10 Things You Didn’t Know About Legendary Talk Show Host Larry King

Larry King, the longtime CNN host who became an icon through his interviews with countless newsmakers and his sartorial sensibilities, died on January 23, 2021. He was 87.

“With profound sadness, Ora Media announces the death of our co-founder, host and friend Larry King, who passed away this morning at age 87 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles,” a statement posted on his verified Facebook page said. “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.”

King hosted Larry King Live on CNN for over 25 years, interviewing presidential candidates, celebrities, athletes, movie stars and everyday people. In an era filled with star newsmen, King was a giant — among the most prominent questioners on television in history. He retired in 2010 after taping more than 6,000 episodes of the show.

He conducted more than 30,000 interviews throughout his life, including every sitting president from Gerald Ford to Barack Obama. He was nominated for eight News and Documentary Emmy Awards and won two. He was also presented with a lifetime achievement award in 2011. As we look back on King and his incredible career… Here are ten interesting things you may not have known about the man behind the mic.

His real name is actually Lary Zeiger
Larry King was born Larry Geiger on November 19, 1933. He changed his name when he moved from Brooklyn to Miami in 1957. According to King’s autobiography, My Remarkable Journey, his first boss didn’t like his original surname since it sounded “too ethnic.” The name “Larry King” came from that same boss… When the man looked down at the newspaper on his desk, he saw an ad for King’s Wholesale Liquors and thus, Larry King was born.

He’s been married eight times
King was married eight times, to seven different women, beginning with a high school sweetheart in his late teen years, up until his most recent wife, from whom he was estranged at the time of his death.

King married his high-school sweetheart Freda Miller at age 18 in 1952… The next year, the marriage was allegedly annulled by their parents, who didn’t approve. He married Annette Kaye in 1961, who gave birth to his first son, Larry Jr., later that year. They stayed married for less than a year. King married Alene Akins (for the first time) in 1961 and he adopted her son Andy during their first year of marriage. After they divorced, King married Mickey Sutphin in 1964, she is the mother of King’s daughter Kelly. The couple divorced in 1967. In 1968, King married Akins for the second time, and she gave birth to their daughter, Chaia. After he split with Akins for the second time in 1971, King married Sharon Lepore in 1976 and the couple stayed married until 1983. King married Julie Alexander in 1989…They separated in 1990, two years before they officially divorced. King and Shawn Southwick wed in 1997 and they share two grown sons: Chance and Cannon. On August 20, 2019, King filed for divorce from Southwick in Los Angeles Superior Court. He cited irreconcilable differences, and the date of separation is listed as June 6, 2019.

His childhood dream was to be on the radio
“I just wanted to be an announcer,” he once told CJR. “I wanted to be anything. I wanted to talk into a microphone. I don’t know why, I must have had a good voice pre-puberty.”

The very first time he was live on the air, he choked
In that same interview King talked about his first time on air. He told CJR that when he turned on his mic, no words came out. “The general manager kicked open the door to the control room and said, ‘This is a communications business, dammit. Communicate!'”

He once hit JFK with his car
When King was still fairly new to Miami in 1958, he got into a little fender-bender with John F. Kennedy. At the time, JFK was still an up-and-coming politician… But that didn’t stop him from losing his cool. “Early Sunday morning, no traffic, not a cloud in the sky, I’m parked — how could you run into me?” Kennedy asked, according to King’s memoir. In the end, JFK said that he would forget the whole thing if King promised to vote for him when he ran for president.

Before CNN
Before King became a big name on CNN, he spent the better part of two decades working the local media market in Miami. King was something of a jack-of-all-trades at the time, working as a TV talk show moderator, disc jockey, and writing a newspaper column.

He did minimal preparation for his shows
King prided himself on only making minimal preparations for each episode of Larry King Live. He never spent time reading authors’ books before interviews or brushing up on resumes. According to various interviews throughout King’s life, this technique helped him learn things about the interview subjects as the viewer learns them.

Marlon Brando kissed him
In a 1994 interview, King spent the better part of 90 minutes flirting with a 70-year-old Marlon Brando, hitting him in the head with note cards and adorning him with flattery like, “Time goes so fast with you.” Brando played right back, at one point dabbing the suspenders-donning host’s head with a towel when he started to sweat up and leading him into a duet of “I Can’t Get Started.” As the hour-and-a-half love fest finished, Brando turned to King and said, “Darling, goodbye,” and then kissed King on the mouth.

He’s had a lot of health problems over the years
King battled a number of health problems throughout his life, suffering several heart attacks. In fact, King was only 56 when he had his first heart attack. Six months after the heart attack he had a quintuple bypass, which ultimately inspired him to establish the Larry King Cardiac Foundation to provide assistance to those without insurance. In addition to this, he’s had type 2 diabetes and prostate cancer. More recently, King revealed in 2017 that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer and successfully underwent surgery to treat it.

His last show on CNN
On December 16, 2010, Larry King hosted the final episode of his famed CNN talk show with a serenade from Tony Bennett, a greeting from President Obama and a “Larry King Day” proclamation from California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. When he wrapped he had conducted more than 30,000 interviews throughout his life. Legendary.

Christopher Turner

AmongMen’s Editor-in-Chief is a well-respected fashion and style writer whose works have appeared in Fashionism, Fashion Television, MSN, DesignLines, the Kaboose Network, the Disney Family Network and Sun Media. He also has a collection of designer kicks that would make Imelda Marcos blush and lives in Toronto’s trendy east end. Follow him at: @Turnstylin.

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