Larry King

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Larry King
Larry King by Gage Skidmore 2.jpg
King in 2017
BornLawrence Harvey Zeiger
November 19 1933(1933-11-19)
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
DiedJanuary 23 2021 (aged 87)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
OccupationTelevision host
Radio host
Years active1957–2021
Spouse(s)Freda Miller
(m. 1952; ann. 1953)​

Annette Kaye
(m. 1961; div. 1961)​
Alene Akins
(m. 1961; div. 1963)​
(m. 1967; div. 1972)​<br Mickey Sutphin
​(m. 1963; div. 1967)​
Sharon Lepore
(m. 1976; div. 1983)​
Julie Alexander
(m. 1989; div. 1992)​

Shawn Southwick
(m. 1997, sep; 2019)​

Larry King (born Lawrence Harvey Zeiger; November 19, 1933 – January 23, 2021) was an American television and radio host. His career in radio and TV broadcasting spanned more than five decades, half of it spent hosting CNN’s "Larry King Live." A legendary talk show host, he conducted more than 60,000 interviews, including many of the most famous people in all walks of life.

King's concise, simple and to the point style of questioning, coupled with his attitude that he knew less about the topic than his interviewee and he listened carefully to their answers, enabled him to draw people out and elicit honest answers. King achieved national and international fame as one of the world's greatest interviewers. He was also well known for his many marriages, eight in all to seven different women. Despite his many divorces, King greatly valued being a father to his children.


King was born in Brooklyn, on November 19, 1933.[1] He was one of two children of Jennie (Gitlitz), a garment worker who was born in Minsk, Russian Empire, and Aaron Zeiger, a restaurant owner and defense-plant worker who was born in Pinsk, Russian Empire.[2][3] His parents were Orthodox Jews who immigrated to the United States from Belarus in the 1930s.[4]

King attended Lafayette High School, a public high school in Brooklyn.[5] His father died of a heart attack when King was nine years old. This resulted in King, his mother, and brother going on government welfare.[6] King was greatly affected by his father's death, and subsequently lost interest in his schoolwork.[7]

After graduating from high school, Larry worked various jobs to help support his mother. From an early age, he desired to work in radio broadcasting, and he succeeded, becoming a legend of talk shows.

He began his career as a WMBM radio interviewer in the Miami area in the 1950s and 1960s, quickly changing his name King on the advice of the station manager. His longest running show, 25 years from 1985 to 2010, was the nightly interview television program Larry King Live on CNN. After leaving CNN, he continued hosting talk shows until his death.

A lifelong Brooklyn Dodgers/Los Angeles Dodgers fan, he was frequently seen behind home plate at the team's games.[8] In his later years King resided in Beverly Hills, California.[9]

Despite claiming to have no active faith in Judaism, he stated in 2017 "I love being Jewish, am proud of my Jewishness, and I love Israel."[10] After describing himself as a Jewish agnostic in 2005,[11] King stated that he was fully atheist in 2015.[12]

On several occasions King stated that with no belief in the afterlife he would like to undergo cryonic suspension subsequent to his legal death.[13]


King was married eight times, to seven different women.[14] He married high-school sweetheart Freda Miller in 1952 at age 18. That union ended the following year at the behest of their parents, who reportedly had the marriage annulled. He 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 latter was in his thirties.[14][15]

In 1961, King married his third wife, Alene Akins, a Playboy Bunny, at one of the magazine's eponymous nightclubs. He adopted Akins' son Andy in 1962; the couple divorced the following year.[16] In 1963, he married his fourth wife, Mary Francis "Mickey" Sutphin, who divorced him. He then remarried his third wife, 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, mathematics teacher and production assistant Sharon Lepore. The couple divorced in 1983.[16]

King met businesswoman Julie Alexander in 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, and King in Washington, DC, where he worked. They separated in 1990 and divorced in 1992.

