King in September 2010
|Born||Lawrence Harvey Zeiger|
November 19, 1933
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
|Years active||1957– present|
|Spouse||Freda Miller (1952–1953)|
Annette Kaye (1961)
Alene Akins (1961–1963)
Mickey Sutphin (1963–1967)
Alene Akins (1967–1972)
Sharon Lepore (1976–1983)
Julie Alexander (1989–1992)
Shawn Southwick (1997–present)
Lawrence Harvey "Larry" King (November 19, 1933) is an American television and radio host.
He is recognized in the United States as one of the premier broadcast interviewers. He has won an Emmy Award, two Peabody Awards, and ten Cable ACE Awards.
King began as a local Florida journalist and radio interviewer in the 1950s and '60s. He became prominent as an all-night national radio broadcaster starting in 1978, and then, in 1985, began hosting the nightly interview TV program Larry King Live on CNN.
On June 29, 2010, it was announced that he would step down as host of the show but would continue to host specials for CNN. In early September, CNN confirmed that he would be replaced by Piers Morgan. King's last show aired on December 16.
King was born in Brooklyn, New York City, to Edward Zeiger, a restaurant owner and defense plant worker, and his wife Jennie Gitlitz, a garment worker, who emigrated from Belarus. King grew up in a religious and observant Jewish home, but in adulthood became an agnostic. King's father died at 44 of heart disease, and his mother had to go on welfare to support her two sons. His father's death greatly affected King, and he lost interest in school. After graduating from high school, he worked to help support his mother. From an early age, however, he had wanted to go into radio. His last show was aired on December 16th 2010 at 10:00 PM EST.
Miami radio and television
A CBS staff announcer, whom King met by chance, told him to go to Florida, a growing media market where openings still existed for inexperienced broadcasters. King rode a bus to Miami. After initial setbacks, King persisted and got his first job in radio. The manager of a small station, WAHR (now WMBM) in Miami Beach, hired him to clean up and perform miscellaneous tasks. When one of their announcers quit, they put King on the air. His first broadcast was on May 1, 1957, when he worked as the disc jockey from 9 a.m. to noon. He also did two afternoon newscasts and a sportscast. He was paid $55 a week. He acquired the name Larry King when the general manager Martial Cemen said that Zeiger was too ethnic and difficult to remember, so Larry chose the surname King, which he got from an ad in The Miami Herald for King's Wholesale Liquor, minutes before air. He started interviewing on a midmorning show for WIOD, at Pumpernik's Restaurant in Miami Beach. He would interview anyone who walked in. His first interview was with a waiter at the restaurant. Two days later, singer Bobby Darin, in Miami for a concert later that day, walked into Pumpernick's as a result of coming across King's show on his radio; Darin became King's first celebrity interview guest.
His Miami radio show launched him to local stardom. A few years later, in May 1960, he hosted Miami Undercover, airing Sunday nights at 11:30 p.m. on WPST-TV Channel 10 (now WPLG). On the show, he moderated debates on important issues of the time. King credits his success on local TV to the assistance of another showbiz legend, comedian Jackie Gleason, whose national TV variety show was being filmed in Miami Beach during this period. "That show really took off because Gleason came to Miami," King said in a 1996 interview he gave when inducted into the Broadcasters' Hall of Fame. "He did that show and stayed all night with me. We stayed till five in the morning. He didn't like the set, so we broke into the general manager's office and changed the set. Gleason changed the set, he changed the lighting, and he became like a mentor of mine." Jackie Gleason was instrumental in getting Larry a hard-to-get on air interview with Frank Sinatra during this time.
During this period, WIOD gave King further exposure as a color commentator for the Miami Dolphins of the National Football League, during their 1970 season and most of their 1971 season. However, he was dismissed by both WIOD and television station WTVJ as a late-night radio host and sports commentator as of December 20, 1971, when he was arrested after being accused of grand larceny by a former business partner. Other staffers covered the Dolphins' games into their 24–3 loss to Dallas in Super Bowl VI. King also lost his weekly column at the Miami Beach Sun newspaper. The charges were dropped on March 10, 1972, and King spent the next several years in reviving his career, including a stint as the color announcer in Louisiana for the Shreveport Steamer of the World Football League in 1974–75. For several years during the 1970s in South Florida, he hosted a sports talk-show called "Sports-a-la-King" that featured guests and callers.
