Larry King - From Poverty To International Stardom
Larry King, 82, is an award-winning radio and TV host. He is the co-founder of Ora TV, which is producing ‘Larry King Now’ and ‘Politicking With Larry King’.
The sound of my mother’s scream was terrible. I was 9 and had just arrived outside my family’s small, two- story home at 208 Howard Ave. in Brooklyn. Before I could walk in, a cop rushed out, scooped me up and put me in his squad car. The next thing I knew we were at the movies watching ‘Bataan.’
Looking back, I suppose watching a war film is a strange place to learn of your father’s death in 1943, but the cop was a friend of my father and wanted to break the news to me easy. Later, I learned my father, Eddie, had died of a heart attack while telling a joke on the bus bringing him back to the city from his defence plant job in New Jersey.
I took my father’s death badly. I didn’t go to the funeral. I was angry at him for dying. I had loved my father and admired his easy humour and charm, especially when he was tending his bar and grill on nearby Fulton Street. Soon after my father died everything changed.
He didn’t have an insurance policy and my mother, Jennie, was a housewife. Her first son, Irwin, had died of appendicitis at age 6 before I was born.
My mother moved my younger brother, Marty, and me to an attic apartment in a three-storey walk-up in the Bensonhurst section. We were on welfare for two years.
My mother took in seamstress work, but she had to hide it whenever the relief inspector came around.
I started out in school as a good student. I skipped third grade. But after my father’s death I lost interest. When I graduated from high school, I didn’t go to college.
We didn’t have the money and I wouldn’t have gotten in even if we did. I didn’t care. I was going to be a radio announcer.
Growing up, I lived for the radio. I was captivated by it. On- air actors and announcers created this world that stirred my imagination. I left Brooklyn for Miami in 1957, when I was 23. I was told by a radio producer in New York that Miami had a lot of radio stations and that it would be easier for me to get my start there.
My first job was at WAHR as a disc jockey. But 10 minutes before I went on for the first time, the general manager said that my name, Zeiger, was too ethnic. In his office, the newspaper was open on a table. He looked at an ad in it for King’s Wholesale Liquors. He said, “How about Larry King?”
I had always been ambitious, but once I was on the air that day, nothing came out of my mouth. I was so nervous I just kept playing records. Finally, the general manager came into the studio and insisted I get on the air. After ‘Swinging Down the Lane’ by Les Elgart finished, I turned on the mic and said, “Hi, my name is Larry King. All my life I wanted to be on the radio. Well, here I am and I’m frightened.” Listeners responded by calling in. That day, I learned a valuable lesson: Be yourself and it won’t matter what the audience thinks. You only get nervous when you’re trying to be someone else.
My first celebrity interview in Miami was with the singer Bobby Darin in 1959, when I did a morning show for WIOD at a deli called Pumpernik’s. He was an insomniac and had been listening to me. He walked in and we spoke for an hour on my show.
I’m still curious about people and about ‘why’- the most important word because guests can’t answer it in one word. Today, my wife Shawn and I and our two boys live in Beverly Hills, in a two-storey, five-bedroom house. It has a pool, a backyard, two winding staircases that meet in the foyer and an elevator. I also have a trophy room. Whenever I feel low, I go in there.
My biggest fear is dying and not being around to know what’s next. I went to my doctor recently for a physical exam. He said I’m in great shape, that despite all of my past ailments, I’m going to live to be 90. i told him, “Hey, that’s only 8 years away. How about 100?”
Tomer Ben, CEO & Founder of Solomon Mines with Nancy Spielberg
" My favourite question is ‘why’ because you can’t answer it with just one word "
Artist Jessica Katz (daughter of Nancy Spielberg