Larry King, the amiable, Brooklyn-born broadcaster whose live global TV program on CNN made him one of the most famous talk-show hosts in the world, has died at age 87, reports The L-A Times.
King died Saturday at Cedar-Sinai Medical Center, Ora Media, the company behind programs “Larry King Now” and “Politicking with Larry King” said in a statement. King was hospitalized with COVID-19 earlier this month.
King ended his long-running CNN program in 2010 but returned to television again and again as a moderator, opinion shaper and, occasionally, pitchman. During his 25 years presiding over “Larry King Live,” the first international live phone-in TV talk show, King was variously dubbed in the press as “America’s yak-master,” the “pope of talk” and the “top banana of talk-show hosts.”
With his swept-back dark hair, horn-rimmed glasses and trademark suspenders, the jacketless King would sit at his desk with its prop antique microphone and — leaning forward, shoulders hunched — do what he felt he did best: “draw people out in an interview.”
King’s announcement in June 2010 that he would leave his program later in the year came in the wake of a sharp decline in viewership for his show and his reconciliation with his seventh wife, Shawn, after they both filed for divorce. They again filed for divorce in 2019.
In addition to hosting “The Larry King Show,” a late-night radio talk show on the Mutual Broadcasting System from 1978 to 1994, King was the author of a number of bestselling books, wrote a longtime weekly column of random thoughts for USA Today, made more than 20 cameo appearances in movies and, during the midst of the pandemic in 2020, launched an hourlong pop culture podcast.
Although King dreamed of becoming a radio broadcaster while growing up, he spent the initial years after high school working a variety of odd jobs. But in 1957, after hearing that Miami was a good place to break into radio, the 23-year-old King headed to Florida.
The only job he could find was sweeping floors at a small AM station, WAHR, with the promise of an on-air job when someone quit. When the morning disc jockey quit two weeks later, the general manager asked King to step in. Half an hour before going on the air, King later recalled, the general manager told him that Zeiger sounded “too German, too Jewish” and suggested the name King.
In 1958, King moved to a larger radio station, WKAT, and the increasingly popular disc jockey began hosting a four-hour radio show on location at Pumpernik’s, a popular Miami restaurant, where he quickly progressed from interviewing the restaurant’s customers to talking with celebrities such as Lenny Bruce, Bobby Darin and Ella Fitzgerald.
In 1960, King also began hosting a Sunday night interview show for a local TV station. Two years later, he was hired by Miami radio station WIOD and began doing an interview show from the houseboat that had been used on the TV private-detective series “Surfside 6.”
His local popularity was further fueled when he became the color commentator for the Miami Dolphins’ football broadcasts on WIOD and began writing local newspaper columns.
The years of overspending, along with his heavy gambling debts, caused King to begin lying to his friends so he could borrow money from them.
In 1971, King was arrested after financier Louis Wolfson, with whom King had dealings, pressed grand larceny charges against him. A judge dismissed the charges because the statute of limitations had expired, but the scandal shattered King’s career.
He lost his local radio show, his sideline as the color man for the Miami Dolphins, his television show and his newspaper column.
But the turnaround for King began in 1975 when WIOD radio, under a new general manager, decided to give him another chance.
In 1978, the same year he declared bankruptcy, King’s career took a giant leap when the Mutual Broadcasting System offered him the opportunity to host a national late-night call-in radio show.
“The Larry King Show,” originally broadcast from Miami before moving to the Mutual studios in Arlington, Va., debuted in 1978 on 28 stations. By the early ’80s, the show was being carried on nearly 250 Mutual affiliates in all 50 states and had won a Peabody Award.