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Lawrence Harvey Zeiger (born November 19, 1933), better known by his showbiz name Larry King, is an Americanmarker television and radio host.

He is recognized in the United States as one of the premier broadcast interviewers. King has conducted some 40,000 interviews with politicians, athletes, entertainers, and other newsmakers. He has won an Emmy Award, two Peabody Awards, and ten Cable ACE Awards.

King began as a local Floridamarker journalist and radio interviewer in the 1950s and '60s. He became prominent as an all-night national radio broadcaster starting in 1978, and then began hosting the nightly interview TV program Larry King Live on CNN, which started in 1985.


Early life

Lawrence Harvey Zeiger was born to Jennie (née Gitlitz), a garment worker, and Edward Zeiger, a restaurant owner and defense plant worker. Larry's parents were Jewish and had emigrated from Belarusmarker (Minsk and Pinsk) to Brooklynmarker, New York Citymarker, where Larry was born. His father died at 44 of heart disease when King was nine, and his mother had to go on welfare to support Larry and his younger brother. His father's death affected King greatly, and he lost interest in school, ruining his chances to go to college. After graduating from high school, he worked to help support his mother. From an early age he wanted to go into radio.

Miami radio

A CBS staff announcer, whom King met by chance, told him to go to Floridamarker, a growing media market where openings still existed for inexperienced broadcasters. King rode a bus to Miamimarker. After initial setbacks, King got his first job in radio through persistence. The manager of a small station, WAHR (now WMBMmarker) in Miami Beachmarker, hired him to clean up and perform miscellaneous tasks. When one of their announcers quit, they put King on the air. His first broadcast was on May 1, 1957, when he worked as the disc jockey from 9 a.m. to noon. He also did two afternoon newscasts and a sportscast. He was paid $55 a week. He acquired the name Larry King when the general manager Martial Cemen said that Zeiger was too ethnic and difficult to remember, and instead suggested the surname King, which he got from an ad in The Miami Herald for King's Wholesale Liquor. He started interviewing on a midmorning show for WIOD, at Pumpernik's Restaurant in Miami Beach. He would interview anyone who walked in. His first interview was with a waiter at the restaurant. Two days later, singer Bobby Darin, in Miami for a concert later that day, walked into Pumpernick's as a result of coming across King's show on his radio; Darin became King's first celebrity interview guest.

His Miami radio show launched him to local stardom. A few years later, in May 1960, he hosted Miami Undercover, airing Sunday nights at 11:30 p.m. on WPST-TV Channel 10 (now WPLGmarker). On the show, he moderated debates on important issues of the time. King credits his success on local TV to the assistance of another showbiz legend, comedian Jackie Gleason, whose national TV variety show was being filmed in Miami Beach during this period. "That show really took off because Gleason came to Miami," King said in a 1996 interview he gave when inducted into the Broadcasters' Hall of Fame. "He did that show and stayed all night with me. We stayed till five in the morning. He didn't like the set, so we broke into the general manager's office and changed the set. Gleason changed the set, he changed the lighting, and he became like a mentor of mine."

WIOD gave King further exposure as the color commentator for the Miami Dolphins broadcasts during the early part of the Miami Dolphins' 1971 season. However, he was dismissed by both radio station WIOD and television station WTVJmarker as a late-night radio host and sports commentator as of December 20, 1971, when he was arrested after being accused of grand larceny by a former business partner. Other staffers covered the Dolphins' games into their 24-3 loss to Dallas in Super Bowl VI. King also lost his weekly column at the Miami Beach Sun newspaper. The charges were dropped on March 10, 1972, and King spent the next several years in reviving his career, including a stint as the color announcer in Louisiana for the Shreveport Steamer of the World Football League in 1974-75. For several years during the 1970s in South Florida, he hosted a sports talk-show called "Sports-a-la-King" that featured guests and callers.

National TV and radio career

King managed to get back into radio by becoming the color commentator for broadcasts of the Shreveport Steamer of the World Football League on KWKH. Eventually, King was rehired by WIOD in Miami. In 1978, he went national, inheriting the nightly talk show slot on the Mutual Radio Network, broadcast coast-to-coast, that had been "Long John" Nebel's until his death, and had been pioneered by Herb Jepko. One reason King got the Mutual job is that he had once been an announcer at WGMA-AM in Hollywood, Florida, which was then owned by C. Edward Little. Little went on to become president of Mutual and was the one who hired King when Nebel died. King's Mutual show developed a devoted audience.

