Larry King is unlike any other journalist in history. He is also
unlike any other autobiographer. His stories come one after the
other, each funnier or more interesting than the last. I
didn’t know he was such a comedian. He saw opportunity around
every corner and grabbed the brass ring. He would be the first to
admit that he never let go.
King opens his memoir with a hysterical tale about conducting an
interview with Osama bin Laden. Imagine! His dream interview would
be a scenario where he doesn’t know who he is talking to
until the show starts and the mystery guest comes through the
In his life thus far, King has sat down with countless
celebrities, one of the most memorable being Frank Sinatra, who was
famous for not doing interviews. How did this come about? When
Jackie Gleason found out that King would just about walk through
fire to do an interview with the reclusive Sinatra, Gleason set it
up by calling in a favor. King was working for a small AM radio
station in Miami that had spent a huge amount of its advertising
budget on the hopes that Sinatra would show. Ol’ Blue Eyes
arrived at the studio at the last minute, with King on tenterhooks.
Not only did he honor his word to Gleason, but he willfully told
the story about his son’s abduction, a topic that King was
forbidden to bring up.
King’s interview style is so simple that it is sometimes
seen as simplistic. Actually, it is totally focused on the guest:
“I never learned anything listening to myself talk.” He
doesn’t script his interviews or give long lead-ins, and you
will never hear him offer his own viewpoints. Rather, he is
interested in the opinions and thoughts of his guests, and things
he doesn’t know yet.
I can recall vividly seeing O.J. Simpson fleeing Los Angeles in
the white Ford Bronco. At the time I was watching “Larry King
Live.” King, who stayed on the air for three hours, felt a
little unprepared, as this feed was live from LA and he was not.
The world watched as the drama unfolded.
Always wanting to be an announcer from his earliest
recollections --- having announced a sporting event through a
rolled-up program --- King was the color commentator for the Miami
Dolphins broadcasts during the early part of their perfect 1971-72
season. He has also met and interviewed many of his heroes,
including Leo Durocher, as a young AM radio personality.
Significant to every aspect of King’s life is the death of
his father, and the great and consequential loss he felt and the
abandonment he lived through. He ascribes many turns in his life as
having come from his sense that his father left him when he was a
very young boy. We enter his world, career, marriages, family, and
finally get some of his closely held opinions.
Through the years, King has interviewed a variety of guests from
all walks of life, religious and political viewpoints. His style of
questioning has never really changed. Using short, direct
questions, he extracts the answers America awaits. It truly has
been a remarkable journey.
Reviewed by Marge Fletcher on January 12, 2011