Laying A King To Rest: Legendary Interviewer Larry King Dies, And Tributes Pour In
The iconic talk show host passed away at the age of 87, leaving many inspired by the memories and legacy he left behind
Before Letterman, Myers, O'Brien, Colbert, Noah, and even Cooper, Lemon, Cuomo, and Amanpour, there was the king.
Legendary CNN talk show host Larry King preceded the best interviewers we recognize today, hosting Larry King Live for 25 years and filming over 6,000 episodes of the show. He retired from Larry King Live in 2010.
Larry King died at the age of 87 at the Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. The cause of death was not specified, but it is speculated that the journalist passed away from COVID-19 complications. It's no secret that he was diabetic and had suffered from multiple heart attacks and near-fatal stroke in 2019, and it was also reported that he was admitted for COVID-19 weeks before his death.
Larry King died, leaving behind many memories of his history-making interviews. His career in radio and broadcasting began much earlier than his leg with CNN, and his life is certainly a proud display of how hard work—and getting back on one's feet after defeat—can get you places.
Celebrating Larry King's legacy, we take a look back on his greatest milestones and share tributes from those whose lives he'd touched.
Larry King wasn't born with a silver spoon in his mouth.
Born in 1933 in them middle of the Great Depression, he was the son of parents who immigrated to the United States from the Soviet Union, his real name being Lawrence Harvey Zieger. He didn't have much to go on as a child and teenager who grew up in Brookyln and had only his father's small neighborhood restaurant to bring in money for the family.
He was 9 years old when his father died and his mother was unable to provide for her children. Needing to help financially, Larry King worked straight out of high school where he met someone who told him about radio broadcasting opportunities opening up in Florida.
Foregoing a college education, he relocated to the South to begin his career and never looked back.
It was in the late 70s when Larry King, who was already in his 50s at the time, launched his first-ever call-in radio show. Though it wasn't his foray into broadcasting, his younger years as a radio talk show host were marred by gambling problems and debt, and it would take years before a mid-life Larry King would be able to get back up on his feet.
After slowly but surely mending his career, the quick-witted Larry King was rewarded with great success. At its peak, his radio program, The Larry King Show, was aired on over 300 stations and it would ultimately lead to him landing a job with national news giant CNN.
Larry King Live
1985 was the year Larry King would begin his long and colorful career as the host of CNN's Larry King Live.
Sitting on desk donning his signature suspenders, dark-rimmed glasses, and sleeves rolled up to his elbows, for almost three decades, this talented interviewer would speak to numerous guests from all walks of life. In fact, he had sewn an envied reputation in the industry for being able to coax the most difficult to reach personalities into joining him for live interviews.
As a starter, Larry King interviewed every single US president since President Gerald Ford, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Dalai Lama (in 1997), pre-presidency Donald and Melania Trump, and Muamar el Gadafi as well as the biggest names in pop culture including *NSYNC to Madonna, Guns and Roses' Slash to Daniel Radcliffe, and even Julie Andrews and The Walking Dead's cast.
The interviewer also welcomed an array of athletes, scientists, religious figures, guest hosts, and every day folks, giving his late night show a universal appeal that a now international audience loved.
Larry King's last on-air interview was aired on December 16, 2010.
At the time of his retirement, it was estimated that he'd done over 50,000 interviews throughout his six-decade career in radio and television. The figures are definitely making it to the record books, but more than the quantity of shows Larry King has under his belt, it's the quality of them that will be forever remembered.
His avid viewers and colleagues have noted how he didn't talk much during shows, and instead, intently listened to answers, allowing them the silence and space to speak freely and comfortably. He had a way with asking questions, too: straight to the point, but still empathetic enough to draw out truth and emotion from his guests.
The next generation of news anchors, late-night hosts, and even comedians all learned a thing or two from watching the legendary Larry King do what he did best. We list down some of the tributes they shared below.
His fellow journalists and television hosts honor his legacy.