It was broadcast live Monday through Friday from midnight to 5:30 a.m. Eastern Time. King would interview a guest for the first 90 minutes, allowing callers to continue the interview for another 90. At 3 a.m., he would allow the callers to discuss any topic they pleased with him, until the end of the program, where he expressed his own political opinions. They called that segment "Open Phone America." Some of the regular callers included "The Portland Laugher," "The Miami Derelict," "The Todd Cruz Caller," "The Scandal Scooper," "Mr. Radio" and "The Water Is Warm Caller." "Mr. Radio" had over 200 calls to King during Open Phone America. The show was wildly successful, starting with relatively few affiliates and eventually growing to more than 500. It ran until 1994.

For its final year, the show was moved to afternoons, but, because most talk radio stations at the time had an established policy of local origination in the time-slot (3 to 6 p.m. Eastern Time) that Mutual offered the show, a very low percentage of King's overnight affiliates agreed to carry his daytime show and it was unable to generate the same audience size. The afternoon show was eventually given to David Brenner and radio affiliates were given the option of carrying the audio of King's CNN evening program. He started his CNN show in June 1985, and the Westwood One radio simulcast of the CNN show continues.

On the Larry King Live show, King hosts guests from a broad range of topics. This includes controversial figures of UFO conspiracy theories and alleged psychics. One notable guest is Sylvia Browne, who in 2005 told the Newsweek magazine that King, a believer in the paranormal, asks her to do private psychic readings.

Unlike many interviewers, King has a direct, non-confrontational approach. His interview style is characteristically frank, but with occasional bursts of irreverence and humor. His approach attracts some guests who would not otherwise appear. King, who is known for his general lack of pre-interview preparation, once bragged that he never pre-reads the books of authors who appear on his show. In a show dedicated to the surviving Beatles, for example, King asked George Harrison's widow about the song "Something," which was written about George Harrison's first wife. He seemed surprised when she did not know very much about the song.

Throughout his career King has interviewed many of the leading figures of his time. In all, CNN's online biography continues to claim that King has conducted more than 40,000 interviews over the course of his career. King would have to have conducted over 800 interviews a year in order to have talked to this many people.

King also wrote a regular newspaper column in USA Today for almost 20 years, from shortly after that newspaper's origin in 1982 until September 2001. The column consisted of short "plugs, superlatives and dropped names" but was dropped when the newspaper redesigned its "Life" section. The column was resurrected in blog form in November 2008 and on Twitter in April 2009.

1987 heart attack

On February 24, 1987, King suffered a major heart attack and then had quintuple-bypass surgery. Coincidentally, this occurred the day after King took over the Don and Mike Show. It was a life-altering event for King. Smoking was one of his trademarks and he was unashamed of his addiction. A three-pack-a-day smoker, King kept a lit cigarette during his interview so he would not have to take time to light up during breaks. Today he encourages curbing smoking to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, and has not smoked for twenty-two years.

King has written two books about living with heart disease. Mr. King, You're Having a Heart Attack: How a Heart Attack and Bypass Surgery Changed My Life (1989, ISBN 0-440-50039-7) was written with New York's Newsday science editor B. D. Colen. Taking On Heart Disease: Famous Personalities Recall How They Triumphed over the Nation's #1 Killer and How You Can, Too (2004, ISBN 1-57954-820-2) features the experience of various celebrities with cardiovascular disease including Peggy Fleming and Regis Philbin.

Charitable works

As a result of heart attacks, he established the Larry King Cardiac Foundation, an organization to which David Letterman, through his American Foundation for Courtesy and Grooming, has also contributed. King gave $1 million to George Washington Universitymarker's School of Media and Public Affairs for scholarships to students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

On September 3, 2005, King aired "How You Can Help," a three-hour special designed to provide a forum and information clearinghouse for viewers to understand and join nationwide and global relief efforts. This was following the devastation to the Gulf Coast by Hurricane Katrina. Guest Richard Simmons, a native of New Orleansmarker, told him, "Larry, you don't even know how much money you raised tonight. When we rebuild the city of New Orleans, we're going to name something big after you."