In 1992, he was engaged to Rama Fox, a minister in the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness. Their engagement ended in 1994. The second failed engagement was to actor Deanna Lund in 1995. Their engagement lasted only a few months before ending.[17]

King with his seventh wife, Shawn Southwick, and their children, Chance and Cannon in 2002

In 1997, he married his seventh wife, Shawn Southwick, a singer, actress, and TV host. They wed in King's Los Angeles hospital room three days before he underwent heart surgery to clear an occluded blood vessel.[18] The couple had two children: Chance, born March 1999, and Cannon, born May 2000. He was stepfather to Arena Football League quarterback Danny Southwick. On King and Southwick's tenth anniversary in September 2007, Southwick joked she was "the only [wife] to have lasted into the two digits."[19] Larry and Shawn King filed for divorce in 2010 but reconciled,[18] and filed for divorce again on August 20, 2019.[19]

Despite his many failed marriages, King enjoyed parenthood, regarding it as one of his most important achievements:

I'm a good father — nothing beats parenthood. ... There's an element of pinching myself every day. Look at what I've come through. All in all if you look at it, I've had a blessed life.[16]

From his seven wives, King had five children and nine grandchildren, as well as four great-grandchildren. His children with Alene (Andy and Chaia), died within weeks of each other in August 2020, Andy at 65 from a heart attack and Chaia at 51 from lung cancer.[20]

Illnesses and death

On February 24, 1987, King had a major heart attack before a successful quintuple-bypass surgery.[21] Following this, he wrote 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) that was written with New York's Newsday science editor B.D. Colen, and Taking On Heart Disease: Famous Personalities Recall How They Triumphed over the Nation's #1 Killer and How You Can, Too (2004), which features the experience of various celebrities with cardiovascular disease including Peggy Fleming and Regis Philbin.

He received annual chest X-rays to monitor his heart condition. During his 2017 examination, doctors discovered a cancerous tumor in his lung. It was successfully removed with surgery.[22]

On April 23, 2019, King underwent a scheduled angioplasty and also had stents inserted. He returned to Politicking with Larry King on August 15. On November 27, he said he had had a stroke in March, and was in a coma "for weeks."[23] He later admitted he had contemplated suicide following the stroke, telling Los Angeles television station KTLA, "I thought I was just going to bite the bullet. I didn't want to live this way."[24]

On January 2, 2021, it was revealed that King had been hospitalized ten days earlier in a Los Angeles hospital after testing positive for COVID-19.[25] King died on January 23, 2021 at the age of 87 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles.[26] King's wife Shawn revealed that he had recovered from COVID-19, but he died of sepsis as a complication.[27] The death certificate listed sepsis as the immediate cause of death, while also listing two underlying conditions leading to the infection - acute hypoxemic respiratory failure and end-stage renal disease.[28]


King's decades long career in broadcasting as a radio interviewer in Florida, where he quickly changed his name to Larry King. He moved to television, spending 25 years, from 1985 to 2010, hosting the nightly interview program Larry King Live on CNN. After leaving CNN, he continued hosting talk shows and other work until his death.

His style of asking simple, direct questions and listening to the answers led him to national and international fame as one of the world's greatest interviewers. He credited his success to curiosity, and to remaining humble to the fact that he knew less than the interviewee:

I don’t know more law than a lawyer. I don’t know more politics than a politician. I don’t, I have opinions. But I’ve never run for office. I’ve never argued a case in front of a jury. I don’t know more medicine than a doctor, I’ve never operated. I’ve never done science. I ask questions of scientists. I’m a layman. I’m a pure layman who’s intensely curious. What I do have is a sense of pace. I know when something’s going well, I know how to draw people out.[29]

Miami radio and television

A CBS staff announcer, whom King met by chance, suggested he go to Florida which was a growing media market with openings for inexperienced broadcasters. King went to Miami, and after initial setbacks, he gained his first job in radio. The manager of a small station, WAHR (now WMBM)[30] in Miami Beach, hired him to clean up and perform miscellaneous tasks. When one of the station's announcers abruptly quit, King was put on the air. His first broadcast was on May 1, 1957, working as the disc jockey from 9 a.m. to noon.[31] He also did two afternoon newscasts and a sportscast. He was paid $50 a week.

He acquired the name Larry King when the general manager claimed that Zeiger was too difficult to remember, so minutes before airtime, Larry chose the surname King, which he got from an advertisement in the Miami Herald for King's Wholesale Liquor.[32] Within two years, he legally changed his name to Larry King.[33]

He began to conduct interviews on a mid-morning show for WIOD, at Pumpernik's Restaurant in Miami Beach. He would interview whoever walked in. Singer Bobby Darin, in Miami for a concert that evening, walked into Pumpernik's and became King's first celebrity interview guest.[34]

King's mugshot from his 1971 arrest in Miami; the charges were ultimately dropped.

