updated 3/26/2004 12:58:29 AM ET 2004-03-26T05:58:29

Guest: Hurst Laviana, Harold Schechter, Murray Raskind, Derek Perkins, Laurence Leamer, Adam Mesh

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER:  A serial killer returns.  He terrorized a city and then disappeared without a trace.  Two decades later, someone is taunting the police with new information about a murder.  Has the Wichita Strangler resurfaced?

The Kennedy men, they were children of privilege, members of a political dynasty and victims of tragic fate.  Tonight a look back at the sons of Camelot and a look forward to how a new generation of Kennedys is carrying the family torch. 

Average Joe.  He may not look it but this guy is actually a rich TV star and a lady‘s man to boot.  Tonight the not so average life of Adam Mesh. 

Substituting tonight from Studio 3-K in Rockefeller Center, Dan Abrams. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Hi, everyone. 

A serial killer who terrorized Wichita, Kansas, in the 1970s and then stayed quiet for more than 20 years has apparently resurfaced. 

The “Wichita Eagle” newspaper received a letter last Friday containing information about an unsolved murder committed in 1986, information police say only the killer would know. 

Inside the envelope, a photocopy of the victim‘s driver‘s license and three pictures of her body after she was strangled. 

Seven murders in the ‘70s were attributed to the BTK Strangler, which stands for bind, torture and kill.  A police lieutenant working on the case for 20 years says he‘s 100 percent sure the letter is from the BTK Strangler. 

Police also believe the killer is still in the Wichita area, but no evidence that he plans to strike again. 

Joining me now is Hurst Laviana, a reporter for the “Wichita Eagle,” the paper that received the letter from someone claiming to be the BTK Killer. 

Thank you very much for coming on the program. 

HURST LAVIANA, “WICHITA EAGLE”  Thank you. 

ABRAMS:  Tell me about receiving this letter.  What did you do when you got it?  And then what happened next to confirm that it actually was from the person they believe to be this killer?

LAVIANA:  We got the letter on Friday morning.  One of our news associates handed it to my city editor, who handed it to me, asking me to check it out.  We all thought it was a hoax at first. 

I didn‘t look at it very carefully.  I was going out the door to a meeting.  I put the letter on a copying machine, made a copy of the letter and the envelope, put that on my desk, took the letter over to the police department and gave it to the police. 

The police captain I gave it to, like me, thought that it was a hoax, didn‘t give it much thought, put it on his desk and we went our separate days.  The following Monday I went back.  I talked to the police captain.  I said, “Oh, by the way, what happened to the letter?” 

He said it was still on his desk.  He...

ABRAMS:  But in the meantime—I‘m sorry to interrupt you, but in the meantime you had gone back and looked at the pictures again, right?  And something had struck you about it?

LAVIANA:  On Friday afternoon, I believe, I looked more closely at the letter.  It was a single sheet of paper.  I noticed that Vicki Wegerle‘s driver‘s license was on it.  I knew her—I knew that she had been a murder victim.  The case was open.  I knew it might be significant. 

I looked at the pictures of the body.  I noticed that the clothing was in different positions in the different—three different pictures. 

ABRAMS:  And how—and now the police are—why are the police so convinced that this actually is from this killer?

LAVIANA:  The police won‘t say exactly why they‘re sure.  There‘s something about this letter that they‘re not releasing to the public that tells them that it is in fact from the same person who mailed the earlier letters from BTK back in the 1970‘s. 

ABRAMS:  Tell us about these murders for those people who aren‘t familiar with the case.  What is it that necessarily or seems to link all of them?

LAVIANA:  Well, the first four murders occurred in 1974.  They were all members of the Joseph Otero family.  That was a big story. 

In the next three years three other women were murdered.  And BTK first mailed us a letter and then mailed KTV, our ABC affiliate, a letter. 

The police chief, after learning about the television letter, held a news conference and announced that there was a serial killer living in Wichita.  He had killed seven people, and he planned to kill again.  It created quite a sense of panic over the years.

In 1979 he entered a woman‘s house with the intentions of doing something; he got tired of waiting and left.  He later sent that woman a letter that police now believe is authentic.  He has not been heard from since 1979. 

Most of the police officers who investigated the case assumed that he had died or been incarcerated in prison or in a mental institution.  No one had any idea that he was still alive until this letter surfaced. 

ABRAMS:  So, why are they necessarily linking this ‘86 case, the one of the picture of the woman on the driver‘s license, the one with the three different photos, why are they necessarily linking that case to the others?

LAVIANA:  Well, obviously, the letter was from the person who killed Vicky Wegerle.  And like I said before, the police aren‘t disclosing exactly why they‘re convinced that it‘s also from BTK, but they say the letter does contain the same characteristics as the other letters that came from BTK in the 1970‘s. 

ABRAMS:  But before you got this letter, had they looked at this ‘86 killing as a BTK killing?

LAVIANA:  They did.  In fact, I talked to the police chief today who was in charge of that investigation.  They looked very hard at the BTK angle of that case.  There were a lot of similarities. 

