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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

New Year's Eve Special

Aired January 1, 2006 - 00:00   ET

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


(MUSIC)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And what a remarkable scene. 12:04 a.m. Let's listen to Ray Charles.

(MUSIC)

COOPER: Amazing. And the amazing Ray Charles. At 12:06 a.m. in Atlantic City, Kool and the Gang is standing by, ready to celebrate. Let's watch and listen, as we continue showing you scenes around the country.

(MUSIC)

COOPER: And that is Kool and the Gang, who are performing live in Atlantic City, with a special song, "Celebrate," for us here, for our CNN viewing audience, around the country and around the world.

Here in Times Square, the ball dropped right on time, of course. Now we want to find out if the shoe dropped on time. Back to Key West, where John Zarrella has the answer.

John, how did it go there?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, Anderson, it went perfectly. That red stiletto came down right on queue. I think we picked up a second or two of the new year and Sushi -- the Sushi drop worked perfectly again. Our third year here in Key West. An absolute success as Sushi dropped once again.

What's that? Uh oh.

KILEY (ph) DRAG QUEEN: You see, you really are the king of queens. Happy new year.

"JOAN RIVERS": Oh, happy new year! Give him a kiss, Kiley (ph).

KILEY (ph): It's tradition.

ZARRELLA: You heard them, Anderson. The new king of queens. I don't know what to say.

COOPER: Man, oh man.

ZARRELLA: No more covering hurricanes with you, I guess. COOPER: Yes, well, yes, around the office, you will be the king of queens from now on. Well, John, I want to wish you a very happy new year and to all those in Key West, as well, a very happy new year. John (inaudible), and I hope you have a great year. And thanks for all you've done for us this year. It's been great working with you, John.

ZARRELLA: Thanks, Anderson. Happy new year to you -- happy new to Anderson.

RIVER: Oh, happy new year, Anderson.

KILEY (ph): Happy new year, Anderson.

ZARRELLA: Take care. See you next year, Anderson, right here.

COOPER: All right. We'll see you -- it's a tradition. There you go. We're not sure why it's a tradition or how it became one, but it is tradition. And that's the great thing about tradition, it doesn't really matter why or how, you just keep on doing it.

Let's check in with Erica Hill, who's down in the crowd here in Times Square. Erica, how's it going?

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is going great. And we keep on doing Times Square every year because it is also a tradition and a fantastic one at that. What's amazing is how quickly that last hour -- that last few minutes goes. These people, though, they are still ready to go. Feel really jazzed from an incredible new year's. And what was really amazing is all this talk we heard about rain and it's going to be soggy and cold. The only rain that we saw was confetti from all over New York, and fireworks raining down. So you couldn't ask for a better -- ow -- couldn't ask for a better start to 2006 -- I got hit with a thunder balloon.

COOPER: Did you just get struck...

HILL: Knocked some sense into me.

COOPER: ... with one of those giant balloons?

HILL: I did. Maybe it's because I gave it the wrong name. Maybe it's payback. I don't know. Hey, happy new year, Anderson.

COOPER: Happy new year to you, too. You're not a native New Yorker. This is the second time you've been here. How is it different actually being here than when you see it on TV, Erica?

HILL: It is different, Anderson. And I think it's different because there's so much energy, as you can see around me. It's the energy of the crowd. It doesn't matter if it's 30 degrees below zero or 65 degrees. They are always going to have this incredible warmth, this incredible energy because it's such a magical moment to be in Times Square and watch that ball drop live. There's nothing like it. It just doesn't even compare on television. Although, you do a pretty darn good job of bringing it to people. I'll give you that. COOPER: Well, what's amazing also is it's now 12:13, we're staying on the air until well past 1:00 a.m. because we want to bring New Year's for folks in the Central Time Zones as well. In Chicago, we're going to be live. Also in New Orleans.

Erica, here in Times Square, though, it starts to empty out very quickly. I can already see a lot of people starting leave. It looks like around you, you still have people staying.

HILL: Well...

COOPER: Maybe talk to some of those people, ask them what are they doing after -- what do they do now? Do they go home?

HILL: Absolutely.

Hey, what are you guys doing next? When you leave Time Square?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, we're going to an after party in my car.

