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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
The Ultimate Hollywood Power Player
Aired July 2, 2010 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, he sold Elvis to the masses, staged Sinatra's comeback. And has the biggest stars on his speed dial.
JERRY WEINTRAUB, LEGENDARY HOLLYWOOD PRODUCER: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Julia -- you read it.
KING: When celebrities want something done, he's the man. Hollywood producer, power player.
WEINTRAUB: I'm a go-to guy.
KING: And ultimate show business insider, Jerry Weintraub.
WEINTRAUB: I call my own shots. I do what I want to do.
KING: Next on LARRY KING LIVE.
KING: What a pleasure to welcome to LARRY KING LIVE for the full program tonight, the legendary Jerry Weintraub. Hollywood producer, talent promoter, and author of a terrific memoir.
I read it galleys, could not put it down. It's "When I Stop Talking You'll Know I'm Dead." It's a hell of a book about a hell of a life written with my old friend Rich Cohen who wrote "The Great Tough Jews."
Why did you write this?
WEINTRAUB: I wrote it now because I'm 72 and because my life has been pretty extraordinary and I wanted to leave a legacy and my story behind for my children, my grandchildren, my great grandchildren, and I wanted it in my words and I wanted it to be -- I didn't want anybody else writing it. I wanted to write it.
KING: On your driver's license it says occupation.
KING: What are you?
WEINTRAUB: A concierge.
WEINTRAUB: Well, I get up in the morning. The first 50 e-mails are favors. Can you get me, can do you it, can you get me a room in Vegas, get they get me -- my kid into Stanford, can you get me into Cedars, can you get me into Mayo Clinic, can you call so and so?
My Rolodex and my contacts around the world are unbelievable for all these years.
KING: Are you a guy that makes things happen?
WEINTRAUB: I make things happen. I'm a go-to guy.
KING: How does one become a go-to guy?
WEINTRAUB: Just happened in my life. You know, I think it happened -- it was extraordinary. It started probably because my dad was in the jewelry business and he --
KING: In Brooklyn?
WEINTRAUB: He was in New York, in Manhattan, and he started when he was 14 years old. And he went on the road. And he met people. And people liked him. And he wasn't afraid to be with people even though he was a Jewish kid from Brooklyn. He was not afraid to go out there and do what he had to do.
And he did everything. And he came up with this idea for a stone -- he bought a star sapphire called the Star of Artieband. He named it the Star of Artieband and it was worth a heck of a lot of money. It was worth very little money.
KING: But it had a name.
WEINTRAUB: He named it.
WEINTRAUB: He named it. And he took it on the road. And he took it from town to town. He left Grand Central Station or Penn Station -- Grand Central I think -- and went across the United States and he had that star. And every time he arrived at a train station he had a Brink's truck near. And he took that star, which was worth nothing, very little money, and he took it to a hotel in the Brink's truck and he took it to a room and he invited --
KING: It's great in the book.
WEINTRAUB: -- all the jewelers in town. And the jewelers came up to look at the Star of Artieband and they bought everything else he had in the place. So he sold them like crazy. But it was an event. He made an event out of it. And I think that's what taught me about events. I really do. As I go back in life and I think about where he was, Sinatra, and Presley, and Led Zeppelin and the movies, "The Oceans", all the things I've done, I think it all came from that because I made an event out of everything in my life. Everything that I touched and everything I did.
KING: And you are the trigger, right? You're the contactor of Sinatra and Presley. You make it happen.
WEINTRAUB: Yes, I did.
KING: Now they come to you.
WEINTRAUB: Yes. They did. They did then. After Elvis. Elvis was the first one. And he came to me and I made a deal with him. I came -- went to him. It took me a year to get him. I called Colonel Parker -- Tom Parker. That was his manager.
KING: I interviewed him once.
WEINTRAUB: Did you?
KING: Tough guy.
WEINTRAUB: Tough guy. I called him every day for a year, Larry. I had a dream one night.
KING: Who were you then?
WEINTRAUB: I was nobody. I was a little manager. A little manager, and I was married at the time to Jane Morgan, the singer who I'm still married to.
KING: Even though you live with another woman.
WEINTRAUB: I live with another woman.
KING: This is a great book, though. Go ahead.
WEINTRAUB: I'm married for 48 years.
KING: You'll never leave her.
WEINTRAUB: Never leave her. We decided to stay married. She is very, very close to my girlfriend. They're great friends. I live with another woman for the past 20 years in Beverly Hills. They lunch together. They have dinner together. We vacation together. We go to family functions together. They're great, great buddies and they exchange gifts.
