BARBARA WALTERS’ 20/20 MOTHER’S DAY SPECIAL, TRANSCRIPT
May 11, 2003
20/20 Announcer: She’s a red hot superstar with a name only a mother could love. Marg Helgenberger, the sexy scientist on America’s number one TV drama, CSI. Behind the glamour is a small town girl with an old fashioned mother, trying to hold the line between fame and family values. A Barbara Walters exclusive with Marg Helgenberger and her mother.
When 20/20 returns, CSI superstar Marg Helgenberger. She’s got millions of fans but only one mother.
No matter how far you go in life there’s a person who won’t let you forget where you came from. For CSI star Marg Helgenberger , it’s her mother.
Once again, Barbara Walters.
Barbara: There’s one thing about your mother, no matter how famous you become, she knew you when. And right now, one of the hottest women on primetime television is forty-four year old Marg Helgenberger, the sexy star of CSI. Will success spoil this small town girl? Not if her mother has anything to say about it. And as you’ll see, she does. We brought Marg and her mother Kay to New York for this special Mother’s Day interview.
(clips of Marg on the red carpet shown)
Barbara: Imagine what it’s like to be the star of the moment. The red hot redhead, dubbed the bombshell with brains. Marg Helgenberger is living the dream, playing a sexy scientist on the hit show CSI.
(CSI Clips shown)
Barbara: She has millions of fans, and she graces the pages of no less than four glossy magazines just this month.
(Photo of magazine covers shown)
Barbara: Now imagine being Marg’s mother, maybe the proudest woman in Nebraska.
(clips of Kay shown)
Kay: The whole town, the whole community is very, very proud of her.
Barbara: Kay Snyder is loving every minute of her daughter’s current success, though she takes no credit for it. But get to know Kay, and you’ll understand a lot about why Marg has managed to become so very successful and still keep her feet planted on the ground.
Barbara: You grew up in a very small town, North Bend, Nebraska. What was your childhood like?
Marg: Well, North Bend is twelve hundred people. There’s finally a street light, I believe, in town…maybe even two. You know, it was a great place to grow up. Kids just kind of took off on their bikes and returned when it was time to have dinner.
(Childhood pictures of Marg and family shown)
Barbara: Marg was the second of three children born to Kay and Hugh Helgenberger. She has an older sister, Ann, and a younger brother, Curt. Her father worked in the local meat packing plant. Kay was the school nurse and the neighborhood’s mother hen. In fact, that was her nickname.
Barbara: You were the school nurse. You went to school where mama was the nurse. What happens if you got a headache or wanted to play sick?
Kay: It didn’t happen.
Marg: Well, I do recall coming to the nurse’s office a couple of times with an upset stomach. And my mother said, ‘Eat some saltine crackers and lie on the bed for twenty minutes.’
Kay: Rest for a while.
Barbara: and get back to class.
Marg and Kay: Yeah, ‘get back to class.’
(Pictures of Marg as a teenager shown)
Barbara: Marg grew into one of the prettiest girls in town and was heading for a career as a nurse like her mother. But, in her senior year of high school, she caught the acting bug and that was it.
Kay: And I think that’s when she said, ‘I just don’t think I want to be a nurse.’ And I said, ‘so what do you want to do?’ And she says, ‘I want to be an actress.’ And I said, ‘Oh Marg’. She says, ‘See, that’s why I don’t tell anybody. You don’t think I can do it, do you?’
(Clip of Marg doing the weather shown)
Barbara: Ever the practical mother, Kay watched her daughter’s somewhat less than stunning debut on television and worried that she might never have the career she hoped for.
Marg: Actually, I collected all the data myself and drew my own maps. I’d have a big black magic marker, and I’d draw this slope with the arrows going this way. I put a lot of work into that. And for that, I was paid fifteen dollars.
Barbara: Fortunately, Marg got a second job to help pay for college.
Barbara: In the summers, you went home, and you worked in a meat packing plant. This is where your father was a meat inspector. What was that like in this meat packing plant? Can you still eat meat?
Marg: I paid my dues, Barbara.
Barbara: You’re a butcher.
Marg: I had a set of knives. I had a steel…I had a frock. I had a hardhat. It’s hard…
Kay: But the pay was good.
Barbara: By your junior year, you had transferred to Northwestern in Chicago. And you were doing very well, and life was pretty good when you got a phone call…
Marg: Right, right. It was my mother saying, ‘Well, I’m going into the hospital because I have a lump.’ But not to worry, everything’s going to be fine.
(Clips of Kay walking)
Barbara: But it wasn’t fine. Kay had first, one breast removed, and then the other just a few days later after doctors learned the cancer had spread.
Marg: I was devastated. It devastated my dad. He was really torn up by that. But we got through it, and mom got home. And I would have to say, a couple of weeks later, she was out there mowing the lawn with the old push mower. There she was. ‘What are you doing, mother?’
