Larry King is, of course, a stalwart of American television. The well-known host is the consummate professional and never wavers from his role as a hard-hitting interviewer. Yet events in the summer of 2020 have left this veteran reeling. Indeed, we know as much from a heart-wrenching social media post uploaded by the man himself.
The word “legend” is used a little too liberally these days; yet in terms of U.S. broadcasting, that is exactly what Larry is. The presenter secured his first radio gig in 1957, and despite several serious health problems along the way, he remains at the forefront of the game as the host of Larry King Now.
It was, in fact, a radio program called The Larry King Show that catapulted the presenter to national attention. And perhaps most famously of all, the star hosted Larry King Live on CNN for 25 years from 1985. The latter program became the first phone-in show for international audiences, and it was also the highest-rated interview show on cable television for a number of years.
Larry had a stroke that nearly killed him in March 2019, but the irrepressible TV personality refused to be cowed. He told People in February the following year, “I’m 86 and it is what it is. I just want to keep working until the end. I’d like to die at work – I’ll retire right there!”
And Larry has undoubtedly enjoyed a sparkling career. As we mentioned earlier, it began back in the 1950s in radio – at the same time that he decided to change his name from Lawrence Harvey Zeiger. From there, the native New Yorker’s work has been shaped by a dogged ambition.
Prior to his beginnings in radio, Larry spent a number of years after graduation supporting his mother as his father had died when he was a child. Nevertheless, the presenter subsequently headed to Florida and it’s there that he began work as a disc jockey. And these early days apparently saw Larry molding his now-famous interview style.
This period also saw Larry branch out into print journalism, but there were setbacks along the way. Most notably, he faced the charge of grand larceny in 1971 after being accused of stealing money from an associate. And it took time for the Brooklyn-born broadcaster to get his career back on track after that incident.
Larry then spent several years doing a host of media roles in Louisiana. Following that, he headed back to Florida to work at the Miami News paper and do some TV interviewing work. Meanwhile, his big break came in 1978 with The Larry King Show on late-night radio, and within five years the presenter’s voice would be ringing out in 118 cities across the country.
By the 1980s Larry’s star was well and truly in established. He was a regular columnist for USA Today, and his renowned TV show Larry King Live began on CNN in 1985. Furthermore, he would go on to interview sitting presidents and many other notable figures over the subsequent 25 years.
Larry looked to be hanging up the mic for good when his long-running show on CNN finished in 2010. Yet the following year he was back with his own comedy show on stage. And just a year later the presenter returned to American screens – this time on Ora TV with Larry King Now. Indeed, age certainly didn’t seem to be slowing this veteran broadcaster down.
But it certainly hasn’t been all plain sailing for Larry along the way. Back in 1987 the host had a major heart attack and required urgent bypass surgery. The very next year, he then established the Larry King Cardiac Foundation to help fund those unable to pay for their required treatment.
However, Larry’s cardiac problems continued. Just a matter of months after suffering a near-fatal stroke in 2019, the presenter discovered that he required heart stents. The operation, thankfully, was a success, and Larry philosophically told People not long after, “I have less of a fear of dying now.”
Despite the setbacks, Larry continues to this day apparently unabated. And his successful broadcasting career has resulted in plenty of accolades along the way. For instance, he has been shortlisted for a News and Documentary Emmy Award on no fewer than eight occasions – picking up the win twice. Larry was also honored by a lifetime achievement gong in 2011.
Furthermore, Larry has had the honor of having been inducted into both the National Radio Hall of Fame and the Broadcasting Hall of Fame. And in 2008 an intersection where the CNN LA office sits was even renamed Larry King Square. Elsewhere, the host released his autobiography My Remarkable Journey a year later.
And what an adventure it has been – especially if you consider Larry’s love life. The host has been married no fewer than eight times to seven different women. Yet even the most recent and longest-lasting spouse – Shawn Southwick King – received divorce papers in 2019. Interestingly, that was just three months after the stroke that almost killed the star.
The TV personality told People, “When there are moments of unhappiness in a marriage, you can overcome it at 40, but at my age, it became a lot. I wanted to be happy. Separating was of course difficult. But there is nothing worse than arguing.”
And Larry was his usual bullish self when discussing the number of times he’s walked down the aisle. The media stalwart acknowledged, “I got married a lot. But in my head, I’m not a marrying guy. When I grew up, nobody lived together. If you fell in love, you got married. And so, I married the ones that I loved.”
Elsewhere, Larry was relatively straight to the point when it came to the subject of breaking up. The presenter told People, “… What I loved at 20 is not what I loved at 30 and what I loved at 30 is not what I loved at 40.”
Breaking up is certainly something Larry has become accustomed to. His eventful love life began in earnest back in 1952 when he married for the first time at the tender age of just 18. The woman in question was Freda Miller – the TV star’s sweetheart from high-school. Yet according to People, the marriage was allegedly annulled just a year later at the request of both sets of parents, who were less than keen on the union. Following that, it was quite some time before Larry decided to get hitched again.
The 1960s were a busy decade for Larry. In 1961 alone he married Annette Kaye, had a son called Larry Jr. and then got divorced – all in less than a year. But the story far from ends there, as Larry claimed many years later that he hadn’t known that his marriage to Annette had produced an heir.
In 2009 the presenter told the New York Post, “I knew there was a Larry King Jr. out there, I’d heard that, but I didn’t know he was mine. The marriage was very short and [Annette] told me if it’s a boy, I’m gonna name him Larry King Jr. Then I never heard again.”