KING: An amazing story.
KING: Back to Presley. All right. WEINTRAUB: Yes.
KING: You have to go through the Colonel right?
WEINTRAUB: Yes. Called him every day. I had this dream. I wrote down, "Jerry Weintraub Presents Elvis at Madison Square Garden." Woke her up. She said to me, what is -- are you crazy? It's 3:00 in the morning. You get up at 4:30 anyway. Sleep for another hour and a half. I said I can't.
KING: And you were not known at the time, right? You were just a hustler.
WEINTRAUB: I was not known -- I didn't know Elvis, and didn't know the Colonel. And I called the Colonel that morning and I called him every day for a year.
KING: Never returned the call?
WEINTRAUB: Spoke to him every morning.
KING: Oh, you did speak to him.
WEINTRAUB: We became great friends on the telephone. And every day I said to him, I want to take Elvis Presley on tour, and every day he said no. And every day I said, no, you don't understand. I want to take him on tour. He said, I understand but I don't know who you are, I don't know where you came from, and if Elvis does go on the road, it's not going to be with you. It's going to be with other people, people I owe dates to.
He said, Elvis doesn't work. Elvis is retired. I said well he's going to come out of retirement and when he does I'm going to take him on the road. No, you're not. This went on every day.
KING: Was he doing movies then?
WEINTRAUB: Yes. This went on every day. Every day. After 364 days I got a phone call from him. And he said to me, you be in Las Vegas tomorrow. Bring $1 million. I'll be at the International Hotel. Bring me the million dollars and we'll do a deal. And you can have my boy and you can take him on a tour.
And I said, OK. No problem. Now I didn't have a million dollars. And when I was that age, I was a kid. I was a baby. I thought that Rockefeller had a million dollars. Vanderbilt had a million dollars. I didn't know what a million dollars was.
But I said OK. I'll meet you there tomorrow.
KING: What did you do?
WEINTRAUB: Well, there was a lot of people in New York who used to say to me, you know you're a smart kid. You're going to do very, very well. When you come up with a great deal, come to me and I'll help you. Get you some money. Help you. Do whatever. I went to every one of those people. Not one gave me a nickel. Not one.
KING: None of them.
WEINTRAUB: I called an attorney. And I went to Vegas.
KING: With no money.
WEINTRAUB: No money. I got to Vegas and there was a message waiting for me that there was a guy in Seattle, Washington who I should call who loved Elvis Presley and owned radio stations. So I said, fine. I'll give him a call.
Called the guy up. Guy named Lester Smith. Got on the phone. I told him what I wanted to do and he said to me, OK. He said that sounds like a -- what are you going to do with the million dollars? I said I'm going to take Elvis on tour. And he said to me, well, a million dollars is a lot of money. He said, what do I get for the million dollars?
I said, you get 50 percent of my concert company. He said, 50 percent? I said, yes, 50 percent. He said, for how long? I said forever. You got 50 percent. Now I made a very good deal because I didn't have a concert company so I wasn't really giving him --
KING: He made a good deal, too.
WEINTRAUB: Yes, he did.
KING: The Elvis Presley performance that rocked the concert world, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRISCILLA PRESLEY, ELVIS PRESLEY'S FORMER WIFE: He was also a victim of his own career, of his own love, which of course was music and then into film.
KING: How so, a victim, meaning?
PRESLEY: Well, he grew up in it. He was a product of the business. And that was his only way of life. He loved it. He -- you know, he traveled all over before he was even discovered by Colonel Parker.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
KING: The book is now out in audiotape. "Useful Stories from a Persuasive Man." You'll see why.
OK. We're at the hotel. WEINTRAUB: We meet. He has a cowboy hat on and a cigar and takes me up to his room and we sit down and make a deal. And I didn't know how to make a concert deal. I didn't know anything about concerts. And --
KING: How were you making a living?
WEINTRAUB: I did some shows at the Brooklyn Paramount and I did some shows here, little shows here and there. I did some stuff at that time with the Four Seasons who were just starting and Jane and Joey Bishop and Johnny Carson.
KING: Small town guy, though.
WEINTRAUB: Yes. I was small -- yes. I had Team Oli (ph) and the Modernesians (ph), great acts. Anyway, I had this -- I knew this was all going to happen. And I -- when I sat down with him to make the deal, I didn't know how to make a deal. But either did he because Elvis hadn't done any concerts and nobody had done concerts in arenas.
KING: So did Elvis just worked the hotels and done movies?
WEINTRAUB: Not there.
