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Mysterious Coronado Mansion Death
Aired September 6, 2011 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DR. DREW PINSKY, HOST: Here we go.
The millionaire mansion mystery in California may officially be solved, but it`s the unofficial part that is causing jaws to drop.
Plus, "The Real Housewives" are back on the air for the first time since a cast member killed himself. How was the suicide handled in prime time?
And regular guy Chaz Bono is not buying into the "Dancing With the Stars" controversy. So why is everyone else?
Let`s go figure it out.
Tonight, breaking news in the mysterious Coronado mansion death. Was the death of a young, beautiful Rebecca Zahau a murder or a suicide? That is the question everyone is asking.
And new details are surfacing about the autopsy report. And with them, doubts about the sheriff`s conclusions.
The Coronado police say Rebecca Zahau committed suicide at her boyfriend Jonah Shacknai`s multimillion-dollar mansion, but they`re not commenting on the controversy swirling around the autopsy.
Rebecca`s family is devastated that police closed the case and ruled the death a suicide. Her sister Mary is positive that Rebecca would not take her own life and wants the police department to reopen the case. The events occurring before Zahau`s death could have led to suicide or to rage.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A high-powered pharmaceutical mogul`s girlfriend was found naked and hanging from a balcony. Was it murder or suicide?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Investigators completed their investigation, and they say this death was not murder. It was suicide.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rebecca`s devastated family is furious, insisting the cops got it all wrong.
PINSKY: "We do not believe our sister Rebecca committed suicide." Those words from Mary Zahau, whose sister Rebecca was found hanging, bound and nude in a San Diego mansion earlier this summer.
PINSKY: So let me get straight to my guests tonight. I have Rebecca`s sister, Mary Zahau. Also joining us, U.S. attorney Anne Bremner, who represents Rebecca Zahau`s family.
Anne, I`m going to start with you. What did we learn today through this autopsy report?
ANNE BREMNER, ATTORNEY FOR REBECCA ZAHAU`S FAMILY: Well, there are a number of things that weren`t addressed, Dr. Drew, at the press conference that the sheriff`s department had on Friday.
Some new things, and including some opinions from Dr. Cyril Wecht, who`s been retained now on behalf of the family through me, that there was a T-shirt wrapped three times around her neck -- around Rebecca`s family with actually having been in her mouth. It`s been called a gag. That there were some injuries consistent, at least per the autopsy report and the doctor, that there were signs potentially of a struggle. Also, potential blunt-force trauma to her head.
And also a lot of unanswered questions given all of this about how she could have accomplished this "suicide," being bound hands and feet, having the gag, having some expert ropes, actually, some ties being used, square knots, slipknots, et cetera. And even with the footprints, when you look at the pictures they have on their Web site, there are two footprints on the threshold of the balcony, but then just a partial toe print.
So even if you think about, would this even possible, why wouldn`t she land with two feet before going over, they can`t even show any demonstration, they haven`t done it, of how this whole thing could even remotely be possible. And, of course, Mary and the family have been devastated by this.
There`s no rush to judgment here. It`s necessary. There`s plenty of time to conduct a complete and thorough investigation.
PINSKY: Well, I agree. There`s a lot of very strange issues that need to be sorted through. And I want to break down all of these elements as we go through the segment today.
We actually reached out to Jonah Shacknai for statement. He is not available because he`s with his family at present, but we were able to speak to a close source, very close to him, and the source said the following. Now, this is an exclusive comment to HLN.
And this is -- Anne, I think you`ll see, it`s a little bit in response to some of your concerns, but we here we go. This is an exclusive.
"Four different independent law enforcement agencies did a thorough and complete investigation, and each concluded that Rebecca`s death was a suicide. That conclusion was based on irrefutable DNA, fingerprint, and physical footprint evidence, all of which showed that Rebecca`s death was a suicide and not a homicide."
Anne, I think you`re taking issue with that, even the footprint issue.
BREMNER: Well, the fact is, is that we don`t have all the police reports. The only report that`s been public so far is the autopsy report.
We had talked to the police, Dr. Drew, and raised all of these issues and questions which still need to be addressed. The first time the family was met with formally was last week, on Wednesday, to go through the fact that the writing on the wall wasn`t from her, it`s in the third person, saying, "She saved him. Can you save her?"
And they did give a demonstration, and it`s on their Web site, and they showed it to the family. But it`s only of a woman binding her own hands, not of accomplishing everything else in what would be a very contortionistic act. So if there are questions raised --
PINSKY: Anne, I`m going to interrupt you --
PINSKY: -- because we actually have that video. We have the video of the investigators showing a demonstration.
I mean, I`m looking at this, Mary, and I think you`d have to be an expert in knot-tying and how to use ropes.
Mary, to your knowledge, did your sister have that kind of knowledge?
MARY ZAHAU, REBECCA ZAHAU`S SISTER: No. My sister does not have a knowledge of that kind. None of us really do.
