Larry King Dead, Iconic Television & Radio Host Dies At 87

Terrence Smith

Larry King has died. The television and radio host passed away at the age of 87, weeks after being diagnosed with coronavirus. His cause of death had not been shared at the time of this writing.

"With profound sadness, Ora Media announces the death of our co-founder, host, and friend Larry King, who passed away this morning at age 87 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. For 63 years and across the platforms of radio, television and digital media, Larry's many thousands of interviews, awards, and global acclaim stand as a testament to his unique and lasting talent as a broadcaster. Additionally, while it was his name appearing in the shows' titles, Larry always viewed his interview subjects as the true stars of his programs, and himself as merely an unbiased conduit between the guest and audience. 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. He believed concise questions usually provided the best answers, and he was not wrong in that belief," read a statement put out on King's official Twitter account on Saturday morning.

After beginning his career as a journalist and radio interviewer in the 1950s, King gained a national profile when his overnight call-in radio show, The Larry King Show, launched in 1978. His radio success led to the creation of Larry King Live, an interview-focused television program on CNN that ran until 2010, per Britannica. Over the course of his career, King was awarded with two Peabodys, an Emmy, and 10 Cable ACE Awards.

King was born Lawrence Harvey Zeiger on November 19, 1933, in Brooklyn, New York. After graduating from high school, he worked to support his widowed mother before relocating to Florida in his early 20s to pursue his passion for radio broadcasting. He began working as a disc jockey in South Florida, where he developed his relaxed conversational style by conducting interviews with random citizens on his show. His profile began to rise, and King was offered the opportunity to host a local television debate show, Miami Undercover, which debuted in 1960.

Things were going well for King until he was arrested and charged with grand larceny against a former business partner in 1971 and was dropped from most of his media roles. The charges were dropped the following year, allowing King to emerge from the scandal and rebuild his career.

In 1978, the national radio talk show The Larry King Show was launched. It was a hit, airing on more than 500 affiliate radio networks, and ran until King stepped down in 1994. His radio success led to CNN offering him his own television interview show. Larry King Live launched in 1985. It went on to become the network's longest-running show and made him an internationally recognized figure.

King's interview style made the show a popular destination for celebrities and politicians, with many using the platform to announce breaking news. In 1992, Ross Perot announced his intention to run for president as an Independent candidate. The following year, Perot returned to debate Vice President Al Gore over the North American Free Trade Agreement, drawing in a record-setting 11.174 million households.

After 25 years on CNN, King stepped down in 2010. British tabloid journalist Piers Morgan took over the show. In 2012, he returned to interview television with Larry King Now. It had a similar structure to his iconic talk show and aired on Ora TV, Hulu and RT America. The following year, he launched the weekly political talk show, Politicking with Larry King.

King was honored with a Peabody award twice in his career -- in 1982 for his radio work, and for his television work in 1992. His CNN show also received 10 awards from the now-defunct CableACE awards, for Best Interviewer and for Best Talk Show Series. In 2011, he received a News & Documentary Emmy Award for lifetime achievement.

Outside of his career as a host, King often portrayed himself in movies and television shows. His most notable appearances include Ghostbusters, the Shrek franchise, Bee Movie, Sesame Street and 30 Rock. He also wrote two books about his struggles with heart disease and released his autobiography, My Remarkable Journey, in 2009.

King was married eight times to seven different women. At the age of 19, he married his first wife Freda Miller in 1952. After receiving pressure from their parents, the marriage was annulled in 1953. He was then married briefly to Annette Kaye, with the couple having a son in 1961. That same year, King was wed to Playboy Bunny Alene Akins and adopted her son Andy. They divorced in 1962. He was married for the fourth time in 1963, to Mary Francis "Mickey" Stuphin. After their split, King reunited with Akins. The couple was remarried and in 1969 had a daughter, Chaia, together. Their second marriage lasted until 1972. King's marriage to his fifth wife, mathematics teacher and production assistant Sharon Lepore, lasted from 1976 until 1983, while the marriage to his sixth wife, businesswoman Julie Alexander, lasted from 1989 to 1992. He married his seventh and final wife -- the singer, actress, and TV host Shawn Southwick -- in 1997. The couple had two children together, Chance and Cannon, before ultimately divorcing in 2019.