KING: He'd never done a tour --
WEINTRAUB: There was nobody in arenas. He'd done concerts as a kid, you know, on the back of a truck but nobody had done basketball arenas or hockey arenas. That was me. I started that. I said to him, I know, I'll make any kind of deal you want, Colonel. What do you want to do?
He said I don't know. What do you want to do? This went back and forth. And he finally said to me, how about 50/50? I said 50/50 is always good. That's good. He said 50 percent for Elvis and me and 50 percent for you. Is that OK? I said, yes. Sounds good to me.
Well, three weeks later, Larry, I was a multi-millionaire. And I was the biggest thing in show business.
KING: Advanced tickets.
KING: How long did it take to book a tour?
WEINTRAUB: It took me -- well, that's --
KING: A couple of weeks?
WEINTRAUB: It took me -- I booked the tour. It took me about four weeks to get it started and I didn't know what the hell I was doing. And I started the tour in Miami Beach, Florida and ended in San Diego. That's how dumb I was.
KING: Why is that dumb? Because I could have gone to places that were closer, you know. I didn't have to go across the whole United States in three weeks. But I took it. The first date was in Miami at the Miami Beach Convention Center.
KING: Know it well. I remember that night.
WEINTRAUB: I know.
KING: I remember that day. He flew in and then helicoptered over to the beach.
WEINTRAUB: Exactly. And we stayed at the Fountain Booth.
WEINTRAUB: In those days. And I had 10,000 seats at the Miami Beach Convention Center and Elvis told me when I first met him --
KING: Which was in Vegas?
WEINTRAUB: Vegas. He said to me, I have two requests. Only two requests. I don't care about the money. I don't care about anything. I care about every seat in the building being full. If every seat in the building is full, don't put the big shots in the front rows.
First 20 rows, I want my fans. I need them. That's what makes me work. It makes me feel good. It makes me sing better. Do those two things for me and the rest of it's up to you. You can do whatever you want.
KING: You remember the ticket prices at that time?
WEINTRAUB: Yes, $10, $7.50 and $5. $10 tops, $7.5 in the middle, $5 in the balcony.
KING: True or false? Elvis was a gem of a guy.
WEINTRAUB: True. And so was the Colonel. A gem of a guy. And the Colonel didn't steal from him. The Colonel was a good guy. I know. I was there. I was there. He made some bad deals.
WEINTRAUB: But he didn't steal from him. And I walked into the box office. I'd sold out the night show of 10,000 seats. And they convinced me to do a matinee. I went to Elvis. And Elvis, I said -- Elvis said sure I'll do a matinee. I'll do anything. I'll do a morning show. I don't care. Fill the seats. I said OK. So I put the matinee on sale. Now you've been to Miami July 4th.
KING: I lived there 20 years.
WEINTRAUB: I know. Even the alligators leave on July 4th.
WEINTRAUB: Nobody hangs around. It's humid. It's terrible. There's no Joe Stone Crib. There's nothing to do July 4th in Miami.
WEINTRAUB: Everybody leaves. But I had 10,000 seats sold and they told me I could sell a matinee. Called them up, three days after I put the matinee on sale and I said how am I doing? Sold out. I said I'm sold out? You're sold out. I said, great.
When I got to Florida, I went directly to the convention center. I walked in the box office and I saw all of these tickets, racks and racks of tickets. And I said to this guy, what are those? What is -- what are those? He said to me, it's tickets for the matinee.
I said, how many tickets? He said 5,000. I said, you told me we were sold out. This show is tomorrow. What the hell are you talking about? No. I grabbed this guy by the collar. I could have killed him. It was like I was back in the old neighborhood on the corner.
Could have killed this guy. I said you're going to ruin my career. I'd be over. He said, no, no, no. That's it. There's 5,000 seats. I walked back into the arena. Elvis was doing a sound check. Grabbed the Colonel. And you interviewed the Colonel so you know that he was a tough guy.
KING: You don't grab him.
WEINTRAUB: And I walked up to him and I said to him, Colonel, we have a problem. He said we do? I said yes. He said what is it? I said I got 5,000 seats left for the matinee. He said, son, we don't have a problem. You have a problem.
WEINTRAUB: And I walked out of the convention center and right next door to the convention center is the Miami Beach Police Station. And I walked in there and I found the warden. The jail was there, the whole jail. I walked down the warden, I said, warden, I got a problem. I need some help.
What's the matter? I said I need to take 5,000 seats out of the Miami Beach Convention Center for the matinee show with Elvis.
KING: Because he won't play to an empty seat.
