The American talk show presenter Larry King, who died today at the age of 87, was best known for his daily talk show Larry King Live. It was one of CNN‘s most popular programs for 25 years. King, who invariably wore braces, spoke almost all celebrities and politicians who were in the news between 1985 and 2010.
He interviewed all the incumbent presidents, many first ladies, and also spoke with Monica Lewinksy, the intern who had an affair with President Bill Clinton. He interviewed superstars such as Frank Sinatra and Madonna, and had a historic episode in 1995 in which he spoke to Plo-leader Yasser Arafat, King Hussein of Jordan and Israeli President Yitzhak Rabin about the Middle East peace process.
His show was on show through CNN International in over 100 countries.
King grew up in Brooklyn, New York. He was one of the two children of his Lithuanian mother Jennie Gitlitz and his Austro-Hungarian father Aaron Zeiger. His parents were Orthodox Jews and had a restaurant. After his father died at 44, the family ended up in assistance.
After finishing high school, King took a job to support his mother financially. From an early age, he wanted to work in the radio.
Just before making his debut at a local radio station in Miami in the late 1950s, he changed his name because his chef thought his name was too Jewish and difficult to remember. He chose King because of an ad for Kings Wholesale Liquor in a local newspaper. Two years later, he also had his new name legally enshrined.
The Larry King Show
King presented several radio programs in the first few years. In 1960, he also broke through on television in Miami with a talk show. He also wrote for a number of newspapers in Miami during that period.
His career fell into a dip when he was arrested in the early 1970s for stealing money from a former friend and business partner. Although the allegations were dropped a year later, it prevented King temporarily from working at radio and television stations and newspapers. It was not until 1975 that he regained a foothold in the media in Florida. Three years later, he also broke through nationally as a host of The Larry King Show, a night show on the radio where people could dial in with any subject they wanted.
Larry King Live
In 1985, the young broadcaster CNN asked him for a daily talk show on television. Larry King Live turned out to be a shot and remained on television for 25 years. He had no shortage of guests, because due to his non-confrontational way of interviewing, many national, but also international guests such as President Putin, were willing to join him.
Frank Sinatra, who never did interviews, was also a guest at Larry King Live. In this interview, King tells us how he did that.
King never did much research on his guests before because he assumed that the viewer knew nothing about the guy who was sitting there either. That approach led him to never ask any awkward questions about whether guests were shining the fire. His show quickly became a popular platform for politicians who came here to plead their case or announced their candidacy for the presidency, as Ross Perot in 1992. Over time King became an internationally renowned figure, as well known as celebrities, newsmakers and world leaders he interviewed.
After leaving CNN in 2010, King continued to interview notable personalities in the talk show Larry King Now on streaming service Hulu and payment channel RT America. On this channel he also had a political talk show: PolitiKing with Larry King.
King also wrote columns for the newspaper USA Today for almost twenty years and had guest appearing in series such as 30 Rock and Sesame Street and in films, such as in Ghostbusters.
After surviving a heart attack in 1987, he wrote a number of books on heart disease. He also wrote an autobiography, My Remarkable Journey, published in 2009 and received a News & Documentary Emmy-Award for his television work in 2011.
King married seven women eight times and had five children with them. In 2019, he suffered a stroke after which he was in a coma for weeks. Later he told in an interview that he had subsequently considered committing suicide because he “did not want to live in this way”. At the beginning of January 2021 it was announced that he was in intensive care because of an infection with the coronavirus. A few days later, he was able to get off the ventilator.
When asked how he wanted to be remembered, King in the third person said about himself: “Through his life people got information they had no access to before. He’s got us a lotlearned and we learned and enjoyed it at the same time. He has meant a lot to his profession.”