television and radio talk show host, claims to have interviewed
over 30,000 people during his career. In 1989, the Guinness Book
of World Records credited him as having logged more hours on
national radio than any other talk show personality in history.
popularity began with his first national radio talk show, premiering
over the Mutual Network in 1978. In 1985, the Cable News Network
(CNN) scheduled a nightly one hour cable-tv version of King's radio
program. Larry King Live became one of CNN's highest-rated
shows and positioned King as the first American talk show host to
have a worldwide audience. Currently, the program reaches over 200
countries with a potential audience of 150 million.
television's pre-eminent pop-journalist, King is characterized as
"interviewer," not "journalist." Described as having an "aw shucks"
quality, he is an ad-lib interviewer who claims not to over-prepare
for his guest. "My lack of preparation really forces me to learn,
and to listen." His guests are given a wide range of latitude while
responding to questions that any person on the street might ask.
Rather than acting as an investigative reporter, King prides himself
in asking "human questions," not "press-conference questions." He
sees himself as non-threatening, non-judgmental, and concerned with
broadcast career began with a 1957 move to Miami, Florida where
he worked for station WAHR as a disc jockey and sports talk-show
host. He changed his name from the less euphonious Larry Zeiger
when the general manager noted that his name was "too German, too
Jewish. It's not show-business enough...."
After a year,
he joined WKAT, a station that gave DJs a great deal of freedom
to develop their personalities. King took advantage of the opportunity
by inventing a character called "Captain Wainright of the Miami
State Police." Sounding like Broderick Crawford, Wainright interrupted
traffic reports with crazy suggestions--like telling listeners to
save a trip to the racetrack by flagging down police officers and
placing their bets with them. The Wainright character became so
popular that bumper stickers appeared with "Don't Stop Me. I Know
In 1958, King's
celebrity status led to his first major break as host of an on-location
interview program from Miami's Pumpernik Restaurant. He interviewed
whoever happened to be there at the time. Never knowing who his
guest would be and unable to plan in advance, he began to perfect
his interviewing style, listening carefully to what his guest said
and then formulating questions as the conversation progressed.
King's Pumpernik show, WIOD employed him in 1962 to do a similar
radio program originating from a houseboat formerly used for the
ABC television series, Surfside 6. Because of the show's
on-the-beach location and because of the publicity it offered the
television series, Surfside 6 became an enormous success.
WIOD gave King further exposure as the color commentator for the
Miami Dolphins' broadcasts. While riding a tide of popularity during
1963, he did double duty as a Sunday late-night talk show host over
WLBW-TV. In 1964, he left WLBW-TV for a weekend talk show on WTVJ-TV.
He added newspaper writing to his agenda with columns for The
Miami Herald, The Miami News, and The Miami Beach
Of this period,
King said he was "flying high." Unfortunately, his life flew out
of control. He ran up outrageous bills and fell $352,000 into debt.
Still worse, he was charged with grand larceny and accused of stealing
$5,000 from a business partner. On 10 March 1972, the charges were
dropped, but the scandal nearly destroyed his career. It would take
four years before he worked regularly in broadcasting again. King
candidly presented this period of his life to the public in his
book, Larry King.
From 1972 to
1975, King struggled to get back on his feet. In the spring 1974,
he took a public relations job with a horse racing track in Shreveport,
Louisiana. In the fall, he became the color commentator for the
short-lived Shreveport Steamers of the World Football League.
In 1975, after
returning to Miami, he was re-hired by a new general manager at
WIOD for an evening interview show similar to his previous program.
Over the next several years, he gradually recovered as a TV interviewer,
a columnist for The Miami News, and as a radio commentator
for the Dolphins. Still deep in debt, he claimed bankruptcy in 1978.
In the same
year, the Mutual Broadcasting Network persuaded him to do a late-night
talk show that debuted on 30 January 1978 in 28 cities as the Larry
King Show. It was first aired from WIOD, but beginning in April
1978, originated from Mutual's Arlington, Virginia studios, which
overlook the capital. Originally, the show's time slot was from
midnight to 5:30 A.M. and divided into three distinct segments,
a guest interview, guest responses to callers, and "Open Phone America."
