So there was a moment there I started to feel sorry for myself because I couldn't be here with these knot-headed kids, but I was up a couple days later, and they had a little homecoming for me, so it worked out fine.

KING: Sometimes when you face a catastrophe, you learn how many people care about you. Were you deluged at the hospital?

IMUS: Yes, I was, but I really think it's people who were just afraid I won't promote their book or...


IMUS: I literally heard from everybody. I mean, I even got -- now you know, I mean just between you and me, you know that the Clintons are not huge fans of mine, they're just not, I mean, and they probably have a right not to be. But I actually got a get-well -- the last time I saw Hillary Clinton, she wanted the Secret Service to shoot me just to get me to shut up. I actually got a get-well note from Hillary Clinton that we suspect Paul Begala typed for her, and... KING: And you knocked her today. You said that note was pathetic and you were angry that she sent it. Well, can't a woman, can't anyone, dislike you for your views, dislike you for what you've said about her, but still care about your health?

IMUS: No, it's unacceptable.


IMUS: Not in this case. I mean, too many ugly things have been said on both sides, Larry, that there is no going back, so. I was going to set the note on fire in the studio here, but Fred wouldn't let me. Because of all the oxygen in here, they claimed the studio would explode. I actually got a handwritten note from Al Gore on Gore 2000 -- on a Gore 2000 -- on Gore 2000 note card, which equally deserves to be burned, but at least it was handwritten, we think, but then we're going to have that analyzed, because that again could be Begala's handwriting, so.

KING: We'll be right back with the I-man. There is always a sense of humor, folks. Don Imus from the Imus Ranch in Ribera, New Mexico, and it is open now and it's helping a lot of kids. We'll talk about that later. We'll take your calls as well.

Don't go away.


KING: He's one of the powerful voices in American media, with 10 million listeners on 90 radio stations. His radio station in New York is he the highest grossing -- earning radio station in sales in America, by a wide margin. That's the FAN, WFAN, and he's with us tonight for the hour, and we'll be taking your calls.

Do you think...

IMUS: Actually, Larry, we're in "Reader's Digest" in Mexico, because the -- you know, we built this whole Western town here at the ranch, and I said that I would name the town itself after any company that put up a million dollars. So I got a call from Tom Rider, who's the chairman of "Reader's Digest" over there, and he said, if you name the town after "Reader's Digest," we'll contribute a million dollars to the ranch. So "Reader's Digest" did that a couple days ago. So we now call it...

KING: So it's not Ribera?

IMUS: No, it's "Reader's Digest," New Mexico, at the Imus Ranch, so. We don't have a post office, but we're working on that.

KING: Do you have your own zip code? Do you have a zip code?

IMUS: Not yet, no, but we're working on that, so.

KING: All right, back to fear. Will you get on a horse again?

IMUS: Oh, absolutely. I'll get back on that horse again, so.

KING: You would?

IMUS: I mean, I think -- oh, absolutely. My wife bought me a horse from Martin Moslin (ph), who's one of the -- he's like John Lanze (ph), or Marty Roberts (ph), one of the great horse trainers, like the horse whispers, a horse whisper kind of guy, a little different, but trains horses in Wagon Mound, New Mexico, and she bought a horse called Rock'N'Down (ph) from him, which is great horse, and so it's a better trained horse than this horse Destiny, which I also have.

But yes, I would ride him again, and -- but I can't get on a horse for another month or so.

KING: Now...

IMUS: I don't have any use in my left arm or shoulder, so.

KING: What do you mean by no use? It's paralyzed?

IMUS: Well, no. I mean, I can move it, but my collarbone is broken and my shoulder is dislocated, so like, I just have to be very careful how I move it. So for example, I can't pick up a glass with it, or you know, I couldn't pull myself up on a saddle or...

KING: Do you have a cast anywhere?

IMUS: No. I didn't actually -- I broke all of these ribs. I broke my collarbone, and I dislocated my shoulder and my lung went down, but nothing put they could a cast on. Interesting -- well, not interesting, but a weird thing about a broken collarbone is there isn't anything they can do. They can put a -- Dr. Michael Bronson is my doctor out of New York. And they can put a brace it on and try to keep you to keep shoulders back, but other than that, there's not much they can do, so.

