Larry King, an oxymoron: Nice to the end despite a life in entertainment
LOS ANGELES: The man of eight wives and thousands of television interviews has left us for the broadcasting booth above. Larry King died at the age of 87. While King was famous, his down to earth image was genuine. He treated royalty and the everyman with equal decency.
One admirable thing about Larry King was that he was able to laugh at himself. He didn’t take himself too seriously. Some of the best memories of Larry King involved his ability to take humorous jabs in stride.
For six months, David Letterman had a running joke on his program.
“Larry King: He looks like an owl.” Letterman would split the screen and on one side show King with his trademark suspenders. On the other side was an owl. People looked at the 2 images and thought, “Wow, he’s right. Larry King DOES look like an owl.”
Then Letterman would show a gratuitous video of an owl eating a mouse. Letterman turned to Paul Schaffer and asked, “Do we have a video of Larry King eating a mouse?”
Howard Stern made fun of King’s USA Today columns, which were often random streams of consciousness and non-sequiturs. So in his book, Stern listed random sentences and you had to guess whether King or Stern said them. It was pretty obvious who did.
“Tony Danza does light comedy as well as anyone in the business.”
“There is nothing more beautiful than the buttocks of a young college quarterback.”
King would be nice to you even if you were the only person unable to attribute those two quotes to their rightful owner.
King was known for doing very friendly interviews.
His critics pointed out that he never asked a tough question in his life. Yet King was friendly to everyone. He was never rude or disrespectful. He certainly never let bias cause him to be friendly to some guests and hostile to others.
Sometimes he was too friendly and gracious. When he interviewed former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he treated him as a friend. The Ahmadinejad government frequently chanted “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.” King was Jewish, and Jews were not exactly popular under Ahmadinejad’s reign. Rather than press Ahmadinejad on his desire to blow up the West, King asked him about his family including his children. King smiled as the brutal dictator spoke glowingly as a proud father.
King was guilty of humanizing apocalyptic genocidal madmen, but King was nice to everybody.
If the worst thing a person can say about a man is that he is too polite and kind, that man is probably a pretty good person.
My own chance encounter with King at a shopping mall showed him to be just as friendly and gracious when the cameras were off. He could not have been nicer. He was a celebrity who was happy to take a picture with an everyday guy. His pleasantness was genuine.
Larry King was very nice. Gracious as can be. Random encounter. He will be missed. pic.twitter.com/bPyXusRRC0
— eric golub (@TYGRRRREXPRESS) January 23, 2021
In a world that is often artificial, King was a natural behind the microphone and natural around people. In a world where television personalities shout over each other, King was calm, rational, and friendly. His good nature will be missed.
Lead Image: By Kremlin.ru, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4938743