Got up today to find that Larry King had died at Cedars Sinai after being admitted for Covid-19 earlier this month according to Variety. I didn’t know him well, but like so many thousands of us in broadcasting and entertainment, I did know him and he did have an impact on my career. For no reason I can understand, he did me a huge favor.
The night of February 2, 1992, was a night like any other in Los Angeles (thank you Raymond Chandler). I was working the late shift at KTLA in Hollywood. Many of us were still trying to get our heads around what we had seen just a few months earlier when the station aired George Holliday’s tape of the Rodney King beating. A visual revelation that would eventually lead to the Los Angeles Riots, the biggest civil uprising in U.S. history. All that was still on the way. Along with the murders of Nicolle Brown and Ron Goldman. Things would get very busy very fast.
I walked into the newsroom to be greeted by one of the assignment editors who told me CNN had called. Ross Perot was going to announce his candidacy for president on the Larry King show and Larry wanted to give me the first interview with Perot, following the announcement. She didn’t have to say another word. My photographer and I were out the door and headed for CNN, just a few minutes away on Sunset Boulevard.
We got there to find all the media in L.A., and that was a lot of media, gathered outside the building’s rear entrance. In a move that felt like Moses parting the Red Sea, we walked through the crowd, up the sidewalk and were ushered into the building and to an upstairs hallway where Larry was waiting with his wife. My only other contact with Larry King, had been an occasional conversation in the green room at KTLA, or maybe in the newsroom, so I was absolutely perplexed as he said hello, introduced me to his wife, and then escorted us into the studio where he was about to do his live show. A few minutes later, Ross Perot showed up. Larry called me over and introduced me to Perot, telling the soon-to-be candidate that if it was okay with him, this guy he’d never met from KTLA wanted an interview once the show ended. Perot agreed, and my cameraman and I sat off to the side watching as he made his big announcement. Following the show we went over and got our interview, the very first Perot had done with anyone following his announcement that he was running for President as an independent.
For me, it was kind of a big deal. A real “get.” I must admit my head swelled a little, walking through all those other reporters and into the building ahead of the crowd. Thing is, I still have no idea why broadcasting icon Larry King gave me access to that first interview. Could have been he liked KTLA. Could have been he liked my work. The reason, I suppose, really doesn’t matter. All that matters for me, is that on one night in Hollywood, Larry King did me a huge favor, adding to his reputation as a real mensch. So, when I got up this morning and heard of his death, it hit me. Just like I’m sure it hit thousands of others he knew and had in some way touched during his many years on the air. Larry King, a conversational craftsman who could ask difficult questions without being difficult, was supposed to go on forever.
Thanks, Larry. You were a giant. May you rest in peace. I hope they put your suspenders in the Smithsonian.