Larry King’s Things: Farewell to the consummate pro as his classic American story comes to an end

One got the feeling Larry King loved being Larry King, and why wouldn’t he?

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Larry King, pictured in 2016 at Trump Tower in New York. King, who interviewed presidents, movie stars and ordinary Joes during a half-century in broadcasting, has died at age 87.

Larry King, pictured in 2016 at Trump Tower in New York. King, who interviewed presidents, movie stars and ordinary Joes during a half-century in broadcasting, has died at age 87.

AP Photos

Larry King’s Things:

Legendary radio and television broadcaster Larry King, who holds the Guinness World Record for most hours logged on TV, has passed away at the age of 87…

When you look up “consummate pro” in the dictionary, you’ll find a picture of Larry King... With a Peabody Award, 10 Cable Ace Awards, a Lifetime Achievement Emmy and other honors too numerous to mention, Larry King had more hardware on his shelves than your local Ace outlet… When I think suspenders, I think of two people: Gordon Gekko from “Wall Street” and Larry King…

In addition to a quarter-century on CNN as the host of the globally watched “Larry King Live” and a Hall of Fame radio career, Mr. King penned an oft-parodied but irresistibly readable USA Today column for some 20 years (which continued online and in audio and video form) in which he’d share his stream-of-consciousness opinions on everything and anything, e.g., “Why are smartphones the new cigarettes?”

“Is there a better feeling than having to sneeze and then sneezing?”

“I wish Gene Hackman would go back to making movies...”

“I’d love to go to the Crayola factory!”

We are adopting Mr. King’s format for this tribute column…

Larry King grew up in Brooklyn, a fact he never got tired of mentioning…He had a baritone voice made for radio, but never lost that “Noo Yawk” accent that made him sound like the neighborhood barber or a wise guy in a Scorsese movie… In the late 1950s and ‘60s, Mr. King hosted various radio shows in Miami as well as the occasional talk show, and wrote columns for the Miami newspapers… Larry King wore more hats than the cast of “Easter Parade”…

Larry King, pictured in 1985.

Larry King, pictured in 1985.

Sun-Times file

Why hasn’t anyone made a movie about the life and times of Larry King? As Mr. King’s career was flourishing in Miami in the late 1960s and early ‘70s, he was raking in some pretty serious dough, but living a lavish lifestyle, gambling heavily and getting into trouble with the law… He had to restart his career after numerous setbacks, but he came back bigger than ever with “The Larry King Show,” a late-night radio talk program that was carried on some 500 stations across the country in the 1980s and ‘90s…

Larry King was Ryan Seacrest before Ryan Seacrest… He launched his CNN talk show in 1985 and welcomed the biggest names in the worlds of politics, sports, entertainment, you name it… Mr. King was famous for his laid-back, subject-friendly, winging-it style of interviewing, doing a minimum of research and relying on his natural, insatiable curiosity... In addition to the CNN show, he wrote the USA Today column and multiple books and appeared as himself in dozens of movies and TV shows, including “Ghostbusters,” “Dave,” “Contact,” “The Simpsons,” “Spin City” and “Frasier”… Nobody was better at playing Larry King than Larry King…

Someone once said you had a better chance of being one of Larry King’s ex-wives than getting struck by lightning… Everyone’s a comedian… Mr. King was married eight times to seven women (he married Alene Akins twice) and his relationships sometimes became fodder for the tabloids, given he had become as famous as his interview subjects…

It seemed as if there was never a dull moment, on or off air, for Mr. King, who also endured serious health problems, including several heart attacks, quintuple bypass surgery, a stroke and diabetes… Yet Mr. King was never away too long from a microphone or a camera and eventually social media, even after he parted ways with CNN in 2012… He co-founded a production company called Ora TV, hosted a web series on Hulu and gained a large cult following on Twitter, with some 2.4 million followers…

In 2011, I had the privilege of having dinner with a small group including Mr. King at Hugo’s Frog Bar at Rivers Casino in Des Plaines… He was charming and gracious throughout the long evening, and was a fantastic storyteller… As we walked through the casino after dinner, heads turned one after one, and you could see the patrons thinking: That guy looks just like Larry King… Wait, it IS Larry King!

One got the feeling Larry King loved being Larry King, and why wouldn’t he? He had one helluva ride, with the requisite rollercoaster ride of ups and downs that is almost always part of a classic Great American Dream story…

He lived to talk, he lived to listen, and he was a master at both.

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