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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

New Year's Eve Special

Aired December 31, 2005 - 23:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Times Square, New York City, U.S.A., warming up for tonight's big countdown. We're about to close out one year of our lives and welcome a new one. It may be 33 degrees outside, but we're here for a nice cozy party with 700,000 of my closest friends to say good bye to 2005.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We're absolutely no match for the power of Mother Nature.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want help! We want help!

COOPER (on camera): You do find bodies just floating in the water.

UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: These are being called the worst bomb attacks on mainland Britain.

COOPER: Everyone wants to get close enough to try to see the Pope, but they know they won't be able to touch him.

UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: Not guilty on all ten counts, Michael Jackson will be walking out of this courtroom a free man.

(MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: Many Iraqis never thought they would live to see this day.

(MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: Lift off of Space Shuttle Discovery.

COOPER (voice-over): We are seeing things like this, just an outpouring of love and care.

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: A city of blinding light, Times Square, New York City, New Year's Eve and what a New Year's Eve countdown show without a countdown clock. It's in the corner of your screen, ticking away the final minutes of 2005. Fifty-eight minutes to go. Good evening, I'm Anderson Cooper. The scene here, an amazing site. Truly a remarkable evening. Tonight we are going to take you live to New Year's celebrations around the country and literally around the world, showing you the parties -- not just here in New York, but in Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Atlanta and Miami.

We've got reporters out amongst the partiers. Erica Hill, down with the throngs, here in Times Square. John Zarrella is in Key West for the annual drag queen drop. And Betty Nguyen in Chicago. We'll also be live in New Orleans, a city still reeling from Hurricane Katrina, but a city that is also determined to ring in the new year.

And what's a party without music? Check out this lineup for us tonight. Throughout the evening we'll bring you special performances from Fantasia, Brooks & Dunn, Kool and the Gang, Barenaked Ladies, the John Mayer Trio and who else? The godfather soul, James Brown. Ha! Jazz great Wynton Marsalis will also stop by. That was my pathetic James Brown. He's here to help drop the ball at midnight. And Harry Connick, Jr., will join us for a special look at the great city of New Orleans.

And if you're tuning in from the Central Time Zone, we're going to ring in the new year with you as well. We'll be on the air past 1:00 a.m. here to bring you the celebrations -- not just in Chicago and New Orleans, but also Detroit, Dallas, Nashville and Memphis.

But we begin where else? Right here, down in the crowd in Times Square with one of the very few people not twirling a noise maker, wearing a funny hat yet. CNN's Erica Hill.

Erica, the crowd is singing, "New York, New York."

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are. This is perfect timing, Anderson, for you to come take a shot of the crowd because they just started singing, "New York, New York," which they'll also sing, of course, after the ball drops at midnight. A great crowd -- 750,000 people expected. And they're really getting going.

Of course, a little earlier in the night, I know that you helped get them going. And it wasn't with your James Brown impersonation. Because frankly, resolution, don't do it again. Even though I love you. Well, you got them going with a little 3-2-1 countdown practice, which was fantastic. Again the crowd (inaudible) and they are ready to party and ready to bring in the new year -- Anderson.

COOPER: You know, Erica, how many times have you been here at Times Square?

HILL: Well, this is the second time. My first time was last year. And this is a blast. I tell you, this is the way to do New Year's Eve.

COOPER: It is really. You know, I'm a lifelong New Yorker and I had never been to Times Square until three years ago, when I started working for CNN, covering this. And I got to tell you, you know, you can see it on TV, but it is really an extraordinary thing to be down there among that crowd. It's one of the few times in New York where people -- I mean, everyone just comes up, they hug you, they say, you know, "happy new year." They don't even know you. They say it to everyone. It's really -- it's a very special feeling down there.

HILL: Absolutely. And you know there are people here from all over the world. We did meet one New Yorker, which is a little bit rare. Like you said, you never came down, even though you grew up here until now. We've had people from Venezuela, from Austria, from Ecuador, from Canada, Florida, California, Texas, Oklahoma. A lot of the things that they've said is the warmth of the crowd is incredible.

