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Larry King, TV interview virtuoso, has died

by Jenny Rough
Posted 1/23/21, 09:35 am

Radio and television host Larry King, who interviewed tens of thousands of subjects, including presidents, Hollywood celebrities, athletes, and world leaders, died Saturday. He was 87.

How did he become famous? Lawrence Harvey Zeiger, born in the Brooklyn borough of New York to Jewish immigrants, became Larry King when he landed his first radio job as a disc jockey in Miami in 1957. His boss thought Zeiger sounded “too ethnic,” and noticed an ad for King’s Wholesale Liquors in an open newspaper on the desk.

Known for his personable and straightforward style, he credited his ability to talk with anyone, whether a prime minister or bus driver, to his insatiable curiosity. Larry King Live premiered on CNN in 1985 and became a mainstay of American television for 25 years. He welcomed everyone from the Dalai Lama and Mikhail Gorbachev to Elizabeth Taylor and Frank Sinatra.

King married seven women (one of them twice). His last marriage to Shawn Southwick lasted more than 20 years before he filed for divorce in 2019. He cited religious differences—she was a devout Mormon and he an “agnostic atheist”—as one reason they didn’t get along.

Obsessed with the afterlife, King often asked about faith in interviews. In his book Powerful Prayers, co-authored with Rabbi Irwin Katsof, he questioned influential people about how they talk to God. On a CNN special, King said he wanted to live forever, and was public about his wish to be cryogenically preserved.

King’s estranged wife and three of his five children survive him.


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Jenny Rough

Jenny is a WORLD Radio correspondent and co-host of the Legal Docket podcast. She is a graduate of World Journalism Institute and Pepperdine University Caruso School of Law. Jenny resides with her husband, Ron, in Alexandria, Va.

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  • AlanE
    Posted: Sat, 01/23/2021 11:40 am

    Kind of a sidebar to this announcement, but I've long wondered about the use of "devout" in reference to someone such as Larry King's last wife. What kind of devout religious adherent marries someone of an entirely different religious (or non-religious, if that is what it is) persuasion? Did she become devout later? Was she what we might mostly describe as devout but utterly failed to see those convictions through when it came to choosing a marriage partner--arguably the most important decision we make in life? Or, has devout become a way of saying something about someone that leaves the appearance of gravitas but actually doesn't mean anything any longer? Those questions are serious, at least for me.

  • Steve Shive
    Posted: Sat, 01/23/2021 06:29 pm

    Vrey good question that has been in the back of my mind but you brought it to the front, Alan E. 

    And thanks for article. He was a very good interviewer. Married 8 times to 7 women! I guess that could be a definition of "curiosity" or maybe something else as well...

  • not silent
    Posted: Mon, 01/25/2021 12:54 pm

    For AlanE: I may be able to give a partial answer to your question, "What kind of devout religious adherent marries someone of an entirely different religious (or non-religious) persuasion?"  I did not personally marry someone outside my faith, but there are two people I know very well who have professed faith in Christ and who live out their faith at least as much as I do who married atheists.  In both cases, they knew they were marrying someone who did not believe as they did; and, in both cases, they had fallen in love and believed they could "save" their spouse.

    How did it turn out?  So far, neither one has "saved" their spouse.  One got divorced, but her spouse eventually came to faith in Christ shortly before dying.  The other is still married, though it's difficult; and some have advised her to divorce her unbelieving spouse.

    I agree with you about the problems inherent in marrying someone who does not agree with one's faith, and I've seen in my friends some of the problems it can cause.  But the ones I know did not marry an unbeliever because of a lack of devoutness or of faith; they did it because they fell in love and because other Christians told them it would be okay since they might lead their partner to Christ.  I think the Church really needs to educate people better about potential problems in a situation like this before they get married but it must also provide more support for people who are not married so that it doesn't seem so much like one "must" get married or be in a romantic relationship to live a fulfilling Christian life.

  • OldMike
    Posted: Thu, 01/28/2021 05:08 pm

    I've heard people including pastors use II Corinthians 6:14, "be not unequally yoked..." as an admonishment for a believer not to marry a non-believer. A marriage between a believer and non-believer can be difficult, for sure. As for whether a Mormon falls in the category of those we consider believers, that's another matter. 

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