Larry King ends 25-year stint as CNN interviewer (Lead)

December 17th, 2010 - 10:19 pm ICT by IANS  

Los Angeles, Dec 17 (IANS) Larry King’s record-breaking run as prime-time talk-show host ends Thursday night as he hangs up his suspenders after 25 years on CNN. Led by friend and protege Ryan Seacrest, a star-studded collection of guests was expected to pay tribute to him in a grand finale.

King will say his goodbyes. And then the set, with its horseshoe-shaped desk and familiar backdrop of multicoloured dots, will fade to black, the broadcaster said on its website.

“It’s sad,” King said, “but there’s a time to go. You know when it’s time.”

When CNN offered him a one-year contract extension rather than the customary three to five years, King knew. “The writing was on the wall. I said, ‘I think I’ll get off the road here.’” He agreed not to jump to CNN’s competitors if he could do four specials a year.

“I have no complaints against CNN,” he said. “It’s been a hell of a marriage. This is not a divorce.”

He’s been married eight times, divorced seven.

The other numbers in King’s life are also impressive and, well, numerous: fifty-three years in broadcasting, 50,000 interviews, 6,120 shows in CNN’s archives, a quintuple bypass, 10 Cable ACE Awards, an Emmy, a Peabody and an entry in the Guinness World Records.

Since the 77-year-old announced his exit from the nightly show, celebrities have lined up for the last interviews: showbiz biggies such as Al Pacino and Barbra Streisand; political luminaries such as Bill Clinton, Colin Powell and Joe Biden; and heads of state, notably Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who told him, “Long live the King. When will there be another man who is as popular in the whole world as you happen to be?”

“It’s been like last call around here for weeks,” observed supervising producer Greg Christensen. “I see more famous people here in a week than most people see in a lifetime.”

Seacrest said he’s honoured to be hosting Thursday’s Larrypalooza, which he called “a historic television event”.

It will be impossible to silence King’s famous voice, of course, spoken in the whiskey and gravel baritone of a man, even if he is not yet certain where it will take him next.

Over the years, critics have accused King of tossing softball questions. He said he doesn’t see it that way.

“I’m a minimalist, and the greatest minimalist question of all is, ‘Why?’” King said. “I never bought that softball rap.”

Frank Sinatra, Bill Clinton and Mario Cuomo gave the best interviews, in King’s opinion, because they “had passion, the ability to explain what they do, a sense of humour and a little bit of anger”.

The last few weeks have been an emotional roller coaster for King. But he’s warming up to the idea that it will be great fun to do whatever he wants without getting permission from network executives.

He was born Larry Zeiger in Brooklyn in November 1933. He decided he wanted to go into radio, and somebody told him to head to Miami, where there were plenty of opportunities. He started at WAHR May 1, 1957.

His boss told him the name Larry Zeiger was “too ethnic”. He found inspiration in the pages of The Miami Herald, lying on his boss’ desk. It was open to a full-page ad for King’s Wholesale Liquors. A name was born.

He went national on the radio, and then CNN founder Ted Turner came calling. King’s starting CNN salary was $200,000. The only thing he’d say about his current paycheck is “CNN is treating me well”.

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