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Larry King Live Weekend

Kerry Kennedy Cuomo Discusses Human Rights; Sidney Sheldon Talks About 'The Sky is Falling'; Bob Greene Focuses on 'Duty'

Aired September 9, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Kerry Kennedy Cuomo, RFK's daughter, tells us about human rights defenders who speak truth to power. Sidney Sheldon, author of 16 No. 1 best sellers, previews his next page turner "The Sky is Falling."

"Chicago Tribune" columnist Bob Greene focuses on "Duty," a non- fiction book about a father, his son, and the man who won the war. And then cookbook author, artist, interior designer Ellen Wright serves up "Bridgehampton Weekends, Easy Menus for Casual Entertaining."

And they're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening. Four terrific guests tonight. We begin in Washington with Kerry Kennedy Cuomo. She's worked in human rights for nearly two decades. Her husband is secretary at HUD. Her father-in- law is the former governor of New York. Her mother is Ethel Kennedy.

And she's a co-author - actually, she's the author along with the photography of Eddie Adams of "Speak Truth to Power: Human Rights Defenders Who Are Changing the World." There you see its cover.

What's the concept here, Kerry?

KERRY KENNEDY CUOMO, AUTHOR, "SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER": Well, this is really about the greatest heroes of our time, people who have stood up to government oppression, people who have faced imprisonment, torture, or death for the basic rights most of us take for granted.

But it's not just a book about things that happen over there in faraway places. It's really a book in the end about the human spirit and our capacity to bring forth the best at the very worst of times.

KING: And how did you get together with my friend Eddie to do pictures?

KENNEDY CUOMO: Well, I was an editor at Gamaliason (ph) photo agency 20 years ago. And he was one of the photographers there. And at the time, I thought it would be great to meld my two great interests, international human rights and photography. And I thought this would be a wonderful way to tell the stories of these heroes and get people involved in the work that they're doing.

KING: He's a great photographer. And there's some wonderful pictures in this book.

You said 20 years ago. What, were you three years old?


KING: Is there a common thread that runs to people who do something for a moral cause?

KENNEDY CUOMO: Well, there...

KING: Who risk themselves? What thread runs through them?

KENNEDY CUOMO: Well, there are a few things that I found. One is that almost all of them had a very strong religious upbringing. And a surprising number were actually taught by Jesuits all around the world.

Another thing that they almost all spoke about was the importance of having a sense of humor, a sense of humor about themselves and the absurdity of their situations. And then there were some things that were very sort of surprising to me.

For instance, I spoke to one woman who is this wonderful nun from Mexico who is the leading human rights defender there. And her name is Digna Ochoa.

She is pure Indian. She's the first person in her community to go to high school or college or become a professional. And she's a very wonderful attorney. And I asked her how she musters the courage to confront authorities after she has been tortured herself.

And she told me this extraordinary story that she had been told that a defender was - somebody who had been disappeared was in a military hospital. So she said, "I went to the military hospital, and they wouldn't allow me in." So I stood outside the door and waited for a shift change.

And when the shift changed, I walked past the guards. And I walked up to his room. And there was a nurse standing in front of the room. And she said, "You can't go in there. I can't even go in there. The disappeared guy is in there."

And I told her, "I know I'm not allowed in there, but I'm going in anyway. And here's my card. If anyone comes to get me, you call this number and let them know I've been captured."

And she said, "So I knew there were guards in the room. And I opened up the door. And I yelled as loudly as I could, "I'm this man's lawyer. You get out of here. I get five minutes alone with him.""

And she told the man who she was. And she got him to sign her up as the lawyer. And she said, "Now I could do a habeas decree." She said she walked outside the room, and here are the guards walking toward her again.

And I said, "What did you do?"

She said, "I didn't know what to do. So I just up and I went, "Oy!" And she said, "I don't know karate or anything. I guess I saw it in the movies. But I had to do something."

And with that, the guard said, "You're threatening us." And she said, "Take it anyway you please." And the guards turned around and walked away. And it gave her a chance to sort of pull herself together and leave.

