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LARRY KING: Looking back at TV’s most Iconic Broadcaster

by Shoubhik Sen

“I never forgot being poor, and I never stopped thinking how fortunate I am.” Larry King has always been love able. This is what made Larry King love able. A wise cracker who gave us a great time. Whether it was the radio or TV, King always entertained us in his own way and that’s what made him the most iconic broadcaster.

After his unfortunate passing this Saturday, we look back on the what mark this great personality left in all his years of work.

RADIO CAREER BEGINNINGS

Larry King was the son of Jewish European immigrants. His father Aaron Zeiger (from Austria-Hungary) and mother Jennie Gitlitz (from Belarus) moved from Belarus to the United States in the 1930s. Staying in Brooklyn, he went to the LAFAYETTE HIGH SCHOOL, which he however left after being traumatized by his father’s untimely death (he was just 9).

His radio career did not begin in a glorious way though. Conversely, he had to perform various miscellaneous tasks at a Florida radio station (eg. Cleaning, Sweeping etc). Larry’s moment came when he was used as a replacement announcer there, after many announcers quit for unknown reasons. Due to his difficult-to-pronounce surname, he changed it to KING. Initially a stage name, he legally changed his surname later. He was a local radio interviewer and sportscaster during this. Being a local radio show, he interviewed “anyone and everyone” (eg. Even the waiter of the local restaurant). However, his 1st big broadcast was with Singer-Actor BOBBY DARIN.

Larry King however rose to prominence with “THE LARRY KING SHOW”. It was an all night coast-to-coast radio call-in show by America’s MUTUAL BROADCASTING SYSTEM”. The call-in part began after interviewing his guest, in the Open Phone America Segment. King even shared his own political opinions in this broadcast. To lighten thing up, he especially gave pseudonyms to his regular callers (Eg. “The Numbers Guy”). King finally stepped down in 1994 but Mutual (later acquired by Westwood One) continued to simulcast King’s CNN Evening TV program on radio.

LARRY KING LIVE!! & EARLY TV CAREER

Contrary to popular opinion, Larry King’s 1st televised appearance was before CNN, in a show called Miami Undercover. Airing on Sunday nights, he moderated debates on local issues.

One of the news media giants in today’s date, CNN was just a rookie in this field when Ted Turner hired him to host a nightly interview program. Tuner was planning to replace “The Freeman Report” hosted by Sandi Freeman with King’s “Larry King LIVE!!” We can gauge from Turner’s statement, the impact created by Larry King in news broadcasting.

If anyone asked me what are my greatest career achievements in life, one is the creation of CNN, and the other is hiring Larry King. Like so many who worked with and knew Larry, he was a consummate professional, an amazing mentor to many and a good friend to all. The world has lost a true legend.

Ted Turner (Chairman, Turner Enterprises)

Just like his radio days, King interviewed anyone and everyone out here as well. He interviewed around 50,000 personalities in his entire CNN Career and was a real schmoozer, who made people talk with his charm. He wasn’t confrontational or throwing heavy questions. Instead he just liked to “hone” people and make them say interesting things about themselves. This is the reason why King was able to get everyone on his show; from politicians (all Presidents since Nixon), world leaders, businessmen, disaster and crime victims and even alleged Psychics and UFO Analysts.

King often cameoed in his own shows as the delivery boy, a newspaper columnist etc. These went on to become famous TV and Radio characters. He finally stepped down as the host in 2005, agreeing to do only occasional specials.

LARRY KING NOW!! & OTHER VENTURES

This was not a goodbye though; just a “see you later” as King created ORA TV in 2012, that broadcasted his new talk show LARRY KING NOW on HULU. King kept his signature alive in this new setting as well.

He kept his questions simple, open-ended and light. For example, he asked real estate mogul DONALD TRUMP “Does it have to be buildings?” and to Reagan that “Is it ,for you, frustrating to not remember something”.In fact, he proudly claimed that he never prepared for an interview. He asked an author what the book was about on-air rather than researching on the work beforehand. Being the schmooze from Bensonhurst, he lightened the atmosphere with his Brooklyn lingo. His “the” sounded like “da” and he used slangs like “ain’t”. Thus, he appeared like a curious guy who just asked questions that any Tom, Dick or Harry would.

Larry King on Monday Night RAW with The Miz

This is not his only TV show graph though. King even hosted an educational TV Series on FOX titled IN VIEW WITH LARRY KING from 2013-15. He even appeared on an episode on Monday Night RAW before this, where he was involved in a story line with The Miz and Kofi Kingston. Larry King himself was a big pro-wrestling fan

I remember watching Antonino Rocca from Argentina bang off the ropes and jump into the air, and it was incredible what wrestling was to early television. Pro wrestling and [early TV star] Milton Berle made early television. They are incredible athletes, their fan following is amazing, but their results are never in the paper.

Larry King on Pro Wrestling

Larry King has made cameos in Ghostbusters & Bee Movie, as himself, apart from guest starring in episodes of 30 Rock, Arthur, Law and Order: Trial by Jury etc.

FINAL WORDS

Larry King had a memorable life and career. There were certain downs in his life in the form of a $5000 fraud charge by a former business partner as well as bankruptcy due to chronic gambling. He’s also notorious for his 8 marriages to 7 women, a scoop milked a lot by tabloids.

All in all though, his contribution to the TV and Radio Broadcasting industry will remain unparalleled for years to come. We wish godspeed to the Bensonhurst Schmoozer and hope his legacy lives on.

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