“I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.”—Larry King.
Those are the wise words of a man who has done more listening in his life than most of us can ever imagine. For decades, Larry King sat behind the microphone and invited us to join him in hearing some of the people most worth listening to in this world. From celebrities to world leaders to death row inmates, King was the intermediary between millions of people and information—a role that he never took lightly.
At the same time, King’s life has been full of ups and downs, trials and tribulations, and of course, scandals and controversy. There is a lot more to this guy than meets the eye, and it’s all definitely worth reading about.
Here are 24 live facts about the one and only Larry King.
23. Commitment Problems
King has been married a total of eight times in his life. If at first you don’t succeed…
22. Second Time’s a Charm…Or Not
Of Larry’s eight marriages, two were actually to the same woman. Former Playboy bunny Alene Akins was both his third and fifth wife, yet the two were only together for a combined total of under seven years.
The idea for Larry’s new last name came from an unlikely source—his first boss happened to have looked down at an ad for a liquor company called King’s and thought the name was a perfect fit. The rest, as they say, is history.
20. Humble Beginnings
Larry’s first job in broadcasting was as a disc jockey for a local Miami area radio station.
19. Familiar Voice
Any Miami Dolphins fans out there? Well, if you had been watching in the early ‘70s, you would have heard a familiar voice as the voice of your team—King was the play-by-play announcer from 1969 to 1971, and again in 1977.
18. Man of Many Talents
King has published an original novel, titled Moon Over Manhattan: Mystery and Mayhem. The farcical caper was co-written with veteran mystery author Thomas H. Cook. Obviously set in New York City, it follows the daughter of a political commentator who fakes an elopement in order to get more freedom, and her father’s rivals, who try to use her disappearance to take him down. Amazon reviews for the book range from “WHAT A WILDLY FUN BOOK!” to “Quite possibly the worst book I have ever read.”
Despite a rough ending to the Dolphins chapter of his broadcasting career, forgive and forget seems to be the team motto—they invited Larry back to the broadcast booth to relive old times in 2009.
16. Gutsy Trademark
One of King’s unique methods of journalism is that he purposely does little to no preparation or research going into his shows, often being completely ignorant about the person and subject matter while conducting his interviews. He does this in order so that he is learning things along with the audience, in the hopes that this will create a different feel and effect. I guess it works, but it’s got to be weird if you’re a famous guest!
15. What’s the Deal With Larry?
As you can imagine, King’s habit of not preparing for interviews can sometimes come with some unintended consequences—and sometimes things can escalate quickly. For example, it once got him into a little on-air spat with none other than comedy legend Jerry Seinfeld. When King’s ignorance about his guest led to him asking whether or not Seinfeld had been canceled, Jerry went all out in roasting his host for living under a rock and not realizing how popular the show was.
14. Winging It
Another example of King’s lack of preparation leading to some awkward encounters took place in 2007 when he interviewed popular American Idol contestant Sanjaya Malakar, only to then reveal that he had no idea who the guy even was! Must have been awkward for Sanjaya…
13. Health Issues
King has recently struggled with lung cancer and had to go through surgery to remove a malignant tumor in the summer of 2017. We’re glad it was successful!
12. Making History
Larry King Live was the first ever TV show to take calls from all over the world.
11. Early Struggles
King’s father died when Larry was only nine years old, and Larry did not react well—he became emotionally unstable, lost interest in school, and gave up on his broadcasting aspirations to take a job as a mail clerk. It would be a while before he felt ready to pursue his dreams once again.
10. Strange Bedfellows
One of the characters/victim involved in the financial transaction that saw Larry King booked and taken downtown was a man named Jim Garrison, who had participated in the investigation into the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Maybe stealing from a high-profile government investigator wasn’t the most well thought-out idea…
9. Big Shoes to Fill
King’s long-running column in the Miami Herald replaced the column of legendary journalist Walter Winchell. Maybe picking up some of Winchell’s remaining audience didn’t hurt in propeling Larry to success.
8. Auspicious Start
When King was getting married for the eighth time back in 1997, he was scheduled to have heart surgery just a few days later. So they did what any normal people would do in that situation—got married in the hospital room. It must have been some kind of good omen because unlike his seven previous ones, this marriage has actually survived to this day. We wish them all the best!
7. The Other Dream
Long before CNN came into the picture, King’s original dream job was to be a standup comedian.
6. Russian Interference in Larry’s Career
King surprised, upset, and puzzled a lot of people in 2012 by deciding to host a show on a controversial station called RT America—a station believed by many to be a propaganda outlet for the Russian government. King has been thought of as many unflattering things over the years, but secret Russian puppet is a new one.
5. A Sign of Things to Come?
In a 2013 documentary, King revealed that he lost his virginity to a married woman while working as a busboy at a resort. Is that where he got his idea of what a marriage should be like?
4. The Real Reason
Most people assumed that King’s long-running CNN show Larry King Live went off the air in 2010 due to low ratings, but the real reason was that King was apparently dealing with a “personal mess” in his private life and asked the network to end the show in order to devote more time to it.
The darkest point in King’s career was likely his 1971 arrest for grand larceny. He had received $5,000 from a financier to give to someone else but instead used it to pay his own back taxes. Although the case was eventually dismissed due to a statute of limitations, he lost all of the major broadcasting jobs he had at that time.
Larry’s eighth marriage almost ended in divorce in 2010 when it was alleged that he was having an affair with his own sister-in-law, Shannon Engemann. King and Engemann have since gone on record as saying that the reports were false, with King saying that it was “just a flirtation” and that they “never made love.” Still, this news reportedly threw his wife into a distraught state where she threatened to inflict self-harm in response. Heavy stuff…
1. The Name Game
Larry’s real name was Larry Zeiger, but he changed it to King early in his broadcasting career because the name Zeiger was thought of as “too ethnic.” It was…a different time.