And I asked her afterwards about...

KING: Incredible story.

KENNEDY CUOMO: ... Yes, incredible, incredible story. And I said to her, "But how do you get the nerve to confront them like that?" And I was expecting something about God or Jesus or love, you know, because this is a nun. And she said, "I am just so furious. I just muster all of my anger about all of the terrible things they've done. And it gives me this incredible sense of calm with which I can confront anyone."

KING: Wow.

KENNEDY CUOMO: And now this was a surprise to me because it's really about the power of positive anger.


KENNEDY CUOMO: And it's something...

KING: Anger directed well.

KENNEDY CUOMO: ... Anger well directed. And I think we as westerners and especially women are always told to suppress our anger. And there's a real institutional reason why, because it can be very revolutionary. And so there are stories throughout the book like that of real surprise.

KING: Let me get a break. And we'll be back with more with Kerry Kennedy Cuomo and then Sidney Sheldon.

The book is "Truth to Power: Human Rights Defenders Who Are Changing Our World." The photographs are by Eddie Adams, the text by our guest. And we'll be right back.


KING: We're back with Kerry Kennedy Cuomo. This extraordinary book is also going to be a major museum exhibition and a theatrical presentation I understand at the Kennedy Center with people like Glenn Close and Edward James Almos, Sigourney Weaver. This is becoming a production, Kerry.

KENNEDY CUOMO: That's right. The play is going to be one night only at the Kennedy Center. We have got a great cast: Kevin Kline, Alec Baldwin, John Malkovich, Reuben Blades, John Carlo Esposito (ph), Sigourney Weaver, Rita Moreno, Julia Louis Dreyfus, and Alfre Woodard.

And then the play is going to be broadcast on PBS at 8:00 p.m. on October 8. So I hope everybody will tune into that.

KING: Each of these people are playing a different person in your book?

KENNEDY CUOMO: Well, actually, the play is - has woven together all 51 people in the book. So it's really a remarkable achievement by a great Broadway playwright Ariel Dorfman. And the wonderful thing about it is that 41 of the human rights defenders, including three Nobel Peace Prize laureates, will be here for the play itself.

And then in addition to the play, we have a fantastic new advocacy tool for the defenders and for anyone interested in human rights, which will be a Web site called And then we have educational and advocacy tools which we'll distribute to 10,000 colleges and high schools across the country.

KING: How many Americans are in this book?

KENNEDY CUOMO: Maybe four or five.

KING: So people who have had to stand up for human rights in a country supposedly dedicated to it?

KENNEDY CUOMO: That's right. We have Van Jones, who is a wonderful fellow who runs Police Watch in San Francisco and New York, which as you know police brutality is a very, very major issue in many of our urban centers.

We have Helen Prejean, who of course is well known for the movie and autobiography she wrote called "Dead Man Walking." Marion Wright Edelman, who is a wonderful children's advocate.

And an incredible woman called Diana Ortiz, who was an American nun, went to Guatemala and was raped and terribly tortured there by Guatemalan security forces under the auspices of an American.

KING: Do you know why, Kerry, you got involved? What touched you about human rights problems so early on?

KENNEDY CUOMO: Well, I think...

KING: Was it an event?

KENNEDY CUOMO: ... First of all, I grew up in a family where human rights, civil rights, was very central to my childhood. You know, my father was attorney general during the civil rights movement. So I think that that certainly had a tremendous influence.

And then when I was in college, I took an internship at Amnesty International documenting abuses committed by U.S. Immigration officials against refugees from El Salvador. And I was shocked to find out what our country was doing...

KING: So you began...

KENNEDY CUOMO: ... And so I decided right then to devote my life to this work.

KING: And your own family's legacy...


KING: ... of giving up lives because of this.

What part of that plays a part in this, do you think? Your own heritage.

KENNEDY CUOMO: Well, I think that it's clearly very central to this. My father, as I said, was attorney general during the civil rights movement. He was the first American political leader really to travel to South Africa in 1966 when most Americans had never heard about apartheid and didn't frankly care about it that much.