HILL: Oh, okay. There's an after party. Maybe you can get in, Anderson.

What are you doing next?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's being bar mitzvah next week.

HILL: Oh, (inaudible). That's very exciting. That's a good way to start off the new year.

All right. Where are you going next after Times Square? Where's your next party?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Disneyworld.

HILL: We'll all go to Disneyworld and hopefully we'll all meet back here for 2007.

COOPER: Erica, I like the guy who said he's going to a party in his car.

HILL: Right. I don't know about that party.

COOPER: Yes, I was glad that you got away from that guy very quickly. Erica, thanks very much.

HILL: Yes.

COOPER: Great work, as always. You know, it may be New Year's in New York, but we're going to reset the clock and do it all over again. If you're on Central Time, we are with you all the way.

Live coverage from the windy city of Chicago. Wonder what the wind chill is -- a mere 27 degrees.

And we are live in New Orleans as well, where one of that city's best known musicians, Harry Connick, Jr., is going to take a look back for us at an unforgettable year and share his vision for 2006.

And out on the West Coast, they've got an hour to go until 2006, but the John Mayer Trio is already on stage in San Francisco. And we will bring you that party live. Be right back.

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: Memorable moments for 2005, but you are looking right now at Times Square 2006. Welcome back to New Year's Eve Live. I'm Anderson Cooper in New York City. Just a few minutes ago, the ball dropped here -- 19 minutes ago exactly. The ball dropped here, making it official. 2006 has arrived on the East Coast of the United States.

Next up, though, Central Time and there on the corner of your screen -- yes, there it is, 40 minutes to go. We are counting down the minutes to midnight all over again for folks all in the Central Time Zone.

First, let's go to the biggest city in the Midwest, Chicago, where the crowd is gathered at the Buckingham Fountain for fireworks. CNN's Betty Nguyen is there.

Betty, how's it going?

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is going great. We got a great crowd out here. They are looking forward to ringing in the new year. And we have a little trivia as we stand by to the countdown. Look at this, Anderson. CNN was thinking. We have Chicago Bears colors and we're going to be giving out these hats. But first, folks have to answer the right question.

Everybody, you've been listening to the news this year. One of the questions that we're going to be asking tonight, and in order to get one of these coveted hats, is what is the name of Angelina Jolie's adopted son? Anyone got the answer?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Maddox.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maddox.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes!

NGUYEN: Very good. Very good. There you go. You're a CNN watcher, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Go CNN!

NGUYEN: That's right. Love CNN. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love you, man!

NGUYEN: Call, he says. And our next question deals with Deep Throat. We learned this year who Deep Throat really is in the Watergate scandal. We got an answer to that? Who is Deep Throat? Anybody? Anybody? Come on, I know you know this because you've been watching CNN. The time is ticking. What?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible.)

NGUYEN: You are not Deep Throat! You know what? The answer -- I'll go ahead and give it to you -- Mark Felt. And because you have a beautiful smile and you're standing out here in the cold, there you go. Happy new year to you.

All right, last question, folks. Last question. We have a question tonight dealing with space. Now we know that a shuttle took off this year after being grounded for two years. It made orbit. What is the name of that shuttle?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Discovery.

NGUYEN: Very good! Discovery. We got some smart folks!

Here in Chicago, not only are they smart, they're out here to have a good time and to ring in the new year. And we're just minutes away. I know you had a spectacular show there, but Chicago folks are ready to ring it in too, Anderson. And we're going to do it in style.

COOPER: So Betty, what exactly happens at midnight there?

NGUYEN: Well, there's going to be several fireworks shows. First of all, these folks are going to be dancing around, screaming, yelling. And we're going to see fireworks blast off, not only here at Buckingham Fountain, but also at the Navy Pier and also at Belmont Harbor. And it's all going to be timed to music. You can hear some of the music playing right now. Folks are already starting to dance around as they come in, making noise, having a good time.

I'm telling you...

COOPER: Boy...

NGUYEN: New York may be the place to be, but Chicago's a good competition, Anderson.

