US television legend Larry King dies at 87

Broadcast interviewer Larry King (left) with former US president Bill Clinton on CNN talk show Larry King Live, in New York in 2002. Mr King interviewed every sitting US president from Mr Gerald Ford to Mr Barack Obama.
Broadcast interviewer Larry King (left) with former US president Bill Clinton on CNN talk show Larry King Live, in New York in 2002. Mr King interviewed every sitting US president from Mr Gerald Ford to Mr Barack Obama.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK • Broadcast interviewer Larry King, whose non-confrontational style attracted celebrities and newsmakers as guests and made him the star of a top US cable TV talk show, has died. He was 87.

Mr King died yesterday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre in Los Angeles, according to a statement on his official Twitter account. The cause of death was not provided, but he had spent time recently undergoing treatment for Covid-19.

He had bypass surgery following a heart attack in 1987 and later was treated twice for cancer.

Mr King, host of a popular night-time radio call-in show in the 1970s and 1980s, vaulted into nationwide prominence after CNN owner Ted Turner persuaded him to join his fledgling network in 1985.

His show, Larry King Live, became a popular TV interview programme. Mr King, with his trademark suspenders and black-rim glasses, interviewed every sitting US president from Mr Gerald Ford to Mr Barack Obama.

He announced in 2010 that he would retire after 25 years at the helm of his CNN show.

By the time he left, he estimated that he had done about 50,000 interviews during more than half a century on radio and television.

He won an Emmy Award for lifetime achievement in 2011.

After leaving CNN, Mr King and Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim co-founded Ora.TV, a digital entertainment network in 2012.

"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," Ora Media said in a statement posted on Twitter.

After Mr King's new show was nominated for two daytime Emmys, Los Angeles Times TV critic Robert Lloyd said in 2018: "His brand of informality has become common in the age of podcasting."

He added: "No one has done this job better, or with more gusto."

Mr King interviewed world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, performers such as Lady Gaga and an assortment of athletes, actors, national heroes and unknown individuals suddenly tossed into the limelight.

Mr Putin offered his condolences, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. The Russian leader "always appreciated his great professionalism and unquestioned journalistic authority", Mr Peskov was quoted as saying by the RIA Novosti news agency.

Mr King said he left it to his producers to pick his guests and did not prepare much, preferring to ask simple questions and listen carefully to the answers.

He was born Lawrence Zeiger on Nov 19, 1933, in Brooklyn, New York, to immigrant Jewish parents.

He started at WAHR (now WMBM) in Miami Beach, initially as a cleaner. When an announcer suddenly quit, Mr King was put on air. He was married eight times - including twice to the same woman - and had five children, two of whom died last year.

BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 24, 2021, with the headline 'US television legend Larry King dies at 87'. Subscribe