King's Miami radio show brought him local attention. 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).[35]

King credited his success to the assistance of comedian Jackie Gleason, whose national television variety show was being taped in Miami Beach beginning in 1964. King happened to be the emcee of the welcoming event for Gleason and the two developed a friendship. When Gleason asked King who he had the most difficulty arranging an interview with, King responded "Sinatra" and Gleason instantly arranged an interview with him. That interview launched King's national career, and to Ted Turner signing King to host CNN's "Larry King Live."[36]

During his time in Miami, 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, Louis Wolfson. King also lost his weekly column at the Miami Beach Sun newspaper. The charges were dropped and eventually King was rehired by WIOD.[33] For several years during the 1970s, he also hosted a sports talk-show called "Sports-a-la-King" that featured guests and callers.[34]

The Larry King Show

King with Hillary Clinton in 1993
King interviewing Vladimir Putin in 2000
King interviewing President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush in 2006

On January 30, 1978, King began broadcasting a nightly coast-to-coast program on the Mutual Broadcasting System, inheriting the talk show slot that had begun with Herb Jepko in 1975. King's Mutual show rapidly developed a devoted audience, called "King-aholics."[37]

The Larry King Show was broadcast live Monday through Friday from midnight to 5:30 a.m. Eastern Time. King would interview a guest for the first hour, with callers asking questions that continued the interview for the next two hours. At 3 a.m., the Open Phone America segment began, where he allowed callers to discuss any topic they pleased with him,[38][39] until the end of the program when he expressed his own political opinions. Many stations in the western time zones carried the Open Phone America portion of the show live, followed by the guest interview on tape delay.[30]

Some of King's regular callers used pseudonyms or were given nicknames by King, such as "The Numbers Guy," "The Chair," "The Portland Laugher,"[38] "The Miami Derelict", and "The Scandal Scooper."[40] King occasionally entertained the audience by telling amusing stories from his youth or early broadcasting career.[15][33] The show won a Peabody Award in 1982.[41]

For its final year, the show was moved to afternoons. King hosted the show until stepping down in 1994, when Mutual gave the afternoon slot to David Brenner and Mutual's affiliates were given the option of carrying the audio of King's new CNN evening television program. After Westwood One dissolved Mutual in 1999, the radio simulcast of the CNN show continued until December 31, 2009.

Larry King Live

Larry King Live began on CNN in June 1985. After broadcasting his CNN show from 9 to 10 p.m., King then traveled to the studios of the Mutual Broadcasting System to do his radio show when both shows still aired.[42]

On Larry King Live King hosted a broad range of guests, from figures such as UFO conspiracy theorists and alleged psychics, to prominent politicians and entertainment industry figures, often doing their first or only interview on breaking news stories on his show. Two of his best-remembered interviews involved political figures. In 1992, billionaire Ross Perot announced his presidential bid on the show. In 1993, a debate between Al Gore and Perot became CNN's most-watched segment until 2015.[26]

Unlike many interviewers, King had a direct, non-confrontational approach. His reputation for asking easy, open-ended questions made him attractive to important figures who wanted to state their position while avoiding being challenged on contentious topics.[43] King said that when interviewing authors, he did not read their books in advance, so that he would not know more than his audience.[42]

King also wrote a regular newspaper column in USA Today for almost 20 years, from shortly after that first national newspaper's debut in Baltimore-Washington in 1982 until September 2001.[44] The column consisted of short "plugs, superlatives and dropped names" but was dropped when the newspaper redesigned its "Life" section.[45] The column was resurrected in blog form in November 2008[46] and on Twitter in April 2009.[47]

On June 29, 2010, King announced that after 25 years, he would be stepping down as the show's host. 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 prime time replacement.[48]

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 concluding words of Larry King on the show were, "I don't know what to say except to you, my audience, thank you. And instead of goodbye, how about so long."[49]

On February 17, 2012, CNN announced that he would no longer host specials.[50]