COOPER: Well that is 37 minutes from now. We will, of course, bring that to you live and down along the Gulf Coast. Americans in the fives states ravaged by Hurricane Katrina and Rita enter the new year with hope, but also with very real questions about what lies ahead. The mix of hardship and joy is certainly evident in New Orleans tonight. A city where both emotions find their voice through music. Harry Connick, Jr., is one of the city's best known musicians. We asked him to reflect on his hometown and what this year has meant to him and the future of New Orleans.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HARRY CONNICK, JR.: My memories of New Orleans were through the eyes of my parents, who exposed me to all the elements of New Orleans, good and bad. The best restaurants in the world, the most infectious and fun-loving people in the world, the best music, just an incredible cross-weave of people and culture.

The very first thing I saw on my first trip was the Convention Center. These people were not violent people. They weren't going to hurt me. They were just hungry and thirsty and tired. They had no electricity. They had nothing. So I went into the Convention Center and just repeatedly heard, when are they coming? You know, this has been two, three, four days after. What's going on?

I found myself waking up at night for hours at a time, seeing these faces, feeling like I want to cry a lot, which I don't cry very much. And feeling just a very heavy sense of sadness. And it just keeps hitting me. It keeps hitting me. It just won't stop.

Music is the last thing on my mind right now. Different musicians I know, you know, would go and start to write. Being a musician was the most trivial concept in the world to me during Katrina. I felt foolish even being in this business. I was so humbled by what I saw down there.

It's crucial that we rebuild New Orleans. I don't think it's a question. I know that there's a ton of places in New Orleans that absolutely should be rebuilt. That's my neighborhood. That's my father's neighborhood. We have too many memories there. And it's a beautiful part of the world.

There's a vitality that exists in everybody from New Orleans. We're very, very proud of our city. I don't think anybody from there truly believes that it's going to go away. It's going to be a pain in the butt to get it back on its feet, but nobody's going to give up. I'm certainly not. It's just -- it's too important.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, of course, New Orleans knows when you mix bad news and good times, you can make something beautiful. Just ask anyone who's ever seen a jazz funeral. So let's get some perspective on tonight's celebration in New Orleans, in the year of Katrina and Rita. For that, let's -- Susan Roesgen, but first let's go to Wynton Marsalis, who joins us live here.

Thank you so much for being with us. What is it like -- it's got to be kind of a bittersweet time for you here to be amidst this celebration, and yet to know New Orleans is still in so much pain.

WYNTON MARSALIS, JAZZ MUSICIAN: It's a sweet time, though. Because we're about coming back. And when you know that that's your spirit, you mourn tragedy, but when you know that's your spirit, you don't mind being down because you know that the heroic thing -- the way you get up is going to be something and there's so much work going on. So it's a great infrastructure in kind for us to be helped by the world and to help ourselves. And this year that's coming up, you will see the New Orleans spirit.

COOPER: And New Orleans can come back? It will be reborn?

MARSALIS: We're going to come back. It's not even a matter of that. It's what's going to happen. You know, we're going to make that happen. It's not going to just happen because we're saying it. We're going to do the work that's required to make it happen.

COOPER: What kind of work are you doing right now? I mean, what needs to be -- what should folks out there know about what is going on right now?

MARSALIS: Well we have -- all of the commissioners on the mayor's commission, we've gotten together. In January, we're going to present all of our papers -- what we had come up with, the steps we have to take to bring New Orleans back. And I work with the Cultural Commission. And I have to say, my commission, the people have worked on every level, from people getting in their cars, driving all around to Houston and everywhere around the United States, getting in touch with our social aid and pleasure clubs, our Mardi Gras Indian tribes, to the head of the Arts Councils, writing papers, getting help from experts all over the country. We've done so much unbelievable work, executive level work and street level work, to come up with a comprehensive and intelligent plan.

And I know the other commissioners are doing the same thing, because we have meetings and we talk to each other. So, I feel that our plan and the headwork that we have done will provide the framework for the world to actually come in and help us solve this problem.

COOPER: And what is your dream for New Orleans? I mean, a year from now, to New Year's Eve next year, what's your dream? What's your hope?

MARSALIS: My dream is that we will see a year's worth of progress, an invigoration of our people, a way for the nation to adopt our city and to allow all of the intellectuals' energy, the emotional energy, the cash, the spiritual energy, all of that to flow into our city and help heal our city. But also to say that the citizens from New Orleans who are all over the world -- I get reports, because I know people all over the country say, man, some people from New Orleans stood up in church and they brought such a vibe to us. And some people cooked food for us. And I'm talking about they're all over -- Utah and you know, Detroit -- a friend called me and said, hey, some New Orleaneans stood up in our church and everybody started crying because of the feeling in the soul and the warmth and the intelligence.