We didn`t even grow up around water. So, a little bit of swimming that we know we have learned after we have been grownups. So we don`t really know that kind of rope-tying. And just the fact that they`re saying my sister came up with this ingenious idea of committing a suicide in a short time frame is beyond me.
PINSKY: Now, pathologist Cyril Wecht reviewed Zahau`s autopsy report, and here`s what he reported. "She has subgaleal hemorrhages, and those are hemorrhages under the surface of the scalp. I see no reason why she should have those."
Dr. Wecht said this according to a television station, KFMB. And he followed with, "You get those when your head strikes something or is struck by something."
Anne, again, subgaleal hemorrhages means bleeding under the scalp from blunt trauma. I would be interested to know what part of the scalp. I guess if she was swinging there could have been something.
But do you think, given what we`ve been talking about today, police should just go ahead and reopen this case?
BREMNER: Absolutely. There`s no reason to not do that.
There`s an expert now, a world-renowned expert, Dr. Wecht, talking about this hemorrhaging, as you described, Dr. Drew. And there are all kinds of questions also about whether it would be possible or even probable for her to have been able to accomplish all of these things.
PINSKY: Anne, I`m looking at the video of the knot-tying, and it looks like a sailor from the 17th century would have to do this.
BREMNER: I know.
PINSKY: I can`t believe it. It`s really -- it`s stunning to say, oh, yes, sure, this young lady figured this all out and had the right equipment and the right cords. And apparently, some other vital details are being omitted in the coroner`s report.
What conclusions were drawn about the presence of tape residue on the calves? And you mentioned the T-shirt that was a gag. And there were apparently scratches and abrasions on her skin that looked like defensive wounds.
What did they make of all that, and why is it being omitted?
BREMNER: Well, I can`t speculate as to why they didn`t talk about it, Dr. Drew, on Friday, but these are really important things to look at when you look at whether this is a suicide. And we don`t even know where the tape is. There was tape residue on both of her legs, reportedly, and that`s been addressed, at least in the media, over the weekend, but not addressed on Friday, when they said case closed.
So these are very significant things, you know, medically, and need to be looked at in terms of what actually happened to Rebecca. And victims have rights in this system as well, as we all know. And they want justice and answers for Rebecca.
PINSKY: Now, investigators showed a video explaining the suicide message also. Those painted in black on the guestroom door. The phrase was, "She saved him. Can you (sic) save her?"
Mary, I want to ask you, did the handwriting even look like her? And does this sound like something your sister would concoct?
ZAHAU: First, I want to clarify what it says. It says, "She saved him. Can he save her?" It`s not a "you," it`s a "he." Everything is in third person.
And no, absolutely, that does not sound like my sister at all. And she does not even write in block. I have been digging through every writing that she has to try to compare it. Nothing she has ever written looks like that.
PINSKY: All right, ladies.
Next, the Coronado case is closed, but will the swirling controversy get it reopened?
Plus, we`re going to have a reality check for the reality show "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills."
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHERIFF BILL GORE, SAN DIEGO COUNTY: Were these deaths the result of criminal conduct? Was Max`s death a homicide? The answer is no. It was a tragic accident.
Was Rebecca`s death a homicide? Again, the answer is no. It was a suicide.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: That was San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore explaining the two sad deaths that took place inside Jonah Shacknai`s historic beachfront estate.
But tonight, new details cast more suspicion in the death of Rebecca Zahau. This one gets more bizarre by the day.
With today`s release of some autopsy materials, the autopsy report, there are some serious questions that need to be answered. Rebecca Zahau`s death was ruled a suicide. Her family insists that`s wrong, and they`re fighting to get the case reopened.
Rebecca`s naked body was found hanging at her boyfriend Jonah Shacknai`s million-dollar mansion. Her hands and feet were bound. San Diego police said last Friday that Rebecca took her own life. They spent nearly two hours laying out the evidence.
But here`s what the investigators did not mention. Among other things, there was a subgaleal hemorrhage you`ve heard about recently, a scalp hemorrhage, blunt trauma. There was tape residue on the back of her calves.
There were T-shirts wrapped around her neck. They were used as a gag, maybe. There was scratches and abrasions on Zahau`s skin that looked defensive.
And then there were these ropes that looked like they were tied by a 17th century sailor. I`ve never seen rope talent like that before.
Now, joining me now is Jen Heger. She is legal editor of radaronline.com. And national suicide expert Lisa Boesky. And still with us is Rebecca`s sister, Mary Zahau.
I`m going to start with Jen.
What are you hearing about Rebecca`s death and the autopsy report?
JEN HEGER, LEGAL EDITOR, RADAR ONLINE: I think the most stunning revelation is the fact that there was tape residue found on the back of Rebecca`s legs. And this was not discussed at all by the law enforcement at the press conference on Friday. There was also, as you said, strips of her T-shirt that were around her neck, might have been in her mouth at some point. This is very odd.