Larry King Now

In March 2012, King co-founded Ora TV, a production company, with his then-wife Shawn Southwick King and Mexican business magnate Carlos Slim. Ora TV signed a multi-year deal with Hulu to exclusively carry King's new talk-oriented web series, Larry King Now, beginning July 17.[51]

On October 23, 2012, King hosted the third-party presidential debate on Ora TV, featuring Jill Stein, Rocky Anderson, Virgil Goode, and Gary Johnson.[52]

In May 2013, the Russian-owned RT America network announced that they struck a deal with Ora TV to host the Larry King Now show on its network. On June 13, 2013, King also began hosting Politicking with Larry King, a weekly political talk show, whose guests included various political figures and world leaders. This show was also available on Ora TV, Hulu, and RT America. When criticized for doing business with a Russian-owned TV network in 2014, King responded, "I don't work for RT," commenting that his podcasts, Larry King Now and Politicking, are licensed for a fee to RT America by New York-based Ora TV. "It's a deal made between the companies ... They just license our shows. If they took something out, I would never do it. It would be bad if they tried to edit out things. I wouldn't put up with it."[53]

King said in an advertisement on RT America: "I would rather ask questions to people in positions of power, instead of speaking on their behalf." The show continued to be available on Hulu and Ora TV.[54]

On January 16, 2013, Ora TV celebrated their 100th episode of Larry King Now. In September 2017, King stated that he had no intention of ever retiring and expected to host his programs until he died.[22]

Other ventures

King attending a ceremony for Bill Maher to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in September 2010

King guest starred in episodes of Arthur, 30 Rock and Gravity Falls, had cameos in Ghostbusters and Bee Movie, and voiced Doris the Ugly Stepsister in Shrek 2 and its sequels.[55] He also played himself in The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story and in an episode of Law and Order: Trial by Jury.

King hosted the educational television series In View with Larry King from 2013 to 2015, which was carried on cable television networks including Fox Business Network and Discovery.[56]

King became a very active user on the social-networking site Twitter, where he posted thoughts and commented on a wide variety of subjects: "I love tweeting, I think it's a different world we've entered. When people were calling in, they were calling into the show and now on Twitter, I'm giving out thoughts, opinions. The whole concept has changed."[57]

Charitable works

Following his 1987 heart attack, King founded the Larry King Cardiac Foundation, a non-profit organization which paid for life-saving cardiac procedures for people who otherwise would not be able to afford them.[58]

On August 30, 2010, King served as the host of Chabad's 30th annual "To Life" telethon, in Los Angeles.[59]

He donated to the Beverly Hills 9/11 Memorial Garden, and his name is on the monument.[60]


During his career spanning six-decades, King interviewed many of the most famous political leaders and celebrities of the day. A legend of talk shows, he conducted more than 60,000 interviews:

King’s interview subjects were a virtual Who’s Who. They ranged from the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, U.S. presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and thousands of others, including Paul McCartney, Bette Davis, Dr. Martin Luther King, Eleanor Roosevelt, Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, Madonna, and Malcolm X.[61]

CNN's Larry King Live became "the longest-running television show hosted by the same person, on the same network and in the same time slot," and was recognized for it by the Guinness Book of World Records.[62] He retired in 2010 after taping 6,000 episodes of the show.[63]

He was described by CNN as the "Muhammad Ali of the broadcast interview." When the final episode of "Larry King Live" aired on CNN in 2010, it was the longest-running show hosted by the same person. Then-US President Barack Obama said King had "opened our eyes to the world beyond our living rooms."[64]

Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute, said:

King was one of the few people in broadcast history who basically created his own phenomenon. ... He coaxed, rather than challenged, and the result, while not always groundbreaking, was always interesting and smart. His dirty little secret was he was a much more intelligent guy than he let on, and a much better listener than most people in television. But he really believed that his guest was the star, and his job was to help reveal that.[61]


King at the 70th Annual Peabody Awards, May 2011

King received many broadcasting awards, including two Peabody Awards for Excellence in broadcasting for both his radio (1982)[65] and television (1992) shows.[66] King then hosted the 70th Annual Peabody Awards, held on May 23, 2011 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York.[67] He also won ten CableACE awards for Best Interviewer and for Best Talk Show Series.[26]