COOPER: Yes. And of course, it is not just New Orleans, it is Waveland, Mississippi and Bay St. Louis and Gulfport.

MARSALIS: It's the whole gulf region.

COOPER: And Pensacola, and there are so many people not in their homes tonight, hundreds of thousands of our fellow Americans. And that story, you know, if people talk about Katrina fatigue and the noisemakers, the only people who have the right to be fatigued, are the people in New Orleans, the people of the gulf states. We've got to keep this story alive and we've got to keep the attention on this thing all throughout this next year.

MARSALIS: You know, I appreciate what you've done. And I'm speaking on behalf of many New Orleaneans and people we talk, so we're very appreciative of that. Well, we want to make another thing clear, that when a lot of people are talking, you get a lot of opinions. Doesn't matter whose opinion you listen to. And in terms of what we're going to do, we're very, very serious. This is our lives we're fighting for. We're tied to our hometown. This is not a joke to us.

COOPER: And it's something that all of us should be paying attention to and hopefully you'll make progress on in the new year. Wynton Marsalis, thank you. It's an honor.

MARSALIS: Yes, sir. Thank you. It's my pleasure.

COOPER: I appreciate all you're doing for your city.

MARSALIS: Thank you.

COOPER: The spirit of New Orleans, alive, right here in Times Square, tonight. Wynton Marsalis was here. Of course, we're going to bring you to New Orleans in just a short time. We're going to show you how they are ringing in the new year with a giant pot of gumbo. Paul Prudhomme, the chef, we'll talk to him.

When we come back, we'll take you to San Francisco. Also, where the party is getting in stride. We'll bring you a band that brings blues and rocks together, the John Mayer Trio. Then it's back to Nashville, Tennessee, for another taste of country, with Brooks and Dunn. Stay right here. This is New Year's Eve, live on CNN.

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT SMITH, SERGEANT: Hi, this is Sgt. Robert Smith from the Fourth Infantry Division in Camp Victory, Iraq. I'd like to wish a happy new year to my wife, Amber, and my daughter, Angel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sent this earlier from Baghdad. I just want to wish a happy new year to my family in Montana. Love you guys.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Just some of the greetings from troops overseas. I just got an e-mail from some folks in New Orleans, Charles and Jermaine Kierney (ph), some people we did a story back, their house was destroyed in Waveland, Mississippi, with their mom, Myrtle, and their dad, Phil. And I just want to wish them a happy new year and to all the folks who are watching in New Orleans and also in Waveland and Gulfport and all the people from Mississippi, wish them a happy new year as well.

We are bringing you New Year's Eve as it hits New Orleans and as it hits Chicago. We will be live for that for everyone in the Central Time Zones. The clock is ticking. Let's check it -- 27 minutes exactly until New Year's in the Central Time Zones. We are counting down the start of 2006 for you folks.

I'm Anderson Cooper and this is New Year's Eve Live. We are still in Times Square. We're already into 2006. So far, it's gone pretty well, I got to say. We just saw the big ball drop a little over half an hour ago. But in places like Chicago and New Orleans, of course, midnight is still on the way. And we have a lot ahead -- a lot more performances.

Out on the West Coast, they still have about two and a half hours to go. Parties well underway there, as well. On stage, a band whose music is kind of hard to describe. It's not exactly blues, not exactly rock, which may explain why most music critics call it blues rock. Kind of an unusual group of fans in the crowd too. A lot of them wearing tie-dye shirts. That's because the band you're watching right now or are about to watch is the warm up for Phil Lesh and Friends. We'll ask for those of you who can be forgiven for not knowing, but he's the bass player for the legendary Grateful Dead. And for deadheads, tie-dye shirts were a fashion must, of course.

But enough of that, let's listen in from the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco. Here is the John Mayer Trio.

(MUSIC)

COOPER: And at the scene in San Francisco, tonight, the John Mayer Trio performing at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium.

