LOS ANGELES – Iconic talk show host Larry King, died today at the age of 87. The company he co-founded, Ora Media, did not state a cause of death. However, media reports have indicated that King had been battling COVID-19 for weeks.
Rolling Stone reported that King had a long history of health issues. In 1987 he suffered a heart attack that required quintuple-bypass surgery. In 2017 he underwent surgery to remove a malignant tumor in his lung. Then in April 2019, TMZ reported that King suffered a heart attack prior while preparing to visit the hospital for a previously scheduled angiogram. King also had prostate cancer and suffered from type-two diabetes.
King, with his trademark suspenders, black rim glasses and deep voice, was best known for a 25-year run as a talk show host on CNN’s “Larry King Live.”
“For 63 years and across the platforms of radio, television and digital media, Larry’s many thousands of interviews, awards, and global acclaim stand as a testament to his unique and lasting talent as a broadcaster,” Ora Media said in a statement posted on Twitter.
Larry King live
He was born Lawrence Harvey Zeiger on November 19, 1933, to poor Russian Jewish immigrants in working-class Brooklyn, New York. King says he never wanted to be anything but a radio broadcaster. At the age of 23, he went to Florida to try and find a job.
He became a disc-jockey for a Miami radio station in 1957, changing his name to King when the radio’s manager told him it was “too ethnic”.
For another Miami Beach radio station, he recorded programs in a restaurant, doing live audience interviews.
In 1978 he went to Washington where he anchored a national late-night radio call-in show, before being spotted by CNN, a channel founded in 1980. CNN hired him for its nighttime programs in 1985. The rest is history.
A million and counting
At the height of its success the show attracted more than a million viewers every night, making King the star of cable television. He was able to negotiate an annual salary of more than $7 million off the back of this success.
“I don’t have an agenda. I don’t assume the answer,” King told the Miami Herald in 2017 of his approach to the job. “I never learned anything when I was talking. Listening is as important,” he said.
Some critics found his easy-going interviewing style too soft. Others saw it as the key to King’s appeal. He attracted so many star guests to his show and helped CNN establish itself with the scoops he won.
“I’m not interested in embarrassing (guests) nor am I interested in sucking up to them,” he told AFP in 1995. “I’m just curious.”
After leaving CNN, King continued to do interviews on his own website. Then in 2013, he hosted a new show, “Larry King Now,” on Russia Today. Russia Today is a government-funded Russian international television network.
His private life was also pretty illustrious. King was married eight times to seven wives.
Kings, pundits, U.F.O experts
The New York Times reported that over five decades, he chatted with an estimated 50,000 people from all walks of life. From presidents and pundits to swindlers and U.F.O. “experts.”
King interviewed every US president since 1974, as well as world leaders such as Yasser Arafat and Vladimir Putin. He also interviewed celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando and Barbra Streisand. In an emotional last “Larry King Live” show in 2010, tributes included one from President Barack Obama, who in a video message called King “one of the giants of broadcasting”.
Tributes pour in
One of his biggest fans, Deepak Chopra told CNN that he met Larry King when he was a radio host in Washington. Chopra managed to convince him to stop smoking back then. He confirmed that King was a such a naturally curious man. “He got the best out of guests on his show.”
They knew each other for many years and King would call Chopra up personally when he wanted him to appear on air to discuss a breaking health news story. He recalled when King called him the middle of the night, while Chopra was staying in Italy asking him to talk about the spiritual angle on the genome and the structure of DNA when it was discovered. “He was never embarrassed by having me on his show.”
Despite the fact King was a self-declared atheist, Chopra still spent an hour on air discussing Chopra’s best selling book How To Know God.”
“He was an old fashioned atheist, but open to infinite consciousness,” added Chopra. He also added that King was an amazing listener and appreciated everything his guests brought to his shows.
Veteran CNN foreign correspondent Christiane Amanpour remembered King as “a giant of broadcasting and a master of the TV celebrity/statesman-woman interview.”
Star Trek icon and social media personality George Takei noted how King understood “human triumph and frailty equally well,” while Kirstie Alley, of “Cheers” fame, described him as “one of the only talk show hosts who let you talk.”
Piers Morgan summed up the talk show host: “Larry King was a hero of mine until we fell out after I replaced him at CNN and he said my show was ‘like watching your mother-in-law go over a cliff in your new Bentley.’ (He married 8 times so a mother-in-law expert),” said Morgan. “But he was a brilliant broadcaster and masterful TV interviewer.”
King leaves an incredible legacy. “Instead of goodbye, how about so long?” he used to say, as he signed off from the show that made him famous.