COOPER: It certainly is. We're going to check in with Erica in a moment again. Again, we've got celebrations all around the country, from Times Square, New York. Let's head first down south to our first music performance of the night, from a band that's wrapping up a 22- night holiday tour at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa.

Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, Barenaked Ladies will be joining us right about now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello world! Hello CNN! Hey Times Square! Hey Anderson Cooper! Everybody, if you're nervous, just picture everyone in New York in their underwear! It'll be fine!

(MUSIC)

COOPER: And the Barenaked Ladies, performing down in St. Pete Times Forum. There's a lot more music ahead, and a lot of celebrations, both from here in Times Square, but also Chicago and New Orleans. If you're a blues fan, stick around. We've got the John Mayer Trio. They'll be playing in San Francisco later tonight.

But before the ball drops, we'll take you to Nashville, where Brooks & Dunn will be performing live as well. And what would be New Year's Eve without the hardest working men in show business? James Brown, taking the stage right here in Times Square, to bring in 2006.

And of course, the new year is already here in plenty of other places throughout this night, throughout these two hours that we're on the air. And we're on the air for two hours. We want to bring you New Year's Eve in New Orleans and Chicago as it happens, live.

I want to show you New Year's Eve as it's taking place around the world. Take a look.

(MUSIC)

COOPER: The big party may be in New York, but we also want to know how you are celebrating tonight. Do you have a camera? Here's what you do. Show us how you're ringing in the new year with friends, loved ones, maybe a kiss at the stroke of midnight. Grab your digital camera or, better yet, turn on your web cam and send us video from your party right now. Then e-mail those shots to newyears@cnn.com. That's newyears@cnn.com. We'll share some a little later on.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And welcome back. We are live in New York's Time Square. This is New Year's Eve. It is 11:13 p.m. here. Still some time before that ball slowly descends and we ring in 2006. But what a night it is. Some 700,000 people estimated to be here. We've got parties around the country and around the world that we're going to show you over the course of the next two hours.

If you're having a party though, at home -- or even if you're not having a party, you're just at home and you want to send us some pictures of what you're doing right now to celebrate New Year's Eve, just send it to us. You can do web cam, you can take a digital photo. You can take some digital video. Send it to us at newyears@cnn.com. That's newyears@cnn.com. And we will put it on sometime in the next two hours or so, just as long as it's appropriate, as long as it's not too racy, you know what I mean? No funny stuff. We don't any of that dirty stuff here. Even though this is a New Year's program.

Right now, let's go back down to the crowd in Times Square, where Erica Hill is in with some people who are here for -- well, it's got to be the biggest party in the world -- Erica.

HILL: Oh, without question, it is the biggest party in the world, Anderson. And it is the best place to be on New Year's Eve. And of course, it is New Year's Eve, so we've got to take a look back. We'll take a look back at the top stories of 2005. You bring them to people every night in 360. We're ringing in the new year in 360, in case you didn't see that shot right there. But we can picture it any time. We like to see what you think of the top stories of 2005. Every day people from around the globe go to our Web site, cnn.com, and here's a look now at what you think as you (inaudible) the stories of 2005 at cnn.com

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HILL (voice-over): At number 10, the Runaway Bride. Jennifer Wilbanks, the Georgia woman who claimed she had been kidnapped, but really just ran away from her wedding. It turns out all she kidnapped was 15 minutes of fame.

TOM CRUISE: I'm in love.

HILL: Even Oprah didn't know what to say. At number nine, the previously private Tom Cruise, sofa jumping for joy and declaring his love for Actress Katie Holmes.

Number eight, a new leader for the Catholic Church. Conservative Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger succeeded John Paul II, to become Pope Benedict XVI.

At seven, the London terror attacks. At the height of a July morning rush hour, bombs tore through three trains and a double-decker bus, killing 52 commuters.

COOPER: Imagine this scene repeated over and over again. HILL: Millions of you followed the unfolding disaster in Southeast Asia. Though it hit last December, the Tsunami recovery was the sixth biggest story of 2005.

