Larry King has spent 60 years on the air, interviewing more than 60,000 poeple
Larry always loved the radio and used to listen constantly as a kid
He moved to Miami in his 20s after receiving some advice that they had a big radio market down there, lots of stations, and some older people who would be retiring. He thought it would be a good place to get his start.
Larry went around to radio stations asking for jobs
He recalls one station, WAHR, that let him shadow some announcers, and eventually gave him his own show (9am-12pm) in 1957
Larry’s original name was “Larry Zeiger”. 12 minutes before going on the air for the first time, one of his bosses suggested he use the name “Larry King” after seeing an ad for “King’s Wholesale Liqours” in the Miami Herald, as “Zeiger” was too ethnic. His name is now legally changed.
He recalls being very nervous during his first broadcast. He later learned that, no matter what, be yourself. When you do that, you bring the audience into your circumstance. You put the audience into your shoes.
“If you’re going to do a public speech, and you’re scared, get up and tell them you’re scared. Bring them into your situation.”
Controlling Your Environment
“The secret for my longevity, is the love of what I do. I may have an unhappy day at home, things may not go right, but when that light goes on, I control my environment.”
One of Cal’s fears of doing a podcast is not being able to control a live interview
Larry – You have to trust yourself, you can’t have any doubt. If you do this, and love communicating, you’ll control the interview.
Be in the Moment
What Larry has tried to do his whole career, is be in the moment
If he had interviewed Al Pacino yesterday, and had an interview with Barack Obama tomorrow, he’d be focused on the here and now, whoever is in front of him
He never relistens to any of his interviews because he trusts that he’s in the moment
When Beauty Calls
One night, Larry had to do the all night show at the station, from midnight to 6am
During the night, the phone rang, Larry picked it up and a sexy woman voice said “I want you”
She told Larry to come over to her house. The woman stated she had to work at 6am, so Larry would have to leave the station while still on the air.
Larry put on a 23 minute Harry Belefonte record, and left the station
He gets to her house, and notices she has the radio on, tuned to Larry’s station
The Harry Belefonte record ends up getting stuck, and Larry has to drive as fast as he can back to the station
Don’t Fall Asleep on the Air
At one point, Larry was working 3 jobs (radio host, TV show host, and Miami beach dog track announcer)
One particular day, he was running on very little sleep during his radio show
He ended up falling asleep on the air
Someone listening to the radio heard him snoring, and called the fire department who ended up coming, and breaking down the doors
The GM of the station was about to fire Larry because of it, but Larry came up with a brilliant “excuse”, saying he was attempting to check the reaction of the Miami Beach Fire and Rescue Department, which saved him his job
Curiosity, Listening, and Questions
Larry has always been curious
Listening is as important as what you’re asking, so don’t worry about your next question
“Sometimes the simplest question is the best”
Larry has a pet peeve about sports reporters asking horrible questions during interviews
In the last 5 years, what new belief or behavior has influenced your life? – “The more I exist, the less I believe in.” He doesn’t believe in God or life after death. “This is it,” he’s in the moment. The thing he fears most is death, because he can’t imagine not existing.
What purchase of $100 or less in last 6 months has most positively impacted your life? – As a child it was a yo-yo, because he couldn’t master it, so it drove him crazy. Also when he was younger, one of the biggest thrills of his life, was a ticket to Ebbet’s Field. Larry hates how nowadays, everything is digital (tickets etc.), he prefers hard copies.
What advice would you give to a college senior, about to enter the real world? And what advice would you give to a smart, aggressive 30 year old? – To the college senior – “If you have a goal, don’t give up. If you think you can do it, you can do it. If you think you can’t do it, you can’t.” For the 30 year old, he would tell them something similar.
Any failures that set him up for later success? – “We learn more from losing than from winning.” His love of broadcasting has hindered him in other areas. He was a better worker than a father. Larry describes himself as 83 physically, but 17 mentally. “You know what keeps me going, I wonder what I want to do when I grow up.”
He loves a quote – “The only thing I know, is I don’t know”
What are bad recommendations you hear in your expertise? – That you don’t need college
What is an unusual habit or absurd thing you love? – He tries to total up words in a phrase or a sentence, and then divide it to get an even number. For example “True Love divided by 2, is 4”. Also, his prescription pills have to be laid out in order in the closet, and he always has to take them in the same order. Larry says he’s very organized, and dirorganized people annoy him.
In the last 5 years, have you become better at saying no to distractions, invitations, etc. ? – No! He says he doesn’t like rejection, and doesn’t like to reject others.
What is the best or most worthwhile investment you’ve made? – His career, all the jobs he’s taken. The discipline in his work.
When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or lose your focus temporarily, what do you do? – He gets lost in sports. He feels sorry for people who aren’t sports fans. Larry finds joy in the wonder of who will win.
One thing on his bucket list? – He wants to do a Larry King Broadway show, where he tells his stories on stage.