PINSKY: It`s all very odd. What do you think the significance of that tape is on the back of the legs?
HEGER: It could be anything. You know, I think it`s just another reason for the Sheriff`s Department down in San Diego to reopen this case.
I mean, it seems they closed this case, and yet all of these questions are now coming to light. And so it seems that out of an abundance of caution, they should reopen this case.
PINSKY: Especially when those of us that are in the media are just fascinated, and we`re going to keep going after it just because there`s all these unanswered questions, and a family that seems to be suffering.
Now, listen to how Rebecca Zahau`s body was found. Now, I ask you, does this sound like someone who committed suicide? Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAPT. TIM CURRAN, SAN DIEGO SHERIFF`S DEPT: The hands were bound behind the back and the feet were bound. They did not appear to be bound together. I think you used the term "hog tied." That did not appear to be the case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: Right. But in that earlier tape, you saw that they were bound together with this very incredible, elaborate rope and knot-tying.
Now, Lisa, initially, Captain Tim Curran called Rebecca`s death suspicious on July 14th. Then it was ruled a suicide.
Why do you think they switched position on this?
LISA BOESKY, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Well, I live here in San Diego, and I`ve been following this case all along. And I will tell you, they truly do believe it is a suicide.
Now, I specialize in suicide. I`ve worked on hundreds of cases of serious suicide attempts and completed suicides. And I have more questions now than I did at the beginning of this case.
And I can tell you, suicide is usually a personal, private event. This was a very public act that happened. It appears aggressive, angry, vengeful, potentially humiliating.
We rarely see women nude. And the cryptic message, if you think about it, on the door, "She saved him. Can he save her?" If she had written that, wouldn`t it say, "Can he save me?"
You would think if she was guilty she would be writing things like, "Forgive me," or "I`m sorry," or "I deserve to be punished." So there are a lot of things about this.
And I think the key also is, when people have not made a suicide attempt, and they go to hang themselves, they almost always think of something to hang themselves from up above. So, a shower head, a pipe in a basement, something in a closet, a hook on the door. They wouldn`t think of the bed, jumping off the balcony, and as you said, these elaborate knots that are so complex and so complicated.
Is it possible? Yes. Is it probable? No.
PINSKY: Lisa, I have to agree with you.
Mary, I want to turn to you. This is kind of a delicate question. Is there something about your sister and her faith that would make suicide even less likely?
ZAHAU: Yes. We were raised Christians, and we believe that if we commit suicide, we go to hell.
We have a very strong faith, and that`s what keep us going right now. We believe that God will answer our prayers. And prayer is going to be the key to this whole case. And we believe that God is going to reveal at some point what happened to my sister.
PINSKY: And Mary, I want to thank you for joining us and being so forthcoming. I know this is a very painful time. But we are trying to get to the truth here. And again, thank you.
Now, listen to this. Jonah Shacknai`s brother, Adam -- remember those knots? His brother Adam is a tugboat operator based in Tennessee.
Now, I don`t know this guy, but someone tied a clean hitch knot commonly used for dock tying and a slip knot with a red marine rope. One end of the cord was tied to the leg of a cast iron bed, anchoring it.
I mean, and you saw those videos of the elaborate nature of that rope work. It really looked like a block and tackle from a 16th century Schooner or something.
Don`t police need to be able to explain that?
HEGER: Yes. And what I want to know is, Adam Shacknai cut Rebecca down when he saw her the next morning. So his fingerprints and DNA would have to be on those ropes. Yet, law enforcement said on Friday the only DNA that was on those ropes was Rebecca. That`s impossible.
PINSKY: So the tugboat operator who says he cut her down, his DNA didn`t even show up on this. And law enforcement had no explanation for that?
HEGER: No. No explanation.
PINSKY: All right.
Now, police also said they don`t know precisely when Zahau died. But when paramedics arrived, it was just before 7:00 a.m. This is tough stuff to talk about, but rigor mortis had set in, in her jaw, which according to forensics, of course, takes about four hours. That would put the time of death at roughly 3:00 a.m.
So, Jen, back to you. There were reports of something going on, a party or something the night before. Did police explain ever explain that or even look into that?
HEGER: There were reports of a party. RadarOnline.com -- as the story unfolded, I found that there was indeed no party. However, there was loud music that was ruminating from the Shacknai complex somewhere.
Now, could it have been a neighbor`s house? Perhaps. But there was definitely loud music going on.
PINSKY: Could it have been music being playing loud to sort of hide something that was going on, like somebody struggling or somebody calling out?
HEGER: Anything is possible.
PINSKY: Wow. All right.
Now, four days after the autopsy report, and before police concluded that she had committed suicide, Shacknai hired Citric (ph) and Company. This is a powerful public relations firm.
Jen, does that look suspicious, or is that just --
HEGER: No. Actually, that does not look suspicious to me. That is the one thing in this that does not.