At number five, Terry Schiavo. What began as one family's fight over the removal of her feeding tube, soon escalated into a national debate that mixed troubling questions of life and death with religion and politics.

Michael Jackson's child molestation trial was the fourth most popular story on cnn.com. Noteworthy as much for what went on outside the courtroom and within.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rita has officially become a Category 5 storm.

HILL: In any other year, Rita might have been the one to remember. It caused plenty of damage, but for much of the Gulf Coast, it was not as severe as expected.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Natalee, you can reach me on your cell phone. I have it.

HILL: Only one story had more hits on our Web site than the six- month search for Natalee Holloway, the Alabama teenager who vanished on vacation in Aruba.

But the catastrophe that was Katrina was by far cnn.com's story of the year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now get off your asses and let's do something!

HILL: It flooded New Orleans, killed more than 1,300 people in five states and prompted the largest urban relocation in U.S. history.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job.

HILL: It also created a political storm over the government's slow response to the crisis, making Katrina as a disaster it created, a story that will resonate long into the new year.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HILL: And there they are, the top stories of 2005. Remember, we didn't pick them. You did -- by going to cnn.com. And at 12:01, we'll start tallying for 2006 at our Web site -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Erica, thanks very much.

And we're going to take you to New Orleans a little bit later on to show you how they are ringing in the new year. We'll bring that to you live at 1:00 a.m. East Coast Time. But there's a blue's club down here in Times Square, called B.B. King's. And a genuine legend is there tonight. He's been performing since 1953, and at the age of 72, is still going strong. Along the way, he's garnered a whole lot of nicknames. The hardest working man in show business -- no, that's not Wolf Blitzer -- we thought it was, but it's not. Soul brother number one -- definitely not Wolf Blitzer. The minister of pomp. You know who I'm talking about. There's only one name above all that is his and his alone. Right now, we bring you the godfather of soul, James Brown.

(MUSIC)

COOPER: James Brown, still rocking. Still ahead -- we've got a lot ahead tonight. Here, we of course are live in New York's Time Square. We're going to show you how they are bringing in the new year. Something about a pot of gumbo. That's how they're doing it in New Orleans. We're going to talk to Chef Paul Prudhomme live as that pot of gumbo comes down a giant pole in New Orleans. We're also going to show you bringing in the new year in -- of course the event that has become somewhat of a tradition here at CNN, not only Key West, but for the entire country, the annual Drag Queen Drop, where they drop a drag queen. There she is -- her name is Sushi. They lower her in a giant red pump. I don't know, I guess she's got a book out now. She's talking to the crowd. But maybe -- we'll check in with CNN's John Zarrella in a little bit, who is live in Key West.

And a lot more ahead from the West Coast. We're going to bring you the John Mayer Trio, taking the stage in San Francisco. Oh, there's Sushi in that big shoe, ready to drop. John Mayer Trio, getting ready to take the stage.

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC)

COOPER: Wow! Those are just some of the people who have already sent us their photos -- digital photos. You could also send us a screaming video -- a digital video from web cams. Send it to newyears@cnn.com, newyears@cnn.com. If you're not completely naked, there's a good chance we'll put you on air.

Welcome back. That is the ball, of course, there. The top of that building, six feet in diameter, more than 1,000 pounds, Waterford crystal triangles. That of course, one minute before midnight will slowly start to descend. It takes a full minute for it to descend. And when it hits the bottom, it is 2006 and Times Square will explode. To me, it's those moments, that five-minute period right after the ball has dropped that are just -- it's incredibly -- it's a moving experience. I hope you stay with us to watch it and also watch us ring in the new year in Chicago and New Orleans at 1:00 o'clock East Coast Time.

Of course, they've been dropping the ball here since 1907, a tradition. Other cities across the nation have their own, shall we say special ways of ringing in the new year.

In Atlanta, crowds gather to watch the dropping of a giant peach. In Tempe, Arizona, the new year begins only after a 200-pound tortilla chip drops into a giant bowl of salsa. That's what it looks like. That was last year.

