About Larry King
One of the stalwarts of cable news -- not only in the United States but around the globe -- CNN mainstay Larry King reshaped the landscape of broadcast journalism when his talk show Larry King Live debuted in June 1985; that program's groundbreaking admixture of cutting-edge political discussion, incisive celebrity-directed Q & A, and viewer phone-in rocked the world and drew an audience of tens of millions. By 2007 -- King's 22nd year on cable and his 50th year in broadcasting -- the CNN website revealed that King had chalked up 40,000 interviews, including one with every United States president since Gerald Ford. Uncoincidentally, that was the same year King achieved an honor claimed by very few: a city block -- the street surrounding the CNN building -- was christened "Larry King Square" in his honor.
He was born Lawrence Harvey Zeiger on Nov 19, 1933 in Brooklyn, New York to Jennie (née Gitlitz), a garment worker, and Edward Zeiger, a restaurant owner and defense plant worker. Larry's parents were Jews who had emigrated from Belarus (Minsk and Pinsk). He was raised in a "very culturally Jewish" family. His father died at 44 of heart disease when Larry was nine, and his mother had to go on welfare to support Larry and his younger brother. His father's death affected Larry greatly, and he lost interest in school, ruining his chances to go to college. After graduating from high school, he worked to help support his mother. From an early age he wanted to go into radio.
From an early age, Larry dreamed of a career in radio, but Edward's death greatly affected Larry's emotional stability, causing him to lose interest in school. He barely finished high school, and had little prospect of having a steady career. At this time, he went to work as a mail clerk to help support his mother.
A chance meeting with a CBS television announcer set Larry Zeiger on the pathway to a career in radio. The announcer told Larry to go to Florida, a state with a growing media market that was hiring inexperienced broadcasters. Zeiger got his first break on Miami radio station WAHR (now WMBM) in Miami Beach. Initially, the job was to clean up the station and perform odd jobs. But when one of their announcers quit in May of 1957, Zeiger was put on to replace him. He must have impressed his manager, because King was immediately put on the 9:00 AM to noon shift. He also did two afternoon newscasts and a sportscast. Doing all this while receiving a $55 a week salary, made the young Larry feel he was fulfilling his long-time dream.
Larry Zeiger acquired the name Larry King when the station's general manager told him Zeiger was too ethnic, and hard to remember. Minutes before he was to go on air, inspired by an advertisement for King's Wholesale Liquor, he chose the name King. King soon found popularity in the South Florida radio scene. In 1960, he premiered his first program on Miami television and built up a strong local following, adding a newspaper column in the entertainment sections of the Miami Herald and Miami News to his radio and television duties. During the 1960s, he entered the sphere of television legend Jackie Gleason, who was producing a national television variety show in Miami Beach at the time. King later credited Gleason for teaching him much about television production, and called him a mentor.
In December 1971, Larry King was charged with grand larceny by a former business partner, which immediately led to the loss of his broadcast and newspaper jobs. He was acquitted of all charges in 1972, but was deeply in debt and publicly disgraced. Over the next several years he worked to rebuild his career, writing magazine articles and working in West Coast radio. By the late 1970s, the incident had blown over, and he was able to return to Miami broadcasting. He was rehired by WIOD in 1978, starting a nightly coast-to-coast talk show, The Larry King Show, on the Mutual Radio Network. The show featured guest interviews and call-ins from the listening audience, and became very successful, growing to over 500 affiliate satiations. This work caught the attention of media mogul Ted Turner, who hired King to host his own talk show on the then-fledgling Cable News Network in 1985.
Larry King Live became the first international TV call-in show. Over the course of the next 25 years, King developed a loyal audience who tuned in to watch the talk show host interview presidents, athletes, actors, national heroes, foreign dignitaries and obscure individuals who were thrust into the limelight. The show soon became the highest-rated talk show on air, and a requisite stopover for celebrities plugging any project. King's direct, non-confrontational interview style has proven to be a hit with audiences and guests alike. As a testament to its influence, Ross Perot chose to announce his 1992 presidential bid on Larry King Live. In addition, King has also used his show as a portal for other fundraising events, including the support of disaster relief in New Orleans and Haiti.
In June 2010, King announced he'd be ending his reign as host of the CNN talk show after 25 years. In September the same year, CNN named British media personality, Piers Morgan, as King's successor.
Outside his career at talk show host, King has appeared as himself in several movies and television shows. He's also done voice work in such animated films as Shrek 2 (2004), Shrek the Third (2007), and Bee Movie (2007). He's also written several books on heart disease after he suffered a heart attack in 1987. King's autobiography, My Remarkable Journey, was published in 2009.
Larry King also became well known for his repeat trips to the altar, marrying a total of eight times—twice to the same woman. King has been in and out of marriages most of his adult life, beginning with his marriage to his high-school sweetheart Freda Miller when he was 19. During his subsequent seven marriages he has fathered four children. In 1997, King married his seventh wife, Shawn Southwick, a former singer and television host, in King's Los Angeles hospital room three days before he underwent heart surgery. Southwick is 26 years King's junior. The couple has two children together, Chance and Cannon. Southwick has a son, Danny, from her former marriage. The couple announced their separation, and impending divorce, on April 14, 2010. The couple has since stopped proceedings, however, claiming they did so for the sake of the children.