WEINTRAUB: Right. And then I need to put them back for the night show. He said, well, that's no problem. You got some money? I gave him some money. He gave me all the prisoners. The prisoners came into the convention center.
KING: This is, by the way, just a sample of what's in this book. The stories are endless. The way he puts movies together. Sinatra. We'll have that story. But you will not put it down.
Sinatra, Clooney, Pitt, and Roberts. Jerry knows them all. That's ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATT DAMON, ACTOR: It should be noted this isn't the first time somebody tried to put Jerry Weintraub's feet in cement.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Your father took you out to L.A. when you were 9. You were at Grauman's Chinese Theater and now you've got a hand print.
WEINTRAUB: That trip was incredible. And the first thing I did because I loved the movies so much -- I just loved movies. The first thing my dad -- first place he took me was Grauman's Chinese Theater. And I put my -- hands in the handprints and my feet in the footprints of actors of the time, Errol Flinn and Melvin Douglas, and Sheryl Temple, and blah, blah.
And when my hands and footprints were put in front of Grauman's Chinese Theater and I'm the only producer in front of that theater, and I looked up at that hotel, I swear to you I could see my mother and father standing at the window.
I could see them. I got tears in my eyes. And I looked down and I put my feet in there and I said, I looked and I said oh, god, thank you. It was beautiful.
KING: Before we get to Sinatra.
KING: All right. Ocean -- "The Oceans" movies.
KING: And by the way, a couple weeks ago, Jerry's -- Jerry did "The New Karate Kid," you produced that and that's your biggest opening ever.
WEINTRAUB: Yes. You know it's crazy. I did the original "Karate Kid" 30 years ago. Thirty years ago. And this one I didn't want to do because "Karate Kid" is part of my legacy. When you go through all the films I've made and all the things I've done that's one of the most important films I ever made. So I didn't want to mess around with it.
Will Smith came to me and he said to me, I want to do "Karate Kid" with my son Jaden. He's a karate kid. And he loves karate. And I know he'll be great. He's a terrific actor, terrific kid. I said, Will, I don't want to do it. Let's -- I don't want to mess with it. It's a piece of my history. I don't want to mess around with it. It's iconic.
Pat Morita did a fantastic job. He was a great Miyagi. He was up for an Academy Award. I said Ralph Macchio was iconic as the karate kid. You don't want to mess with it. He said I do. I really do. And he talked to me every week, every week with his partners. He has partners.
KING: So he promoted you.
WEINTRAUB: Big time. He and his partners James Lassiter, Ken Stovitz, they came to me, Overbrook, Sony Pictures, and they convinced me we should do this.
KING: And did a good thing for you.
WEINTRAUB: The picture is unbelievable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACKIE CHAN, ACTOR: Empty your mind. Flow with my movement. Connect to the energy around you.
JADEN SMITH, ACTOR: I kind of just want to learn the cobra thing.
CHAN: Cobra takes a lifetime. It requires brain focus.
SMITH: Well, I'm very focused. Oh, my god.
CHAN: Your focus needs more focus.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
WEINTRAUB: $56 million. My biggest opening before that for a weekend was $39 million with "Oceans."
KING: I want to ask you about "Oceans."
KING: Years ago Frank Sinatra and his gang.
KING: Made "Oceans 11."
KING: It was a very good movie. My dear friend Angie Dickinson, a great cast. Dean Martin. Great movie. You got nothing with that movie.
WEINTRAUB: I was there.
KING: How did you do "Ocean's 11."
WEINTRAUB: I was hanging around --
KING: With Clooney and Brad Pitt?
WEINTRAUB: Yes. Well, I was hanging around Vegas in those days and I knew all those guys. I had -- I wasn't working with them at the time but I knew I'd end up working with them. I saw "Ocean's 11" and I didn't think it was great. I didn't. I knew it could be better. I knew I could --
KING: You were working at the sands at night and shooting during the day.
WEINTRAUB: Right. That's why. You know?
WEINTRAUB: There was a lot of laughter on the set. A lot of parties. A lot of booze. And a lot of fun. You know, guys hanging out. A lot of camaraderie. But I knew that I could create that again and I could create it better and do a better story.
KING: How many years later?
WEINTRAUB: Although the story was great. Well, I did it in 2001. The first one. I did three of them, 11, 12, and 13. The first one I shot in 2000. So that's 10 years ago. It was -- we just put together a great cast.
KING: Who did you get first, Clooney?
WEINTRAUB: Clooney was first.
KING: And he played the Sinatra part.
WEINTRAUB: Played the Sinatra. And then Brad Pitt came in to play Dean.