For one thing the BTK Strangler would often cut the phone lines of his victims in the 1970‘s.  He did not cut the phone lines at Vicky Wegerle‘s house.  We don‘t know why. 

But yes, they did look very hard at BTK.  They were not able to say one way or another whether or not that was a BTK case until this week. 

ABRAMS:  And since the letter there have been a lot of new tips, right?

LAVIANA:  As of this morning they had 32 tips that they were tracking down.  They are taking the evidence from the Wegerle case.  They won‘t say exactly what that is.  They‘re running it through a national DNA database and a national fingerprint database. 

All the people at the newspaper who handled the letter have given their fingerprints to police.  There is at least one fingerprint or palm print on the letter.  We don‘t know whose that is.  I suspect it‘s probably mine.  I doubt very seriously that it‘s BTK‘s, but they‘re going to check it anyway. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Mr. Laviana, I‘m going to ask you to stand by for a moment, if you don‘t mind.  I want to bring in Dr. Schechter here. 

Harold Schechter is a professor at Queens College in New York.  He‘s the author of “The Serial Killer Files.”

This is a—this is an odd one.  This is not your typical serial killer case. 

HAROLD SCHECHTER, AUTHOR, “THE SERIAL KILLER FILES”:  Yes, really. 

Almost unprecedented in certain ways. 

ABRAMS:  In what sense?

SCHECHTER:  Well, it‘s a much more common pattern for serial killers to increase the pace of their murders.  It‘s very, very rare, almost unheard of, for a serial killer to murder seven people and then basically stop for a period of years.

And apparently if this last—it this is the BTK Killer, then he committed this series of very, very savage murders in the early 1970‘s, stopped for nine years, until 1986, and then disappeared again for another whatever it is, you know, 18 years. 

ABRAMS:  Is it possible, based on your research that someone like this could have been put away, as Mr. Laviana pointed out, for 20 years or so, you know, since ‘86, let‘s say until this time and now is just older and as a result not as much of a threat?

SCHECHTER:  That‘s possible.  You know, I mean, serial murder to some extent is a sex crime, as seemed to be the case with the early BTK killings.  They were very, very sexually sadistic and there was evidence of semen all over the house, and so on and so forth. 

And so, I mean, to some extent, I mean, you could have a case—and it does seem to be a crime of younger men.  So, it could be the case of this person‘s, you know, very, very sick libido has decreased somewhat with age, and so he doesn‘t feel quite as compelled to commit murders. 

ABRAMS:  And yet he‘s still taunting, right?  I mean, still taunting. 

What does that tell you, the fact that he‘s sending the letter to Mr.

Laviana‘s paper?

SCHECHTER:  Well, it tells us two things.  I mean, serial killers are often into taunting, because first of all, it gets them a lot of attention.  And we know that the attention is very important to the BTK Killer. 

He wrote a letter in the 19 -- late ‘70s or early ‘80s to a newspaper, complaining that he was not getting a sufficient amount of media attention.  So, you know, it‘s for whatever reason he might feel very neglected and wants to be back in the limelight. 

ABRAMS:  Again, assuming that this is connected, the chances of him getting caught now are pretty high, aren‘t they?

SCHECHTER:  Well, you know, that‘s the risk that a serial killer takes when he goes public like this.  You know, many, many serial killers don‘t engage in this kind of taunting by means of letters precisely for that reason.  They know it‘s going to draw unwanted attention to themselves.  So yes, he‘s definitely taking a risk. 

ABRAMS:  And this guy‘s been close to getting caught a couple of times?

SCHECHTER:  Apparently, yes.  But again, it‘s hard to—what makes the case to unusual is his apparent disappearance for all these years.  I mean, there are very, very few cases like that. 

ABRAMS:  And Mr. Laviana, they‘re going back, right, through the files of who was in prison at the time, who may have recently been released to see if they can connect it up?

LAVIANA:  They‘re definitely looking at the possibility that he‘s been in prison for a number of years.  They‘re looking at parolee lists, people who have been released from prison in other states.  It‘s a definite possibility that they‘re looking at. 

I also talked to the former chief today, who said it‘s possible that he‘s been living here among all of us all along. 

ABRAMS:  Mr. Laviana, for all of the people out there who say, “Oh, you know, the press, why don‘t they turn over information?  Why do they just go and report it?  They never help the authorities.” 

In this particular case, the authorities asked you not to report on the letter for a period of time, and you honored that request.  Correct?

LAVIANA:  We did honor that request for two reasons.  For one, to let them do their investigation and determine whether or not, in fact, it was real.  That was the main thing.  We didn‘t want to run the story saying we‘d gotten a letter without the police department confirming that it was real. 

They had agreed that after two days they would talk to us on the record about whether that was a real letter. 

I began to suspect late Tuesday that there was something very serious about the letter that they were looking at.  I began to suspect that it was real.  They would not confirm on Tuesday that it was real.  On Wednesday they confirmed it. 

ABRAMS:  Based on the tips that they‘ve been getting as of late, are you getting the sense that they‘re hopeful that he‘s going to be caught in the near future?