The celebrations in Raleigh, North Carolina reach a high point when they drop a giant acorn. I did not know that.

And if you happen to be in Fort Clinton, Ohio, on New Year's Eve, you can join fellow revelers for the big walleye drop. Man, look at that. They drop a 20-foot, 650 pound walleye. Man! Hope it's not real. Imagine the smell.

Down at Key West, Florida, nobody celebrates it like they do. I got to tell you, they have a different slightly celebration. They drop a drag queen. Yes, that's right. Her name is Sushi. At least they try to drop her. If you were with us two years ago, you know, they ran into some technical problems. The last time we saw the drag queen, I think she was on all fours on top of the roof of some bar, about to fall off. It got ugly. CNN's John Zarrella is down there.

John, how's it going?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ah, Anderson, our third year here on Duvall Street. It is a party. It is a sea of people. Got to be 10,000 people here. And all -- all kinds of fun things going on in Key West. But this is the place to be. For the ninth year, Sushi, the drag queen, is going to come down at midnight out of that red stiletto, really decked out in her oriental garb this year -- waving at us. And joining us here on the stage for the third year in a row, Kiley (ph), you look absolutely lovely this year.

KILEY (ph), DRAG QUEEN: Well, thank you. You look wonderful, too. You have a tux on.

ZARRELLA: I had to dress for the occasion.

KILEY (ph): Well, it's about time, honey.

ZARRELLA: And last year -- last year we were privileged to have with us Marilyn Monroe. This year it's Joan Rivers.

"JOAN RIVERS": Hi John, how are you? Hi Anderson. Can you believe I'm reduced to doing this now? Look at that, gorgeous.

ZARRELLA: What do you think, Anderson? We're ready to party here in Key West!

COOPER: Did Joan bring Melissa?

ZARRELLA: Did you bring Melissa?

"JOAN RIVERS": Oh, Madonna Melissa. I know she's here somewhere. Where is -- oh no, she's at a bar mitzvah right at the moment. Too bad.

ZARRELLA: A New Year's Eve bar mitzvah?

"JOAN RIVERS": Unfortunately, yes. You know, we don't follow the normal rules.

ZARRELLA: Any new year's resolution?

"JOAN RIVERS": You know what? My first resolution is I'm never going to do this again!

ZARRELLA: That's a good idea. I think I'll join you in that one. Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: All right, John. And John, I hope you brought your wife, as you did last year. We'll check in with you a little bit later on.

ZARRELLA: Yes, I did.

COOPER: Well, less than an hour to go -- oh, you did? All right, very good. She's not leaving your side.

Less than half an hour to go. The clock is ticking down, but the music is just warming up. One of the true stars of "American Idol" is ringing in the new year in Las Vegas. Do you recognize her? Yes, let's see. There she is. Fantasia, out in San Francisco. We'll mix some blues with rock and what do you get? You get the John Mayer Trio. They'll be joining us later on as well.

But first, two of the biggest stars in country music are going to help us ring in the new year. Brooks and Dunn, live in Nashville. And we are joining you live from Times Square. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And welcome back to New Year's Eve, live in Times Square. I'm Anderson Cooper. We are counting down the final minutes of 2005 -- 28 minutes, 46 seconds to go. In fact, we've got just a -- well, a little bit under a half an hour here on the East Coast.

Then we're going to countdown the minutes all over again for those of you celebrating in the Central Time Zone tonight. We're going to show you live from Chicago, how they're celebrating. At the stroke of midnight, we'll be there.

Also, in New Orleans. That city is celebrating New Year's in a very unique way -- a giant pot of gumbo. We're going to talk to Chef Paul Prudhomme, who is there live.

We're also going to hear from Wynton Marsalis, who's dropping the ball here in New York; and Harry Connick, Jr., with a special tribute to New Orleans, not forgetting the Gulf states, not forgetting the Gulf Coast, Mississippi. Towns like Waveland, Bay St. Louis, Gulfport, which are still decimated, and the city of New Orleans, as well.

