Public Disgrace25 May 2020
You might be wondering when Zeiger became King? After filling the announcer’s position in May of ’57, his manager said “Zeiger” sounded too ethnic and was hard to remember. Minutes before going on, Larry eyed an advertisement for King’s Wholesale Liquor. On the fly, he chose the last name King.
Before long Larry King was the rave throughout the South Florida radio scene. In 1960 he premiered his very first television program on Miami TV. He gained favor locally, building a strong follower base. He started a newspaper column found in the Miami Herald and Miami News in the entertainment sections.
1960 marked a cornerstone achievement in Larry’s career. He became one of the fasted growing and known television legends. He was compared to the legendary Jackie Gleason. At the time Gleason was the producer behind a national television variety show filmed in Miami Beach. Larry openly credited Gleason with teaching him the ins and outs of television production. He went so far as to call Gleason his mentor.
King’s career was not void of setbacks. In 1971 he was charged by a former business partner with grand larceny. These charges were acquitted in ‘72, but not before damage had been done. Larry found himself drowning in debt. However, the public disgrace was perhaps far more painful. It took several years of hard work to rebuild his career piece by piece. He did not give up, even though the mountain ahead of him must have appeared dangerously insurmountable.
In 1978 King was hired for a nightly national talk show by WIOD. This was the famous show, The Larry King Show! Although the show had humble beginnings, its popularity exploded as Larry conducted guest interviews, asking the hard hitting and often controversial questions that his audience wanted answer to! He even took call-ins from his listening audience. The show grew to over 500 affiliates, and it caught the attention of Ted Turner, who asked King to come host his own show on CNN in 1985.
During the next 25 years his career flourished. He interviewed royalty, presidents, and stars from all walks of life. Some of his most well-known guests include: George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush, George W. Bush, Gerald Ford and Betty Ford, John F. Kennedy, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. King was described as the “Muhammad Ali of the broadcast interview.”
It was the night of December 17, 2010 that Larry bid farewell to his dedicated audience and CNN. At the golden age of 77, King’s closing how was so prefigured that Arnold Schwarzenegger, California Governor, proclaimed Thursday, “Larry King Day.” Two remarkable American figures, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, stepped forward to pay tribute to King’s show and career.
Larry King has inspired countless hopefuls endeavoring to step into the radio and television industry. A little known fact is that famous author, reporter, journalist, talk show host, and interviewer, Barbara Walters, was inspired by the direct approach Larry King is so well-known for.
As crooner Tony Bennet, age 84, sang The Best Is Yet to Come, Larry was joined by three guests who probably meant the most: his family. After having been married six confirmed times throughout his career, he closed out his show with wife Shawn Southwick and their two sons (Chance and Larry Jr.). He married Shawn in 1997. Prior to marring Shawn, he was married to Alene Akins, Frada Miller, Julia Alexander, Mickey Sutphin, Sharon Lepore, and Annette Kaye.