KING: So it just heals?

IMUS: Yes, then you have a little lump, you know, so there goes the Senior Mr. Universe thing, so.

KING: By the way, when they were giving you all those drugs, did you have any fear of a return to addiction?

IMUS: No, because -- I mean, I still am on drugs, but painkillers. But you know, the kind of painkillers they gave me are the kind that cut pain, as opposed to try to make you feel good, and since -- I mean, when I had lung operation -- I've been sober for almost 14 years and off of drugs for 16 or 17 years, and so when I had my lung operation six, seven years ago, I was on a Vicodan (ph) for a while. So it's not a big deal if you just take it for pain. If you take its for some other reason, then it's a problem. So I don't have any fear of that. I mean, I'm not going to be foolish about it either.

KING: Do you feel like lucky, Don? Do you feel lucky?

IMUS: Well, I mean, I feel blessed. You know, there is no other way to describe it. I mean, I'm a great believer in fate, too, and I guess I just wasn't supposed to die, but...

KING: Got a pretty good wife, too.

IMUS: God, I mean, just an unbelievable person, you know. But I mean, I knew you met her. I knew that. And I just -- somebody said, well, it must be quite a commute from the ranch to the hospital -- she said -- and I said, I said no, no, no, I can't get her out of the room, so she takes great care of me, and she's the reason I'm here, you know, so.

KING: You are lucky and blessed, and luck sometimes is the residue of being a good person. Which by the way, despite all you hear about him, Don is a good guy.

We'll be back with more. We'll include your phone calls as well.

Don't like to destroy the image, I-man.

Don't go away.


KING: Before we talk about the kids, and the first sessions of the camp and go to your phone calls, Imus is always the subject of criticism, praise or otherwise. And here is the two sides of a story. "George" magazine, Don, says you're the "Thomas pain in the ass, a cranky provacateur who savages hypocrites of all type with wicked wit. He pays a price for being the embodiment of the first amendment. The latest edition of "The Village Voice" says you're a "celebrity bigot," lumping you with Dr. Laura and the rapper Eminem. According to "The Voice," a celebrity bigot is "a personality whose fame rests on expressing mass biases."

How do react to those conflicting thoughts? .

IMUS: I don't know. You know, I mean, I'm aware of all of the various criticism, and we're trying just to be an amusing radio and television program, and I mean, that's really all we have in mind. And I -- some of the criticism is warranted, some of it isn't, and -- but you know, compare me to Dr. Laura or Eminem, who I happen to think is kind of amusing, and is a white rapper out of Detroit, for those not on edge of seat waiting for -- you know, but I mean.

KING: Think it's a candy bar.

IMUS: Yes, I mean I don't know, I mean...

KING: But you let it roll off of you. I mean, it doesn't bother you, is what I'm asking?

IMUS: No, it doesn't. No. So. There's not much I can do about the criticism. It's not valid, so I don't worry about it. KING: Why can't people see it for what you -- it seems obvious to me if I'm offered to opinion, all you're doing is just poking fun at things. Why do people see it larger than that? That's what you're doing, right?

IMUS: Yes, I mean, I think -- I mean, everybody thinks it's funny until it's about them, you know, and then it's no longer funny, and I think sometimes things get said on a live radio program that maybe shouldn't be said, or you know, that are over the line, and I mean, that's happened on rare occasions. I can't think of an example now, but 99.9 percent of the time, it's really a genuine effort to be amusing about current events, and that really is all it is. I mean we put, we put some of the same people you put on. I mean, you have fairly serious conversation with him. We take John McCain and try to have fun with him, for example. We've had Al D'Amato on, and Al D'Amato on our program said a couple things that were out of line, but I mean, the guy was trying to be funny. They might have been inappropriate. I mean, I have said things that are probably inappropriate, but I mean, we can't get hysterical about it. I mean, you know, there is nobody is a racist or a homophobic for God's sake, and I mean, it's absurd to think that.

So I don't -- I mean, I would point people to "George" magazine. I think that's a pretty fair analysis of what we're trying to do on this program, and that's really essentially what it is.