And his life was devoted to equal justice and to helping the repressed. And he was a tremendous hero to me. And one of the things that he admired, the quality he admired more than any other in people was courage.

And that's what this book is about. It's about people with courage.

KING: Speaking of courage and the political fortunes of life, are you ready for - assuming your husband goes into politics as is rumored to run for governor of New York - are you ready for that kind of - obviously, you've had experience with it, but never this direct.

KENNEDY CUOMO: Well, I think that Andrew would be just such a tremendous leader for the state of New York. And he's done such an extraordinary job at HUD turning that department around. He has great idea about what's needed in the state and a capacity to create change within a governmental system.

So I think he'd be wonderful. And I'd have a great time campaigning for him.

KING: And would continue the same work you do, right?

KENNEDY CUOMO: Absolutely.

KING: You're never going to chuck that.


KING: This is an extraordinary book. I salute you on it. Give my best to Eddie.


KING: And I hope everything goes well with it, Kerry. It's always good seeing you. KENNEDY CUOMO: Thank you very much.

KING: Kerry Kennedy Cuomo, a terrific book "Speak Truth to Power: Human Rights Defenders Who Are Changing Our World." Kerry Kennedy Cuomo the text, Eddie Adams the photographs.

Sidney Sheldon is next. Don't go away.


KING: In middle age, he began writing novels. He's written 16 straight bestsellers. Number 17 is now out, "The Sky is Falling." There you see its cover.

Our guest, the man whose name is bigger than the title of the book, Sidney Sheldon. And this one features Dana Evans, a TV newscaster who was in a previous book. You do that a lot, bring characters in...

SIDNEY SHELDON, AUTHOR, "THE SKY IS FALLING": I've done that a couple of times.

KING: Why do we continue with her, master plotter?

SHELDON: Because she came to me. I didn't come to her. Dana came to me and said, "I want to be in another book." I thought she was a fascinating character.

KING: Sidney, explain that to me. It don't make any sense.

SHELDON: It does make sense because characters become very real to me. And they have their own lives. And they really write my books.

KING: You had your own life. You won a Best Original Screenplay for "Bachelor in the Bobby Sox" with Cary Grant and Myrna Loy, won a Tony for the musical "Redhead," created the "Patty Duke Show," "I Dream of Jeannie," you brought us J.R., "Hart to Hart." What took you into books late?

SHELDON: It was a total accident. I got an idea about a psychiatrist whom someone is trying to murder. And what intrigued me was he had no enemies. But if he were a good psychiatrist, he would have to figure out who's trying to kill him. And that became "The Naked Face."

And I had to write it as a novel because it was very introspective. So it didn't do well financially. The "New York Times" called it "the best worst mystery of the year." I got an Edgar. That was funny.

But I was so intrigued by the idea of having total freedom instead of writing pictures where an actor could say, "I can't read that line. Change it," and the director said, "We'll play it in the mountains instead of (INAUDIBLE)." When you write a book, you are the cast. And the director is all yours. So I sat down to write a second book, and that was "The Other Side of Midnight," and it changed my life.

KING: Why do you keeping on? It's a book a year, right?

SHELDON: Just about.

KING: Why?

SHELDON: It's what I am.

KING: You don't need it financially.

SHELDON: No, it's what I am and what I do. I remember a number of years ago. There was a fire in the canyon there where we lived. And the police came and said, "If the fire breaks out of the canyon, your houses are all going, get out now."

My wife ran into the house, took what she needed. I ran in. I had all kinds of scripts and awards and things that were valuable. All I took were three yellow pads and some pens I could have bought $2 at any dime store.

But I knew somewhere deep inside me that I had to keep writing. We'd be in a motel somewhere, and I needed the equipment.

KING: And why women? Why so much with women as the featured people? You're a man, Sidney.

SHELDON: And I love women, as I think you do. And I've known women who were strong and as capable or more capable of what they did than any man would be. And they were feminine. And I married a woman like that. And my mother was like that.

And I like to write about women like that. I'm tired of the clich


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