King managed to get back into radio by becoming the color commentator for broadcasts of the Shreveport Steamer of the World Football League on KWKH. Eventually, King was rehired by WIOD in Miami.
|Interviewing Vladimir Putin,|
In 1978, he went national, inheriting the nightly talk show slot on the Mutual Broadcasting System, broadcast coast-to-coast, that had been "Long John" Nebel's until his death, and had been pioneered by Herb Jepko. One reason King got the Mutual job is that he had once been an announcer at WGMA-AM in Hollywood, Florida, which was then owned by C. Edward Little. Little went on to become president of Mutual and was the one who hired King when Nebel died. King's Mutual show developed a devoted audience.
It was broadcast live Monday through Friday from midnight to 5:30 a.m. Eastern Time. King would interview a guest for the first 90 minutes, with callers asking questions that continued the interview for another 90 minutes. At 3 a.m., he would allow callers to discuss any topic they pleased with him, until the end of the program, when he expressed his own political opinions. That segment was called "Open Phone America". Some of the regular callers used the pseudonyms "The Portland Laugher", "The Miami Derelict", "The Todd Cruz Caller", "The Scandal Scooper", "Mr. Radio" and "The Water Is Warm Caller". "Mr. Radio" made over 200 calls to King during Open Phone America. The show was successful, starting with relatively few affiliates and eventually growing to more than 500. It ran until 1994.
For its final year, the show was moved to afternoons, but, because most talk radio stations at the time had an established policy of local origination in the time-slot (3 to 6 p.m. Eastern Time) that Mutual offered the show, a very low percentage of King's overnight affiliates agreed to carry his daytime show and it was unable to generate the same audience size. The afternoon show was eventually given to David Brenner and radio affiliates were given the option of carrying the audio of King's new CNN evening television program. The Westwood One radio simulcast of the CNN show continues.
Main article: Larry King Live
He started his Larry King Live CNN show in June 1985, hosting a broad range of guests from controversial figures of UFO conspiracy theories and alleged psychics, to prominent politicians and leading figures in the entertainment industry, often doing their first or only interview on breaking news stories on his show.
King during a recording of his Larry King Live program at the Pentagon in Arlington, VA in 2006
Unlike many interviewers, King has a direct, non-confrontational approach. His reputation for asking easy, open-ended questions has made him attractive to important figures who want to state their position while avoiding being challenged on contentious topics. His interview style is characteristically frank, but with occasional bursts of irreverence and humor. His approach attracts some guests who would not otherwise appear. King, who is known for his general lack of pre-interview preparation, once bragged that he never read the books of authors before making an appearance on his program.
In a show dedicated to the surviving Beatles King asked George Harrison's widow about the song "Something", which was written about George Harrison's first wife. He seemed surprised when she did not know very much about the song.
Throughout his career King has interviewed many of the leading figures of his time. CNN claimed during his final episode that he had performed 60,000 interviews in his career.
King also wrote a regular newspaper column in USA Today for almost 20 years, from shortly after that newspaper's origin in 1982 until September 2001. The column consisted of short "plugs, superlatives and dropped names" but was dropped when the newspaper redesigned its "Life" section. The column was resurrected in blog form in November 2008 and on Twitter in April 2009.
On June 29, 2010, King announced that after 25 years, he would be stepping down from his nightly job hosting Larry King Live. However, he stated that he would remain with CNN to host occasional specials. The announcement came in the wake of speculation that CNN had approached Piers Morgan, the British television personality and journalist, as King's primetime replacement.
On September 8, 2010, CNN confirmed that Morgan would occupy King's 9:00 pm timeslot from January 2011 onward.
The final edition of Larry King Live aired on December 16.
On February 24, 1987, King suffered a major heart attack and then had quintuple-bypass surgery. King has written two books about living with heart disease. Mr. King, You're Having a Heart Attack: How a Heart Attack and Bypass Surgery Changed My Life (1989, ISBN 0-440-50039-7) was written with New York's Newsday science editor B. D. Colen. Taking On Heart Disease: Famous Personalities Recall How They Triumphed over the Nation's #1 Killer and How You Can, Too (2004, ISBN 1-57954-820-2) features the experience of various celebrities with cardiovascular disease including Peggy Fleming and Regis Philbin.
On February 12, 2010, Larry King revealed that he had undergone surgery 5 weeks earlier to place stents in his coronary artery to remove plaque from his heart. During the segment on Larry King Live which discussed Bill Clinton's similar procedure, King said he was "feeling great" and had been in hospital for just one day.
As a result of heart attacks, he established the Larry King Cardiac Foundation, an organization to which David Letterman, through his American Foundation for Courtesy and Grooming, has also contributed. King gave $1 million to George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs for scholarships to students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
On September 3, 2005, following the devastation to the Gulf Coast by Hurricane Katrina, King aired "How You Can Help", a three-hour special designed to provide a forum and information clearinghouse for viewers to understand and join nationwide and global relief efforts. Guest Richard Simmons, a native of New Orleans, told him, "Larry, you don't even know how much money you raised tonight. When we rebuild the city of New Orleans, we're going to name something big after you."