See just how closely you were paying attention. Erica Hill is with some people down in Times Square. She's got a couple questions for them. Erica, what's going on down there? HILL: Absolutely. We want to make sure they've been paying attention and watching their CNN this year. So, we have a few trivia questions for the crowd and some gifts if they get it right. We're starting off with Miriam (ph) and Fred, who are newlyweds from southern California. A little chilly here in New York, having a good time, though. Your question, because you're newlyweds. What was the name of the runaway bride from Duluth, Georgia?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: From where?

HILL: She's from Georgia. They called her the runaway bride. What was her name.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nina?

HILL: Do you need a Jeopardy countdown clock? Would that help you? Here's a hint. It begins with a J.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gina?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible.)

HILL: All right, all right. Because you're newlyweds, I'm going to let you have the swag but next time, brush up a little bit more people. It's Jennifer Wilbanks, the runaway bride. We'll remind you to watch your news, alright? Happy New Year, guys.

Joining us next. This is also a little bit of a shameful self- promotion for Anderson Cooper. We are here with Crystal and Shawn, who are from West Point. You also named your son, Anderson -- after our own Anderson Cooper. So we know you watch the news. So for you guys, which celebrity couple got a lot of press after one-half of this couple jumped on Oprah's couch?

CRYSTAL: Tom Cruise and Kate Hall -- Katie Holmes.

HILL: Excellent work. See! Makes sense that you named your kid after Anderson. All right, there you go. Happy New Year, guys.

And then real quickly, we're going to ask this lady, Shaylynn (ph), down here -- alright, Shaylynn (ph), there were a ton of hurricanes this year. After we ran out of proper names for hurricanes, what did the meteorologist call the storms?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Greek alphabet.

SHAYLYNN: Yes, the Greek alphabet.

HILL: Excellent work. Greek alphabet. All right, you've been watching your CNN. Happy New Year, guys.

All right, Anderson. Some of them, not too bad.

COOPER: So what kind of a swag were you giving away?

HILL: We've got some hats, we've got some bags that I'm going to go back and hand out two.

COOPER: I don't have a CNN hat.

HILL: And that's really the good part.

COOPER: Yes, totally. How do you get a CNN hat?

HILL: If you get a question right -- if you get a question right later in the show, Anderson, I'll get you a hat.

COOPER: You know, it's amazing how -- people -- I bet you're meeting a lot of people just from all around the world down there.

HILL: Absolutely. It's just incredible. And to tell you, one woman I spoke to from Venezuela was just so interesting. And she was so excited to be here and just, she said -- I asked her what the best part was, and she said the best part was the energy of the crowd and how people from all over just come up to you and say, happy new year, what are you doing here? And how you're making friends left and right.

COOPER: That is certainly true. A lot of friends down there. Erica, thanks. We'll check in with you shortly.

People in the Central Time Zone kind of have this New Year's Eve thing figured out. I mean, first they can celebrate it along with us here in New York when it's midnight, then they get to do it all over again an hour later, when they make it official at 12:00 o'clock their time. We'll bring you those celebrations live as well. We didn't do that last year. We are doing it this year.

Let's check on the preparations in two of those central U.S. cities, Chicago and New Orleans. First, Betty Nguyen in Chicago. How's the party there, Betty?

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh it's great. Like you said, double the fun here in the Central Time Zone. We have folks here from Atlanta, California, the crowds are trickling in. We're standing in front of the fountain here -- Buckinham Fountain, where we're going to see some fireworks as we get closer to the midnight hour. Out at Navy Pier, to my left, there's going to be a big fireworks show there. And also at Belmont Harbor. There's lots of fun to have here in Chicago. Folks are dancing around. They're happy, they're glad to be here. And you know what? The weather's not too bad either. I thought it was going to be freezing -- it's close, but, it's not snowing out here. So we're here for a great time -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Betty, we'll check in with your shortly. We'll also be there, of course, live when the ball drops there at the stroke of midnight in Chicago.

