Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Donda West's plastic surgeon walks off 'Larry King Live'

art.adams.lkl.cnn.jpg"I think I'm taking up your air time," Dr. Jan Adams tells CNN's Larry King before walking off.

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- The plastic surgeon who operated on hip-hop star Kanye West's mother the day before she died abruptly walked off the set of CNN's "Larry King Live" Tuesday, saying he was honoring a request from her family.

"I want to thank you for this opportunity," Dr. Jan Adams told King. "Basically, I had come here to talk about things in the press that aren't accurate about me.

"But I have a tremendous amount of love and respect for the West family. They asked me not to go on. And I've said from the very beginning, I don't have a side in this," Adams said.

"They are my side, and I'm going to respect their wishes. I'm going to apologize to you because I think I'm taking up your air time, but I will not be on the show and I'm not going to discuss any of that. I'm going to honor their wishes."

When King asked Adams if he would ever answer questions regarding the West case, he said, "I will talk with them," meaning her family.

"When they are comfortable, then I will be comfortable. If they are never comfortable, then I will never be comfortable. They are what's important to me," Adams said.

Asked whether he wanted to speak out, Adams said he did not, removed his earpiece and left the set. VideoWatch Adams walk off »

Earlier, as the show began, King said Adams had received a letter from West's family, saying that if Adams discussed West's case on the show, the family would ask the Medical Board of California to decertify him.

Adams' brief appearance and walkout followed discussions with his attorney and "Larry King Live" producers.

"To the extent there are issues about even why he's here, why this is in the media, it relates to the relationship he had with his patient," Alan Tenenbaum, one of West's attorneys, told King.

"So until he gets clearance from the family, I don't think it would be fair or right for him to talk about these things."

The letter from West family attorneys asking Adams not to go on the show was faxed to one of Adams' attorneys in California, Tenenbaum said.

West, 58, died November 10 after she was found unresponsive and in respiratory distress at her home, the Los Angeles County Coroner's office said. Her funeral was held Tuesday in Spencer, Oklahoma.

An autopsy was inconclusive pending the results of toxicology tests, coroner's spokesman Ed Winter said last week. But preliminary reports indicate West may have died from complications of cosmetic surgery, which was performed by Adams the day before, he said.

Adams told that he performed a tummy tuck and breast reduction on West and that her death was unforeseen.

But another Beverly Hills cosmetic surgeon said he had recently refused to perform a procedure on West until she had medical clearance for a condition he feared could lead to a heart attack.

"The preliminary information we had indicated that she had several minor medical issues, but I can't comment on those," Winter said. West was taking some medications, Winter added, but could not say which ones and in what dosages pending the toxicology reports.

West was in good condition before the surgery, Winter said. Investigators are talking with Adams about the surgery.

Adams told that West's death could have been caused by a heart attack, pulmonary embolism or massive vomiting. He said he consulted with her for months and she changed her mind several times about going forward with the surgery, said., like CNN, is owned by Time Warner.

Legal documents filed in California show that Adams faces disciplinary action from the state Medical Board for multiple DUI convictions and that he has paid nearly $500,000 in at least two malpractice lawsuits.

Last week, Beverly Hills cosmetic surgeon Andre Aboolian said through his publicist that Donda West consulted him in June about a procedure. Publicist Jo-Ann Geffen said West contacted Aboolian again two weeks ago to say she was ready to go forward, but Aboolian said he needed a medical clearance before he would perform the surgery.

"I always insist on a medical clearance for women over 40, and in this instance it was particularly important because of a condition she had that I felt could have led to a heart attack," Aboolian said, according to Geffen's statement.

West was scheduled to see an internist for the appropriate tests, but did not keep the appointment, Geffen said.

Donda West was a major influence on her son's life, as the music producer-singer-songwriter has often said -- including in lyrics to some of his songs. She regularly attended her son's concerts and was at his performance at the MTV Video Music Awards in September.

King on walkoff: 'I have seen it all now'

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- It was a moment tailor-made for live television: The plastic surgeon who operated on Kanye West's mother agrees to talk to Larry King but then walks off the set almost as soon as the interview starts.

The bizarre turn of events had even CNN's King scratching his head. In his 50-plus years in broadcasting, King has never had a guest agree to appear but then disappear while still on the air.

"It was as crazy a night as you can imagine," King said Wednesday from New York. "I have seen it all now."

The interview-that-never-was almost didn't even begin. As showtime arrived Tuesday night, Dr. Jan Adams -- who arrived late at the CNN studio due to airline delays -- told King's producers that he had received a letter from West's family. Adams said the family was asking him not to go on the air.

So, after the show had begun, Adams came on to the set -- to say he would not be doing the show.

"I'm going to respect their wishes," Adams told King. "And I'm going to apologize to you, because I think I'm taking up your airtime, but I will not be on the show."

And then Adams pulled out his earpiece, disconnected his microphone and stood up.

King recalled the moment he realized his guest was walking off.

"I was thinking, 'This isn't happening ... I see it, but I don't believe it,' " King said.

"I have had fires in the studio. I have had people fight. I have had people hit each other on the set ... punch each other," he added. But this was a first. VideoWatch King discuss the strange scene »

The interview with King was supposed to be the plastic surgeon's first on-air interview since the death of Donda West, the 58-year-old mother of the hip-hop star.

West died November 10 after she was found unresponsive and in respiratory distress at her home, the Los Angeles County coroner's office said. Her funeral was held Tuesday in Spencer, Oklahoma.

CNN entertainment correspondent Lola Ogunnaike was backstage at the King show. She and others were expecting to appear briefly later in the program to discuss the Donda West case.

And then Adams walked off the set.

"We were all stunned," Ogunnaike said Wednesday. "We had no idea that was going to happen." VideoWatch Ogunnaike describe the backstage drama »

Ogunnaike said she was particularly surprised because Adams has spoken about the case in the past.

She said the letter from West's family apparently gave the plastic surgeon pause. "I think this letter really spooked him," Ogunnaike said. VideoWatch the surgeon walk off the set »

Wendy Walker, senior executive producer of "Larry King Live," said the turn of events was "almost like being in a fire drill."

Show staffers were already on edge as travel delays threatened to scrub Adams' appearance, Walker said. But then, just minutes before airtime, word came that the surgeon was in the building.

"There was a huge sigh of relief," Walker said. "And then all of a sudden I hear he's not doing the show."

Walker said she asked Adams if he could appear on the show and explain why he would be unable to discuss the case. He agreed.

"We didn't know how long he was going to stay," Walker said. "But we certainly didn't think he would take his earpiece off and walk out."

King said Adams was courteous despite his abrupt about-face on the air.

"He hung around for the whole show," King said. "And at the end of the show, he hugged me."

Adams did tell King that he would "make it up" to him.

Walker said Adams "really wanted to do the show. He really wanted to answer the questions. And we are hoping that he will come back at some point."

CNN will rebroadcast the program Saturday at 9 p.m. ET.

Summing up Tuesday evening's show and its surprising twists, King said: "All you can do is all you can do. The only way you can act is the only way you can act."

"Technically, nothing happened last night" to shed light on the Donda West case, King said. "But it wasn't dull."