Iconic TV, radio host Larry King dead at 87

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – The iconic talk show host Larry King, one of the most recognisable figures on United States (US) television, died on Saturday at the age of 87.

The company he co-founded, Ora Media, did not state a cause of death but media reports said King had been battling COVID-19 for weeks and had suffered several health problems in recent years.

King, with his trademark suspenders, black rim glasses and deep voice, was best known for a 25-year run as a talk show host on CNN’s Larry King Live.

“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 in a statement posted on Twitter.

King’s long list of interviewees included every US president since 1974, world leaders Yasser Arafat and Vladimir Putin, and celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando and Barbra Streisand.

Larry King at the 45th International Emmy awards gala in New York city. PHOTO: AFP

In an emotional last Larry King Live show in 2010, tributes included one from president Barack Obama, who in a video message called King “one of the giants of broadcasting”.

Tributes from the media, politicians and Hollywood stars poured in, led by Putin, who hailed the interviewer’s “great professionalism and unquestioned journalistic authority”, according to the Kremlin.

“The world has lost a true broadcasting legend,” CNN founder Ted Turner tweeted.

Star Trek icon and social media personality George Takei noted how King understood “human triumph and frailty equally well”, while Kirstie Alley, of Cheers fame, described him as “one of the only talk show hosts who let you talk”.

British TV hosts Piers Morgan and Craig Ferguson, both of whom have had shows in the US, paid tribute to King’s interviewing skills.

“Larry King was a hero of mine until we fell out after I replaced him at CNN and he said my show was ‘like watching your mother-in-law go over a cliff in your new Bentley’. (He married eight times so a mother-in-law expert),” said Morgan.

“But he was a brilliant broadcaster and masterful TV interviewer.”

Singer Celine Dion said King “made all of us feel as though we were speaking with a lifelong friend”, while basketball legend Magic Johnson said, “I loved being on the show.”

Larry King Live changed CNN in the 80s blending entertainment with news… always made the interviews fun, serious & entertaining!” the former Los Angeles Laker tweeted.