PINSKY: It would be reasonable. He`s the CEO of a big, important company. It would be reasonable to --
HEGER: Not only that. Exactly. Not only that, he`s got a publicly- held company. His girlfriend is dead. His young son is dead.
HEGER: I think given the -- he was making funeral plans. I think if any one of us were in that position, the last thing we would want to be doing is fielding calls from the media.
HEGER: I don`t think that that was --
PINSKY: It`s reasonable crisis management for somebody in his position.
HEGER: Right. Absolutely. I`d do the same thing.
PINSKY: All right.
Jen, thank you.
Lisa, thank you.
And, of course, Mary, I do appreciate you being here with us and answering these questions. We will continue to hammer away at this until we get at something that feels like the truth.
Thank you, again.
And when we come back, how did "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" handle the suicide of one of its cast members on the season premiere last night?
And later, controversy over Chaz Bono on "Dancing With the Stars." Chaz is apparently ignoring it. So why can`t others?
We`ll be right back.
PINSKY: Cast members express their shock over the suicide of Russell Armstrong on "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills," season premiere Monday night.
Now, as we know, there was a lot of controversy surrounding Bravo and how they would handle this? So we asked you: "Do you think `The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills` -- the show - "handled their season premier in good taste?:
And here are the results.
Forty-three percent of you said yes. Thirty-four percent of you said no. And 23 percent of you said you don`t care.
Well, fair enough.
Let`s hear more of what you had to say.
Karen from Michigan is on the line.
Go ahead, Karen.
KAREN, MICHIGAN: Hi, Dr. Drew.
PINSKY: Hi, Karen.
KAREN: I just wanted to say that I thought the premiere of "Housewives" was handled very tastefully. I`m a suicide survivor myself, and I am often frustrated at the lack of attention that suicide prevention gets when it kills way more people than breast cancer. I was hoping that they would use this tragedy to bring much needed awareness instead of sensationalism and drama.
PINSKY: Well, Karen, it`s a good point. I mean, if it does raise awareness about the dangers of suicide -- and again, there`s various data out there on how dangerous depression can be. But people don`t often think about the fact, as you say, that depression has a potential fatal outcome. And it needs to be dealt with accordingly.
And so, yes, I agree with you. I think if they do raise awareness about this, it will have done a very, very good thing.
On Facebook, Mike writes, "What should you do if someone tells you they are thinking about suicide?"
And Mike, I`ll tell you what, here`s what I tell people all the time, which is you take it seriously no matter what. Listen, if somebody says, "I`m going to harm myself," and if they don`t mean it, I don`t care. I`m calling law enforcement. I`m calling a doctor. I`m calling somebody, because you can`t take the risk.
You don`t know whether they are being glib, whether they are serious or not. But you must always take it seriously.
Even people that have sort of a history of having done so, and people stand back and go, oh, they just want attention, fine. You want attention? The police will be at your door. Eventually they get tired of getting that kind of attention.
But in the meantime, you don`t know when someone is serious and when they are not. It must always be handled as though it`s a potentially life- threatening emergency.
Louise writes, "I don`t believe the show brings suicide to the forefront. It`s all about how much money they can make from that poor soul`s suicide. Sensationalism!"
Well, I`ll tell you what. We`re going to have a panel coming up in the next segment. We`re going to discuss this with some of the participants and attorneys, whether or not they have handled it tastefully, or whether this is something that is exploiting a really horrible and tragic situation.
Renee, finally, writes, "One of the husbands said that he would never go to therapy. Therapy shows weakness. Your thoughts?"
That is absurd. That is ridiculous. If anything, therapy shows strength.
And God knows, if somebody has the resources to be able to access help, I`m just thankful for that. The fact is that therapy works. Mental health treatment works. It pays dividends every time you reach out for it.
It has nothing in the world to do with weakness. It`s not weakness or strength. It has nothing to do with it.
If somebody`s having symptoms, symptoms can be treated. And they should be able to reach out to professionals to get that help.
As we just saw, last night was the season premiere of "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills," the first new episode since the suicide of Russell Armstrong. Now, apparently, his parents were asking to have the show cancelled.
Now, we`ll find out if last night`s show was edited in such a way that they were happy, and whether the parents of Russell Armstrong have changed their minds at all. We`re going to have what I like to call a reality check for reality TV when we return.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY (voice-over): The season premiere of "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" premieres less than a month after Russell Armstrong`s suicide. Was there finally a real lesson on reality TV? You don`t want to miss this.
And Sonny and Cher`s little girl Chastity is now a big boy. Chaz "Dancing with the Stars" and coping with controversy. Some say transgenders have no place on that stage. Star mom, Cher, is sharing her two sets. And star lawyer, Allred, is all in for a fight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY (on-camera): And as they say in Hollywood, the show must go on and it did. Last night was the much-anticipated season premiere of the "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" and tacked on to the hour-long premiere was a four minute discussion about cast member, Russell Armstrong, and his suicide.
