RIP Larry King – TV and Radio Legend

January 26, 2021 · CLASSMATES FUN

Larry King sadly passed away on Saturday, January 23rd, 2021 at the age of 87.


King was born Lawrence Harvey Zeiger in Brooklyn, New York in 1933, the son of Eastern European Jewish immigrants. His father, Aaron Zeiger, died when King was only nine years old, causing him, his brother, and his mother to go on government welfare. After graduating from Lafayette High School in 1951, King worked to support his family, although his desire was to work in radio broadcasting.

King eventually made his way to Miami, which had a growing media market and had opportunities for inexperienced broadcasters. He secured a job cleaning up and performing various tasks for the radio station WAHR (now WMBM). He was eventually put on the air as a disc jockey, newscaster, and sportscaster in 1957. He started going by “Larry King” on air, as the station’s manager thought the name “Zeiger” was too hard to remember. He officially changed his name in 1959.

King started to conduct radio interviews for WIOD at Pumpernik’s Restaurant in Miami Beach, interviewing whoever happened to be dining. When Bobby Darin walked into the restaurant by chance, he became King’s first celebrity interview.

King started to gain attention, and by May of 1960, he began hosting Miami Undercover, where he moderated debates on local issues. Garnering even more exposure, partly with help from the assistance of Jackie Gleason, who became his mentor after his variety show began taping in Miami, King was offered an expert commentator role for the Miami Dolphins NFL team during their 1970 and 1971 season.

Beginning in 1978, King broadcasted what became known as “The Larry King Show” until it moved to CNN in 1985, where he conducted over 30,000 interviews, and over 60,000 in his total career. He retired in 2010 but hosted occasional CNN specials until 2012.

After retiring from broadcasting, he remained active as a philanthropist, writer, and television personality.

King dealt with health issues for decades. He had a heart attack in 1987 before a successful quintuple-bypass surgery, and in 2019 underwent an angioplasty. He had a massive stroke that same year that put him into a coma for several weeks. In the beginning of January of 2021, he was diagnosed with Covid-19.

Although King’s cause of death was not announced, he died shortly after contracting Covid-19, which may have been the cause.

King is survived by his five children and his estranged wife of 22 years, from whom he was separated since 2019.