LAVIANA:  They‘re not telling us very much about where the investigation is going, other than the number of tips.  They‘ve got FBI profilers working on the case.  They‘ve got the Kansas Bureau of Investigation working on the case and the local sheriff‘s office working on the case. 

It‘s the top priority of our homicide section here in Wichita today; probably will be for quite some time. 

ABRAMS:  Hurst Laviana, thanks very much.  Dr. Schechter, thank you as well.  Appreciate it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER:  Coming up: the Kennedy mystique, the Kennedy curse, the Kennedy legacy.  How the new generation of Kennedys is learning to live with their history and create a new chapter for an American dynasty. 

But next, they were trained to go to battle against Saddam‘s army.  But were they trained to battle the stresses of war?  Why has Iraq turned into a suicide mission for so many American soldiers?  A look at the enemy within when DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Welcome back. 

To quote Civil War General William Sherman, war is hell.  And while the men and women who have served in Iraq draw upon a deep well of courage and patriotism every day, there‘s now a growing concern, as statistics are showing, that U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Kuwait have committed suicide in record numbers. 

Last year there were 24 suicides, according to an Army study.  That equates with a suicide rate of just over 17 per 100,000 soldiers serving in Iraq and Kuwait, compared to a rate of almost 12.8 for the entire Army in 2003.  By comparison, the overall suicide rate in the U.S. during 2001 was 10.7 per 100,000.

But those numbers don‘t even tell the whole story.  For some soldiers the anguish continues after they return home.  That‘s when the psychological effect of post-traumatic stress syndrome can occur, reliving the horror of what they saw and experienced. 

Dr. Murray Raskind is director of mental health services at the V.A.  Puget Sound Medical Center in Washington State.  He treats combat veterans for post-traumatic stress and other stress-related disorders.

And with him is Derek Perkins, who served as a Marine corporal in Kuwait and Iraq.  He says he‘s been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder relating to his experiences there. 

Thank you both for joining us. 

Doctor Raskind, let me start with you.  Are you surprised to hear this about the troops in Iraq and Kuwait?

DR. MURRAY RASKIND, V.A. PUGET SOUND MEDICAL CENTER:  It‘s unfortunate, but I‘m not surprised.  We saw very similar problems after the Vietnam War.  And there are many similarities between the soldiers‘ experience in Vietnam and what the soldiers are experiencing in Iraq and other theatres in the Middle East today. 

ABRAMS:  What is it that leads them to become so despondent that they take their own lives?

RASKIND:  Well, I think that‘s often a combination of factors, and I think it‘s probably also really the tip of the iceberg of the behavioral and psychological problems that many combat troops face. 

We know that post-traumatic stress disorder is associated with a substantially increased risk of suicide and that, coupled with depression, another reaction to combat trauma, and perhaps together with a loss or a “Dear John” letter from home can be enough to tip someone over the edge so that they see ending their life as the best alternative, tragic as that may be. 

ABRAMS:  Doctor Raskind, I would think that also there‘s probably a sense, with regard to the timing, that it would be easier if there were a definitive period, if they knew, for example, we‘re here for four months and then we‘re done with this particular project and then we move on. 

But with this war, I‘m sure that they have specific times when they‘re supposed to be sent home.  That moves at times; they may come back.  Is that a problem?

RASKIND:  Yes, I think it is.  I think it makes one, perhaps, more discouraged by any of the problems that they‘re facing. 

There‘s another factor that I should have mentioned.  And that is that often in combat when one‘s buddy is wounded or loses their life, sometimes even though it‘s not true, the soldier who survives feels guilt over that or responsibility.  If they‘d just done something else, their comrades would be with them today. 

And that coupled with the post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms can really present an overwhelming psychological problem. 

ABRAMS:  Derek, what have you been experiencing since returning home?

DEREK PERKINS, VETERAN SUFFERING FROM POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER: 

Well, a lot of sleepless nights, increased irritability.  It‘s just been really hard to adjust back to my normal life before I went to the war. 

ABRAMS:  What is it about being there that has been most difficult for you?

PERKINS:  Most difficult to deal with right now?

ABRAMS:  Yes. 

PERKINS:  Well, I—it‘s very hard to focus.  That‘s one big thing. 

It‘s hard to stay focused on simple tasks. 

ABRAMS:  Was there something in particular that you saw there that has led to nightmares, et cetera, or was it just the entirety of having been there?

PERKINS:  There‘s a couple of isolated incidents that I can see in my mind a lot.  But just the whole war in general has been very stressful and caused grief on me. 

ABRAMS:  What were the incidents?  If you don‘t want to talk about it

·         I mean, I don‘t want to sort of make it worse for you, if that‘s going to happen.  So... 

PERKINS:  I would prefer not to. 

ABRAMS:  Well, then, let‘s not talk about it.

I‘m going to come back to you in a moment, Derek. 

Doctor, during the press briefing today the military said they‘re intensifying suicide prevention efforts in Iraq, requiring all soldiers to take a suicide prevention class within three months of arriving in Iraq or Kuwait.  Will that help?

RASKIND:  Well, hopefully that will help some.  And I‘ve been impressed with the military mental health professionals—psychiatrists, psychologists—efforts and dedication to working on this problem. 