Counting down 'til midnight now, the Central Time Zones. Let's see, you've got 23 minutes -- just a little bit more than 23 minutes left to go before we see fireworks going off in Chicago.

And also a giant bowl of gumbo -- a giant pot of gumbo being lowered in the city of New Orleans. Nothing -- not even Katrina can stop that tradition. No one knows gumbo, of course, better than the man who's dropping the pot of gumbo tonight. New Orleans' Chef and Louisiana Native Paul Prudhomme. He's joining us right now from Jackson Square.

Paul, it is great to have you with us. First, I've got to ask you. What is in that pot of gumbo?

PAUL PRUDHOMME, CHEF: Good gumbo. What do you think's in it, Anderson? It's New Orleans, man. It's New Orleans.

COOPER: All right, that makes sense. How is the city doing? I mean you guys have been through so much. You have so much ahead of you. How are things there tonight?

PRUDHOMME: Well, you know, we're still struggling. We need people to come to this city and spend some money with us. Besides that, we're coming back.

COOPER: Bourbon Street, French Quarters -- Bourbon Street, the French Quarters, open for business? Your restaurant's open for business? Are you guys able to operate? I know you don't have the full staff, but do you have some of your people back?

PRUDHOMME: Yes, we do have some of us back and tonight we served over 270 people. So, we can serve a lot of people. Come on down and we'll feed you.

COOPER: You've also been serving fantastic food, as you always do, but to first-responders, to police officers, to firefighters there. You've been doing a lot yourself for the city of New Orleans. What's your wish for 2006 for New Orleans?

PRUDHOMME: Well, I think I'll wish -- my wish is that we get as much back to normal as possible. And that we can start the process of getting our people back and getting our homes rebuilt and just get on the road of doing it. And I can't wait 'til we really get started. We've got the French Quarter done. We've got the CBD in pretty good shape, the Central Business District. Hotels are back. So you all come on back and help us build the city.

COOPER: And is there going to be a Mardi Gras this year?

PRUDHOMME: You're not kidding, there's going to be a Mardi Gras this year. Ain't no doubt about that!

COOPER: All right. Well, listen, you have a great new year. Do you have any resolutions for this year?

PRUDHOMME: Yes, my resolution is to be myself!

COOPER: Sounds good.

PRUDHOMME: That's not easy -- I'm very hard! I'm a very difficult person to live with, so I just want to be myself.

COOPER: All right. Well, that's good. That's a good thing to do. Paul Prudhomme, appreciate you joining us from the great city of New Orleans.

PRUDHOMME: Anderson, Anderson --

COOPER: Yes, Paul? Yes, Paul, go ahead.

PRUDHOMME: Anderson, I got one more thing to say to America! Good cooking! Good eating! Good loving! We love you guys!

COOPER: All right. Thank you very much. And that's a good way to sign off from New Orleans. Well, we're going to go right back to New Orleans, of course, because we're going to bring you that -- the drop of gumbo, I guess you would call it. The giant pot of gumbo that they lower. That is the tradition there.

We're also going to take you back to Chicago for fireworks there at the stroke midnight.

And we're going to go back down to Tampa, where we'll bring you more from the Barenaked Ladies, ahead.

And we promised you more from Brooks and Dunn. We're going to keep that promise. If you're on Central Time, it less -- oh, it's just about 20 minutes until 2006.

And if you're having a New Year's party of your own, send us some pictures from it or video, newyears@cnn.com. Let's listen.

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And you're looking live at the new aquarium in Atlanta, where they are having a very big party. A lot of -- man, a lot of fish there. There are 17 minutes to the new year in the Central Time Zones. We're going to be bringing you live pictures from Chicago. Oh look, there's a shark in there. Somewhere amidst all those fish, I'm told here is a shark. I thought I almost saw it for a second.

We're going to bring you your New Year in Chicago, as well as in New Orleans, as well as in Dallas. A lot of cities all across the United States. That is the scene right there at one party in Atlanta. Oh there it is. Look at that. That's a massive shark. Man, that's cool.

If you are having a party yourself, send us some pictures. You can send a web cam pics or digital photo. You can web cam us, you can do just about anyone. Try to keep your clothes on. Send it to newyears@cnn.com. We'll try to put it on the air.

