Larry King, iconic American TV host with a career that has spanned more than six decades, has died at the age 87. King’s career as host of “Larry King Live” on CNN from 1985 to 2010 was followed by shows including “Larry King Now” and “Politicking with Larry King” on Hulu and RT America. He earned two Peabodys, an Emmy award, and 10 Cable ACE Awards. King also wrote a newspaper column for USA Today for nearly two decades. Up until his death, King had been hospitalized for 11 days after testing positive for COVID-19.
Larry King was born Lawrence Harvey Zeiger on November 19, 1933 in Brooklyn, New York. His parents were Orthodox Jewish immigrants from Lithuania and Austria-Hungary. When King’s father died of a heart attack the burgeoning newscaster immediately started working after he graduated high school, hoping to support his mother and brother. At an early age he knew he wanted to get into broadcasting.
It was by chance that King met a CBS staffer who convinced him to move to Florida where the media landscape was just starting to gain ground. He moved to Miami and started working for WAHR doing odd jobs. When various staffers quit, King was put on the air. He started working as a newscaster, sportscaster, and disc jockey for the network starting in 1957. It was there that he also acquired the name “Larry King,” inspired by the station’s general manager who feared his real name was to difficult to remember. King would legally change his name two years later.
King worked in Miami for various networks throughout the 1960s and ’70s. He would provide color commentary for Miami Dolphins football games in 1970 and ’71. It wasn’t until 1978 that King received national syndication in radio with the Mutual Broadcasting System. The series, broadcast five nights a week, quickly took off. It was here that King would start allowing listeners to call in and state their opinions, which he would continue on other series he was a part of. “The Larry King Show” would run until 1994.
In 1985, running concurrently with King’s radio show, CNN would become the home for “Larry King Live,” the acclaimed talk news show where King would interview all manner of guests, ranging from psychics and conspiracy theorists to prominent politicians and celebrities. Viewers praised King’s penchant for being direct without confronting those he was interviewing. He would conduct over 30,000 interviews throughout his career, according to CNN. King would host “Larry King Live” for 25 years, stepping down in 2010. His time slot would go to Piers Morgan. King would return to CNN for various specials until 2012.
King would keep himself busy after leaving “Larry King Live.” He’d co-found the television network Ora TV to produce his web-series, “Larry King Now,” which debuted in 2012. He also hosted the 2012 Presidential debate of third party candidates. He remained an active writer and host up to the very end, saying that he had no plans to retire.
He’s guest-starred in numerous television shows and movies, including “30 Rock,” “Ghostbusters,” and Ryan Murphy’s “People vs. O.J. Simpson.” He was also a prominent voice on Twitter, commenting on a variety of different topics. King was also a prominent philanthropist, founding the Larry King Cardiac Foundation in 1987 aimed at providing life-saving cardiac procedures for those who can’t afford them. King was inspired to start the charity after suffering from a heart attack that year.
In 1989, King was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame, and the Broadcasters’ Hall of Fame in 1996. He has received numerous honorary degrees from various colleges including George Washington University and Columbia School of Medicine.
While doing an appearance on the Jesse Ventura podcast King discussed what he hoped his legacy would be: “His life led to more people having information that they didn’t have before, and he taught us a lot and we learned a lot and enjoyed it at the same time. He brought a great deal of pride to his business,” King said about himself.
King is survived by three children, nine grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.