Larry King Live : 2009: Larry King interviews Hugo Chavez
In 2009, Larry King sat down for an interview with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. For more CNN videos, visit our site at http://www.cnn.com/video/.
King in September 2010
He began as a local Florida journalist and radio interviewer in the 1950s and 1960s and became prominent as an all-night national radio broadcaster starting in 1978. From 1985 to 2010, he hosted the nightly interview television program Larry King Liveon CNN. He currently hosts Larry King Now on Hulu and a weekly talk show on RT television network.
Early life and education
He was born Lawrence Leibel Harvey Zeiger in Brooklyn, New York City, New Yorkto an Austrian immigrant Edward Jonaton Zeiger, a restaurant owner and defense plant worker, and his wife Jennie (Gitlitz), a garment worker, who emigrated from Belarus. Both parents were Orthodox Jews.
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. He never went to college. From an early age, however, he had wanted to go into radio.
Career – Miami radio and television
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 Marshall Simmonds 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 Pumpernik’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 television to the assistance of comedian Jackie Gleason, whose national television 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.”
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 on KWKH. Eventually, King was rehired by WIOD in Miami. 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.
National radio – Interviewing Vladimir Putin
In 1978, King 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 continued until December 31, 2009.
CNN – 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.
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 they made their appearances 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 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, which was confirmed that September.
The final edition of Larry King Live aired on December 16, 2010. The show concluded with his last thoughts and a thank you to his audience for watching and supporting him over the years. The final words of Larry King on the show was, “I..I I don’t know what to say except to you, My audience, Thank You. And instead of Goodbye, how about So Long”
On February 17, 2012, CNN announced that he would no longer host specials.
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. 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 September 3, 2005, following 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. On January 18, 2010, in the wake 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. Following the Deepwater Horizon explosion, King aired “Disaster in the Gulf: How You Can Help”, a special two-hour edition designed to show viewers how to take action in the clean-up efforts on the Gulf Coast.
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 theNazis‘ oppression of Jews in the 1930s. Other signatories included Dustin Hoffman and Goldie Hawn.
King has been married eight times, to seven different 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 eponymous nightclubs. The couple had a son Andy in 1962, and divorced the following year. In 1963, King married his fourth wife, Mary Francis “Mickey” Stuphin, 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. In the mid-1980s King dated actress Angie Dickinson and even had her as a guest on his Mutual Radio broadcast.
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.
In 1997, 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.
In July 2009, King appeared on The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien, where he told host O’Brien about his wishes to becryonically preserved upon death, as he had revealed in his book My Remarkable Journey. In December 2011, preceding a CNN Special on the topic, the Kings had a special dinner with friends Conan O’Brien, Tyra Banks, Shaquille O’Neal, Seth MacFarlane, Jack Dorsey, Quincy Jones and Russell Brand where his intent to do so was reiterated, among other topics that were discussed.
King had been an avid smoker for much of his early to mid-adult life, consuming no fewer than four packs a day. He was known to keep a lit cigarette within reach while on-air, in order to avoid lighting-up during interviews.
On February 24, 1987, King suffered a major heart attack and then had quintuple-bypass surgery. Since then, 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, King revealed that he had undergone surgery five 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 the hospital for just one day.
On Norm Macdonald‘s video podcast Norm Macdonald Live in April 2013, King stated that he did not believe in a higher power nor did he believe he would be going anywhere after he died.