Longtime TV and radio host Larry King died Saturday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 87. Ora Media, which King co-founded in 2012, confirmed the news in a tweet to the @KingsThings Twitter account. A cause of death was not immediately available Saturday, but he had reportedly been hospitalized recently with COVID-19.
“Larry always viewed his interview subjects as the true stars of his programs,” the statement from Ora reads. “Whether he was interviewing a U.S. president, foreign leader, celebrity, scandal-ridden personage, or an everyman, Larry liked to ask short, direct, and uncomplicated questions.”
King started his career in local radio in Florida in the 1950s, according to the New York Times obituary, and began a national radio call-in show in 1978. Between 1985 and 2010, King hosted Larry King Live on CNN, with guests that ran the gamut from political and business leaders to celebrities to crime victims to religious figures. He proudly claimed he didn’t prepare for his interviews, which often had an impromptu feeling to them.
“I don’t pretend to know it all,” King told the Associated Press in a 1995 interview. “Not, ‘What about Geneva or Cuba?’ I ask, ‘Mr. President, what don’t you like about this job?’ Or ‘What’s the biggest mistake you made?’ That’s fascinating.”
Larry King Live was TV’s highest-rated talk show for a time, winning a Peabody Award in 1992. In 2012, he launched a new show, Larry King Now on the on-demand Ora TV. He later became known for a string of infomercials. His Twitter account @kingsthings became a virtual version of his syndicated newspaper column, where he dropped random thoughts and observations such as “I guess it’s difficult but can’t they make bigger bathrooms on airplanes?” and “Kosher hot dogs are the best hot dogs.” tagging the tweets with #itsmy2cents.
King had a colorful personal life; the son of immigrants, he was born Lawrence Zeiger in Brooklyn in 1933, and eventually ended up in Miami, where he got his first on-air radio gig. He struggled with gambling debts and declared bankruptcy twice. In 1971, King faced fraud charges which were later dropped, but which cast a pall over his career for a few years.
Last summer, two of King’s children died within weeks of each other; Chaia King, 52, had been diagnosed with lung cancer and Andy King, 65, suffered a heart attack.
King himself was plagued with health issues in his later years that included several heart attacks, and a quintuple bypass surgery in 1987. At one time a heavy smoker, King was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2017.
King is survived by his children Larry Jr., Chance, and Cannon. Funeral arrangements will be announced at a later date, according to Ora Media.