“He treated every guest the same. It didn't matter if it was a president or…somebody off the street,” Wendy Walker, former executive producer of “Larry King Live,” says about the broadcasting legend, adding that he “never wanted to be prepared” for interviews. pic.twitter.com/xUHpLkJpKO— CNN (@CNN) January 23, 2021
When I was a young morning DJ, I listened to Larry King's overnight radio show every night on my way to work. He was one of the greats and I am glad to have known him "Bethesda, Maryland you're on the air..."— Jimmy Kimmel (@jimmykimmel) January 23, 2021
The world has lost a true broadcasting legend. pic.twitter.com/3eNc4hSimt— Ted Turner (@TedTurnerIII) January 23, 2021
Larry King was my @CNN colleague and good friend. He was an amazing interviewer and a mentor to so many of us. He loved what he did and all of us loved him. He was a real mensch. My Deepest Condolences to his loving family. May He Rest In Peace and May His Memory Be A Blessing. pic.twitter.com/gIdHbI0knd— Wolf Blitzer (@wolfblitzer) January 23, 2021
Larry King was a giant of broadcasting and a master of the TV celebrity/statesman-woman interview.— Christiane Amanpour (@camanpour) January 23, 2021
His name is synonymous with CNN and he was vital to the network’s ascent. EVERYONE wanted to be on Larry King Live. May he Rest in Peace.https://t.co/XTgeMqjmcg
It was always a treat to sit at your table. And hear your stories. Thank you Larry King. pic.twitter.com/O66uEXeJE4— Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah) January 23, 2021
Celebrities and athletes who got to meet him remember him fondly.
I lost a dear friend and mentor. Truly an American treasure. Rest in peace, Larry King. pic.twitter.com/eQhSYgPqNy— Ryan Seacrest (@RyanSeacrest) January 23, 2021
Whenever you sat down in Larry King's TV living room you felt like you were just having a conversation with a friend and forgot that millions around the world were watching. Larry, we will miss you.— Tony Bennett (@itstonybennett) January 23, 2021
Rest In Peace Larry King. What a wonderful life and an iconic career. I'm grateful to have known him. My heartfelt condolences to his loved ones and family ❤️ pic.twitter.com/uz3uavWehj— Mariah Carey (@MariahCarey) January 23, 2021
I’m sad to learn about Larry King’s passing.He was such a kind gentleman, and he made all of us feel as though we were speaking with a lifelong friend.There will never be anyone like him, and he will be missed by many. My sincerest condolences to his family & friends. Celine xx… pic.twitter.com/NBw0hpCDoj— Celine Dion (@celinedion) January 23, 2021
So sad to hear the news about Larry King today. I was lucky enough to be interviewed by him and see his unique interview style first hand. He was a deeply thoughtful, intelligent, kind man... Sending love to his family & all of his many fans.— Reese Witherspoon (@ReeseW) January 23, 2021
I’ve known Larry King since I arrived in LA 42 years ago. Larry King Live changed CNN in the 80s blending entertainment with news & I loved being on the show.— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) January 23, 2021
Larry was one of the best interviewers on TV. Always well prepared, asked intelligent questions, & always made the pic.twitter.com/kuDOx6gob5
The Los Angeles Dodgers are saddened by the passing of Larry King and offer their deepest condolences to his family and friends. pic.twitter.com/Di0aw7LZ5R— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) January 23, 2021
Political figures had only good memories to share.
Larry King was a Brooklyn boy who become a newsman who interviewed the newsmakers. He conducted over 50,000 interviews that informed Americans in a clear and plain way.— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) January 23, 2021
New York sends condolences to his family and many friends.
I am saddened by the news of Larry King’s passing. He was a unique & legendary interviewer with a talent for putting his guests at ease while getting answers to the most important questions of interest to the millions who tuned in each night. He will be greatly missed.— Al Gore (@algore) January 23, 2021
I enjoyed my 20+ interviews with Larry King over the years. He had a great sense of humor and a genuine interest in people. He gave a direct line to the American people and worked hard to get the truth for them, with questions that were direct but fair. Farewell, my friend. pic.twitter.com/Q28Xy4F91W— Bill Clinton (@BillClinton) January 23, 2021
Larry King is survived by three children and his wife, Shawn King.
Photos from @larrykingnow