Unfortunately, we‘re not really sure what the answer is.  And I think we have to be creative and combine efforts between the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs.  Because we‘re really working at the same problem, perhaps separated by a month or two, to come up with new and better psychological approaches and medical approaches. 

I know when Derek came to see me, we proceeded to help him with a combination of psychotherapy and medication.  And even though all of the problems have not resolved, I think that we have made substantial progress. 

ABRAMS:  Derek, how about your friends and colleagues?  Are you alone in this?  Have you found that many of the people that you were there with are having similar problems?

PERKINS:  I just recently spoke to a fellow comrade that came back with me, and we were both hesitant to bring up the subject.  But when we brought it up we found out half of my platoon that was there is suffering from the same post-traumatic stress as I am, and it‘s quite a relief to me and to all of us to find out that we‘re just not alone in this. 

ABRAMS:  Did you have any psychological problems before you went?  Did you have a major concern about going there in the first place?

PERKINS:  No, not at all. 

ABRAMS:  So this was purely a result of having seen what you saw.  And I guess the question is apart—without getting specific, was it the experience of having been there in particular, or was it having been away for so long?

PERKINS:  I think mostly being there.  But there could be, you know, part of it being away for so long. 

ABRAMS:  Doctor, what can they do now?  I mean, there have got to be a lot of soldiers who deserve all of the help and assistance that the U.S.  government can provide.  All right?  I mean, if anyone deserves U.S. tax dollars, it‘s people who‘ve been fighting in a war overseas.  I don‘t care what war it is. 

RASKIND:  Yes.  Dan, we totally agree.  And I can just tell you what Derek and I have been working on.  And he can correct me if I make any errors. 

We first prescribed a medication called Prezazin (ph), which is extremely helpful in getting these nightmares under control and pretty much getting rid of them and allowing a normal night‘s sleep. 

That helps in many areas and it also helped with Derek‘s problems during the day, when he was actually having flashbacks of combat trauma experiences, which were very frightening and upsetting to him and obviously distracting him on the job. 

And all of these things, together with the irritability, were causing problems at home with his wife and family. 

So, the medication, together with psychotherapy and finding out, veteran to veteran, that you‘re not alone, that this is a quite normal—it‘s not a universal but a quite normal response to going through what these men and women have been through.  So they don‘t feel that they‘re bizarre in any way. 

ABRAMS:  Derek...

RASKIND:  They have something to work on.

ABRAMS:  Derek, it reached a point for you where it was so bad that you had actually contemplated suicide.  Correct?

PERKINS:  Yes. 

ABRAMS:  Wow.  And it was—what sort of held you back?  Thinking about your wife?  Was it going to Dr. Raskind?  What was it that made it so that we‘re all happy to see you‘re here with us?

PERKINS:  I just—I didn‘t want to die.  I wanted to continue living, continue with my life and have a good life with my wife and child.  And suicide just seemed like not the way to go. 

ABRAMS:  Derek, why are you going public with this?  I‘ve got to believe that, you know, there‘s some level of private shame, et cetera, that might be—that some would associate with it. 

I think it‘s very brave of you to go public with it.  What made you decide to do that?

PERKINS:  I don‘t know the reason that made me decide to go public with it.  Of course, it is hard for me to do it.  But I just feel it‘s something that I should do, and it will be good for me and good for other people to see what certain types of medication and treatment can do for them, if they‘re suffering from the same problems that I am. 

ABRAMS:  Derek, good luck to you.  It‘s good so see that you‘re in good hands there with the good doctor.  It seems that there‘s some real progress being made. 

And you know what I say to anyone.  I get to sit in the chair here while soldiers get to go to Iraq.  I say thank you to anyone who has to serve our country when I get the pleasure and luxury of getting to stay here at home.  So thank you. 

And thank you, doctor. 

PERKINS:  Thank you.

RASKIND:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up next, a revealing new book about the sons of Camelot, the Kennedy men who defined a generation and the legacy their sons and daughters are now living with and building on. 

Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

ABRAMS:  Probably no family in American history has captured the public imagination like the Kennedys, the family blessed with wealth and power and cursed by tragedy and violence. 

In a new book, author Laurence Leamer examines the life of the Kennedy men, the sons and grandsons of Joe and Rose Kennedy, and the aftermath of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.  With unprecedented access to the younger generation of Kennedys, Leamer looks at the legacy and the burden of bearing the Kennedy name.  The book is called “Sons of Camelot:

The State of an American Dynasty.”

And I‘m joined now by Laurence Leamer. 

Thank you very much.

LAURENCE LEAMER, AUTHOR, “SONS OF CAMELOT”:  Thanks for having me.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  We appreciate it. 

All right, I am going to put up a quote from your book that has been talked about quite a bit. 

OK.

ABRAMS:  It is about John Kennedy and his thoughts about running for the U.S. Senate in New York.  You write: “John watched with growing dismay as Hillary,” referring to Hillary Clinton, “subtly insinuated herself into what he considered as his state.  An early poll showed that most New Yorkers thought John would make a better senator, but he was not going to get into a political fight with Hillary.”