Later controversies

On September 10, 1990, while on The Joan Rivers Show, Rivers asked King which contestant in the Miss America pageant was "the ugliest." King responded, "Miss Pennsylvania. She was one of the 10 finalists and she did a great ventriloquist bit [...] The dummy was prettier." King was a judge for the September 8, 1990 pageant. King later sent Miss Pennsylvania, Marla Wynne, a dozen long-stemmed roses and a telegram apologizing for saying she was the ugliest contestant in the pageant that year.

In 1997, King was one of 34 celebrities to sign an open letter to then-German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, published as a newspaper advertisement in the International Herald Tribune, which protested the treatment of Scientologists in Germany, comparing it to the Nazis' oppression of Jews in the 1930s. Other signatories included Dustin Hoffman and Goldie Hawn.

On September 23, 2004, John Clark sued King and CNN after an interview with his ex-wife, Lynn Redgrave, aired. Clark argued that he was defamed by the banner statements scrolling at the bottom of the screen, and that the taped show did not allow him to appear to defend himself. The court would not allow the suit to proceed ruling that he was not defamed. Two years later, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, based in San Francisco, dismissed his appeal.

Personal life

King has been married eight times, to seven women. With wife Shawn (née Engemann, b. 1957), a former singer and TV host, he has two children: Chance, born March 9, 1999, and Cannon, born May 22, 2000. He is stepfather to Danny Southwick. He also has three adult children from previous marriages: Andy and Chaia (with Alene Akins) and Larry Jr. born November 1961 (with Annette Kaye), whom King first met when Larry Jr. was in his thirties. Larry Jr. and his wife Shannon have three children. On the couple's 10th anniversary in September 2007, Southwick-King, boasted that she was "the only [wife] to have lasted into the two digits."

In 1997, Dove Books published a book written by King and Chaia, "Daddy Day, Daughter Day". It tells each of their accounts of his divorce with Akins, aimed at young children.

In a May 2009 interview with Anderson Cooper, King revealed that he was raised in a Jewish home but now is an agnostic.

In July 2009, King appeared on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien where he told Conan about his wishes to be cryogenically preserved upon death (which King had mentioned in his newest book).


King has received many broadcasting awards. He won the Peabody Award for Excellence in broadcasting for both his radio (1982) and television (1992) shows. He has also won 10 CableACE awards for Best Interviewer and for Best Talk Show Series.

In 1989, King was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame, and in 1996 to the Broadcasters' Hall of Fame. In 2002, the industry magazine Talkers named King both the fourth-greatest radio talk show host of all time and the top television talk show host of all time.

King was given the Golden Mike Award for Lifetime Achievement in January 2009, by the Radio & Television News Association of Southern California.

King is an honorary member of the Rotary Club of Beverly Hills. He is also a recipient of the President's Award honoring his impact on media from the Los Angeles Press Club in 2006.

King is the first recipient of the Arizona State University Hugh Downs Award for Communication Excellence, presented April 11, 2007, via satellite by Downs himself. Downs, the highly respected broadcaster and TV host, sported red suspenders for the event and turned the tables on King by asking "very tough questions" about King's best, worst and most influential interviews during King's 50 years in broadcasting.


Year Film
1984 Ghostbusters
1989 Eddie and the Cruisers II: Eddie Lives!
1990 Crazy People
1990 The Exorcist III
1990 The Simpsons
1993 *Dave
1993 We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story
1994 The Simpsons
1996 Open Season
1996 The Long Kiss Goodnight
1997 Contact
1997 An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn
1997 The Jackal
1997 Mad City
1998 Primary Colors
1998 Bulworth
1998 Enemy of the State
2000 Disney's The Kid
2000 The Contender
2001 America's Sweethearts
2002 John Q
2004 Shrek 2
2004 The Stepford Wives
2004 Mr. 3000
2007 Shrek the Third
2007 Bee Movie
2008 Swing Vote
2009 30 Rock


  2. Larry King, A Heart Healthy Life to Enjoy. The Larry King Cardiac Foundation. Accessed on May 5, 2007.
  3. Broadcaster's Hall of Fame biography
  4. Museum of Broadcast Communications biography
  5. Anchors & Reporters: Larry King. Accessed on May 5, 2007.
  6. NEWSMAKERS:`Ugliest' beauty offered equal time, The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution, September 12, 1990
  7. The People Column, Roanoke Times, September 15, 1990
  8. Drozdiak, William (1997-01-14). U.S. Celebrities Defend Scientology in Germany, The Washington Post, p. A11
  9. Clark's opening Appeal brief
  10. [1]

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