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BIZ Who Is - LARRY KING - The King of Talk

Larry King interviews the top personalities in the world - CNN photo



James Loving/National Radio News & Text Service



King was named both the fourth-greatest radio talk show host of all time and the top television talk show host of all time. King is the only person to place in the top ten on both lists.


Wednesday June 27, 2007


While I was a musician I loved to listen to talk radio while driving to the club that I was working. Due to terrestrial atmosphere I was able to pick up a talk show from Miami, Florida.

There was something about the gravel voice and earthiness of the host that appealed to me. He was very straightforward and seemed like someone from my neighborhood. That person turned out to be Larry King someone that I had never heard before.

I later met King after I got into the journalism business. It was at a cable convention after Ted Turner hired him to host a show on CNN in the mid eighties. I spotted King standing off to the side alone and approached him to introduce myself and let him know of my listening to his show years earlier. King was the same in person as he was on the air, relaxed, down to earth and just like one of the guys from the neighborhood. He was straightforward in our conversation and gave me the impression that this guy is for real.

Kings show continues on CNN and is the longest running talk show in the history of television. His appearance wearing large glasses, rolled up sleeves, tie, and suspenders has become his trademark: he seldom appears on the show wearing another outfit.

The King of Talk as I refer to him has earned the trust of his guests, as many that appear on his show would not appear on any other, the renowned actor Marlon Brando was one. Brando called King to publicize a project. When King answered the phone Brando said this is Marlon…. King didn't believe him. They did the show at Brando's house and it remains one of King's most memorable interviews.

King's background gave him the foundation from which he stands. Born Lawrence Harvey Zeiger on November 19, 1933 in Brooklyn, New York. His father died at the age of 44 from a sudden heart attack when King was only nine, and his mother had to go on relief (now called welfare) to support Larry and his younger brother. His father's death affected him greatly, and he lost interest in school, ruining his chances to go to college.

After graduating from high school, he went to work to help support his mother. From the age of 5, he had dreamed of a career in radio, and as a child would replicate the radio announcers and pretend that he was them. When he was in his 20s, he worked as UPS delivery boy and it seemed his dream of a job in radio wouldn't occur. "All the other kids were going to college, and I was working at the United Parcel Service. I was always telling everyone, 'I want to be a broadcaster," he said.

A CBS staff announcer, who King met by chance, told him to go to Florida where there was a growing media market and where there were openings for less experienced radio personalities. He took this advice and rode a bus to Miami.

After initial setbacks, King got his first job in radio through persistence. A small station, WIOD in Miami Beach, hired him to clean up and perform miscellaneous tasks. For someone starting out in the entertainment business this is a job referred to as a gofer… as in go for this and go for that. When one of their announcers quit, they put King on the air and his dream came true.

King suffered some personal setbacks and was off the air for three years but returned. He recovered and found himself being in the right place at the right time when he found a home with the Mutual Broadcasting Network and hosted a show that eventually was picked up by 500 stations.

It was CNN founder Ted Turners hiring of King in the mid-eighties that propelled him to the International status that he holds today. As they say fine wine improves with age that could apply to King as he ages he keeps on clicking and keeps on ticking. He has refined his craft and matured with age and experience.

My musician days with the Beatles Ringo Star - NR photo/Mo Starky

Paris Hilton - Roger Casas-Alatriste photo

Paris Hilton's in jail photo



His professionalism shows through when he makes mistakes he talks through them. During the interview with Paul McCartney and Ringo Star yesterday he mistakenly called Ringo, George who was the guitarist in the Beatles but now deceased.

McCartney continued to tease King about the mistake but Ringo asked Paul to give King a break. King sort of blue it off (ignored) and continued as if nothing happened.

The respect Kings receives is earned since he is intelligent enough and polite enough to back off when he asks a question that his guests feel uncomfortable about. That came about when King asked McCartney and Ringo how things were in their personal life financially and otherwise.

McCartney squirmed with his positive answer but he is having problems with his ex-wife that could impact him financially. McCartney said he felt better when he didn't talk about it. In doing so he wasn't specific of what problem he was squeamish about but for those in the know his marital situation is public.

Paris Hilton made an exclusive appearance on King's show today after getting out of jail. Hilton was offered US $1,000,0000 from another show for an exclusive interview after she was released from custody. King doesn't pay for interviews.

Through a publicist the Hilton Hotel heiress said of King, "I am thrilled that Larry King has asked me to appear on his program to discuss my experience in jail, what I have learned, how I have grown and anything else he wants to talk about. Larry King is not only a world-renown journalist, but also a true American Icon. It will be an honor to do his show."

King has stated that his favorite guest was Frank Sinatra because of his "passion and sense of humor." He also included that his worst was Robert Mitchum because he [Mitchum] "drove me nuts, but he had a good rating."

Though this is something that I recently found out about King I had the same problem with Mitchum.

King has won numerous broadcasting awards including the Peabody Award for Excellence in broadcasting for both his radio (1982) and television (1992) shows. He has also won 10 Cable ACE awards for Best Interviewer and for best Talk Show Series.

I've covered every Cable Ace Awards since its inception (now finished) and when King was there he remained the same down to earth person that he is.

In 1989, King was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame. In 2002, the industry magazine Talkers named King both the fourth-greatest radio talk show host of all time and the top television talk show host of all time. King was the only person to place in the top ten on both lists.

In the past he was a heavy smoker and has suffered several heart attacks. He remarked on his television that when he was on his way to the hospital after suffering a heart attack that he was smoking a cigarette.

He later established the Larry King Cardiac Foundation, an organization to which American TV talk show host David Letterman, through his American Foundation for Courtesy and Grooming, has also contributed. King also gave $1 million to George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs for scholarships to students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The now 73-year-old television host has been married seven times, to six different women. Former Playboy bunny Shawn Southwick is his present wife. They were married September 5, 1997.

King has said in the past "In the early '70's I had lost all the jobs I had." It is safe to say that here in the 21st Century after all of his success the King of Talk doesn't have to worry about that any more.

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