Larry King ends CNN stint with nostalgia and family
December 17th, 2010
Larry King, the gruff CNN personality whose nonconfrontational interviews were a hit with newsmakers and viewers for 25 years, signed off at the cable news channel on Thursday with a series of reminiscences from big names, old pals and family members. “Good evening and welcome to the last ‘Larry King Live,’” the 77-year-old broadcast icon said at the outset of his hour-long swan song. “It’s hard to say that. I knew this day was coming. These words are not easy to say.”
In a pre-taped segment, President Barack Obama called King “one of the giants of broadcasting.” Outgoing California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared Thursday “Larry King Day.”
Larry King announced his retirement in June, saying he wanted to spend more time with his seventh wife, Shawn, and their two young sons. The couple earlier this year said they would divorce, but have since reconciled. Besides returning to CNN for the occasional special, King has revealed aspirations to enter the bagel and standup comedy arenas. Sporting bold red suspenders, he vowed to keep wearing his trademark accoutrements in his retirement.
“Larry King Live” was an obligatory stop for politicians, moguls and celebrities since it launched when CNN was barely five years old. Earlier this month, the show generated worldwide headlines when Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin issued blistering threats against the United States and its Western allies. Movie stars and rock stars on the promotional trail could be assured of a platform to hawk their wares without having to fend off any probing questions.
But both his show and CNN were regularly beaten in the US ratings [He had a much bigger audience worldwide on CNN International]. In the States, CNN has lost viewers to right-leaning Fox News and left-leaning MSNBC. In September, the network’s US president Jon Klein was ousted after a six-year tenure. Klein had just hired British journalist Piers Morgan as King’s replacement. Morgan has said he will ask tougher questions than his predecessor, and will also be better prepared.
King proudly claimed that he never prepared for interviews, and it showed in 2007 when he manage to rankle unflappable comedian Jerry Seinfeld by suggesting that his top-rated sitcom had been canceled. On another occasion, he mistook former Beatle Ringo Starr for his late bandmate George Harrison.
Perhaps the most intriguing guests were the show’s last ones: King’s wife and their sons, Chance, 11, and Cannon, 10. The boys fidgeted as CNN anchor Anderson Cooper recalled how both he and King had lost their fathers at an early age. Cannon restored some levity by mimicking his father angrily saying, “Get in the car!” and “Stop doing your makeup!”
As the hour wound down, King sat alone in the studio. Staring into the camera, he struggled to hold back tears as he signed off with: “Instead of ‘goodbye’, how about ’so long’?” The studio went dark and a light shone on the trademark prop microphone that separated him from some of the most intriguing people of the times.
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