All the real housewives participated except for the widow, Taylor. Cast members called Russell`s death, quote, "heartbreaking." They all agreed they saw, quote, "No sign of a struggle," unquote. Here`s part of last night`s real reality group therapy-type session. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KYLE RICHARDS, STAR, "REAL HOUSEWIVES OF BEVERLY HILLS": I mean, there`s plenty of men that, you know, their wives leave them, and they don`t kill themselves. She cannot feel responsible for that. Nobody can. It was his choice. It was his choice.
For me, it`s really hard to move forward because it is a tragic situation, and so many people have been left hurt by it. As difficult as that is, life goes on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: Well, yes, indeed, life does go on, and here`s some of what the "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" have to endure. This is last night. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love Jiggy, but I don`t know how polite that is, especially when the dog is drinking out of your champagne glasses.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dogs at the table?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They`re like $550 a glass. They`re very expensive. And then, as Jiggy done drinking (INAUDIBLE) takes a gulp himself, and I`m like, oh my God.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: I think everyone is aware the new season was taped before the suicide. And tonight, we ask, did Bravo and the housewives really deal with the suicide in a meaningful way? Does Russell Armstrong`s family have less to worry about? And will they, perhaps, now drop their threats of a lawsuit?
Our guests, Jeana Keough, former cast member of "Real Housewives of Orange County" and Ronald Richards who was the attorney for Russell Armstrong. And joining us again is Lisa Boesky, a suicide expert, as I`ve said before. Now, Ronald, you represent Russell, himself. And my understand is that his whole family wanted the show cancelled, is that correct? And how do they feel today?
RONALD RICHARDS, RUSSELL ARMSTRONG`S ATTORNEY: They wanted his likeness and his reference out of the show. They had a memorial service for him on Friday, and they feel good because last night`s show really just can now continue the fantasy that he`s still alive and entering into therapy with his wife, but other than that kind of twisted storyline, nothing was defamatory about Russell.
PINSKY: They were fearful it was going to be a defamatory or somehow negative spin?
RONALD RICHARDS: Yes. They feel that, you know, now that he`s not here to defend himself, this may just be a series of Russell bashing over the next couple months making him out to be a monster.
PINSKY: And is it true that he went to treatment with his wife? Was in he some kind of therapy?
RONALD RICHARDS: Yes. They both waived their psychiatrist/patient privilege and allowed them to be filmed during those therapies from what I understand --
PINSKY: Are the parents having any issues or do you think Russell would have any issues with that being on television?
RONALD RICHARDS: I think his likeness are shown, because we all know that the therapy failed and ended up killing himself. I think that`s what the parents are concerned about is the kids and the grandkids seeing this for the next 20 years.
PINSKY: It`s terrible.
RONALD RICHARDS: Yes.
PINSKY: OK. Now, Kyle Richards of "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" was on the "Today" show yesterday. She had a very clear message for those who might blame the show or Bravo for the suicide. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KYLE RICHARDS: We also signed up for the season one and came back for season two. You know, when they -- when we started the show, they cast six strong women. And, they didn`t really know anything about our story. You know, we didn`t know in season one that Kelsey was going to leave Camille or the issues between my sister, and we certainly didn`t know the troubles that he had.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: Now, Gina, you were on "Real Housewives of Orange County," does anything she saying ring true for you?
JEANA KEOUGH, FORMER CAST MEMBER, "REAL HOUSEWIVES OF ORANGE COUNTY": It was hard to hear exactly what she was saying, but --
PINSKY: Basically, she has said repeatedly no one knows why someone commit suicide, and we can`t feel guilty for it. People shouldn`t be blamed for it.
KEOUGH: I found it interesting in last night`s episode that all the women said to each other, we didn`t really give him a chance. We just thought he wasn`t communicating with us, and he didn`t want to be involved. But, obviously, he had trouble back then. That`s one of the signs of depression is not wanting to go --
PINSKY: So, from your standpoint, it be accurate to say that maybe the show can teach somebody something?
KEOUGH: I think the show can definitely could teach somebody something.
PINSKY: Pay attention.
KEOUGH: Pay attention to each other and people around your life and get help, the most important thing.
PINSKY: Fair enough. Now, Lisa, do you feel that Bravo could have done more for both of Russell, his family, and the viewers? And if so, what should they have done?
LISA BOESKY, PH.D., NATIONAL SUICIDE EXPERT: Actually, I thought they did a pretty good job. I mean, they addressed it. They discussed it. There were tears. There were guilt, but it`s always interesting is nobody used the words suicide. They said we didn`t see it. We weren`t aware of it. So, I think it would have been nice if they actually used the word suicide or, you know, he died by suicide or when he took his life.
But what I thought was good about it was two things. One, after the kind of dramatic beginning focused on Russell, it went into what the show was all about, which is the drama of these women, the relationships with each other, the relationship they have with their significant others. And then, what I really give them credit for is when they showed the upcoming season, which is basically the highlight of this entire season.
