TODAY marks the 80th birthday of media veteran Larry King. He was born Lawrence Leibel Harvey Zeiger in 1933 Brooklyn, New York to immigrant parents. In 1978 he started a nightly coast-to-coast radio talk show on the Mutual Radio Network, The Larry King Show. His work on the show caught the attention of Ted Turner, the founder of CNN, who hired King to host his own talk show, Larry King Live, on CNN in 1985. 2010 saw King announce that he’d be ending his reign as host after 25 years. Coming out of retirement in 2012 King now hosts Larry King Now on ORA.tv, the online network. By the end of second series King had interviewed a whopping 330 guests.
Larry King got his break when he was hired by a Miami Radio Station WAHR (now WMBM) as a handyman, performing odd jobs and cleaning up the studios. But when one of their announcers quit in May of 1957, Zeiger was called in to replace him.
Impressing the boss the aspiring host was immediately put on the 9.00am to noon shift as well as two afternoon newscasts and a sportscast. It was here that the transformation from Zeiger to King took place as the station bosses felt his Jewish surname was too ‘ethnic’. The name King was chosen from an ad in a local newspaper minutes before the show went to air. Receiving $55 a week, the young Larry King was fulfilling a lifelong ambition.
The 1960’s were a busy time for King, who added a local Miami television show and two newspaper columns to his résumé. It was during this time he entered the sphere of legend Jackie Gleason. Gleason was producing a national variety show in Miami at the time. King saw Gleason as a mentor and credits his teaching of television production.
In late 1971 Larry King was charged with grand larceny by his former business partner resulting in the loss of his television and newspaper positions and causing the journalist to almost bankrupt himself. He was acquitted of all charges in 1972 and worked at rebuilding his career through various magazine articles and West Coast radio.
The incident blew over and King was rehired in 1978 starting the infamous nightly coast-to-coast talk show, The Larry King Show, on the Mutual Radio Network. Not dissimilar to our own FM104 Phoneshow, the show featured call-ins from the listeners as well as guest interviews.
That show caught the attention of media mogul and CNN founder Ted Turner who immediately hired King to host a show on his CNN Network. Larry King Live became the first international TV call-in show. Running for 25 years the show garnered a massive following who tuned in to watch interviews with athletes, presidents, national heroes, actors, foreign dignitaries and people of public interest.
The show became a must for celebrities who sought to plug their latest projects. Larry King is known for his direct, non-confrontational style of interviewing which is why Ross Perot chose to announce his 1992 presidential bid on the show. 2010 saw the end of the institution that was Larry King Live as he stepped down and handed the reigns over to Piers Morgan.
Outside of his hosting duties King has appeared in several films and TV programmes. His voice featured in Shrek 2 (2004) and Shrek the Third (2007) as well as in Bee Movie (2007). After suffering from a heart attack in 1987 and the passing of his father from heart disease when King was just 9 he has been inspired to write several books on the topic. My Remarkable Journey, his autobiography, was published in 2009.
Larry King has led an active personal, life marrying a total of eight times—twice to the same woman. He has been in and out of marriages most of his adult life, beginning with his marriage to his high-school sweetheart Freda Miller when he was 19. From his subsequent seven marriages King has fathered four children. King married his seventh wife, Shawn Southwick, a former singer and television host, in the King’s Los Angeles hospital room where he lay three days before he underwent heart surgery in 1997. Southwick is 26 years King’s younger than her husband. The couple have two children together, Chance and Cannon. Southwick also has a son, Danny, from her previous marriage. The couple announced their separation and impending divorce in April 2010. They have since stopped proceedings claiming they did so for the sake of their children.
Speaking about his milestone birthday King said: ‘I’m 80 years old, and I don’t know what I’m going to be when I grow up…I can’t believe I’m 80. When I was a kid, nobody was 80. I remember when my uncle visited once, he was 60, and I asked my brother: ‘Do you think he has sex? He’s 60, he can’t.’ I can’t believe I’m living in Beverly Hills with a young wife and two kids [and three grown kids]. I’ve got a nice car. I love my job. I’ve got a bagel store, and I have breakfast every morning with friends I grew up with. I’ve been in movies, I’ve written books — I don’t know how that all happened.’
Surprising her husband in what some may deem a risky move on Friday night throwing her husband a surprise party in Dodger Stadium. Guests included Forbes’ Richest Man Carlos Slim, Warren Beatty, Pat Boone, Paul Anka and Larry Flynt, who were treated to a suiting fancy dinner following the celebrations on field. Reportedly renting Dodger stadium out for private events can cost upwards of $25k.