WEINTRAUB: Not to play Dean but to -- and then Don Cheadle and then Mattie Damon, and just went from there. Julia Roberts did the Angie thing. And, you know, we just mixed it up.
We sent Julia Roberts a letter to be in the movie with a $20 bill and in the letter we said, we understand you get 20. So we sent her a $20 bill. The point was that they all did this movie for half price -- less than half actually -- and a very big back end. They all made an absolute fortune on the movie, as I did.
Yes, I did. And it was great. And it was great for all of us. Great for them. Great for me. And we had a wonderful time together and a great camaraderie and lots of fun. It was just as much fun as the guys had on the first one.
KING: Which actually led to 13.
WEINTRAUB: Yes, 11, 12, 13. Yes. Made all three of them. There's no 14.
KING: Pacino was a villain.
WEINTRAUB: No 14. KING: No 14. Pacino was a villain.
WEINTRAUB: Yes. Pacino was in.
KING: Garcia, Andy.
WEINTRAUB: Andy. Yes, that's right.
KING: But they were -- they said in the last one it looked like they were having more fun than making a movie.
WEINTRAUB: Yes, well, we had a lot of fun. You know I created it, an atmosphere for them, and for myself, to go to work every day. I built a restaurant and a bar and we ate there together every day. We hung out there. I had limousines come so we could drink at night after work and take them home.
KING: How about dealing, though, and you have an affinity for this, with egos and superstars?
WEINTRAUB: Well, on "Oceans," on the "Oceans" movies -- I can only speak for my movies. First of all, I've never had that problem with any star and I've worked with the biggest, most important stars in the world.
KING: "Ocean's 11, 12, and 13" with George Clooney and Brad Pitt. That's next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REINER: Excuse me, your honor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your honor, he --
REINER: I'll take it from here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: May I ask who you are, sir?
REINER: You better swear me in. You'll never believe it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?
REINER: So help me, me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So help you, you?
REINER: If it pleases the court, and even if it doesn't please the court, I'm God, your honor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Who came up with the genius Carl Reiner.
WEINTRAUB: You know, it's a great story. Carl Reiner and I are very dear friends. Carl Reiner directed "Oh God" for me in 1974.
KING: One of my favorite all time. One of the great lines in the history of movies. George Burns says to the guy who is playing I guess, the number one minister.
KING: Why don't you sell shoes?
(BEGNI VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In fact, he suggested that you sell shoes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: I love that.
WEINTRAUB: You know, there was no -- when Carl did "Oh God" for me, he was 50.
KING: And John Denver.
WEINTRAUB: Yeah, with John. It was a great movie and it was a big surprise to everybody, just like this new "Karate Kid" is a big surprise to everybody. And it was a big smash hit. I'm going to remake it now. It's a big smash hit. And Reiner wasn't signed to do "Oceans." Alan Arkin was supposed to be God in "Oh God," not George Burns. When I got the property, I wanted George Burns. And I paid Alan Arkin his full salary, I think, I can't remember, but I'm pretty sure I did. He's a great actor. I just wanted Burns.
Burns, to me, was God. I loved Burns. And Burns was 80. I couldn't get him insured. I had to self-insure him. The studio was going crazy. But I self-insured him. I said, Burns is God. He is God. The only problem I had with him being God was he had -- wore a toupee. I said you cannot wear a toupee, George, and be God. God would not run around in a toupee. Can't imagine that. So if you notice in "Oh God," George always had a hat on.
WEINTRAUB: A cowboy hat, a baseball cap.
KING: Every time you see him.
WEINTRAUB: Always a hat. That's because of the toupee. Reiner --
KING: How do you get him for "Oceans?"
WEINTRAUB: Well, Arkin was signed to do "Oh God" and I got rid of Arkin at the time. Didn't get rid of him. I asked him to step aside for George, which he did gracefully. Years go by and I always remembered that I owed Alan Arkin one. We get to the "Oceans" thing and turn to Steven Soderbergh, and I said, I got a great idea to play Sol. He said who? I said Alan Arkin. He's great. He said great. Sign him. I love him. He's a great actor. Signed Arkin.
Two nights before we're getting ready to shoot I get an emergency phone call. Arkin is in the hospital. He had a gallbladder or something, had something removed, in the hospital. And I don't know who God should be, who should do the part. So I said to Soderbergh, I got one great idea. I think it'll work. He said who? I said, Carl Reiner. Again, Carl Reiner and Alan Arkin. They are great friends. They're close friends.