That`s where they could have exploited it and shown a whole bunch of scenes of Russell. So, basically, tune in and watch this drama unfold. And you know what, Russell wasn`t even mentioned in any of the upcoming highlights for the season. I don`t think they`re going to edit him out. I`m sure they`ll keep him in, but I think that they`re going to edit it in a way to show that he had problems before the show, during the show, and that the show might have been the straw that broke the camel`s back, but that he came in with a lot of issues other than the show.
PINSKY: I just want to make sure I get the panel`s point of view here. Are we saying that everyone feels as though it was handled reasonably well and that they reasonably satisfied with how it`s going forward? Ronald, even you?
RONALD RICHARDS: I`m reasonably satisfied about last night, because it merely portrayed the character line that they`ve been consistent with and kind of shielded the negative aspects that were floating there that was driving Russell crazy.
PINSKY: So, that`s everyone`s concern, that, somehow, he was going to be portrayed negatively, not that his tragedy was going to be exploited.
RONALD RICHARDS: That`s correct.
PINSKY: OK. Now, Jeana, I have a question for you. I want to read something to you. After committing suicide, he apparently claimed -- before committing suicide, I mean, he apparently complained to family members -- I`m going to read this specifically, "Overwhelming pressure of life in the spotlight." That`s what he complained about.
Now, having yourself in on "Real Housewives of Orange County," can you relate to that statement or was that -- and this is my follow on to that, or does the media and the public make too much of that kind of thing?
KEOUGH: I think it`s really true that it intensifies everything in your life. So, if you don`t like who you are, when you see it in the reality TV mirror later, you`re not going to be so happy. My husband decided to take himself off the show, and Bravo and my producers were so concerned about his mental health that they actually put him outside the house for four months in a place so he could be happy and not have to deal with confusion.
PINSKY: Did they deal with that in the scripting of the show or is --
KEOUGH: Pretty much they acted like he was moving out and I was getting divorced. And in reality, they were concerned for his mental health and wanted him to be happy and not have the confusion of the show.
PINSKY: Did they provide resources for him?
PINSKY: I found that generally to be true. Ronald, have you had any difficulty or different opinion on this that mostly for the most part, most networks and most producers will get people help if they`re aware something bad is going on. They`re not cruel people.
RONALD RICHARDS: I don`t think they`re cruel people.
PINSKY: OK. All right.
Up next -- thank you to my panel, by the way. Thank you, Jeana. Thank you, Ronald. And of course, thank you, Lisa, for the last couple of segments you`ve been with us.
Up next, the big controversy over Chaz Bono joining "Dancing with the Stars." Should his transgender status really have anything to do with him dancing on the show? This topic has many outraged. My question is what do you think about it? Up next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHAZ BONO, "DANCING WITH THE STARS" CONTESTANT: It was really a pretty easy decision to do the show. And, I have since, you know, watched a lot of it. And I`m really a fan. And I think that, you know, I`m really honored to be like the first transgendered person to dance on this show.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the only child of Sonny and Cher, Chaz Bono.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, the new cast of "Dancing with the Stars."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: That was ABC`s announcement of Chaz Bono as one of the newest cast members for the 13th -- it`s hard to imagine -- the 13th season of "Dancing with the Stars." So, let me take you back a bit. Chaz Bono was born Chastity Bono, the daughter of legendary start, Cher and the late, Sonny Bono. Chaz is now a transgender activist. We actually had him on the show. It`s a great interview. And he`s under fire for being on "Dancing with the Stars."
Now, many people are talking about whether a transgender should or shouldn`t be on a show like "Dancing with the Stars." Monica Cole director of online advocacy group of One Million Moms spoke about Chaz. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MONICA COLE, DIRECTOR, "ONE MILLION MOMS": We will not be able to watch the show with Chaz on there. This is going to be very confusing for children. And it should not be included in their cast.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: Now, despite this discrimination, Chaz says, he`s just dancing. Listen to his response on ABC`s "Good Morning America" today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BONO: It`s made me realize I`m really glad I`m doing this because America really needs to see this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: And there`s lacey right next to him. We`re actually going to have her on the show with us tonight. We have Gloria Allred. She`s an attorney for victims` right. She represents many people who have been the victims of discrimination and violence because simply they are transgendered. Also tonight, lesbian rights activist, Robin Tyler. She is the first plaintiff to sue the state of California challenging the ban on same-sex marriage in 2004.
And as I said, Lacey Schwimmer, Chaz Bono`s dancing partner on "Dancing with the Star." She is available via phone. Ladies, welcome to the show. Lacey, you`re out there on telephone. My understanding is they wouldn`t let you go away from rehearsing to get to a satellite booth. You`re so intensively in dancing with Chaz.
LACEY SCHWIMMER, CHAZ BONO`S DANCING PARTNER: Yes, we`re in the studio right now. It`s crazy. It`s getting down the wire with the premiere, so we`re just working really hard.