Except, Larry said that he did hear from Annette again, but not until the mid-1990s when she was sadly dying from lung cancer. He claims that his ex-wife called and told the host the truth about their son. Larry told the publication, “I didn’t think about it. I never heard from him, never heard from his mother. Never heard. I sort of put it away until that day [Annette] called.”
Happily, Larry Jr. and his father now have a relationship, and the former is involved in the heart disease charity set up by the latter. Larry’s first-born – who was in his 30s when he first met his dad – is also father to three children. Indeed, this is a story which, thankfully, appears to have had a happy ending.
Incredibly, also in 1961 Larry had time to get married again – this time to former Playboy bunny Alene Akins. The latter had a son called Andy from a previous relationship, but Larry adopted the boy as his own. Sadly, the marriage ended in 1963 – the same year that the presenter walked down the aisle with Mickey Sutphin.
Larry and Mickey had a daughter together named Kelly, but they divorced in 1967. It was that very year that former got hitched once again – intriguingly to a woman he had already married that very same decade. For Larry reunited with Alene, and it was the pair’s second marriage which saw the birth of a daughter: Chaia.
Alene – the mother of Andy and Chaia – unfortunately died in 2017. At the time, Larry expressed his reaction to the news on Twitter, writing, “So very saddened over the passing of Alene Akins, who died peacefully with our children Chaia and Andy by her side. She was a grand lady.”
The union between Alene and Larry had seen the couple share two children. Sadly, it was these siblings – Andy and Chaia – who were central to a double tragedy that occured in the summer of 2020. And for all Larry has endured, this would surely rank among the hardest moments of his long and eventful life.
Both Andy and Chaia died within a few weeks of each other. First of all, Larry’s son passed away unexpectedly on July 28 at the age of 65. Chaia then sadly died aged 52 on August 20 shortly after being diagnosed with lung cancer.
Larry took to Instagram and Facebook to announce the sad news. He wrote, “It is with sadness and a father’s broken heart that I confirm the recent loss of two of my children: Andy King and Chaia King. Both of them were good and kind souls and they will be greatly missed.”
In the post, Larry also included a little more information regarding the circumstances surrounding the loss of his two adult children. He went on, “Andy passed away unexpectedly of a heart attack on July 28, and Chaia passed on August 20 – only a short time after having been diagnosed with lung cancer.”
Larry then gave a little insight into his own feelings at the double loss. The host said, “Losing them feels so out of order. No parent should have to bury a child. My family and I thank you for your outpouring of kind sentiments and well wishes. In this moment, we need a little time and privacy to heal. I thank you for respecting that.”
Poignantly, a handful of photographs accompanied Larry’s post. The first was a group shot taken in a familiar location – the set of the iconic and long-running Larry King Live show. The image depicts four of his seven children – with both Andy and Chaia among them – sitting alongside their well-known father.
The additional images show Andy and Chaia in more private surroundings. Two of the pictures show Andy pulling two young boys on sleds in heavy snow. Then there are a pair of pictures featuring Chaia, one of which also shows her in the snow posing alongside her father.
Larry’s youngest child Cannon also took to social media to express his sense of loss at the death of two half siblings. He is the son of the TV host and his most recent wife: Shawn Southwick King. The two had married in 1997 and separated after nearly 22 years of marriage. Furthermore, Cannon also has an older brother called Chance.
“This past month has been very difficult for myself, my family, and especially my dad,” Cannon wrote on Instagram. And as well as sharing the virtues of both of his older siblings, he also expressed the idea that they were now together again. The young man added, “… I know they are embracing each other right now.”
The year 2020 has been a rough year for Larry, but 2019 wasn’t an easy one either. The star had a huge stroke that left him in a coma, and the recovery was understandably slow. Larry told Extra at the time, “Everything got better except [for] my left foot, and I have been rehabbing that every day, and they tell me I’ll be walking by Christmas.”
Incredibly, Larry had his second bout of heart surgery just a month after the stroke. These are serious enough health issues to keep the best of them down, but the octogenarian refused to give up work. He went on, “It’s been a rough year, I don’t remember anything since March – I had the stroke [then]. I haven’t driven a car, but I’m back at work and that makes me feel great.”
This was also the year, of course, that Larry’s latest union broke down. He told People, “I’m sorry about the marriage. I’ll always care for my wife. But it just hit a point where we didn’t get along.” Yet still the irrepressible presenter didn’t let life dampen his spirits, and, ever the professional, he continued on with his show.
Larry has five surviving children: as well as Larry Jr. and Kelly, the star has his two youngest sons – Chase and Cannon – with Shawn. Through that relationship, Larry’s also a stepfather to Danny King, who is a football player. But that does not diminish from the tragedy of losing both Andy and Chaia, of course.
And as for marrying again, Larry has been candid about his habit of walking down the aisle. He told CBS in 2010, “And you know the funny thing? I think in my life I have loved three people – married all three. The other marriages I wasn’t in love. It was the thing to do.”
Larry wasn’t quite yet done about his thoughts on marriage, either. He added, “I used to say, what if your wife called urgent on one line, on the other CNN called urgent… which one do you pick up?… I used to say CNN.” Whatever you may think about Larry’s views on matrimony, losing two children in the space of a matter of weeks is a tragedy that anyone would struggle to deal with. Let’s hope that the future is kinder to the veteran host.