I called Reiner. It was 11:00 at night. Went over to his house, Beverly Hills, went in. He had guests in the house. Mel Brooks was there, a couple other people. He said -- he said, what is it, Jerry? What's so important? I said, I need to talk to you right away. He said, what is it? I said, I got a script I want you to read. He said, well, when does it start? I said, two days. He said who fell out? I said Alan Arkin. He's in the hospital. He's sick.
He said, come on, Jerry. I said, read it. I said, it's George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Julia Roberts. Read it. You're going to like it.
(BEGNI VIDEO CLIP)
CARL REINER, ACTOR: Say we get into the cage and through the security doors there and down the elevator we can't move, and past the guards with the guns, and into the vault we can't open.
Say we do all that. We're just supposed to walk out of there with 150 million dollars in cash on us without getting stopped?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Frank Sinatra made history with his Main Event concert. Behind the scenes of Frank's comeback and triumph, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WEINTRAUB: You're a legend, though. You do know that.
FRANK SINATRA, SINGER: I don't know about legend. I mean, everybody's a legend. If everybody were really legends, there would be no normal people in the world. Everybody would be a legend.
KING: Yes, but you know you've gone beyond. You're in another ballpark.
SINATRA: Yeah, I agree with that. And there's a very good chance that I probably should have gotten out by now. But I enjoy it.
(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: OK, Sinatra.
KING: You booked Old Blue Eyes is Back, Madison Square Garden. How did you do it? You didn't know Frank.
WEINTRAUB: I knew Frank. I knew him, but not knew him, knew him. I got a phone call from him one day, from him directly. And he said to me, I want to go back to work.
KING: He was retired.
WEINTRAUB: Retired. He said I want to go back to work. I want to have a meeting with you. When he called, I didn't believe it was him. You know? I idolized him. You know, the greatest in the world. There was nobody better. I watched your show the other night. I've seen your show so many times. You interviewed him. I love it.
Anyway, I called -- I got this call from him. My secretary said Frank Sinatra is on the phone. I said, yeah, no, it's one of my friends. Who is it? Frank Sinatra is not calling. Yes, he's on the phone. I pick up the phone. He said, Jerry, Frank Sinatra. I said, hey, how you doing, Mr. Sinatra? No, no, no, call me Frank. Then when we get to know each other, you call me Francis. But right now, you call me Frank.
KING: That's the way he was.
WEINTRAUB: So I started talking to him. He said he wanted to have a meeting. I said, great, let's have one. He said, great, let's have it right now. I said terrific, come on over. He said, no, no, no, you come over here. I said, where are you? Palm Springs. I said, I'm in Los Angeles. He said, you go out to Santa Monica Airport; my plane is waiting. It'll bring you down to Palm Springs.
KING: That's the way he was.
WEINTRAUB: Come over to the house and we'll talk. Went down to Palm Springs. I walked in the house. We sat down, and we had a drink. He told me what he wanted to do. He said, you think you can pull this off? I said absolutely.
KING: What did he want to do?
WEINTRAUB: He wanted to do a concert to start someplace important. I started it at Carnegie Hall. That was the first place we played. Then I took him on a tour in arenas. He wanted to play arenas. He wanted to do what Elvis did. He was very smart, Frank, as you remember. He knew.
He said to me after we finished talking -- he said, OK, we're going to do this deal. I said great. He said do you have anything, any questions? I said, yeah, one question. He said, what is it? I said the question is, I understand sometimes that you don't show up for shows. And I'm a young kid and I'm making a lot of money and I'm really doing well and my career is just starting to really hit it on all cylinders. And if you don't show up, it's going to hurt me. And I don't want to do that.
And he said to me, are you crazy? You remember, he used to stare at you. Boy, he could stare at you. He stared at me and he looked at me. You must be crazy talking to me like that. Nobody talks to me that way. He says, that's crazy. Why would you ask me a question like that? I said, because that's what I heard. And you asked me if I had any questions. That's my question.
He said, OK. Here's what we're going to do. We're going to make a deal. The deal is as follows: number one, you're going to call me Francis from now on because we're friends. And number two, we're never going to disappoint each other. I'm never going to disappoint you. And you're never going to disappoint me. Is that a deal? I said, yes. He said, great. We're in business. And he never disappointed me.
KING: The first thing you did was?
WEINTRAUB: Carnegie Hall.
KING: But you also did Madison Square Garden, right?
WEINTRAUB: I did. That was later on.
KING: And the strangest thing about that was he wouldn't rehearse?
WEINTRAUB: Because I told him, no rehearsals. It was my fault. It wasn't his fault. It was my fault. I called him one day.