KING: Did you mean it when you said that -- you praised Howard Stern, who wished you would have died, because he was -- at least he was being consistent?

IMUS: Yes. I mean, the guy is not some phony. He's not writing -- I mean, I'm not getting a get-well card from Howard Stern. I mean, we don't like each other and we should stay that way. Oh yes, I have great respect for him. He wants me dead, he should say that. He did say that, and I have great admiration for that. Plus, I thought kind of amusing. I mean, you know, I thought it was funny. I mean, some friends of mine said, oh God, that's awful. I said no, it's not awful, it's funny. I mean, you get over it, so.

KING: Did you think, by the way, of going back to New York? The question might be, why are you still at ranch? Why not go to one of the New York hospitals or Mount -- the big hospitals in New York City and be in a famous place where you are well attended to, rather than out on in the remote area of "Reader's Digest," New Mexico?

IMUS: Well, I mean, what are you going to do with these kids? I mean, we weren't going to postpone the opening of the ranch for any reason. If I'd had died, we weren't going to postpone the opening of the ranch, and I mean, the ranch really is my wife, and my brother, and me, and Donny Imus and a number of other people, so it's not -- it isn't just me, but I mean, I wanted to be here, and we weren't going to -- I want to be here now. We have the summer to do and we have kids right outside window here. I mean, we -- so I don't need to be in hospital in New York. I'm fine, so.

KING: So in other words... IMUS: Dr. Michael Bronson.

KING: ... you never gave it a thought?


KING: We will take a break.

IMUS: No, I mean, I got off..,

KING: Go ahead, finish, I'm sorry.

IMUS: No, I got out of this veterinary joint I was in Albuquerque and got back out here at the ranch, and they come out and take X-rays, I send them to Michael Bronson, he looks at them and says, you're fine, shut up, you know.


KING: If it was veterinarian, we can look for Don to be bucking pretty soon.

Anyway, we're going to take a break, come back, get into some other areas and take your phone calls and ask about the kids at the ranch. That's the way this all started.

Don't go away.


KING: We're back with the I-man. He's become a cultural icon. He's with us from "Reader's Digest" at the Imus ranch, New Mexico. I got it all right.

Now, how many kids at one time?

IMUS: We take 10 kids at a time. We give them -- it's a working cattle ranch, so there's great confusion on the part of a lot of people. They think it's a camp, but it's not a camp. It's a genuine working cattle ranch. We run Texas longhorns here. We have Navajo chiro (ph) sheep, and buffalo and a number of other animals.

And when each child comes here, we assign each child their own horse, and they are responsible for that horse for the entire time they're here. They feed it, they groom it, they learn how to ride it, they take care of it, they learn how to lead it. We teach them how to ride it.

For example, the footage that's on CNN now is -- that's Brandon Harris. He's 14 years old. The kid has never been on a horse in his life. This is three days, four days into the ranch, and the kid is in the indoor arena. He weighs 80 pounds, and he's galloping a 1,200 pound quarter horse around the pen.

And this is not a kid's horse. This is a horse that Fred's son and my nephew, Donny Imus -- it's his horse. We put this kid on that horse, and in four days, he's galloping around an arena. So, that's really what the ranch is about.

KING: Boy...

IMUS: People like Brandon and like Henif (ph), his little buddy, and Vanessa Byez (ph), who's a young woman, a kid that's 15 years old. They've never even seen a horse.

And so we teach them -- the whole goal of the ranch, we make them work. They have -- they get up at 6:30 in the morning. The first thing they do, they have to feed all of the animals and then they get to come have breakfast. And then half of them do chores in the morning and the other half take care of the horses, and we switch in the afternoon. And it's a great experience.

The first group that was here -- now we're not -- the main ranch- house is not finished yet, so we're have of -- we're kind of doing a makeshift thing this summer. But we had kids, two boys, one 15 years old and one 16, and they sat out on the front porch the night before they had to leave. They sat out on the front porch of this dance hall and sobbed.

Now, I don't mean they were sad or that they had little tears: sobbed that they had to leave this ranch. And one of them tried to -- tried to get us to call his parents to see if Deirdre and I would adopt him.


