The iconic interviewer, TV broadcaster and CNN talk show host, Larry King, passed away on Saturday, 23 January 2021 at the age of 87. His company, Ora Media said in a statement:
“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”.
Larry King dies: What we know
Cause of death
While Ora media (co-founded by King in 2012) had not stated the cause of death, recent reports indicate that King had been battling COVID-19 for weeks, and had been suffering several health complications in recent years.
IN 1987, King suffered a heart attack which required quintuple-bypass surgery. More recently, King underwent surgery to remove a malignant tumour in his lung in 2017.
King also founded the Larry King Cardiac Foundation in 1987, which assisted patients who required life-saving cardiac procedures with financial aid. He also battled prostate cancer and type-two diabetes.
Funeral arrangements and the details for a memorial service will be shared in due course. The team at Ora Media also sent their condolences to King’s surviving children – Larry Jr, Chance, Cannon, and the entire King family.
Two of King’s children – son Andy and daughter Chaia – passed away within weeks of each other earlier this year.
Larry King legacy
Early life and upbringing
King was born in Brooklyn on 19 November 1933. His mother Gennie was a garment working from Lithuania, and his father, Aaron Zeiger, was a restaurant working and defence plant worker from Austria-Hungary.
King was one of two children and attended the Lafayette High School in Brooklynn, but lost his interest in school after his father died of a heart attack at the age of 44. After his death, the Zeiger family was supported by welfare.
After school, King worked to help his mother support the family.
Marriages and parenthood
King was married eight times to seven women. He fathered five children, had nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. He tied the knot for the first time in 1952 at the age of 19 to high-school sweetheart Freda Miller. The couple had the marriage annulled in 1953 at the behest of Miller’s parents.
He was also briefly married Annette Kaye. They had one son, Larry Jr, however, King said on Anderson Cooper’s show in 2009 that he did not meet Larry Jr until the latter was in his thirties.
King married his third wife, Alene Akins, in 1961 and adopted her son Andy the following year. The couple divorced in 1963. Following the divorce,
King married his fourth wife, Mary Francis “Mickey” Stuphin that same year. The couple divorced but remarried in 1969 He remarried Akins, at which time they welcomed a second child, Chaia. They parted ways again in 1972.
Four years later, King married Sharon Lepore; they divorced in 1983. He later tied the knot with Julie Alexander on 7 October 1989 and divorced in 1992. King married his seventh wife, Shawn Southwick in 1997 and the couple shared two children, Chance and Cannon.
The couple filed for divorce 13 years later – his longest marriage. They reconciled but filed for divorce again in August 2019.
A career in broadcasting
King, whose given name was Lawrence Harvey Zeiger, began his career a newspaper journalist in the 1950s, and expanded his portfolio later to include DJ and sportscaster, which included celebrity interviews.
His station manager at the time believed that his surname Zeiger sounded “too ethnic. The surname King was chosen from a liquor ad.
King went on to host and overnight talks show on the Mutual Broadcasting System by the late 1970s. In 1985, Ted Turner hired him for his new network, CNN. Media commentator and CNN contributor Bill Carter said:
“Picking up somebody like Larry King made a lot of sense. Because he had established himself kind of as a guy who would get big guests, they could have big names and promote it and it became sort of the linchpin of their prime time lineup.”
Building a legacy
King stayed with CNN 25 years, while Ora TV hosted Larry King Now and Politicking with Larry King. Both shows are still “consistently reference by media outlets around the world.
While it was his name appearing in the shows’ titles, Larry always viewed his interview subjects as the true stars of his programmes, and himself as merely an unbiased conduit between the guest and the audience.