Down to the city that, well, first taught us all how to party -- New Orleans. And a city which has seen so much and still celebrating this evening. Gulf Coast Correspondent Susan Roesgen joins us from New Orleans.

Susan, how's it going there?

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN GULF COAST CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Anderson, it's going great. You know, there may be no other city in the world more ready than New Orleans to say good bye to an awful old year and hello to what we hope will be a much better new year. We've got a band behind us now, here in front of Jackson Square. And you mentioned the gumbo pot, Anderson. It's a big giant fiberglass gumbo pot, built by the same people who make the famous Mardi Gras floats. That will drop at midnight. And then, if the fog lifts here, we'll be able to watch the fireworks over the Mississippi River. So, Anderson, this city may be battered and bruised, but we still have a heart and we are coming back tonight.

COOPER: So where does the gumbo pot fall and what's in the gumbo pot?

ROESGEN: The gumbo pot is full of some Louisiana symbols made out of styrofoam, covered in fiberglass, like a crawfish, French Quarter gas lantern, all huge, weighs about 200 pounds. And it will drop about four feet on the top of Jack's Brewery. You may know that building, Anderson. It's one of the buildings here off of Decatur Street. It used to be an old actual functioning brewery. Now they're going to let this gumbo pot sort of ease down, to welcome in the new year.

COOPER: It's appropriate for the "Big Easy" for the gumbo pot to just ease down. Thanks very much. We'll check in a little bit later with you, Susan.

Also from New Orleans, tonight, we're bringing you this -- music from the largest church in Louisiana, the choir of the Greater St. Stephen Full Gospel Baptist Church. Let's listen.

(MUSIC)

COOPER: So many ways to bring in this new year. That's the scene in New Orleans. We'll go back there a little bit later in the Central Time Zone, a little bit later.

From Times Square here in New York, we're going to Las Vegas. Believe it or not, that is actually the number one tourist destination on New Year's Eve, Las Vegas. Our next musical guest a lot of you got to know on "American Idol." She won the third season, back in 2004. From the Aladdin Resort and Casino, here's "American Idol" Winner and Grammy Nominee Fantasia.

(MUSIC)

COOPER: That's Fantasia singing, "It's All Good," from what tonight is called the Aladdin Resort in Las Vegas, but in 2006, it's going to become the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino. I guess if Fantasia Barrino can drop her last name, why can't the Aladdin change their name, huh?

Anyway, less than, let's see, 19 minutes to go here -- 19 minutes to go before New Year's Eve, before 2006. We'll take one last commercial break and then we are live all the way into 2006 from Times Square.

We'll take you to Nashville, where the biggest-selling (inaudible) Brooks and Dunn are performing live. Also, we'll take you to Key West, where we're told Sushi, the drag queen, is getting ready to drop from her shoe. How does one get ready to do that? We'll see if she can actually hit it at the stroke of midnight this year. They've had some technical problems the last couple of years.

And, of course, it's already 2006 in plenty of other places around the world. No one can show you how they rang it in as CNN can. Here's our global reach. Let's take you live to Berlin.

(MUSIC)

COOPER: The big party may be in New York, but we also want to know how you are celebrating tonight. Do you have a camera? Here's what you do. Show us how you're ringing in the new year with friends, loved ones, maybe a kiss at the stroke of midnight. Grab your digital camera or better yet, turn on your web cam and send us video from your party right now. Then e-mail those shots to newyears@cnn.com. That's newyears.com. We'll share some a little later on.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC)

COOPER: And those are some of the people who are celebrating New Year's in various parts of the world. You can send us your photos as newyears@cnn.com. That's of the scene live at Times Square, 14 minutes 45 seconds to go before 2006. No more commercial breaks. We are going live all the way through to 2006. Welcome back to New Year's Eve, live. I'm Anderson Cooper. And we are rolling straight through to midnight and we're not going to stop until well after midnight. We're on until 1:05 or so a.m. because we want to bring in the New Years in the Central Time Zones as well. In Chicago, in New Orleans, showing you how they're doing it all across the United States. In Atlanta, in Miami. CNN's John Zarrella is down there in Key West, Florida. We're going to go to him shortly.