So, he was actually taking polls.  He was at the point where he was taking polls to see how he would do running for U.S. Senate? 

LEAMER:  Oh, he had polls.  He had talked to some labor union leaders who had said they would support him.  He was ready to go.  He had two—problems with two women.  One is with Hillary.  She started making these—quote, unquote—“nonpolitical trips” to New York.  And he figured what that was all about.  And his own wife.  He thought Carolyn, she was having difficulty with public life as it is.  And he worried how she would handle being the wife of a New York state senator. 

ABRAMS:  Did he think about taking on Hillary? 

LEAMER:  Yes, he did, but he was too much of a gentleman.  That was his problem.  He just was too nice a guy. 

The last months of his life, he talked about how he had a problem with male authority figures.  He couldn‘t really challenge people. 

ABRAMS:  So how can you be in politics??  Would he have been able to -

·         I think so many people have viewed John Kennedy as such a lost opportunity in terms of what he might have been able to do and achieve. 

LEAMER:  Right. 

ABRAMS:  If he wasn‘t able to fight, would he have been a successful politician? 

LEAMER:  Well, that was the great challenge. 

You see, when he started “George” magazine, the first interview he did was with George Wallace.  And he and his associate editor and friend Gary Ginsberg go down to Alabama and had all the questions written on these three-by-five cards sitting with an ailing George Wallace.  Every time there was a tough question, he hands it over to Gary Ginsberg.  He couldn‘t ask that question.

And when the Monica Lewinsky scandal came, here, when this magazine was supposed to be about politics and culture, here was a great opportunity for the magazine.  That whole year, “George” didn‘t write about it because John couldn‘t do it because he knew it would relate to his father and he didn‘t want to deal with these charges of his father and his father‘s philandering. 

ABRAMS:  What a charming man.  I had the opportunity of having lunch with him once, and quite a charmer.

LEAMER:  An amazing person.  It is an immense loss.  And all of his close friends cooperated with me on this book.  And they just—they are still five years later torn apart for his death and by what that loss meant. 

ABRAMS:  The marriage between John and Carolyn Bessette, we have heard so much about it.  Separate truth from fiction. 

(CROSSTALK)

LEAMER:  Yes, they had their difficulties.  And who doesn‘t in a marriage?

Yes, she took cocaine to some extent.  She was not an addict.  The last weekend of their life, they went up to Martha‘s Vineyard.  They were with Christiane Amanpour, their dear friend, and her husband, Jamie Rubin.  They went out Saturday night in John‘s old car, his Oldsmobile, and she talked about having a child.  So, it wasn‘t over.  But there were difficulties. 

ABRAMS:  Has John‘s death—let me ask it this way.  How has John‘s death impacted that next generation of Kennedys? 

LEAMER:  Well, in the sense, Camelot begins with John saluting his father and his father‘s death.  We all remember that image.  If we were too young, we still have that image in our minds.  In a sense, it ends with his death, the immense promise of his family.  The life goes on and the Kennedys go on, but not that sense of promise. 

ABRAMS:  What‘s the next generation like?  Who are the stars of that next generation and what are the hopes with regard to them? 

LEAMER:  Well, it is a different game.  Joe Kennedy, the oldest grandson, when he went to Berkeley when he was young man, women would sit next to him in a classroom.  People wanted to be his friend because he was a Kennedy.  Wherever he went, there was this it eye on him. 

His twins, Matt and Joe, went to Stanford.  They just graduated from Stanford.  Nobody cared that they were Kennedys.  Nobody thought about that.  They have their own life.  One of them is thinking about entering politics.  He will do it on his own.  He won‘t this burden that his father had. 

ABRAMS:  Does the Kennedy name now do you think to a younger generation—we are talking about a younger generation—does that name now get associated primarily with Ted Kennedy when it comes to politics and therefore with a sort of very liberal—it‘s not that the Kennedys have been particularly conservative—but is that the identity do you think now of the Kennedy family when it comes to politics? 

(CROSSTALK)

LEAMER:  Well, no.  If it is, that is unfair because the whole spectrum—Doug Kennedy, one of Bobby‘s sons, is a libertarian.  You have that on the right.  You have Teddy on the left.  You have many of them in the middle, the whole spectrum of politics.

And even Teddy‘s politics, if you look at carefully, is much more varied.  I flew from California yesterday.  I got a cheap flight because of deregulation.  Teddy had a lot to do with that.  It wasn‘t exactly a liberal issue. 

ABRAMS:  And Maria Shriver now married to the governor of California. 

LEAMER:  Yes, who is a throwback to Joseph P. Kennedy, the founding father.  He has that sense of will and ambition that none of the Kennedys of the generation that I write about in the book really have. 

ABRAMS:  Is this family still with a lot of money? 

LEAMER:  A lot of money, but not as much money.  It depends which family it is.  Ethel Kennedy is selling Hickory Hill outside of Washington because she needs money.  It depends who they are.

ABRAMS:  I covered the trial of Michael Skakel, a Kennedy nephew/cousin, depending on how you view it.  Did that have a big impact on the family or not much? 