KING: That was also a comeback. That was television, Howard Cosell, ABC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOWARD COSELL, ANNOUNCER: To a man who has bridged four generations and somehow never found a gap. Hello again everyone. I'm Howard Cosell.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Old Blue Eyes is back.
WEINTRAUB: The main event. And he was upset --
KING: In the ring.
WEINTRAUB: In the ring. He was in Vegas. And he was upset. He called me up very early in the morning, like 9:00 in the morning, which for him is when he goes to sleep. He called me up. I knew he was drinking. And I knew he was smoking. And I knew he was unhappy. He said to me, Jerry, I can't do this anymore. I can't go down. I can't sing these songs anymore. I've had it. I've done it. I've done it all. I got to quit again. I got to get out of this racket. I can't do it. I can't do it.
I said, Frank, stop it. You're the greatest perform in the world. No, Jerry. I said, Frank, I'll be right there. I jumped on a plane, on my plane. Went up to Vegas.
KING: Now your plane.
WEINTRAUB: My plane. Went up to his roof top at Cesar's palace. I went up to the roof top and he had a swimming pool. And sitting in the room in that alpaca sweater he used to wear.
KING: The M & M candy.
WEINTRAUB: Exactly. And he's drinking Jack Daniels and smoking a cigarette. And he says to me, I can't do this anymore. I said, Frank, you've got to stop this. You're talking crazy. He said to me, I don't like it. I need something new. I need something to get my juices going.
I said, I got it. I got it. I got it. He said, what is it? So I kept saying, I got it, I got it, I got it. It came to me, I said we're going to do Madison Square Garden. He said, we've done Madison Square Garden. You sold it out for me ten times, 12 times. We've done it already. That's nothing new. I said, it is new; the way we're going to do it is new. What are we going to do? We're going to do the main event.
I was in boxing in those days. I said we're going to do the main event at Madison Square Garden. What's the main event? I said, you. You're the main event. You're the heavyweight champion of the world. I want to get Cosell. He's going to announce it. He's going to say Jerry Weintraub presents Sinatra, live in the main event, Madison Square Garden. He said to me, sounds great. I said no rehearsal. No rehearsal. I said no.
Why? Why? What else are you going to do? I said we're going to do this around the world, put it on television in every country in the world.
WEINTRAUB: You are? I said, yeah we'll make a record that night too. I keep going. Now I'm on a roll. I keep going at him. We'll do a CD. We'll do a record, a DVD, whatever you can do. We'll film it. we'll make a fortune that night. He says, I love it. Great. Let's do it. Let's do it Saturday. I said, no, you can't do it Saturday. he was a little quixotic about things. I said, Francis, I can't do it Saturday. I need a few months to set this up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: One of the biggest nights of Frank Sinatra's career about to be broadcast to millions. And music is the last thing on Frank's mind. That incredible story, next. (END VIDEO CLIP)
COSELL: Coming through the same tunnel as so many champions have walked before, the great man, Frank Sinatra!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Larry: we're back with Jerry Weintraub. In 1974, Sinatra was about to come back at Madison Square Garden. Jerry put the main event together, and it wasn't easy.
WEINTRAUB: I called ABC. And I made a deal with them to do this. We went into New York and I was rehearsing for a week. I had 300 people on the crew. Rolin Olidge (ph) was my line producer. I was the executive producer. This was my show, "Jerry Weintraub Presents Sinatra." I had Rolin Olidge working for me because he had Monday Night Football, and he had the Monday Night Football cameras and the Monday Night Football cameramen. And I knew that they could capture this live electricity that was in the air. I needed that. And I said -- told them no rehearsals.
But the fact was, I needed them to come -- they had to go to commercial six times. I kept calling them at the Waldorf. We were staying at the Waldorf Towers. I called him up. He wouldn't take my call. A kid came into the Garden, brought me a list of songs, not one Sinatra song, Larry. Can you imagine Frank Sinatra going live around the world singing "Crocodile Rock"?
So when I got this list, I ran over to the Waldorf, went past the security, went past the -- I walked in the room. He was reading the newspaper and I said to him, Frank, what the hell are these songs? And he said to me, what do you mean? I said, this list of songs, there's no Sinatra songs on it. He said, Jerry, I just wanted to see you, and I didn't want to come over. You told me no rehearsal. I said but Frank -- he said I knew if I sent that over, you would be here in a minute and you're here.