On January 18, 2010, in the wake of the devastation caused by the 2010 Haiti earthquake, King aired "Haiti: How You Can Help", a special two-hour edition designed to show viewers how to take action and be a part of the global outreach.
King serves as a member of the Board of Directors on the Police Athletic League of New York City, a nonprofit youth development agency serving inner-city children and teenagers.
On August 30, 2010, King served as the host of Chabad's 30th annual "To Life" telethon, in Los Angeles.
On September 10, 1990, while on The Joan Rivers Show, Rivers asked King which contestant in the Miss America pageant was "the ugliest". King responded, "Miss Pennsylvania. She was one of the 10 finalists and she did a great ventriloquist bit The dummy was prettier." King was a judge for the September 8, 1990 pageant. King later sent Miss Pennsylvania, Marla Wynne, a dozen long-stemmed roses and a telegram apologizing for saying she was the ugliest contestant in the pageant that year.
In 1997, King was one of 34 celebrities to sign an open letter to then-German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, published as a newspaper advertisement in the International Herald Tribune, which protested the treatment of Scientologists in Germany, comparing it to the Nazis' oppression of Jews in the 1930s. Other signatories included Dustin Hoffman and Goldie Hawn.
King has been married eight times, to seven women. He married high-school sweetheart Freda Miller in 1951 at age 18. The union ended the following year at the behest of their parents, who reportedly had the marriage annulled. King was later briefly married to Annette Kaye who gave birth to his son, Larry Jr., in November 1961. King did not meet Larry Jr. until the son was in his thirties. Larry Jr. and his wife, Shannon, have three children.
In 1961, King married his third wife, Alene Akins, a Playboy bunny at one of the magazine's titular nightclubs. The couple had son Andy in 1962, and divorced the following year. In 1963, King married his fourth wife, Mary Francis "Mickey" Sutphin, who divorced King. He remarried Akins, with whom he had a second child, Chaia, in 1969. The couple divorced a second time in 1972. In 1997, Dove Books published a book written by King and Chaia, Daddy Day, Daughter Day. Aimed at young children, it tells each of their accounts of his divorce from Akins.
On September 25, 1976, King married his fifth wife, math teacher and production assistant Sharon Lepore. The couple divorced in 1983.
King met businesswoman Julie Alexander in summer 1989, and proposed to her on the couple's first date, on August 1, 1989. Alexander became King's sixth wife on October 7, 1989, when the two were married in Washington, D.C. The couple lived in different cities, however, with Alexander in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and King in Washington, D.C., where he worked. The couple separated in 1990 and divorced in 1992. He became engaged to actress Deanna Lund in 1995, after five weeks of dating, but they never married.
He married his seventh wife, Shawn Southwick, born in 1959 as Shawn Oro Engemann, a former singer and TV host , in King's Los Angeles, California, hospital room three days before King underwent heart surgery to clear a clogged blood vessel. The couple has two children: Chance, born March 1999, and Cannon, born May 2000. He is stepfather to Danny Southwick. On King and Southwick's 10th anniversary in September 2007, Southwick boasted she was "the only [wife] to have lasted into the two digits". On April 14, 2010, both Larry and Shawn King filed for divorce. but have since stopped the proceedings, claiming "We love our children, we love each other, we love being a family. That is all that matters to us".
Shawn attempted suicide in May 2010 when she overdosed on prescription pills.
In July 2009, King appeared on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien, where he told host O'Brien about his wishes to be cryogenically preserved upon death, as he had revealed in his book My Remarkable Journey.
King has received many broadcasting awards. He won the Peabody Award for Excellence in broadcasting for both his radio (1982) and television (1992) shows. He has also won 10 CableACE awards for Best Interviewer and for Best Talk Show Series.
In 1989, King was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame,[ and in 1996 to the Broadcasters' 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.
in June 1998, King received an Honorary Degree from Brooklyn College, City University of New York, for his life achievements.
King was given the Golden Mike Award for Lifetime Achievement in January 2009, by the Radio & Television News Association of Southern California.
King is an honorary member of the Rotary Club of Beverly Hills. He is also a recipient of the President's Award honoring his impact on media from the Los Angeles Press Club in 2006.
King is the first recipient of the Arizona State University Hugh Downs Award for Communication Excellence, presented April 11, 2007, via satellite by Downs himself. Downs sported red suspenders for the event and turned the tables on King by asking "very tough questions" about King's best, worst and most influential interviews during King's 50 years in broadcasting.