Thanks very much for joining us. We are still live in Times Square, where the crowds are thinning. Most of the people are going home. Some diehards are kind of still hanging out, ready to rock, ready to celebrate. There you see the live picture here from Times Square.

Here's one from two people we want to thank for keeping us on the air tonight. A lot of people have been sending in the pictures of their celebrations. Well, this is Jarett Evans and Pam Jones They are at the CNN Master Control in Atlanta. They took a little picture and sent it in, as you all can. Thanks very much, Jarett and Pam. I appreciate you guys. Don't drink too much of the bubbly, though, because we do need to stay on the air for at least another 20 minutes or so. So, appreciate that.

Here's a question. When does a country song turn into rock? The answer, when it comes from Brooks and Dunn. Let's go back to Nashville briefly, one more time tonight and to Gaylord Entertainment Center where two of the biggest stars in country music sing, "Rock My World."

(MUSIC) COOPER: And Brooks and Dunn, getting ready for New Year's Eve in Nashville. Just a little bit more than 13 minutes away. It is -- that is of course, in the Central Time Zones. When we come back, we're going to take you to the lakefront of Chicago, where Betty Nguyen is counting down with the crowd there. We're going to have some massive fireworks there.

We'll also go to New Orleans, where our Susan Roesgen is standing by. We'll show you how they're ringing in the new year there.

Plus, there is still more music ahead. We'll return to Tampa for one more song from the Barenaked Ladies.

And of course, it is already 2006 at plenty of other places around the world. Only CNN can bring you such global reach. Only CNN can show you how the cities welcome in the new year. Let's take a look at one of the great cities of the world -- Rio De Janiero.

(FIREWORKS)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC)

COOPER: Some of the folks who have sent us their pictures of how they're bringing in the new years. You can still send in your photos or your web cam to newyears@cnn.com.

Just under 10 minutes before New Year's in the Central Time Zones. We, of course, are going to bring that to you live.

This here is a live shot of the folks still gathered in New York's Time Square. These are the diehards, the people who are not quite ready to leave. A lot of people have already left. You can see the crowds kind of milling around. It is 12:50 here in Times Square. Just about nine minutes to go before we watch the pot of gumbo in New Orleans drop and the fireworks in Chicago, and celebrations all across the Central Time Zones.

I'm Anderson Cooper. Thanks for joining us. Back here in New York, where we made the switch to 2006 nearly an hour ago. If you are in the Central Time, keep an eye on that clock ticking away. The last nine minutes of 2005.

Help us get to there, we're going to take you back to Tampa, Florida, where Barenaked Ladies have been partying the night away. Last hour we heard one of their hits, "It's All Been Done." Let's listen to one more, one more time.

(MUSIC)

COOPER: And there's the scene in Tampa, Florida. Everyone holding up their cell phones during the Barenaked Ladies in concert in the St. Pete Times Forum. Just under six minutes here to go before New Year's in the Central Time Zones. We are bringing you it live all across the Central Time Zones. Betty Nguyen is on the lakefront of Chicago. Susan Roesgen is in New Orleans.

Susan, are they ready for 2006 there?

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, you bet, Anderson. We're all ready for 2006. May it be much better than the year that just passed. Behind me on the stage here is Amanda Shaw. She's only 15- years old, but she puts out a big noise on her Cajun fiddle. She's a crowd favorite here.

A little bit of a disappointment though, we just got the announcement, we just got the word from the stage that because the fog is so thick here tonight over the Mississippi River, there will be no fireworks at midnight. The first time that's happened here in a long time.

Even so, the party goes on. We'll have Chef Paul again. We'll have the mayor of New Orleans, City Councilman Jacki Clarkson, all counting down to midnight in just about six or seven minutes now -- Anderson.

COOPER: And for those viewers who are just joining us now, we've got five minutes -- a little under five minutes left to go. Exactly what happens at -- what should we be seeing at the stroke of midnight, is a giant pot of gumbo. What happens to it?

ROESGEN: We're going to see it move very slowly down -- not quite out of sight. I don't know with the fog here tonight whether you'll really get a good look at it, Anderson. But it has the Mardi Gras colors, purple, green and gold on the outside of a giant black fiberglass gumbo pot, filled with different symbols that represent things that are important to New Orleans and to Louisiana. It's our way of saying, hey, we're making a comeback here. It's time for rebirth. The grieving period is over. We're going to go forward. And so we'll watch that gumbo pot drop and say, hello 2006.

