American talk-show veteran Larry King dies aged 87

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Nick Allen
·3 min read
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TV great Larry King
TV great Larry King

Larry King, whose broadcast interviews with world leaders, movie stars and ordinary people helped define American conversation for decades, died on Saturday aged 87.

King died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

His death was announced by Ora Media, the studio and network he co-founded. No cause of death was given.

CNN had earlier reported he was hospitalised with the coronavirus.

A longtime nationally syndicated radio host, from 1985 through 2010, he was for many years a nightly fixture on CNN.

King's career in radio and television spanned 60 years and he conducted tens of thousands of interviews.

With his trademark suspenders, black rim glasses and deep voice, he was best known for a 25-year run as a talk show host on CNN's "Larry King Live."

He interviewed every US president since 1974, world leaders including Yasser Arafat and Vladimir Putin, and celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando and Barbra Streisand.

In an emotional last "Larry King Live" show in 2010, tributes included one from President Barack Obama, who in a video message called King "one of the giants of broadcasting".

King - AP
King - AP

In a statement Ora Media 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."

Tributes from the media, politicians and Hollywood stars poured in, including from Mr Putin, who hailed the interviewer's "great professionalism and unquestioned journalistic authority," according to the Kremlin.

Veteran CNN foreign correspondent Christiane Amanpour remembered King as "a giant of broadcasting."

British TV host Piers Morgan, who took over from King on CNN, said: "Larry King was a hero of mine until we fell out after I replaced him at CNN & he said my show was 'like watching your mother-in-law go over a cliff in your new Bentley.' (He married 8 times so a mother-in-law expert).

"But he was a brilliant broadcaster & masterful TV interviewer."

King was born Lawrence Harvey Zeiger on November 19, 1933, to poor Russian Jewish immigrants in working-class Brooklyn, New York.

At the age of 23 he went to Florida to try and find a job. He became a disc-jockey for a Miami radio station in 1957, changing his name to King.

In 1978 he went to Washington where he anchored a national late-night radio call-in show, before being spotted by CNN, a channel founded in 1980, which hired him for its nighttime programs in 1985.

"Larry King Live" ran from 1985-2010 and was broadcast six nights a week to more than 200 countries.

At the height of its success the show attracted more than one million viewers every night.

It made King the star of cable television, on the back of which he negotiated an annual salary of more than $7 million.

His private life was colourful too. After 22 years of marriage he divorced his seventh wife Shawn Southwick in 2019, having filed eight times for a divorce - he married one wife twice.

Of his interviewing style he once said: "I don't have an agenda. I don't assume the answer. I never learned anything when I was talking. Listening is as important."

"I'm not interested in embarrassing guests nor am I interested in sucking up to them. I'm just curious."