Iconic TV and radio interviewer Larry King dead at 87
LOS ANGELES: Iconic TV and radio broadcaster Larry King, who interviewed someone worth interviewing over a six-decade career, passed away on Saturday at the age of 87.
The company he founded, Ora Media, did not claim the cause of death, but according to media reports, King has been battling Covid-19 for weeks and has had several health problems over the past few years.
King, with his trademarks and black goggles, was best known for a 25-year run as a talk show host on CNN’s “Larry King Live.”
King’s long list of interviews has ranged from every US president since 1974, world leaders Yasser Arafat and Vladimir Putin, and celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando and Barbra Streisand.
In an emotional last “Larry King Live” program in 2010, tributes included one from President Barack Obama, who in a video message called King “one of the giants of broadcasting”.
Tributes from the media, politicians and Hollywood stars poured in, led by Putin, who, according to the Kremlin, applauded the interviewer’s “great professionalism and undisputed journalistic authority”.
Veteran CNN foreign correspondent Christiane Amanpour remembers King as “a giant of broadcasting and a master of the TV celebrity / statesman-woman interview.”
She added: ‘His name is synonymous with CNN and he was very important to the rise of the network. EVERYONE wanted to be on Larry King Live. May he rest in peace. ”
Star Trek icon and social media personality George Takei noted how King “understands human triumph and weakness equally well”, while Kirstie Alley, of “Cheers” fame, described him as “one of the only talk shows you let talk. ”
Lawrence Harvey Zeiger was born on November 19, 1933 as a poor Russian Jewish immigrant in the working class Brooklyn, New York. King says he never wanted to be anything other than a radio broadcaster.
At age 23, he went to Florida to try to find work.
He became a record jockey for a radio station in Miami in 1957 and changed his name to King when the radio manager told him it was “too ethnic.”
For another radio station in Miami Beach, he recorded programs in a restaurant and did live audience interviews.
In 1978, he moved to Washington, D.C., where he anchored a national radio calling program before being noticed by CNN, a channel founded in 1980 that hired him for its 1985 night programs.
One million viewers
“Larry King Live”, which aired from 1985-2010, aired six nights a week in more than 200 countries. CNN puts its total number of interviews at 30,000.
At the height of its success, the show attracted more than a million viewers each night, making King the star of cable television. At the back, he negotiated an annual salary of more than $ 7 million.
The show is structured in two parts and opens with King, usually in his distinctive rolled-up shirt sleeves and multicolored ties, questioning his guests in a relaxed style.
In the second part of the program, visitors from all over the world are asked to answer questions.
“I do not have an agenda. I do not accept the answer, ”King told the Miami Herald in 2017 about his approach to the job. “I never learned anything when I spoke. “Listening is just as important,” he said.
While critics found his casual interview style too soft, others saw it as the key to King’s appeal, attracting so many star guests to his show and helping CNN establish themselves with the scoops he won.
“I’m not interested in embarrassing (guests), nor am I interested in sucking them up,” he told AFP in 1995. “I’m just curious.”
The show continues
After CNN King conducted interviews on its own website and then in 2013 a new program, “Larry King Now”, aired on Russia Today, a Russian international government-funded television network.
His private life was also colorful: after 22 years of marriage, he divorced his seventh wife Shawn Southwick in 2019, after filing for divorce eight times – he married one woman twice.