PINSKY: Let me ask you this. Do you think people are making much bigger deal than it really is?
SCHWIMMER: To me, it`s ridiculous. I mean, he`s just like everybody else. I think people just need to let him be happy and dance on a little TV show. It`s not a big deal, you know?
PINSKY: And let me point out that Gloria and Robin both held a press conference today supporting the transgender community. As you point out that we`ve reached out to Chaz Bono about Gloria`s efforts, and he has, as of yet, no comment at this time. Well, Gloria did make a statement on his behalf. Let`s listen in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLORIA ALLRED, VICTIMS` RIGHTS ACTIVIST: We are hear today as civil rights activists to respond to the many critics on the internet who have urged parents not to let their children watch Chaz Bono on "Dancing with the Stars" simply because he has transitioned to a man.
(END VIDEO CLIP)s
PINSKY: Now, Gloria, you obviously feel very, very strongly on this issue. Have you spoken to Chaz personally?
ALLRED: No, I have not spoken to him, but I have been involved in protecting the rights of individuals who are transgendered or lesbian or gay for 36 years that I`ve been in law practice. And I just think it`s outrageous that some people who, I think, may be not as well educated as they could be are calling for children not to be able to watch Chaz on "Dancing with The stars." In response to that, we are having national viewing parties.
We are going to have dance parties. We`re going to have one right here in L.A., and I`m going to dance with every person who would like to dance with me on September 19th when the show airs who has transition from a female --
PINSKY: I`m a transgender, can I dance with you (ph)?
ALLRED: Or transition from male to female or anyone else. I really don`t care. And it`s an important issue, Dr. Drew. I`m glad you`re doing it. It`s also a very serious issue. You know, years ago, DSM, which you are familiar with, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual used by psychologists and psychiatrists said that homosexuality was a mental disorder. That was, of course, completely removed in 1986.
And I`m hopeful that very soon that your profession will take the lead and take this away also as a mental disorder, because gender identity disorder should not be considered a disorder. It should be -- they should -- people who have what Chaz has, that is a desire to transition from female to male, are just like everybody else in their hopes and their dreams and their aspirations. And they have a right to be treated with respect and with dignity.
PINSKY: Let me get back to this dance-a-thon, because I`m excited about that. We actually have a Facebook page. Can we put that up there in control room? There it is right there. For more info -- there it is. The "Dancing with the Stars" viewing parties, go to Facebook -- oh, it will be at our website. That`s where you can find out more information about this. Now, Chaz says he`s really not paying that much attention to this controversy. He spoke out today on "Good morning, America." Listen to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BONO: To be honest, I really haven`t been paying that much attention to it. I`m really kind of just focused on dancing and enjoying everything that`s happening. And, I think everybody else -- it`s much bigger deal to everybody else than it is me. All these ideas of, you know, children shouldn`t watch me, I`m going to be confusing and all of this stuff is just -- it`s crazy. And for all of the, you know, kids and teens out there with gender dysphoria, I think it`s going to have a really positive impact.
PINSKY: Robin to you. I mean, so, he`s saying that if people have gender disphoria, they`re uncomfortable with their gender, this could be supportive. And for other kids, it`s not going to make a difference.
ROBIN TYLER, GAY CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: You know, everybody else is beware of the children, we`re protecting the children. You know what, educating children is very good. And what are you protecting him from? He`s dancing on "Dancing with the Stars." Not a bog deal.
PINSKY: What is the logic, do you think? It seems it`s a fear-based thing?
TYLER: It`s fear, but also, they want us to stay whether your gay or lesbian, at one point, they wanted us to stay in the closet. It`s the same thing with transgender people. They want them to just it`s OK to do it, but don`t show it to us, and it`s fear based. I just want to say one thing about the party, anybody can have a viewing party to support Chaz Bono.
Anybody can just go on to Facebook and sign right up and create a party and have a viewing party and support his right to be on that show.
ALLRED: And Dr. Drew, I am a mother. As you know, I`m also a grandmother. I was a credential high school teacher for six and a half years and a credential high school principal. And I think it`s a wonderful teachable moment to have an open dialogue that night with your children about what the issues are involving a person such as Chaz who is transitioning from female to male or has done so.
And you know, to say that they shouldn`t be viewed or somehow should be ashamed or be in the closet, that is exposing folks like Chaz to risk of harm. And we are concerned because minorities who are isolated and stigmatized are often then the persons who become the victims of violence and targets.
PINSKY: Yes. I think those people who live in the Southern California are aware that there was a high school -- a junior high school kid that killed another junior high school kid for this very issue. So, it`s right. These are not trivial issues. They turn into behaviors, and that`s what`s scary.
Now, I`m going to interrupt you real quick. Chaz`s mother, Cher, of course, responded to all the negative comments that he`s receiving, and she defended her son on Twitter saying, quote, "I support him no matter what he chooses to do. Will there always be haters." I`m afraid so.
