Margaret Minnicks has been an online writer for many years. She writes about various topics including celebrities and entertainment.
Larry King died at the age of 87 on Saturday, January 23, 2021, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. It was revealed that King had been hospitalized for over two weeks before he died after testing positive for COVID-19.
However, there are many unique things people don't know about the iconic talk show host who had a career in television for 64 years. This article covers the following 16 little-known facts about Larry King:
- From Lawrence Harvey Zeiger to Larry King
- From Rags to Riches
- King's Childhood Dream
- Jack of All Trades
- 25 Years of CNN
- Conducted More Than 30,000 Interviews
- King Didn't Prepare for Interviews
- King Never Went to College
- King's Unique Look
- King's Arrest Record
- Fender-Bender With John F. Kennedy
- King's Awards and Honors
- King's Religious Views
- Health Problems
- Books and Television Appearances
- Married 8 Times to 7 Women
1. From Lawrence Harvey Zeiger to Larry King
Larry King was born Lawrence Harvey Zeiger on November 19, 1933. No one knows him as Lawerence Harvey Zeiger, but he is known worldwide as Larry King. His name change was as unique as the man himself.
King moved from Brooklyn to Miami in 1957 to start a career as a media personality. Just 10 minutes before he went on air for the first time, his general manager told him that his last name was too ethnic. The general manager looked down at an open newspaper and saw an ad for King's Wholesale Liquors and introduced the new host as Larry King on the spot. The rest is history.
2. From Rags to Riches
After his father’s death when Larry was nine years old, his family was on welfare for two years. His mother, Jennie, previously a housewife, moved King and his younger brother Marty to a three-story walk-up in Bensonhurst and took on seamstress work.
3. King's Childhood Dream
King’s childhood dream was to be on the radio. He said, “I just wanted to be an announcer. I wanted to be anything. I wanted to talk into a microphone. I don’t know why; I must have had a good voice pre-puberty.”
The very first time he was live on the air, he choked. King admitted that when he turned on his mic, no words came out. He did get it together and fulfilled his childhood dream.
4. Jack of All Trades
Before King became popular on CNN, he was a jack of all trades and spent almost two decades working at other jobs. He worked as a television talk show moderator, disc jockey, a mail clerk, a busboy, and writer of a newspaper column.
5. 25 Years on CNN
King hosted Larry King Live on CNN for over 25 years. He hosted his final episode on December 16, 2010, after taping more than 6,000 episodes.
On King’s final episode, he was honored with a serenade by Tony Bennett and a greeting from then-President Barack Obama. Then-California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proclaimed that day as “Larry King Day.”
6. Conducted More Than 30,000 Interviews
King was never short on people to interview on CNN. He conducted more than 30,000 interviews. He interviewed world leaders and every sitting United States president from Gerald Ford to Barack Obama. He interviewed presidential candidates, celebrities, athletes, movie stars, serial killers, death row inmates, UFO experts, and people from all walks of life. He had a unique way to get information from them that the public wanted to know.
7. King Didn't Prepare for Interviews
King prepared only minimally for his show. He said that method helped him learn things about the interviewees at the same time as his viewers. Therefore, he did not spend time reading profiles, resumes, and authors' books in advance.
8. King Never Went to College
After the death of his father, King lost interest in school. He never went to college, but he did graduate from Lafayette High School with the goal of going into radio, which had always been a childhood dream.
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9. King's Unique Look
King was seldom seen without his trademark eyeglasses and signature suspenders. After he had heart surgery, he lost a lot of weight. His ex-wife Sharon told him to wear suspenders since he was so thin. The first night he wore them on the air, people called in and said they liked the new look. He wore them for the rest of his hosting career.
Viewers never saw King wearing the same suspenders twice because he had so many. Fans sent them to him, and his producers helped him select those that coordinated with his shirts. His suspenders often went along with the date, a theme, or what was going on at the time of the interview. For instance, he would wear red suspenders on Valentine's Day.
