Larry King’s career spanned more than six decades. He is pictured above in West Hollywood, California, in May 2017. Rich Fury / Getty Images hide the caption
Rich Fury / Getty Images
Rich Fury / Getty Images
With his trademark suspenders and his deep baritone voice, Larry King spoke to presidents, world leaders, celebrities, authors, scientists, comedians, athletes – everyone. The Peabody Award-winning broadcaster died on Saturday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 87 years old.
The death of the famous interviewer was announced on King’s Twitter feed in a posting from his production studio, Ora Media. No cause of death was given, but King had recently been hospitalized with COVID-19.
“For 63 years and on radio, television and digital media platforms, Larry’s many thousands of interviews, awards and worldwide recognition are testament to his unique and enduring talent as a broadcaster,” the statement said. “While it was his name that appeared on the titles of the shows, Larry always viewed his interview subjects as the real star of his programs and himself as a mere unbiased connection between guest and audience.”
King spoke about this philosophy in an interview in 2017 Jesse Thorne on the turnaround podcast. “I’m always absorbed in the guest,” said King. “I always listen to the answer. I always study, so I think I can learn better every day.”
The Brooklyn-born king was actually an indifferent student, but said he always had an innate curiosity.
“When we went to Dodger games, all of my friends wanted autographs at the end,” he said. “I never asked for an autograph, but I did take the players for a walk when they went to their cars and asked questions: Why did you get colorful? Why did they do that in the third inning? My curiosity is still insatiable. “
King began his career as a DJ and sports caster in Miami – and that’s where he got his name. When a station manager told him that his first name Pointer was “too ethnic,” he picked King from an alcohol ad in a newspaper.
In the late 1970s, King had an overnight talk show on the mutual broadcast system. In 1985, Ted Turner hired him for his new network CNN. Media commentator and writer Bill Carter, a CNN employee, said the timing was perfect.
“Picking up someone like Larry King made a lot of sense,” Carter said. “Because he established himself as the guy who was going to get big guests, they could have big names and promote them, and it became kind of a hub of their prime-time cast.”
King stayed there for 25 years. Some reviewers complained that he was too friends with celebrities and threw softball questions at his guests.
“His strategy was, ‘I’ll never make people uncomfortable,'” Carter said. “And that means that not only will they come back, they’ll tell their friends about it too. He won’t ask you about your ugly divorce. You know, he’ll ask you about your favorite movie. So he didn’t.” I don’t challenge people, but he got information. He was pretty good at it. “
It is well known that King did not prepare much before his interviews.
“The less I know, the better,” he said. “Well, that sounds strange to people. If you were to write a book, I wouldn’t read the book until I interviewed you because then I’d know too much about the book and be in the same boat as the audience. You haven’t read the book. “
But King knew the national zeitgeist. Every evening he reported on the first OJ Simpson trial.
“He basically started the cable monomania,” Carter said. “We’re just going to cover this story – that’s it. And in some ways it was perfect for Larry because it was celebrity-oriented. It was on the news, but it wasn’t political.”
Ultimately, CNN canceled the King’s show because it wasn’t political – competition from Fox and MSNBC took their toll on the ratings.
But King was a survivor. He was married eight times and had five bypass operations after a massive heart attack. And King brought his talk show to streaming video – on Ora TV, Hulu, and most controversially on RT America, the Russian network – and kept working.