King greeted callers by identifying their location, "Memphis, hello."
Photo courtesy of Larry King
February 1993, King's radio talk show on Mutual (now the Westwood
Mutual Broadcasting System) moved from late night to an afternoon
drive time reaching 410 affiliates. By June 1994, Westwood also
began simulcasting King's CNN live show, the first ever daily "TV/radio
talk show." As part of the agreement, King dropped his syndicated
radio show, a move that ended his regular radio broadcasting activities.
King's CNN program received a huge boost in 1992 by attracting the
presidential candidates. On 20 February his interview with H. Ross
Perot facilitated Perot's nomination. Viewers of Larry King Live
learned of Mr. Perot's candidacy even before his wife did. Because
of King's call-in format, Perot was approachable as he responded
to questions from viewers. The interview initiated a new trend in
campaigning as other candidates followed suit by side-stepping traditional
news conferences with trained reporters in favor of live call-in
talk shows. The new boom in "talk-show democracy" invited voters
back into the political arena formerly reserved for politicians
and journalists, and marked a new stage in television's influence
on the U.S. political process. In 1996 King was honored in a special
salute ceremony by the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago.
KING (Lawrence Zeiger). Born in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., 19
November 1933. Educated at Lafayette High School. Married: 1) Alene
Atkins, 1961 (divorced, 1963); 2) Alene Atkins, 1967 (divorced,
1971), children: Chaia; 3) Sharon Lepore, 1976 (divorced, 1982);
4) Julia Alexander, 1989, children: Andy. Disc jockey and host of
radio interview show at various stations in Miami, Florida, 1957-71;
columnist for various Miami papers, 1965-71; freelance writer and
broadcaster, 1972-75; radio talk show host at WIOD in Miami, 1975-78;
host of the Mutual Broadcasting System's Larry King Show since
1978; host of CNN's Larry King Live since 1985; host of the
Goodwill Games, 1990; columnist for USA Today and The
Sporting News. Member of the Friars Club and the Washington
Center for Politics and Journalism. Recipient: University of Georgia's
George Foster Peabody Award, 1982; National Association of Broadcasters'
Radio award, 1985; Jack Anderson Investigative Reporting award,
1985; International Radio and TV Society's Broadcaster of the Year,
1989; American Heart Association's Man of the Year, 1992; named
to Broadcaster's Hall of Fame, 1992. Address: Mutual Broadcasting
System, Inc., 1755 Jefferson Davis Highway, Arlington, Virginia
1985- Larry King Live
Ghostbusters, 1984; Lost in America, 1985
1978- Larry King Show
Larry King (with Emily Yoffe). New York: Simon and Schuster,
Tell It to the King (with Peter Occhiogrosso). New York:
Tell Me More (with Peter Occhiogrosso). New York: Putnam,
When You're From Brooklyn, Everywhere Else Is Tokyo
(with Marty Appel). Boston: Little-Brown, 1992.
On The Line: The New Road to the White House (with Mark Stencel).
New York : Harcourt Brace, 1993.
"Live with Larry King." (Interview) Broadcasting & Cable
(Washington, D.C.), 13 December 1993.
Unger, Arthur. "Larry King: 'Everyman with a Mike.' (Interview)
Television Quarterly (New York), Winter 1993.
Meyer, Thomas J. "The Maestro of Chin Music: With a Face Made for
Radio, Larry King Has Become America's Premier Yakker on the Airwaves."
The New York Times Magazine, 26 May 1991.
of Radio: 10 Years and Counting." Broadcasting (Washington,
D.C.), 25 January 1988.
Rosellini, Lynn. "All Alone, Late at Night." U.S. News and World
Report (Washington, D.C.), 15 January 1990.
Viles, Peter. "Larry King Faces the Day Shift with Mixed Emotions."
Broadcasting (Washington, D.C.), 18 January 1993.
Wilkinson, Alec. "The Mouthpiece and Handsomo." The New Yorker,
28 March 1994.
also Talk Shows