So, that's -- that's the kind of -- so it has that sort of effect, I think. We can't take a lot of kids because you can't have 125 horses, 125 kids. But for what we originally had in mind when we -- when we thought -- when we founded this ranch a couple of years ago, and the idea was to try to give these kids a sense of self-worth and self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment. And we had a few kids last year, and now we're doing regular groups every week this year.

And it's had a remarkable impact, and I couldn't be prouder of a little kid like you saw, like Brandon Harris, an 80 -- 80-pounds, 14 years old, never been on a horse in his life, and is galloping that horse. I mean, they're not bouncing up and down in the saddle like some -- at some dude ranch. I mean, I'm very proud of the kid.

KING: And you ought to be. Now the second group is in now?

IMUS: The second group is, and then we're taking a bunch of SIDS siblings, and they'll be here on -- I don't have my calendar. But we have about a day, a day-and-a-half break between groups, and then they'll be some SIDS kids here I believe on the 17th of July, something like that.

KING: Kids whose brothers or sisters died of crib death.

IMUS: Yes.

KING: Yes. Let me get a call. Charleston, West Virginia for the I-man, hello. CALLER: Yes, sir. I'm wondering if this incident has caused the I-man to consider retirement. He's had plenty of success in his field and he has a wonderful family, and I know he wants to see that beautiful young boy grow up.

KING: Don.

IMUS: Well, I didn't -- I didn't get hurt talking on the radio. I got hurt riding a horse. So -- no. I like talking on the radio and I like -- I like my association with MSNBC. And I'm -- I'm having a good time, so I haven't thought a lot about that.

I'm -- I'm going to stop riding horses that buck. But...

KING: Are you surprised personally at all it's happened to you, to and about you, this success over the last four, five years? Are you surprised?

IMUS: Well, yes. Yes, of course. But I mean, it's just -- they -- we -- they kid me around the office that -- that, I don't know, I just stepped in a bucket of you-know-what and come out smelling like a rose. So I don't know. I -- it's nothing I planned, you know. Just trying to be funny, have a good laugh.

KING: Back to the kids -- how are the kids picked?

IMUS: The kids on the East Coast are picked by the Tomorrows Children's Fund, which is affiliated with the Hackensack University Medical Center and the hospital picks the children. And the kids we take from New Mexico, it's the same process. The hospital here picks them. And then they're accompanied here by child-life specialists, and the child-life specialists are responsible for their discipline, for dealing with them, getting homesick, for making sure that they drink enough water and put on suntan lotion. We're responsible for everything else.

There's always -- there's a doctor and a nurse here with each group of children, plus we have two EMT people, emergency people, in case something happens to one of these kids, God forbid, that happened to me.

So -- so to answer your question, that's the way they're picked.

KING: Boy, the insurance rates must be enormous.

IMUS: Well, it's not -- it's not out-of-line. I mean, it's -- it's acceptable rates and so on. And then part of it is covered by the hospitals, and of course, we have all of the insurance that we -- that's appropriate. So it's not as awful as you would think.

KING: Is it hard...

IMUS: It's a pretty...

KING: Is it hard personally, Don, to be around a kid, kids with cancer? Emotionally? IMUS: Well, you know, we never -- I don't think about it. We never talk about it with them. I mean, if they -- we don't -- they're not sick children as far as we're concerned and we don't treat them like that. We treat them like regular kids.

For example, some of the child-life specialists ask them if they're tired. I never ask them if they're tired. Deirdre doesn't. Fred doesn't. Donny doesn't. I mean, if they're -- so I think in one of the rare instances in the process of their sickness you can understand how their parents would -- would be very protective of them and how the doctors would be very protective of them, and I understand that. Our job is to try to, I mean as I see it, is to treat them -- is try to make them feel like regular kids.

And I noticed, for example, with this current group, I have noticed a remarkable transformation in two or three of these kids from the day they got here, and this is just a fourth or fifth day, I mean, almost like different children.

I mean, you hear some real horror stories to how these kids were treated in addition, to being sick, you know, so -- so our job is just to swear at them a little bit and make them work. And that -- that -- they love it and it's great fun. And so far it's worked great, so, you know.

