Larry King is something of a miracle. Not, as he argues in his book, because he has survived eight marriages, a heart attack, a three-pack-a-day cigarette habit and colossal cardiac surgery but because he has become one the most highly paid and influential people on television while being incapable of asking a challenging question and seemingly unaware of basic world politics and international ideas. All worship Larry King. Or, as he says myriad times in this unintentionally very funny book, not bad for “Little Larry Zeiger from Brooklyn.”
In fact, his truly is an extraordinary life. He had a poor, urban, ethnic upbringing with few natural or unnatural advantages. The family was strong and loving but King’s father was dead by 44 and his widow was obliged at various times to live on welfare. A combination of a gripping work ethic and invincible ambition led King — like so many American Jews of the era (he was born in 1933) he anglicized his name — to aim high and, in his case, settle on a radio career. He had, and has, a reasonably good voice and made his reputation as a DJ and lightweight interviewer.
He’s honest in the book about the sheer fortuity of his career. Right place at right time, people being helpful, doors opening and every other cliché one can imagine. He combined radio work with being the announcer at local race tracks. Radio was disarmingly free and open in the 1960s, and King was a refreshing alternative to the traditional radio personality. Whatever his failings, he is likeable and inoffensive, and America smiled.
From radio to television, via his friendship with Ted Turner. The career was a steady climb, aided by friendships with people who were influential in media, politics and finance.
A radio guy originally, he brought that medium’s appetite for sustained conversation to his work on television. He liked to talk to people and — get this! — he actually listened to what they said, unlike so many other cable blowhards in love with the sound of their own voice. In contrast with their bullying demeanor, King brought an old-school, gentlemanly quality even to his interviews of people with whom he disagreed.
He was a quirky original, and in any history that is written of television, Larry King will loom large. -Don Aucoin