Now, he said, just tell me what's wrong? I said I have to go to commercial six times, Frank. He said, I'll see you in a little while. I'll be over there. Twenty to 8:00, he rides into Madison Square Garden with a police escort. Jane is in the backseat with him. Barbara is in the backseat. He gets out of the car. He says to me, I want you to do me a favor. I said what? He said, I want you to get me on -- when "My Way" starts, get Barbara and Jane and put them in the car. He said, because I got to go to Patsy's and pick up some pizza, so we have something to eat on the way to Palm Springs. That's what was on his mind, the pizzas from Patsy's.
On my mind was the 20,000 people and the X millions of people that was going to watch this show.
KING: It was unbelievable -- where was the band? WEINTRAUB: Right next to the stage, next to the ring. It was a boxing ring. It was electric, Larry, when he walked in.
KING: 1974, right?
WEINTRAUB: Yes, 1974. We came out of the dressing room. I did it like a heavyweight fight. On the tape you see I'm on one side and Jerry was on the other. I had 25 people pushing us through the curtain. We got to the curtain and he looked up at me -- he was shorter than me. He looked up at me and he said kid, are you OK? I said no. He said what's the matter with you? I said I think my career is over. I said, commercial six times. What are you going to do when I go to commercial? He said I'm going to be singing a song? I said what are you going to do when I come out of commercial? I'll be singing a song. I said what if it's not the same song? He said it's live. Don't worry about it. It's going to be great.
Then he pinched my cheek, Larry, right before he went out, pinched me like that. He said to me, listen, kid, you got me into this and I'm going to get you out of it.
KING: And what a night.
KING: Can you imagine Michael Douglas playing Liberace and Matt Damon as his lover? Jerry tells us about his new film now in the works, next.
(BEGNI VIDEO CLIP)
CLOONEY: Jerry Weintraub is --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a puncher.
BARBARA BUSH, FMR. FIRST LADY: He is a rare bird.
DAMON: He's a lot of things to a lot of different people.
PITT: He's Ringling Brothers. He's Barnum & Bailey.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tough as nails but has a mushy marshmallow center.
CLOONEY: He doesn't have a filter. He'll say I woke up this morning and my balls ache. You're like, you know my grandmother?
PITT: He's a force.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A force of nature.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One lucky (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
PITT: He puts on a really big show. He cannot help himself. He can't help it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WEINTRAUB: That's a clip from "His Way," a documentary about Jerry Weintraub that's still in production. Speaking of still in production, he never stops. Jerry, what are you going to do now? Going to keep making movies?
WEINTRAUB: No, this -- well, I have this documentary coming out. Yes, I'm making Liberace, the story of Liberace. I'm making that next year. Michael Douglas is Liberace. Matt Damon is his boyfriend. Soderbergh is the director. It's going to be great.
KING: Who is the brother?
WEINTRAUB: I haven't decided.
WEINTRAUB: George Liberace, yes. Lee was great. You know Leroy.
KING: Met him once.
WEINTRAUB: I knew him. Great guy, great guy.
KING: That's great casting. Who is going to sing?
WEINTRAUB: That's another story. I don't know. Michael.
KING: Are you going to let him lip sync?
WEINTRAUB: We could do that. The piano playing was -- people don't realize that Liberace was a great musician. Not a good musician. he was a great pianist. That's what it's really about.
KING: Nothing slows you down, right?
WEINTRAUB: No, I don't ever want to slow down.
KING: Bob Hope. you never think not working?
WEINTRAUB: Work to me is a vacation. I call my own shots. I do what I want to do. I have a great time every day. I enjoy it. I had a tough year last year. 2009 was not a good year for me. I almost died. I had an infection. I was laying in bed and I thought I died. I saw that light and I floated out the window, the whole deal.
KING: You did?
WEINTRAUB: Yeah, I did. I really did. And I was always afraid of death until that happened. When it happened, my doctor said to me, say good-bye to your family. We can't -- it's over. And I came to peace with it. My rabbis were there, yelling, screaming out the window, don't take him. Don't take him. I floated out the window. I saw that light that everybody talks about. I don't know if I really saw a light or it's something that's been suggested to me so many times over the years. but I did float out the window and I think I saw the light. And I floated back and I woke up. So, this is a great year.
KING: As we say it in my tribe, thank God. Your lips to God.
WEINTRAUB: Thanks for having me.
KING: What a man. What a book. Tape's out. Look for the documentary. You heard it here, Michael Douglas is Liberace.
"When I Stop Talking, You'll Know I'm Dead: Useful Stories From a Persuasive Man," Jerry Weintraub with Rich Cohen. Thanks for joining us.
Stay tuned now for "AC 360." Good night.