KING: That's a great idea. We'll be back with more of the I- man, more of your phone calls on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

Tomorrow night, a tribute to Walter Matthau with guests like Jack Lemmon and Carol Burnett and Dyan Cannon, and Charlie Matthau, Walter's son. Don't go away.


KING: It doesn't get mentioned enough, by the way, but the staff that works around Don Imus that's on that crew every morning is one of the best I've ever heard in radio, if not the best, as a group. You're very fortunate to have them, and so many of them have been with you for so long.

We're getting tons of calls, Don, from people who have children that are ill or know of children that are ill or relatives that are ill asking who they contact. What do you tell people to do if they have someone, a child with cancer who would like go to this camp?

IMUS: Well, for kids who want to come to the ranch, I mean...

KING: I keep saying camp; it's ranch. OK. I'm sorry.

IMUS: That's all right. No, no, that's -- that's fine.

We're dealing primarily now with just the kids from the Tomorrows Children's Fund and kids from New Mexico, and currently there are -- there are 800 kids under treatment just at the Tomorrows Children's Fund at the Hackensack University Medical Center. And there are kids unfortunately all over New Mexico who have cancer. And we're -- at this point we're just not equipped to take, because of what it is, because the kids actually become part of the Imus family, is essentially what happens here -- we're not able to take as many kids as we could.

And I -- I've had people who wanted to create the same sort of thing that we've done here. But it's a huge, life-changing endeavor to build -- to actually build from the ground up a working cattle ranch, because when the kids are gone, the ranch still has to run, and the animals are here all year, and we've got 50 Texas longhorns, and that many sheep and buffalo, and 31 horses. And I mean, the place so -- it's nearly 4,000 acres here and it's 17 buildings on the property that we built.

So -- so it's unlike a camp, which, you know, my friend Hamilton Jordan -- and you know Hamilton -- runs -- he and Dorothy -- he and Dorothy run the Sunshine Camp down outside of Atlanta. And that is a genuine camp, and they run that during the summer. Well, they can shut it down during the winter and close the buildings, and then come back and open it up in the summertime. And we unfortunately can't do that.

So one of the things I wondered, you know, when we all came up with this idea was whether -- how practical it was, because it did require a full-time attention to actually running a ranch when you can only have children here at the most four or five months out of the year.

So to answer questions about people coming to the ranch from around the country -- unfortunately, we're not able to do that at this point.

One of the things that we'd like to do and one of the things that we might do if we can get that Viacom (UNINTELLIGIBLE) up to 100 and then I decided to just hang out here at the ranch -- of course, we do (ph) have a studio, I guess I could (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- is we might take -- try to take kids from around the country.

But you know, there's -- there's children who come here. They have to be able to work, and they have -- it's not that they're not sick. They either are or under treatment or in remission, and they have to be able to ride a horse. We can't take everybody.

But I made the decision and we made the decision that it would be a lot better to help somebody than nobody. And so the ranch...

KING: You mentioned family, you mentioned family. Do you think this could work on a large scale? Do you think people pouring millions of dollars in could open up a huge ranch and bring hundreds of kids? Could that work?

IMUS: No, no. No, because you just think about 10 kids and 10 horses, and put them in a horse barn. I mean, that's an enormous number of horses and kids. And there is -- we've stretched it to the -- excuse me. We've stretched it to the max here. I mean, it's just too many animals involved, too many children involved. So the ranch, you know, we spent $15 million so far just building this ranch to the point that it is now. So it wouldn't make any difference how much money you spent. If you just think about it practically for a few moments, you've got to have one kid, one horse, you've got to have one wrangler taking care of that kid and that horse. So anymore than 10 kids and 10 horses would be an absolute nightmare.

KING: But why...

IMUS: It would be like having 100 -- be like having 100 horses in the Kentucky Derby. I mean, that's the reason they have 15 or 16, because it's manageable.

KING: Why does it -- why does it work for the kids, do you think? Is it therapeutic?

IMUS: Well, I think -- first of all, there's been -- there have been a number of studies done about the relationship that develops between people and animals. And there are these programs now where they take dogs, cats, stuff like that into old people's homes, and the relationship that develops between older people and animals is remarkable. And the relationship that develops that we're finding and others have already found, the relationship that develops between a child and a horse going back to -- you remember "Black Beauty." I mean -- or before that.

