Broadcasting legend Larry King dies at age 87

By Zach Harper

Beloved broadcaster Larry King has died at age 87.

Ora Media, his company, shared the sad news this morning in a statement in which it said the former CNN host passed away at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on the morning of Jan. 23.

"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," Ora Media said.

"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."

While Larry had been hospitalized with COVID-19 in late December, a cause of death was not listed in the statement. He had been in the ICU at Cedars-Sinai until earlier this month, when he was moved out of intensive care and had been breathing on his own.

Larry had battled heart disease for decades, having first had a heart attack and quintuple bypass surgery in 1987. He also had Type 2 diabetes. He had also had an angioplasty in 2019 after experiencing angina. In 2017, he also revealed he had had a cancerous tumour removed from one of his lungs when doctors were conducting routine X-rays on his chest to check his heart condition.

Born in Brooklyn in 1933 as Lawrence Zeiger, Larry was the son of Jewish-American immigrants from Lithuania and what is now the Ukraine. He wanted to become a radio broadcaster from a very young age.

In 1952, he married Freda Miller, his high school sweetheart, when they were just 19. That marriage was annulled after a year.

Larry in a publicity photo from 1990. Photo: © Getty Images

In 1957, Larry got his first radio job as a DJ on Miami Beach radio station WAHR. It was at that station that he started using the name Larry King, changing his name legally in 1959. He quickly began acquiring an audience of dedicated listeners, and started interviewing celebrities for another Miami Beach station when he spoke with heartthrob Bobby Darin in the late '50s. He also acquired work as a commentator for the Miami Dolphins in the early 1970s.

While he was hosting his Miami Beach radio show, Larry got married four more times. His second marriage was to Annette Kaye, with whom he had his first child, Larry Jr., in 1961. The two divorced that year and he wed Alene Atkins, adopting her son Andy a year later before they divorced in 1963. They later remarried in 1969 and had a daughter, Chaia, but divorced again in 1972. Mary Stuphin was his fourth wife, but they also unfortunately split in 1963.

By 1978, Larry had a national radio show on the Mutual Broadcasting System. It, too, picked up a huge, dedicated audience, who loved the 180-minute format in which he would speak to a guest for the first half, then allow the guest to take callers' questions for the second half.

At around this time, Larry began to be recognized for his interviewing and radio work. He captured the Peabody Award for Excellence in 1982 for his radio work, and also won it a second time for his television show in 1992. By 1989, he was a member of the National Radio Hall of Fame, and entered the Broadcasters' Hall of Fame in 1996.

In 1985, Larry made the jump to television with his Larry King Live, for which he became most known throughout his career. He hosted the show for 25 years, becoming known for interviewing nearly every celebrity under the sun and his friendly interviewing style.

Larry with Shawn in 2000. Photo: © Mario Magnani/Liaison

Two more marriages followed before he wed Shawn Southwick in 1997. The two had children Chance and Cannon in 1999 and 2000 before divorcing in 2010. They later reconciled, but decided to split again in 2019.

Larry founded Ora TV with Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim in 2012, moving onto the network with a show called Larry King Now, which he hosted until 2020.

In addition to his journalistic work, Larry was known for his philanthropy, particularly with heart and stroke issues. His Larry King Cardiac Foundation was founded after his first major cardiac incident in 1987, and helps people who cannot afford heart treatments.

Larry with his children and ex-wife, Shawn King (far right). L-R: Andy King, Larry King, Jr., Chaia King, Larry, Shawn. Chance and Cannon King, Shawn and Larry's children, are in front. Andy and Chaia passed away in 2019. Photo: © Jemal Countess/WireImage

The last few years had been very difficult for Larry. Andy and Chaia, his two children with Alene, died in 2020, just weeks apart.

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