Larry King, the longtime CNN host who died on 23rd January 2021 aged 87, hosted Larry King Live on CNN for over 25 years, interviewing presidential candidates, celebrities, athletes, movie stars and ordinary people. He retired in 2010 after more than 6,000 episodes of the show. [ watch his funny video at the end ]
Larry King became the light in dark times viewers turned to Larry King to make sense of the world. Overall, Larry King hosted 50,000 interviews spanning over six decades of his career. He said the hardest story he ever covered is 9/11. He set the Guinness Book record for the longest talkshow hosted by same person on same network and in the same time slot.
King died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, his production company, Ora Media reported. No cause of death was given, but a spokesperson had said on 4th January that King had COVID-19, had received supplemental oxygen and had been moved out of intensive care.
The long time smoker also had diabetes, successfully fought prostrate and lung cancer and underwent quintuple bypass survey.
But King who had an image larger than live and popular than most presidents was just a human being like anyone else. He could fall sick, change names, divorce and even steal!
In 1971, for example, King was arrested for grand larceny (theft of personal property having a value above a legally specified amount) but was never prosecuted due to the statute of limitations. Trouble started when financier Lou Wolfson gave King $5,000 (today’s Ksh500,000) to give to Jim Garrison, who was investigating the Kennedy assassination. King allegedly spent the money. The scandal led to King losing his job at the radio station WIOD in Miami.
Before that, in 1957 Larry, started his career in broadcast media. But he had to undergo some sort of transformation. He changed his last name from Zeiger to King to begin a radio career as a disc jockey at WAHR-AM in Miami.
“I get to the station on my debut, and general manager asks me, ‘What name are you gonna use?’. I had no name. He had the Miami Herald newspaper open and there was an ad for King’s Wholesale Liquors and he said why not King?”
And Larry King was born, marking the babe steps of what would become a global brand on television. Larry, queerly married nine times and divorced nine times. It is not clear why he couldn’t sustain his marriage, though he could have suffered the ‘curse’ of celebrities when it comes to relationships.
- Birth date: November 19, 1933
- Death date: January 23, 2021
- Birth place: Brooklyn, New York
- Birth name: Lawrence Harvey Zeiger
- Father: Edward Zeiger, a restaurant owner
Marriages: Shawn Southwick (1997-current, filed for divorce in 2019); Julie Alexander (1989-1992, divorced); Sharon Lepore (1976-1983, divorced); Alene Akins (1967-1971, divorced); Mickey Sutphin (1964-1966, divorced); Alene Akins (1961-1963, divorced); Annette Kaye (divorced); Freda Miller (divorced)
Larr King’s death on Saturday has been described as a significant loss for the media world. The longtime CNN host was became a TV icon right down to his signature suspenders, which he started wearing in the 1980s when he lost weight after heart surgery.
He also set himself apart with the curiosity he brought to every interview. King boasted of never overpreparing for an interview. His nonconfrontational style relaxed his guests and made him readily relatable to his audience.
By King’s departure that December 2010, suspicion had grown that he had waited a little too long to hang up those suspenders. Once the leader in cable TV news, he ranked third in his time slot with less than half the nightly audience his peak year, 1998, when “Larry King Live” drew 1.64 million viewers, according to AFP.
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King wasn’t just a talk show host on CNN for more than a quarter of a century. He was utterly ubiquitous, popping up on TV shows and in movie cameos throughout his long career. His oversized glasses and inquisitive style could be found in appearances in “The Simpsons,” “Ghostbusters,” and even TikTok.
His first notable appearance came in 1984’s “Ghostbusters” when King is included in a montage of the Ghostbusters taking down ghouls throughout New York City. King had plenty of other film appearances throughout his career, almost always playing himself. But not in the animated film “Shrek 2,” where he was the voice of an ugly stepsister. (He also played her in two subsequent Shrek sequels.)
“Larry King was a brilliant interviewer who got the best tidbits from newsmakers simply by being himself and making everyone he spoke to feel comfortable enough to open up,” says Frank Pallotta, a CNN reporter.
Speaking on changes in media delivery, he said: “I haven’t changed. Technology changed.”