But it's a relationship that develops between an animal and a child that's almost -- that's almost impossible to define.

But these kids -- I mean, little Vanessa Byez who had never been -- very pretty little girl and never been around a horse in her life, and she absolutely -- we were going to change horses. Deirdre suggested we put her on a different horse the other day, and she said no. She said, "I love this horse."

And so, that's what happens. They -- so, that's why it works and it works because we treat them like regular kids. We don't treat them -- we don't baby them. They can get babied at home. They tell me they don't feel like doing chores, I don't care whether they feel like doing it or not, they're going to do it.

And the first couple of days some of them say, you know, they say they don't feel like doing it, they soon get over that.

So I think -- I think we give them a sense of accomplishment. They restore their self-esteem. They've been told, ever since they've been sick, they've been told by their friends, they've been told by other people that they can't do anything, that they're sick, that there's something wrong with them. Well, you know what we found: We found there's nothing wrong with them.

And so -- and so, that's what we try to -- that's our mission here, is to point out to them that there is nothing wrong with them.

KING: "Mission Impossible": Mission accomplished it looks like. We'll be back with more of I-man. We'll get into some current issues in our remaining moments. And we're glad to see that he's back at the wheel, so to speak. I was going to say back at the reins, but that'll take a while. Don't go away.


KING: Don, what do you make of the "Survivor" idea, that CBS show that's doing so well?

IMUS: You know, I may be one person in America who hasn't seen it, because I don't have any television out here. So I know -- I know we do it -- we do television from out here, but -- but I don't have any opportunity to watch it.

So -- that's the deal where they put them on the island and watch them eating rats...

KING: Yes, and they vote -- and they vote one off every week, and then "Big Brother," they put them in a house and they vote one out every week or two. What do you make of reality television as a concept?

IMUS: Well, I guess it's -- I mean, I guess it's a good idea.

They're doing better than the "Millionaire" deal is doing?

KING: Well, "Survivor" is the No. 1 show in America.

IMUS: It is?

KING: Yes.

IMUS: Where the hell have I -- where have I been?


I don't know anything about this. I get "TIME" magazine -- I'm the one guy in America that doesn't know anything about "Survivor" or -- or -- well, wait. They've been doing stuff like this on MTV for years, though, "The Real World," that kind of stuff...

KING: That's right. Yes, yes.

IMUS: Put a bunch of nitwits in an apartment building and watch them smoke dope and scream at each other for a week, or whatever it is they do. So, I guess it is fine. I mean, I'm not -- you know, I just don't want to watch unattractive people eat rodents.

KING: Governor George Bush is on this program one week from tonight, in fact. What do you make of the Gore-Bush race up to now?

IMUS: I don't know. We had Jeff Greenfield on a couple days ago. On Monday, he was on, and man, if he can't get interested in it, I can't. So -- I mean, you know, he is the man, and I -- he's the senior political analyst for CNN...

KING: We love him.

IMUS: I mean, there's just nothing happening. And I -- it is frightening to think one of them is going to be president, but I guess one of them is, so...

IMUS: Are you looking forward to Hillary-Lazio? You will be back in New York for the -- in the heat of that one.

IMUS: Man, that is like watching paint dry, you know. I mean, we thought that was going to -- it would have been a great race because -- if Rudy -- unfortunately, the guy got prostate cancer -- he can't run. And then made a mess of his life, I guess. But that would have been a great race. I don't know what the situation is with Lazio. I was talking with Jonathan Alter, you know, from "Newsweek."

He actually told me that he thought that Lazio could win the race, so -- but I mean, I don't see any excitement there. Have you had Lazio on?

KING: Many times.

IMUS: Oh, you have.

KING: You know, he's a very interesting guy. He's a very bright guy. And he will be on again in a couple weeks.

IMUS: Well, don't get mad, Larry.

KING: No, I'm asking you. I'm not getting mad. You asked me if we had him on, yes.