Kay: Well, I think, you know, in a little town everybody knows your business before you do. And I think they thought I was dying. I even had somebody call for my job. So that’s when I thought, ‘Gosh, you know, I gotta prove to somebody that I’m not dead and I am going to be a survivor.’
Marg: Mowing the lawn did it.
Kay: Mowing the lawn did it.
(Pictures of Kay, Hugh and Ryan’s Hope clip shown)
Barbara: Kay has been cancer free ever since, but the family’s troubles weren’t over. Shortly after Kay recovered after her long months of chemotherapy, Marg’s father Hugh was diagnosed with progressive multiple sclerosis. He lived only a few years after that, but it was long enough to see his daughter break into show business for real on the soap opera Ryan’s Hope.
Barbara: Your mom says you look at lot like him and that you were very close.
Marg: We were very close.
Barbara: I’m not going to make you cry. So lets talk about a happy…
Marg: I tend to do that.
Barbara: I know. Your big break was China Beach where you played a prostitute.
Marg: Oh, I had many talents on that show.
(Clips of China Beach Shown)
Barbara: In fact, Marg played a drug-addicted prostitute who lived and worked near a military hospital during the Vietnam War. It wasn’t the easiest part to tell her devoutly Catholic mother about back in North Bend, Nebraska.
Kay: She said, ‘It’s about the women’s prospective in Vietnam.’ I said, ‘You don’t look Vietnamese.’ And she says, ‘Well, I’m an American,’ and I said, ‘Oh.’ I said, ‘So, are you a red cross worker?’ And she said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Well then, are you with the USO or what role would you play?’ And she says, ‘Well I’m a business woman, an entrepreneur, a business woman of the oldest kind.’ And I said, ‘So that would be?’ And she says, ‘Well, I’m a prostitute.’ I said, ‘Oh my gosh. I thought, ‘Oh dear.’ I said, ‘What will I say around here?’ And she says, ‘Well mother, they’re not gonna stone me, I don’t think.’ But yeah, people would always say that, and then I would kind of always retaliate and say, ‘Well you know, she’s an actress, and it’s better to play one than be one.’ And that stopped them.
Marg: That stopped them.
(Clips of Marg winning the Emmy shown)
Barbara: It’s a good bet everyone in North Bend was cheering the night Marg won an Emmy for her role on China Beach. By then, Marg was married to actor Alan Rosenberg and about to have a baby very soon.
Kay: And I was carrying a big purse with extra shoes in the purse, so she…
Barbara: That’s what mothers are for.
Kay: That’s right.
Marg: That and telling me I had too much cleavage.
Barbara: Oh, I have a feeling you say that very often.
Kay: I do, in fact.
Marg: You got that right.
Kay: In fact, I’ve been somewhere with her, and I’d go (Kay shows like she is pulling up the top of her shirt) and she’ll say, ‘What?’ And I’d go (another motion of pulling up the shirt) You know because obviously, although she’s…
Barbara: No, She’s okay today?
Kay: She’s okay today.
Barbara: She’s okay today. So, here we are now, CSI. You’re not a prostitute, you’re an ex stripper.
Kay: That’s true
Barbara: It’s a step up, a step up. Catherine Willows, divorced, single mother, stripper turned crime scientist. Big successful show. Success brings about its own rewards and publicity. And you were photographed for playboy, yes?
Marg: Not nude.
Barbara: You were not nude, but you were, shall we say, exposed? Kay, have you seen this picture?
Kay: Yes, I did.
Barbara: That came after, ‘Mom, I’m playing a prostitute’?
Kay: I guess so.
Barbara: What did you think?
(picture of Marg’s Playboy photo shown)
Barbara: This is not the family photo you have.
Kay: No, I don’t have that one in my collection.
Barbara: And she probably doesn’t have this clip in her collection either. A few months ago, Marg managed to rattle even David Letterman with a salty tale about her research visit to a real life Vegas crime scene.
( Clip of Marg on David Letterman when she said cock ring shown)
Barbara: Were you watching?
Kay: I was, and I didn’t know what she said. And then when she told me what she said, I said ‘Marg, you had to know that you couldn’t say that on national television.’ She said, ‘I said it anyway.’
Barbara: And then she said it again.
(Clip of second time Marg said cock ring on David Letterman shown)
Kay: She had a mind of her own. I don’t know where she got that.
Barbara: No. Haven’t a clue, right?
Barbara: Has Marg’s success changed your life at all, Kay?
Kay: Well, you know, recently she was quoted as saying, ‘I don’t want my career to consume my life but it’s on the edge.’ And I’m beginning to think it’s somewhat consuming mine.
Barbara: Really. Tell me how.
Kay: Well, you know, gosh I’ve made a couple trips to California. I’m here today. How good can it get?
Barbara: You’re both very special ladies. Happy Mother’s Day to both of you.
Marg and Kay: Thank you and the same to you.
*Special thanks to fox1 for transcribing this interview