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Tributes pour in for iconic TV host

/ 04:53 AM January 25, 2021

KING AND TRUMP Larry King chats with future US president Donald Trump after taping a segment of King’s CNN talk show in New York on Oct. 7, 1999. —REUTERS

LOS ANGELES—Tributes from the media, politicians, and Hollywood stars poured in as they hailed the “great professionalism and unquestioned journalistic authority” of iconic talk show host Larry King, who died on Saturday at the age of 87.

King was one of the most recognizable figures on US television as he interviewed everyone who was anyone over a career spanning 60 years.

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With his trademark suspenders, black rim glasses, and deep voice, he was best known for a 25-year run as a talk show host on CNN’s “Larry King Live.”

King’s long list of interviewees included every US president since 1974, world leaders Yasser Arafat and Vladimir Putin, and celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, and Barbra Streisand.

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The company he cofounded, Ora Media, did not state a cause of death but media reports said King had been battling Covid-19 for weeks and had suffered several health problems in recent years.

‘Brilliant broadcaster’

“The world has lost a true broadcasting legend,” CNN founder Ted Turner tweeted.

“Star Trek” icon and social media personality George Takei noted how King understood “human triumph and frailty equally well,” while Kirstie Alley, of “Cheers” fame, described him as “one of the only talk show hosts who let you talk.”

British TV hosts Piers Morgan and Craig Ferguson paid tribute to King’s interviewing skills.

“Larry King was a hero of mine until we fell out after I replaced him at CNN and he said my show was ‘like watching your mother-in-law go over a cliff in your new Bentley,’” said Morgan, who also surmised that King was a “mother-in-law expert” after being married eight times.

Morgan said King “was a brilliant broadcaster and masterful TV interviewer.”

Singer Celine Dion said King “made all of us feel as though we were speaking with a lifelong friend,” while basketball legend Magic Johnson said, “I loved being on the show.”

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“Larry King Live changed CNN in the ’80s blending entertainment with news, … always made the interviews fun, serious and entertaining!” the former Los Angeles Laker tweeted.

From radio to cable TV

Born Lawrence Harvey Zeiger on Nov. 19, 1933, to poor Russian Jewish immigrants in working-class Brooklyn, New York, King said he never wanted to be anything but a radio broadcaster.

At 23, he went to Florida to try and find a job. He became a disc jockey for a Miami radio station in 1957, changing his name to King when the radio’s manager told him his was “too ethnic.”

In 1978, he went to Washington where he anchored a national late-night radio call-in show, before being spotted by CNN, a channel founded in 1980, which hired him for its nighttime programs in 1985.

“Larry King Live,” which ran until 2010, broadcast six nights a week to more than 200 countries. CNN put his total number of interviews at 30,000.

At the height of its success, the show attracted more than a million viewers every night, making King the star of cable television, on the back of which he negotiated an annual salary of more than $7 million.

While critics found his interviewing style too relaxed, others saw it as the key to King’s appeal, drawing so many star guests and helping CNN establish itself with the scoops he won.

“I don’t have an agenda. I don’t assume the answer,” King told the Miami Herald in 2017. “I never learned anything when I was talking. Listening is as important.”

“I’m not interested in embarrassing [guests] nor am I interested in sucking up to them,” he told Agence France-Presse (AFP) in 1995.

After CNN, King continued to do interviews on his own website, and then, in 2013, he hosted a new show, “Larry King Now,” on Russia Today, a government-funded Russian international television network.

“For 63 years and across the platforms of radio, television, and digital media, Larry’s many thousands of interviews, awards, and global acclaim stand as a testament to his unique and lasting talent as a broadcaster,” Ora Media said in a statement posted on Twitter. —AFP

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