IMUS: Well, no, but you -- you acted like you were irritated, because I hadn't seen it. I told you, I don't have any television out here. I watch you all the time when I'm home. You know I do, so -- I mean, I've just been answering, and there you are snapping at me. I just don't get this.

KING: I didn't snap at you. I like you. OK.

IMUS: Well, I know do you but I mean -- OK.

KING: All right.

And I mentioned, a week from tonight. Bush is on a week from tomorrow night. A week from tonight we have the Kimes lady, the mother and son, who each got 100 years in prison for killing that lady in New York. You have heard of that one.

IMUS: Why are you having them on? Yes, but why are you having them on?

KING: Well, you don't get a chance to talk to people convicted of murder who -- where no body was found. We taped it at Riker's Island. It's going to play next Wednesday night.

IMUS: Oh, man, I bet that will be great. Remember that woman you had on -- this is great -- remember that woman you had on, you went down there -- the one they juiced in Texas?

KING: Texas, yes.

IMUS: Man, you down there and you were ringing hands outside the cell and all this stuff. And then I was on your show -- I don't know a few months ago -- you couldn't even remember her name. So I was very upset.

KING: Karla Faye Tucker.

IMUS: Well, now sure. But that ought to be interesting. Man, that is a weird deal, those people.

KING: We will be back with our remaining moments with the obviously returned-to-health I-man. Don't go away.


KING: We have spent almost the past hour -- we have a couple minutes left -- with Don Imus at the "Reader's Digest," at the Imus ranch, New Mexico. We understand we are getting a chance to see some of the children. Is that is right, Don?

IMUS: Well, I have got some. Come in here, you guys. Come on, get over here, you little dopes. This is Henif. This is Brandon. This is Michael. This is Colleen (ph). And this is Vanessa. And we are -- you guys, be careful. Don't want to hurt yourself.

KING: Wow.

IMUS: We are missing one, who is back on kitchen duty or something. And Brandon, this was the young man.

KING: That's your horse rider, huh?

IMUS: Yes, but you know, they're all good. Henif was doing a great job as well there. They've been good. Colleen has been just absolutely great. And Vanessa and Michael -- they've all great. I don't mean to make a big deal out of Brandon. But Brandon has been pretty good. That is pretty good to be able to ride a horse like that around the arena like that. So he is, so he's doing pretty special.

KING: Hey, kids, I know you are not miked, but how is the food?

IMUS: The food is great. You guys like the food?

KIDS: Yes.

IMUS: The food is good, isn't it. Yes. It is all natural food. You know, we were concerned about that, but we found a great chef in Albuquerque. And Rosa Richovich (ph) used to have a couple restaurants down there. And she fixes all natural food. And so she disguises these veggie burgers so they actually taste good. We, by the way, Larry, it's the only cattle ranch on the face of the Earth that doesn't serve meat, so...

I mean, these kids are looking at 1,500-pound Texas longhorns and saying: What the hell are they for if we can't eat them, so...

KING: This is the Deirdre effect, correct?

IMUS: Yes, but you guys like the food, right?

KIDS: Yes..

IMUS: Yes, they do like it, yes.

KING: So you have a vegetarian cattle ranch.

IMUS: Yes. That is exactly what it is, yes. No smoking, no meat...

KING: You think that's a little weird, I-man?

IMUS: I'll let you talk to Mrs. -- you've got to do an hour with Mrs. Imus and deal with her on that one, but the food is good, so...

KING: Don, thanks so much. We are so glad you are looking so well, really. And thanks for spending this hour with us. And congratulations on living and on the great work you are doing. No kidding.

IMUS: Larry, thanks very much. Wave goodbye, guys. Thanks, Larry.

KING: Bye, kids. Bye, Don.

The I-man, Imus, at the "Reader's Digest" at the Imus ranch in New Mexico, where the first kids have come through. And we saw some of the scenes with them, riding those horses. That's a great idea. And the I-man is on his way to full recovery from a near-fatal accident with that thrown horse.

Tomorrow night, a tribute to Walter Matthau, with Jack Lemon, Carol Burnett, Dyan Cannon, and Walter's son, Charlie. That's tomorrow night.

Thanks for joining us. I'm in Washington, yes. It's Wednesday, I must be in Washington. Good night.



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