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Larry King, who for more than 50 years talked to everyone on radio and television, from kings and powerful politicians to scandalized super celebrities to regular people in extraordinary circumstances, died on January 23, 2021 at Cedars -Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 87. 

No cause of death was announced, but it was reported he was hospitalized earlier for Covid-19 complications.

King was known for not preparing for his interviews. He liked to put himself in the same place as the viewer. He also liked to ask straightforward, simple, to-the-point questions while maintaining a friendly approach to and friendship with his interviewees. First on his local radio show in Miami, then on all night syndicated radio and finally at 9pm on CNN, Larry King Live became a place newsmakers went to tell their story. He had the essential sine qua non of interviewing, the passion of curiosity and listening. It was infused by his life, a kid from Brooklyn on the outside, and a life marked by up and down experiences. Through it all, he genuinely wanted to know what it was like to be someone else.

Larry King, born Lawrence Zeiger in Brooklyn, was profoundly shaped by the experience of losing his father when he was young boy, which forced his mother to move to  smaller place and get a job as a seamstress. He lost interest in school and found a passion for the Brooklyn Dodgers and radio stars like Arthur Godfrey. Lawrence Zeiger finally made his way to Miami, finding custodial work in a radio station and finally getting a chance to be on the air. He made himself successful as he became very good at being live and talking to celebrities. He also cultivated friendships with his interviewees. He became enormously popular in Miami media, but lost it all facing bankruptcy twice. He was in the wilderness for a while before coming back to Miami radio and then moving to Washington to do all night radio for Mutual Broadcasting. That role made him a media star and introduced him to a whole new set of fans. In 1985, Ted Turner, the founder of CNN, asked him to host a prime time television show on CNN called Larry King Live. It lasted 25 years. Larry King Live first came from a studio in suburban Virginia and then Los Angeles. At the end of the first decade of the new century, ratings competition in a changing media world caused CNN to cancel his show, much to his sadness. He ended his CNN run with a grand party and messages from everyone.

During his 25 year run, King interviewed everyone and was at the center of headline events from the O.J. Simpson obsession to presidential campaigns, including a famous debate between Former Vice President Al Gore and businessman Ross Perot. After CNN, King hosted a digital interview show called Larry King Now for Ora TV, a company he founded with Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim.

Larry king was married  8 times to 7 different women and is survived by them and a number of children and grand children.

He life story has been retold in obituaries everywhere, including the front page of the Sunday New York Times on January 24.

On a personal note, Larry was a friend. We first met around 1980. We could not be more different in our life experiences. He grew up in Brooklyn, I grew up in Henderson, a small town in North Carolina. Larry stopped his formal education at high school, I went to Duke University where I received an undergraduate and a law degree. He started early in media while I entered later in my early 30’s and didn’t have my own program until my late 30’s.  Larry famously didn’t believe in preparation for an interview; I believed in massive preparation. He thought it made you a hostage, I thought it liberated you. I was more journalist; he was more entertainer. Despite all those differences, we shared one essential, defining trait: a huge curiosity.  Both of us wanted to understand who, what, when, where, how, why and always what made someone tick rather than trying to convict or play gotcha. Both of us believed the interview was about the guest, not the host because we were there night after night. 

I appeared on Larry King Live several times and he appeared on CHARLIE ROSE 3 times. Here is an excerpt from from 2006:
Charlie: What do you fear the most?

King: Death.

Charlie: Do you?

King: Oh, yeah. I'm 72. I've had quintuple bypass surgery, I've had a heart attack.


Charlie: And what do your doctors say the impact of that in terms of dying young?

King: They say, keep thin, watch what you eat. And this is, I love this, avoid stress. Now, how the hell do you avoid stress? And I'm an A personality type.


Charlie: You are?

King: Oh yeah, Major League type.
 
Larry King on CHARLIE ROSE on June 20, 2006. Click to watch the full conversation.
And from 1998:

CharlieIf you walk out of here and do not make it through the night, what will you be proudest of and what would you most want us to remember, beyond your family?

King: I probably would be most proudest of the Cardiac Foundation, that we helped people live who would not have lived. What more contribution can you make than that? Through our energies and the simple idea made someone who would have died, live. And secondly, I'd be very proudest of my career. It will be 50 years May 1st that I've been on the air. That's broadcasting six decades. I would have been very proud that I contributed to the knowledge and entertainment of people. I enjoy doing what I do. I'm proud of my business. I love this -- don't you? I love this business.

Charlie: You can say the best thing that could happen to someone in life, I think, surgeons, policemen, firemen, teacher, doctor, businessmen, business woman, if you get to do what you love and it calls on the best of your abilities. It can't get any better than that, to be able to find that thing --

King: Yeah, but how many have that?

Charlie: Two of them right here. [...] What does it mean to you?

King: Paul Newman said the other night on our show -- it's very true -- ''if you talk about everything in life and you don't include luck, you're pompous.'' Luck plays a part in it. I got lucky in that I was there at the right time when Ted Turner wanted that slot filled, and I got into that slot. And I fit that slot well. It's a perfect kind of format for me. It's this kind of format, which is a perfect format for you, which is shocking to me why you don't write books-- shocking to me why you don't write books with all the collection of people-- you could do a fantastic work with writing book-- You don't, though.

Charlie: They ask me to, but I haven't yet.

King: It's a dream world to me. I think I have the best job in media.

To see more of the Larry King interviews, please take a look at Charlierose.com. Watch them, I promise you will find Larry very interesting.

Charlie
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