Bette Laderoute
Special Assignment

The editor-in-chief of JO LEE {Jo Lee} has for years – caught Larry King Live in as many countries as she travels to – always consistent, always emphatic with her words:  “Larry is among the greatest”.

Given that Larry King is a CNN icon and the only worldwide TV call-in talk show host, Jo Lee could not believe that the man was all but unknown to me!

I hadn’t much watched Larry King Live, being a talk show snob and assuming its eponymous host was sycophantic and a celebrity chaser. Then, one day when I was visiting a friend in Vancouver, another friend whose opinion I valued and often sought, I found myself watching ‘this fascinating guy’.

My curiosity was aroused and, armed with echoes of how Mr. King “would showcase and salute the most interesting people” I wondered where I had acquired my attitude if I had never watched the show. Here are some things I learned about Larry.

Born Larry Zeigler on November 19, 1933 in Brooklyn, New York, he left formal education behind after high school and followed his dream of getting into radio.  He moved to Miami, Florida and in 1957, he got his first job with WIOD Miami Beach.  He was live, he was on air and he was launched into celebrity status himself in the heady days of post World War II exuberance.

By 1985 his trademark format catapulted him onto living room TV screens via CNN with Larry King Live and a viewership reaching into the millions. Some critics have found his interviewing technique “soft” while others admire his “non-confrontational” attitude – becoming “tough” only when people don’t answer the question.

His 50 years in the broadcasting business have earned him that celebrity status as well as a vast audience. It’s no wonder ‘the greats’ vie to be a part of his show. Then too, maybe there is something comforting about a guy in shirtsleeves and suspenders. And what suspenders! The button down type, color coordinated with every shirt: black on white, blue on turquoise, red on black, dark blue on light and, my personal favorite – white on purple.

There is more to Larry King of course!

Throughout his broadcast career his awards and honors have been never-ending. The Unity Award for excellence in public affairs reporting on minority issues from Lincoln University of Missouri, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Public Service Award for his programming on depression, being crowned Bacchus XXXIII at the 2001 Mardi Gras in New Orleans and presented the keys to the city.

In 2000, Larry King received Harvard University’s Mahoney Award for increasing public awareness about neuroscience and the March of Dimes Franklin Delano Roosevelt Award for his efforts on behalf of community volunteerism. In May 1997, he celebrated his 40th anniversary in the broadcasting industry and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1996, he was honored by the American Academy of Achievement with the Golden Plate Award and in 1994, he received the Scopus Award from the American Friends of Hebrew University.  In 1993, the National Association of Radio Talk Show Hosts named him “Talk Show Host of the Year”.  He’s authored a dozen books and the list goes on.  And the best on the board?  Celebrating his 50th year as a broadcaster in May, 2007!

And did I say he’s found time to marry seven times to six women, father four children and be, I have been told, a phenomenal dad at that.  I have also been told he “accentuates the good with the bad, never forgets his buddies and loves to tell tales of the past.” In addition, he has become one of the great American philanthropists. After his 1987 quintuple bypass operation, Larry King established and continues to support the Larry King Cardiac Foundation. This not-for-profit organization provides funding for “those with limited means and no insurance” and needing cardiac surgery.

And to think – I’ve just recently come to know: The great Larry King! This fascinating guy.

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