(CROSSTALK)

LEAMER:  Well, they kind of distanced themselves from him.  He was one of these kind of hangers-on, the sort of second—kind the poor relative that makes his life by hanging on to the Kennedys.  And he was very jealous of the Kennedys and he tried to get even by writing with them writing a book that never came through. 

And the ultimate irony of that is, he probably—guilty or not, he probably wouldn‘t have been indicted if it was not for that Kennedy association.  There wouldn‘t have been that intense interest in him.

ABRAMS:  I don‘t know about that.  Well, maybe Mark Fuhrman wouldn‘t have written the book. 

(CROSSTALK)

LEAMER:  Right.  Exactly.  That‘s all I mean.  It‘s not a question of guilt or innocence. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, no, and I‘m not making a judgment on it.

They still stick by each other? 

LEAMER:  Yes, they do.  Look at Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Ted Kennedy, Maria came to him and he was for Arnold.  He couldn‘t say it publicly.  Blood is more powerful than politics with them.  Blood is everything.

ABRAMS:  How did you get so much access?  People kept saying, when it comes to John Kennedy, ah, they won‘t talk.  No one is talking. 

LEAMER:  I‘m persistent.  I‘m patient.  And it sounds conceded, but I think I‘m fairly honorable.  They know I am going to write the truth and I‘m going to back and check things out.  “Sons of Camelot” really is about as truthful a book about them as you‘re going to find. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  If you may say so yourself. 

LEAMER:  No.  It‘s not the tabloid gossip.  No, I say that.  So much is untrue out there and this book doesn‘t have that. 

ABRAMS:  Laurence Leamer, thank you very much.

LEAMER:  Thank you. 

ABRAMS:  And, again, the book is “Sons of Camelot.”  Appreciate it. 

LEAMER:  Thank you. 

ABRAMS:  What got exercise guru Richard Simmons so angry that he is now accused of assault?  A clue.  It relates to “Sweating to the Oldies.” 

And he‘s the “Average Joe” who got a second chance.  Adam Mesh is here, so stick around. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  What is the world coming to?  Richard Simmons accused of misdemeanor assault? 

The story when we come back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Bad move by exercise guru Richard Simmons.  He has been cited for misdemeanor assault for allegedly slapping a man, and a big man at that, at the Phoenix airport last night.  The 6‘2“, 250-pound man is reportedly—get this—an ultimate cage fighter.  Those are the wrestlers who fight in cages, Simmons known for his “Sweating to the Oldies” series of exercise videos set to songs of the 1950s and ‘60s. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SGT. TOM OSBOURNE, PHOENIX POLICE DEPARTMENT:  Our victim made a comment to the effect, hey, it is Richard Simmons.  Everybody drop your bags an let‘s rock to the ‘50s. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Well, that comment apparently steamed Simmons.  Police say he approached the man and said, you shouldn‘t make fun of people who have issues and then allegedly slapped him in the face.  That‘s got to burn off a couple of calories.  The cage fighter—shocker—wasn‘t injured.  Can‘t say that‘s a big surprise.  But he did tell police he wanted to file charges, probably thinking, this little man could me provide with a big pay day.  Simmons was cited and allowed to get on his flight. 

ANNOUNCER:  Up next, this guy is the star of a top-rated TV show. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADAM MESH, “AVERAGE JOE”:  Here‘s to not knowing what‘s going to happen next.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER:  He‘s wealthy.  He lives in a mansion and he‘s one of America‘s most eligible bachelors.  So, what makes Adam Mesh just another average Joe?  You will find out when DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT returns. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Welcome back. 

First, he was just one of a busload of average Joes.  Then he was actually in the running with a lovely Melana.  Imagine, a reality TV dream coming true.  Adam Mesh almost got the girl in the original “Average Joe.”  But in the end, Melana chose the hottie.  Millions of fans watched as Adam Mesh got rejected. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MELANA SCANTLIN, “AVERAGE JOE”:  However, it is not (INAUDIBLE) 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  A twist of fate.  It was Melana‘s rejection that set Adam on a new path.  When he returned home to New York, he discovered he was quite the celebrity, in fact, an object of desire for women all over the country. 

He received so many phone calls, he had to change his number.  NBC said, wait a second, this is a good idea.  Let‘s create a show around Adam.  The season premier of “Average Joe: Adam Mesh Returns” aired on March 15.  The tables have been turned.  Now Adam gets to choose the girl of his dreams from a bevy of lovelies. 

I‘m joined by not so “Average Joe” anymore Adam Mesh. 

MESH:  Thank you for that. 

ABRAMS:  Adam, good to see you.  Good to have you here. 

MESH:  Good to see you, too.

ABRAMS:  All right, so, in retrospect, you are sorry Melana rejected you, right?  Life has been pretty good having been the guy that didn‘t get it, right? 

MESH:  Oh, I‘m no longer sorry that I was not ejected.  It was probably one of the best things that ever happened to me.  And I think that was confirmed when Jason got off the bus dressed as a woman, because here I am with my own dating show.  And he was single dressed as a woman.  So I figured I won in the end.

