By Jared Dodds
Few people are as associated with the word interviewer as Larry King. The broadcast and radio legend, who passed away on Jan. 23, 2021, interviewed giants in every field. From athletes to presidents, the Brooklyn-born newsman approached every interview with a calmness that set him apart. In an interview with the Television Academy, King said, “An interview is an interview. It’s basically who, what, where, when and why. And while it is certainly kind of an exalted place to sit with the Prime Minister of Great Britain or the president of a country, it’s still… ‘why do you do what you do?’”
He began his career in 1957 on a Miami radio station covering sports and news, but his career really took off in the late ’70s with The Larry King Show, broadcasting Monday to Friday across the United States. By 1985 King had reached the precipice of his career, the show that made him iconic: Larry King Live on CNN. It was here where King performed his most famous interviews; the 1992 announcement of Ross Perot’s presidential bid, a controversial 1995 call with O.J. Simpson after his acquittal, the list goes on. By the time he left the air in 2010 King had won two Peabodys, an Emmy and completed 60,000 interviews. King’s reach stretched outside the borders of the U.S., securing a number of interviews with Celine Dion and even one with Pierre Trudeau, whom he called his “favourite Quebecer to interview” at a talk for the Combined Jewish Appeal in Montreal. His long-time executive producer Wendy Walker says, “he was a very interesting man but that one hour a day, when those lights came on, he was just perfect. He treated every guest the same. It didn’t matter if it was a president or somebody just off the street.”
His career, however, didn’t stop there. In 2012 he co-founded the production company Ora TV, whose main attraction was his webshow Larry King Now. This, along with a handful of podcasts, made up the latter half of what was the gold standard for a reporter’s career. In May of 2021 he announced he was starting a podcast with his son Chance King titled The Millionth Question, saying “as long as I’m alert and inquisitive, why not?” The show was meant to focus on celebrity interviews, with Anthony Faucci’s name coming up and Mariah Carey slated to be the first guest.
His life was not devoid of tragedy though. Both of his children from his third marriage died in 2020, at 65 (Andy) and 51 (Chaia) from a heart attack and lung cancer respectively. He himself was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2017, before being diagnosed with COVID-19 in early January of 2021. His death on Jan. 23 was met with cries of support from some of the most recognizable names in media. CNN journalist and host Wolf Blitzer called him “an amazing interviewer and a mentor to so many of us,” and Oprah Winfrey says “it was always a treat to sit at your table.”
Outside of work King was a well known lifelong Dodgers fan, from Brooklyn to Los Angeles. He was often seen in the front row of games, and got to see the team he’d loved all his life win their first world series since 1965 before his death. “He was terribly frustrated year after year when the Dodgers would win the division, fall short in the World Series,” Charley Steiner, a Dodgers sportscaster and friend of King says. “But this year he got to see the Dodgers win the World Series. It made him enormously happy.”
The hole left by King will never be filled. His passion for his career was unparalleled and his skill unmatched. “I just love what I do,” he said. “I love asking questions, I love doing the interviews.”