But this is the scene right now. We do have John. John, you're standing by there with a couple of drag queens, as you often do on New Year's Eve. Explain the tradition, John, how it all started and what exactly they do there in Key West.

ZARRELLA: Well, the tradition here, and I've got two of my favorite drag queens with me. You guys have been with me a lot over the years. Oh, I tell you, Joan --

Sushi, can you hear me okay? Can you hear me? Sushi can't hear me. Well, nine years -- for nine years, Sushi has been dropping out of the shoe in a different -- different outfit, Anderson. And 10 years next year and this year, of course, a beautiful, beautiful costume. Sushi started nine years ago -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, John, we're going to take you back there shortly. But first, let's go to Nashville, the Gaylord Center, where Brooks and Dunn are performing live. Let's take it away.

(MUSIC)

COOPER: And that is the scene live in Nashville, Brooks and Dunn performing there for us. Great number that.

Erica Hill is standing by, live here in Times Square. We've got John Zarrella, down in Key West, Florida. We are going commercial free all the way through 2006. The countdown clock, exactly 10 minutes, seven seconds left to go in 2005. If you haven't made a New Year's resolution, you better start soon because you only got 10 minutes left to do it.

Erica Hill, are you hearing some New Year's resolutions down there at all?

HILL: You know, I've heard a couple. In fact, this gentleman right here, who wore shorts tonight, by the way -- it is a little too cold for that -- said that in 2006 he resolved to learn to do his taxes. Should be pretty interesting.

But we also have an extra second, which I know you know this, Anderson. About 7:00 o'clock, Eastern, we got an extra second this year. Is that right?

COOPER: Yes. It is -- that's right. The New York's is delayed by exactly one second tonight because it's a leap second. That's the clock there, the U.S. Naval Observatory. It was added to 2005 a few hours ago, just before the clock struck midnight in Greenwich, England. The home of Greenwich noontime, the starting point of every time zone in the world. it all has to do Erica, with the earth's constantly changing rotation speed, which periodically overtakes or falls behind the most accurate time keepers we have, the atomic clock of the U.S. Government. But I don't want to get in too much lingo here.

HILL: You're not reading that, are you? That's all just kind of from your memory, right?

COOPER: Exactly. To bring things...

HILL: Well, you know...

COOPER: I've got to finish this because there are a couple of people taking notes...

HILL: OK, finish. Finish.

COOPER: ... into sync with the international earth rotation, a reference system service decided to add a leap second, making 2005, the longest year since 1972, when the first leap second was added. And Erica, I didn't need to tell you that, did I?

HILL: Well, but you know, I didn't want to show you up, so I thought I'd let you say it. You know, it's your show, buddy. Come on. COOPER: Erica, what is the deal with the guy you're standing next to? I got to know.

HILL: Okay. This is Leno. He's a fellow-New Yorker of yours, right? This is his second time here.

Why are you wearing shorts?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm wearing shorts because cold keeps you young! Happy New Year!

HILL: All right, we also -- we thought we'd ask a couple people what they'd do with that extra second. So, Leno, there's one extra second this year. It's a "leap" second or something. Anderson knows the whole thing. What are you going to do with an extra second?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wish everyone a happy new year!

HILL: All right, I think that's pretty good. Now we want to see if we can make it to somebody else in one second. Start timing us, we're going to go. Ready. Go. All right.

COOPER: OK.

HILL: How about this?

COOPER: One. There.

HILL: We're running. We're running. We're running. We're running. We're running. We're running. All right. Took us a little bit more than a second. Took us a little bit more than a second.

COOPER: Erica Hill's gone crazy. Go on, go on, Erica.

HILL: All right, alright, you have an extra second in this year. What are you going to do with your extra second?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi Mom! Happy New Year!

HILL: That's a good way to -- good use of your extra second. Hi to my mom, too.