King was moved when he spoke in front of an audience with over 10,000 people in Syracuse, New York. He recalled that when he got up to speak, every man in the audience took off their coats to show that they were all wearing suspenders in his honor.
10. King's Arrest Record
King was arrested in Miami and nearly lost everything in 1971. His former business partner, Louis Wolfson, accused him of grand larceny for pocketing $5,000 received from a financier. It was meant for New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, who was investigating President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Instead, King was accused of using the money to pay his back taxes. Criminal charges were later dismissed due to a statute of limitations.
However, that did not keep King from losing his column in the Miami Beach Sun newspaper. Also, for a short time, he lost his radio job at WIOD. Later in 1978, he was rehired by the radio station and went on to host the first international television call-in show.
11. Fender-Bender With John F. Kennedy
King's fender-bender with anyone else might not have made news, but the one he had with John F. Kennedy did make the news. In 1958, Kennedy was an up-and-coming politician when King collided into Kennedy's parked car in Miami.
Kennedy said that he would forget the whole thing if King promised to vote for him when he ran for president.
12. King's Awards and Honors
Over his long career in broadcasting, King received numerous awards and honors. They are too many to name here, but he received every honor available for a man of King's caliber in broadcasting, including a lifetime achievement award.
Even though Larry King never went to college, he was awarded many honorary degrees from prestigious colleges and universities.
13. King's Religious Views
In 2005, King described himself as a Jewish agnostic. Then in 2015, he stated that he was fully atheist.
14. Health Problems
King suffered several heart attacks. His first one was when he was only 56 years old. Six months later, he had a quintuple bypass. His illness inspired him to establish the Larry King Cardiac Foundation to provide assistance to those without insurance.
King also suffered from type 2 diabetes, prostate cancer, and lung cancer.
15. Books and Television Appearances
Larry King published over 20 books, including his autobiography, a novel, and a children's book with his daughter Chaia, Daddy Day, Daughter Day.
Besides being on television for his own show, he appeared as himself in numerous television programs and films.
16. Married 8 Times to 7 Women
King was married eight times to seven different women. His first marriage was to his high school sweetheart, Freda Miller, in 1952 when he was 19 years old. Miller's parents annulled the marriage a year later.
King married his second wife, Annette Kaye, in 1961. The couple married, had their first son, Larry Jr., and divorced in the same year. King did not meet his son until Larry Jr. was in his 30s.
King married Playboy Bunny Alene Akins (for the first time) in 1961, the same year he divorced his second wife. He adopted her son Andy. After they divorced, King married Mickey Sutphin in 1964. They had a daughter named Kelly. The couple divorced in 1967.
In 1968, King married Akins for the second time, and she gave birth to their daughter, Chaia. Akins was King's third and fifth wife, but they divorced for the second time in 1972. King married Sharon Lepore in 1976. They stayed married until 1983. King proposed to Julie Alexander on their first date. After they married in 1989, she became his seventh wife. They separated in 1990 and divorced in 1992.
King got married for the eighth time to his last wife, Shawn Southwick. He married her in 1997 from his hospital room because he was scheduled for heart surgery just a few days later. That marriage lasted longer than any other; it even lasted longer than the two combined marriages to Alene Akins.
On August 20, 2019, King filed for divorce from Southwick in Los Angeles Superior Court, citing irreconcilable differences. They were estranged from June 6, 2019, until the time of King's death. The couple had two sons, Chance and Cannon. It was their son Chance who officially announced his father's death on January 23, 2021.
From seven of King's eight marriages, he had five children, nine grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. Both of his children with Alene died within weeks of each other in August 2020. At 65, Andy died from a heart attack, and Chaia died at 51 from lung cancer.
Sp Greaney from Ireland on January 25, 2021:
A lot of the things that you mentioned here were new to me. He is one presenter that no one will ever forget.
MG Singh emge from Singapore on January 24, 2021:
He was the iconic talk host. Sadly had to go.
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on January 24, 2021:
Very interesting depiction.