ABRAMS:  Are they still dating, as far as you know? 

MESH:  They are no longer dating. 

ABRAMS:  Really.  So your sort of ultimate revenge, right?

(CROSSTALK)

MESH:  Well, I wasn‘t rooting—no.  Once—I wanted them to be happy. 

ABRAMS:  Yes?  But you were sorry at the time, right, that you didn‘t

·         you liked her, right?

MESH:  Yes, of course, definitely.

ABRAMS:  I was telling you before that she was actually on my program and they were together and he started sort of making comments that I was trying to hit on Melana, got a little bit defensive.

All right, so...

MESH:  You would think coming off a dating show he would have been more OK with that. 

ABRAMS:  Right.  Exactly. 

So there are 10 remaining contestants right now and you have already selected one of them, right? 

MESH:  Right. 

ABRAMS:  You cannot tell us who that person is. 

MESH:  Right. 

ABRAMS:  One of them‘s name is Jennifer Abrams.  Abrams.  I‘m Dan Abrams.  You know, that is my sister.  No, I‘m just kidding. 

(LAUGHTER)

ABRAMS:  No relation to me. 

MESH:  I wouldn‘t be surprised if NBC set up that. 

(LAUGHTER)

ABRAMS:  So there are 10 remaining contestants.  Now, are you dating the woman that you chose? 

MESH:  Yes.  We actually got to see each other once recently and we are still dating. 

ABRAMS:  There are rules, right, as to how much you can see each other at this point? 

MESH:  Yes.  You are not allowed.  It was one time that was allowed and that‘s it. 

ABRAMS:  It‘s like prison, conjugal visits, right?  You get to visit once this a while?

MESH:  Exactly. 

ABRAMS:  You get two hours along in like a hotel room or something? 

MESH:  No, there‘s always witnesses. 

(LAUGHTER)

ABRAMS:  Somebody has to be there at all times? 

MESH:  Yes. 

ABRAMS:  To make sure what? 

MESH:  To make sure that you are following the contracts and things set forth. 

ABRAMS:  Now, are you worried that—there was a big disclosure in the last program that you actually have quite a bit of money.  And that was not disclosed until the very end.  And the question was, how is that going to come into play?  Do you think that that comes into play with regard to any of the women who are now—well, you have already chosen—but in the women who were seeking your heart? 

MESH:  Every time, I say no or I hope not, people say I‘m naive.  So I‘m sure certain people did.  But I‘m very confident that even the final five girls, that wasn‘t a factor at all.  And I wouldn‘t name somebody that it did, but I‘m sure out of 19 people, maybe, but I hope not.

ABRAMS:  In one of the first episodes, your friends from the old show bring in a bunch of swimsuit models.  Tell me what happened and what you did. 

MESH:  Yes.  My friends surprised me with five new girls they wanted to add on to the show. 

ABRAMS:  This is before the 19 get there? 

MESH:  No, this is afterwards. 

ABRAMS:  After, OK.

MESH:  There‘s 15 now and we have been there for a little while and now five girls show up, get off the bus in swimsuits looking unbelievable.  And I don‘t know.  It was like, too late.  I was already dating 15 girls.  That‘s enough.  And I liked five of them, so to bring new people in just didn‘t seem right. 

ABRAMS:  When the 19 got there, did you know right away, all right, these are going to be the few?  Were there were a few you were like, look, no way, no chance, no how? 

MESH:  No.  I had an open mind. 

ABRAMS:  Come on.  There were two. 

MESH:  It is easier to say that there was no one I was like no way, no chance, but it‘s easier to say there were certain ones I definitely liked right away. 

There was no one like, I‘m like, she‘s gone.  That was hard.  Every single person I eliminated, I didn‘t want to send them home, but it would have been easier just to narrow it down to a certain amount at the beginning that I really did like after a couple days. 

ABRAMS:  How tough a decision was it for you in the end? 

MESH:  By then, it wasn‘t a tough decision.  There was one girl that kind of ran away with it in my mind.  But, yes, that was great. 

Along the way, it wasn‘t always the same girl, but by the end it was easy to know which one I wanted. 

ABRAMS:  And you guys are serious or you feel that you are going to get serious?  Who would have thought, right?  Let‘s put yourself back a year and a half.  And someone says, hey, you know what?  You are going to actually meet your girlfriend on a dating show.  And just think about what has happened in your life. 

MESH:  Right. 

ABRAMS:  And do you look back and say, wow? 

MESH:  Yes.  I haven‘t even had a chance to look back and say wow yet. 

It has still been going so fast.  But when I stop to think for a second, it is scary how unbelievable it is.  It is humbling.  It is just unbelievable.  I walk down the street and everyone knows my name. 

(LAUGHTER)

MESH:  And that‘s just something I...

ABRAMS:  What do they say to you?  Do they tell you which one to pick? 

MESH:  Hi, Adam.

ABRAMS:  That‘s it?

MESH:  That‘s what they say now.  The first one, it was, hey, the average guy, “Average Joe.”  But now my name is in the title.