COOPER: It certainly is. We've got seven minutes, 25 seconds until the new year. Erica, we'll check in with you shortly.

John Zarrella is standing by in Key West, Florida. John, are they ready for 2006 in Key West?

ZARRELLA: Yes, they're ready here, Anderson.

Hey, Sushi! How are you, Sushi?

SUSHI, DRAG QUEEN: Hello. I am...

ZARRELLA: You know, I've been meaning to ask you all these years, how did you get that name? Where'd Sushi come from? SUSHI: (Inaudible.)

ZARRELLA: Yes.

SUSHI: (Inaudible.)

ZARRELLA: Well, maybe next year Anderson will be with us. What's your New Year's resolution, Sushi?

SUSHI: (Inaudible.)

ZARRELLA: I thought you told me earlier it was not to get in that shoe again next year.

SUSHI: Well, yes. That too, honey. I mean, it's been nine years. Nine years.

COOPER: Hey John.

ZARRELLA: Anderson, you have a question for Sushi?

COOPER: No, I just want to wish Sushi and everyone there a happy New Year and to you, as well, John. Give our best -- give our best to everyone there.

ZARRELLA: Anderson, she's...

COOPER: We'll check in with you -- go ahead, John.

ZARRELLA: She's promoting her book now. Sushi's an international star since she's been on CNN.

COOPER: All right. Well, we got six minutes to go before the stroke of midnight. We'll check in with John a little bit later. We'll see if Sushi actually does drop from the giant shoe.

Let's check in now. Kool and the Gang is performing as well. We'll check in a little bit with them. But keep -- we'll keep the scene here also going on in Times Square because there is no place like it. We've got five minutes, 50 seconds left to go.

(MUSIC)

COOPER: And the scene here, of course, in Times Square, five minutes, 19 second to go. Let's take a look at some of the crowds outside. We have an estimated 700,000 people here have gathered. Let's take a look on the giant stage.

New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg is there, so is the jazz great Wynton Marsalis, as well as members of the New York City Fire Department and the New York City Police Department. Wynton Marsalis, of course, coming here out of respect for the great city of New Orleans. And we are, of course, going to bring you what is happening in New Orleans a little bit later on tonight. At the stroke of 1:00 a.m. on the East Coast Time, at midnight in New Orleans and Chicago, we're going to bring you those scenes live. But very shortly here, Mayor Bloomberg and Wynton Marsalis are going to press that button and the giant ball is going to slowly start to descend here in Times Square. It takes a full minute for it to descend. But it's those last ten seconds, of course, that everyone counts down. And then 2006 has started.

Again, Erica Hill is down in the crowd.

Erica, are people getting excited -- are people watching the clock very closely, Erica?

HILL: Yes, I think they are. They're also sort of watching all the people around them. They're watching all these big monitors they've got going on where they can see some of the entertainment. I'd say they're getting excited, though. You can hear them down here. And I know you have an incredible view from where you are and I'm sure you can start to see people moving around, shaking all their noise makers and their big sort of thunder stick balloons from where you are. It's got to be a really incredible view.

COOPER: Now, Erica, what are they going to -- they call those thunder stick balloons?

HILL: I think -- well, okay, alright, I kind of made that one up. But here's the rationale, is that they are balloons because I popped one earlier. But they're like those thunder sticks that you see at basketball games now. And every other sporting event. So, I have named them the thunder stick balloon. There you go.

COOPER: They are playing John Lennon's, "Imagine," in this crowd right now. The crowd getting ready. Three minutes, 30 seconds to go. Let's just take a look. Let's hear the sites and the sounds of Times Square, right now.

(MUSIC)

COOPER: And one minute to go before 2006 arrives. New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Wynton Marsalis, members of the New York City Fire Department and Police Department, all have their hands -- they have begun to lower the ball. Six foot wide, more than 1,000 pounds, Waterford crystal triangles. it takes a full minute for the ball to lower. Forty-one seconds left. We will watch and countdown. Twenty- four seconds, 23, 22, 20.

And here we go, seven, six, five, four.

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