COOPER: All right. Well, let's hope the fog isn't too thick for that. Let's check in with Betty Nguyen, where there's no fog and they're expecting big fireworks in Chicago, Betty. Correct?

NGUYEN: yes, they are. The music is getting louder by the second. We just heard the five-minute warning about a minute ago. People started erupting in cheers around here. They're excited.

You all ready for 2006?

(CHEERING)

NGUYEN: Chicago is ready to put on a party tonight in just a few minutes. We are going to see fireworks light up the sky. Not only here at Buckingham Fountain, but also at the Navy Pier and also at Belmont Harbor. It's all timed together in sync to the music that you hear right now. And folks have crowded here. This is not a small crowd. Chicago does it big. There are between 5 and 15,000 people and last I looked from above, closer to 15,000. People are packed in here. It's a nice night -- a little cold. But for Chicago, this is a warm front. People have come out here not packed up on their coats. Some people are out here in just regular shirts. They're out here to have a good time and celebrate the new year -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. We've got just over three minutes left to go. Betty, where are the fireworks going to be in relation to where you're standing? We've seen that shot of what looks like -- I don't know what it is. It looks like a giant cake that's all lit up. What is that? And where are the fireworks?

NGUYEN: It looks like a giant wedding cake. That is Buckingham Fountain. And fireworks are actually going to shoot out from there. They're not the big kind that we're going to see over at Navy Pier or at the Belmont Harbor. Take a listen to this.

The fireworks are about to start. The announcement is being made right now. And then he just said, in just minutes we're going to see the fireworks blast off...

COOPER: OK.

NGUYEN: ... in the sky as it lights up.

COOPER: OK. All right, very quickly, got a performance -- James Brown is singing over the B.B. King Blues Club, here in Times Square. Let's briefly listen to him, and then we'll bring you all the live celebrations as they happen. Let's listen in to the godfather of soul.

(MUSIC)

COOPER: James Brown, still doing it. Still turning it out. One minute to go now. This is the scene in Chicago. Let's watch and listen.

(FIREWORKS AND MUSIC)

COOPER: For their celebrations, we're also going to bring you a live shot from New Orleans. That's the scene on the right hand side now is the scene of New Orleans. On the left hand side is Chicago, the fireworks. We're also going to show you scenes in various other cities around the Central Time Zone.

Coming up on the last 10 seconds 'til 2006, let's count it down. Eight, seven, four, three, two, one. Happy New Year!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 2006 in New Orleans!

COOPER: And Betty in Chicago, what's going on? Happy new year, Betty!

NGUYEN: It is -- happy new year. It is new year's in Chicago. Did I tell you the fireworks were going to go off, Anderson? They do here in Chicago, and everyone is very excited about the new year. (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yoo-hoo!

NGUYEN: It's been a wonderful ring-in to the new year. (INAUDIBLE) standing out here in the cold, but it was all worth it. Happy new year, Anderson, from Chicago.

COOPER: And to you too, as well, and to all the folks there in Chicago.

Let's try to check in with New Orleans if we can. Susan Roesgen is standing by in New Orleans, where they've had a heavy moving fog. They've had to cancel their fireworks. But they are playing the music, and there's dancing going on. Do we have that shot?

Here we go.

ROESGEN: Hey, Anderson, (INAUDIBLE).

COOPER: We can get -- Susan, we can hear you, can't see you yet -- we are -- there you are, Susan. What's going on there? Happy new year.

And we lost Susan's audio, but let's -- let's look at a -- we obviously haven't been -- I think we've been drinking here in the master control.

Let's go back to Chicago. Let's look at the fireworks there.

And that's the scene in Chicago, and in the Central Time, everyone, happy new year. 2006 has arrived.

I'm Anderson Cooper from Times Square. I want to thank all of you for inviting us into your homes this New Year's Eve. We leave you tonight with the sound of hope from New Orleans, Louisiana. The choir of the Greater Saint Stephen Full Gospel Baptist Church. Have a great 2006, everyone.

(MUSIC)

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