So when I walk down the street, they know who I am.  And it is like a recognition of they know a little bit about my life and it is like the friend they haven‘t seen.  They‘re like, hey, Adam.  Hey.  Good luck.  We are rooting for you. 

ABRAMS:  Do they say to you, look, you got to pick this one or that one?  Do they give you tips on who you should go for or no? 

MESH:  Yes, once in a while, people throw out a name.  They‘re like I like her or why did you get rid of her.  Or a lot of girls are like, why did you get rid of those models?  But, no, for the most part, it is all positive. 

ABRAMS:  And do you think Melana is sorry now in retrospect, seeing your success? 

MESH:  To be honest, no, I don‘t think she is sorry.  I think she liked Jason.  Maybe she is sorry it didn‘t work out with him, but I heard she is dating somebody.  And she‘s been nothing but positive to me.

ABRAMS:  How do you hear what Melana said?  Do

(CROSSTALK)

MESH:  I speak to her a little bit.

ABRAMS:  Oh, you do?  You guys are still friends?

MESH:  Yes.  And I also read it in magazines.  We‘re in similar articles.  And I read her say, I want Adam to have only the best and I hope he finds the love of his life on the show. 

So I thought that was nice. 

ABRAMS:  And it seems that maybe you have. 

MESH:  Maybe. 

ABRAMS:  Maybe you have.

Very quickly, what do you think the women are thinking?  Do you—can you deal with sort of their sense of nervousness and uncomfortable, all the aspects that they are going through? 

MESH:  Yes.  I went through the exact same thing that all the women did.  So I guess the only thing is now, you would say, they are women so, you magnify it by like 10 times as harsh. 

ABRAMS:  Adam Mesh, tell Melana I said hi.

MESH:  I will.

ABRAMS:  Good to have you on the program. 

MESH:  Thanks.

ABRAMS:  Good to meet you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up next, my trip behind the scenes of the hit show “Law & Order.”  How realistic is it?  I‘ll give you a sneak preview when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  If you zip around the TV dial at just about any point in the evening, chances are you‘ll land on an episode of “Law & Order.”  It‘s the longest running drama on television, the stories—quote—“ripped from the headlines.”

So I wanted to know how far they go to keep it real.  Tomorrow night on “THE ABRAMS REPORT” at 6:00 Eastern, we begin a two-part series on “Law & Order” behind the scenes.  Here‘s a preview. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “LAW & ORDER”)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Steve Hand (ph) substituting for defendant Johnson. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Uriko Ujitza (ph) for defendant Cardin (ph), Your Honor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  As a former defense attorney, would you like to see the defense attorneys on the program become more heroic? 

RICHARD SWEREN, CO-EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, “LAW & ORDER”:  The heroes of our show are, you know, the prosecutors, and that‘s the way it has to be.  Defense lawyers can be heroes in some other show. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “LAW & ORDER”)

SAM WATERSTON, ACTOR:  Thank you for coming. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Why wouldn‘t we?  The fact that you asked us here leads me to believe you‘re not all that confident. 

WATERSTON:  Quite the opposite, Mr. Hamst (ph).  We are very confident. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS:  We‘re trying to keep your clients alive. 

WATERSTON:  The fact is, Danny Odom‘s (ph) ship is sinking.  Considering the time and the place in history, if your clients stay on board, they‘re looking at a lethal injection. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I‘m certain that people must come up to you and say I‘m a lawyer and here‘s what I think about your role. 

WATERSTON:  We get a lot of support from people in the law.  And I‘ve heard more than once, a lot more than once that people have gone into the law because of this show. 

ABRAMS:  Police officers must stop you on the street.  What do they say to you? 

JERRY ORBACH, ACTOR:  Well, my favorite quote from the police is, “Keep making us look good,” which is a nice compliment.  They‘re very, very kind. 

ABRAMS:  Do they ever say, well, there‘s just one thing, though...

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Well, a couple things, yes, like little things.  One guy says, you wear your badges too much, like, detectives don‘t wear their badges as often as you guys do, but I think we stay close to the belt.  We stay right in there in the realm of reality, not to mention they actually enjoy watching me and Lenny banter with each other.

BILL FORDES, SUPERVISING PRODUCER, “LAW & ORDER”:  Cops usually like the show.  Lawyers usually either love or hate the show.  They tend to either be really devoted and they understand the poetic license we take or they‘re nitpickers and they can‘t understand why we cited CPL-190, when it‘s really CPL-19090, Sub 4. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  And you can see more of my behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast of “Law & Order” and the team that make it all happen tomorrow night on the “THE ABRAMS REPORT” right here on MSNBC, 6:00 p.m. Eastern, then part two on Monday at the same time.

Thanks for watching.  I‘m Dan Abrams.  Tomorrow night at 9:00 Eastern, Lester Holt and Lisa Ling host the MSNBC “Tech Summit.”  It‘s the cutting edge of electronic technology. 

Monday night, Deborah Norville is back with Tammy Faye Messner and her husband.  

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2004 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2004 FDCH e-Media, Inc. (f/k/a/ Federal Document Clearing House Inc., eMediaMillWorks, Inc.), ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and FDCH e-Media, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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