Larry King’s incredible career never really ended. Despite retiring from his long-running Larry King Live on CNN in 2010, King continued interviewing newsmakers, although on a much smaller scale,on his Larry King Now program.
His career began in radio, garnering both more and more famous guests as well as fame for himself as an extraordinary interviewer.
This star from The Honeymooners enabled King to snag the ultimate guest on his show and advance his career considerably.
King was a unique broadcaster
The legendary media presence died Jan. 23 reportedly from complications of COVID-19. King’s death brought renewed attention to the depth and breadth of his career. The sheer number of celebrities and newsmakers he had interviewed would be impressive enough. It was the ease with which King drew out secrets and sensitive information that made him inimitable.
“Celine Dion said her favorite memory was doing the show for the first time,” King wrote in his 2011 memoir Truth Be Told. “She said her husband told her, ‘The day you do Larry King is the day you’re going to be a star.’ So she was really nervous.”
King seemed surprised by her husband’s statement, humbly oblivious to the impact he had.
“I had no idea,” he admitted. “It reminded me that something had happened to me along the way.”
Gleason served as mentor to King
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King’s career received ample support from none other than actor Jackie Gleason, famous for his portrayal of Ralph Kramden on the 1950s television comedy The Honeymooners. Gleason was a close friend of King’s.
“One of my mentors was Jackie Gleason,” King wrote in his book.
“Jackie helped me out by doing promotional spots for my shows. Once he came in for my all-night television show and rearranged the set to make it more pleasing to the viewers,” King recalled.
Knowing King’s wish to have Frank Sinatra on his show, Gleason recalled he was owed a favor by Frank Sinatra during the time that King was hosting a local Miami radio show in the 1960s. Sinatra famously refused to give interviews to anyone. Gleason called in his favor, Sinatra obliged, and King’s name became unforgettable.
What King drew out of Sinatra
The iconic singer and King met for the first time in 1964 on King’s radio show, though Sinatra would go on to appear many more times on King’s programs.
King knew Sinatra felt very at home with him during their initial interview, because Old Blue Eyes began speaking of a painful incident he had never discussed publicly.
“The interview was going great,” King wrote, “and Frank became really comfortable. I said to him, ‘Frank, the thing between you and the press. Has it been overplayed? Or have you been bum-rapped?’”
Sinatra’s reply, King said, almost caused his public relations person to faint.
“He said, ‘Well, it’s probably been overplayed. But I’ve been bum-rapped, too. Take my son’s kidnapping…,’ King recalled.
“Frank goes on to tell the whole story of the kidnapping and how the press treated him! Why? Because he felt comfortable. Years later,” King wrote with obvious pride, “he wrote me a letter that said, ‘What you do is you make the camera disappear.’”
For Sinatra to make that statement spoke volumes of the walls that came down between interviewer and guest when Larry King took the microphone on his shows.
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