In 1989, King was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame,[68] and in 1992 to the Broadcasting Hall of Fame.[69] In 2002, the industry publication Talkers Magazine named King both the fourth-greatest radio talk show host of all time and the top television talk show host of all time.[70]

In 1994, King received the Scopus Award from the American Friends of Hebrew University.[71] In 1996, he received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement presented by Awards Council member Art Buchwald.[72]

He was given the Golden Mike Award for Lifetime Achievement in January 2008, by the Radio & Television News Association of Southern California.[26]

He was also a recipient of the President's Award honoring his impact on media from the Los Angeles Press Club in 2006.[73]

King was the first recipient of the Arizona State University Hugh Downs Award for Communication Excellence,[74]

King received honorary degrees from George Washington University, the New England Institute of Technology, Brooklyn College, and the Pratt Institute. [75]


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  34. 34.0 34.1 Diane Brounstein, Larry King, A Beloved Talk Show Icon, Has Passed Away At Age 87 SoapHub, January 23, 2021. Retrieved October 29, 2021.
  35. Jon Bershad, From the Mediaite Vault: Larry King Takes on Gangsters (and Loses) in 1961 Mediaite, June 30, 2010. Retrieved October 29, 2021.
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  38. 38.0 38.1 Thomas J. Meyer, Midnight Snoozer Harvard Crimson, November 22, 1982. Retrieved October 29, 2021.
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  42. 42.0 42.1 Bernard McCormick, The Man Who Can't Stop Talking Starting In South Florida, Larry King Has Been Live And On The Air For More Than 30 Years. On Radio And Tv, When The King Of Talk Speaks, The World Listens Sun Sentinel, June 30, 1991. Retrieved October 30, 2021.
  43. Ellen Barry, Blunt and Blustery, Putin Responds to State Department Cables on Russia The New York Times, December 1, 2010.
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  45. Felicity Barringer, Larry King's Weekly Column for USA Today to Be Dropped The New York Times, September 5, 2001. Retrieved October 30, 2021.
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  56. Caryn Robbins, Larry King's IN VIEW Television Show to Feature Help Hospitalized Veterans Broadway World, July 9, 2015. Retrieved November 2015.
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  58. The Larry King Cardiac Foundation MBSF. Retrieved October 30, 2021.
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  60. Supporters Beverly Hills 9/11 Memorial Garden. Retrieved October 30, 2021.
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  68. Larry King Radio Hall Of Fame. Retrieved October 31, 2021.
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ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • King, Larry. Mr. King, You're Having a Heart Attack: How a Heart Attack and Bypass Surgery Changed My Life. Dell, 1989. ISBN 0440205220
  • King, Larry. Love Stories of World War II. Crown, 2001. ISBN 978-0609607237
  • King, Larry. Taking On Heart Disease: Famous Personalities Recall How They Triumphed over the Nation's #1 Killer and How You Can, Too. Random House, 2004. ISBN 978-0375433726
  • King, Larry. My Remarkable Journey. Weinstein Books, 2010. ISBN 978-1602861237
  • King, Larry. Truth Be Told: Off the Record about Favorite Guests, Memorable Moments, Funniest Jokes, and a Half Century of Asking Questions. Hachette Books, 2012. ISBN 978-1602861619
  • King, Larry, and Martin Appel. When You're from Brooklyn, Everything Else Is Tokyo. Little Brown & Co, 1992. ISBN 978-0316493567
  • King, Larry, and Bill Gilbert. How to Talk to Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere: The Secrets of Good Communication. Crown, 1995. ISBN 978-0517884539
  • King, Larry, and Irwin Katsof. Powerful Prayers: Conversations on Faith, Hope, and the Human Spirit with Today's Most Provocative People. Renaissance Books, 1999. ISBN 978-1580630863
  • King, Larry, and Peter Occhiogrosso. Tell It To The King. G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1988. ISBN 978-0399132445
  • King, Larry, and Pat Piper. Future Talk: Conversations About Tomorrow with Today's Most Provocative Personalities. Harper Perennial, 1998. ISBN 978-0060930158
  • King, Larry, and Emily Yoffe. Larry King. Simon & Schuster, 1982. ISBN 0671411381
  • Pogrebin, Abigail. Stars of David: Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish. Crown, 2007. ISBN 978-0767916134

External links

All links retrieved October 25, 2022.


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