Robin, I`m going to go to you. That is -- Cher said something very important. I saw her say this -- I think it`s in Chaz`s documentary, which is that she loves being a woman and she likes getting up every day and being a woman. How awful it must feel for Chaz to have woken up every day not feeling good, feeling (INAUDIBLE) about who he is, and she has supported him very clearly throughout all of this.
TYLER: I think it is very hard on whether you`re gay and lesbian, but if you`re a tomboy or you`re a feminine male or you want a transition. I think it`s very hard for anybody who`s different to constantly being ridiculed, and the fact that Chaz Bono is going to appear on "Dancing with the Stars," we can show all of our children who are different, hey, it`s OK. And I think it is an educated moment.
The one thing is if you keep hiding people, then people fear them. And that`s why transgender have more violence against them than any other group. That`s why they have trouble getting jobs. So, I think this is going to be a great moment where we finally break that ceiling and say, hey world, we`re here, and it`s OK.
PINSKY: I have two things. First of all, I want to point out to people that Gloria has a new TV show called, "We, The People, with Gloria Allred" begins on --
ALLRED: And some other cities the following week.
PINSKY: Check that out your local listing. And Lacey, I want to finish with you. Thank you, honey, for joining us. You guys going to win this year?
SCHWIMMER: We are sure going to try.
PINSKY: All right. We`ll check in with you, OK? Good luck with Chaz. Say hello to him for us, will you?
SCHWIMMER: Thank you, guys, and for all the support. We appreciate it.
PINSKY: All right. We`ll be right back after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NANCY GRACE, HOST, HLN`S "NANCY GRACE": I don`t have time to hate Chaz Bono. And I would advise everybody that does have time to find something else to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: And that was our own Nancy Grace who is also on "Dancing with the Stars." We are back with more on the controversial backlash on "Dancing with The stars." Now, ladies, I want to wrap up. I`ve got Gloria Allred and Robin Tyler. Ladies -- Gloria, you first, final thoughts.
ALLRED: Well, Dr. Drew, Chaz Bono is definitely much more than the sum of his external body parts. He is a real human being, and he`s entitled to the same opportunities and business in the entertainment world as anyone else. And again, I think it`s an opportunity to have a dialogue -- for the whole nation to have a dialogue about issues of sexual identity and about not trying to force others into stereotypical roles or into some kind of gender conformity.
It`s really about the merits of the person, what they have to contribute, and I think he has quite a bit to contribute to educating us all.
PINSKY: And robin, You?
TYLER: I hope everybody goes on Facebook and goes to the Chaz Bono Facebook page, which they can find on your webpage and throw a party for Chaz Bono and ask your friends over and throw a party and support Chaz and support all transgender people that have the courage like Chaz did to come out of the closet and to fight for transgender rights.
PINSKY: And Gloria, isn`t this behind all this, it`s a conversation about how we treat minorities generally? Isn`t that in here?
ALLRED: Right. And I say, let`s educate not isolate. Let`s help to inform, because if minorities are marginalized, then it`s easy for them to be very vulnerable and not only to be stigmatized but to be hurt, and people are hurt. Not just by acts of violence, but hurt by verbal missiles that are hurled at them. Words that degrade them, that humiliate them.
And you know, people like Chaz, you know, these are somebody`s son, somebody`s daughter, somebody`s relative, somebody`s co-worker, somebody`s friend. So, let`s just treat them the way we would like our children to be treated.
PINSKY: Less than 30 seconds, Robin.
TYLER: OK. And we can`t say it gets better. We can`t just say it gets better. We have to make it better, and this is part of making it better.
PINSKY: Thank you, ladies. We will look forward to those dance parties. And, listen, I`ve known Lacey Schwimmer for quite some time. She is great. I`m sure they will put on -- they`ll be ample contestants on the show, I have no doubt.
Now, a few words before we go. It seems to me that this dust up over Chaz Bono and Bono and "Dancing with the Stars," think about it this way. I think it`s based on fear. I brought that up earlier on the conversation. And we shouldn`t allow our fears, whatever they are, to shape our opinions, and particularly, to use rationality to defend those opinions that are really about our emotions which are fear.
It could be dangerous to let our fears validate these things. It`s not reasonable to think that a child watching a dance competition and seeing someone that looks like Chaz will see anything but a man with his female partner in a dance competition. There`s just no evidence that I`m aware of that doing this would be in any way harmful or distorting of a child`s image. Now, ultimately, if we want to have a reasonable conversation, we might talk about what it means that we normalize these things.
Fine. Let`s have that conversation. I say it has no impact, but let`s have that conversation. Let`s continue to have this conversation, but let`s not marginalize people that are in a minority. Be careful. In the state of California, we have this sort of proposition system where they can simply decide to take your rights away from you if you have, say, gray hair.
I`m worried about things like that. Be careful. You never know of whether or not you or next can be a part of a minority that the people taking. So, thank you for watching tonight. We`ll see you next time.