- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 17, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

For a man who has interviewed seven presidents and 50,000 assorted luminaries over a career spanning decades, Larry King has a simple rule for success.

“What I do, I’ve been doing for 58 years. I’m not doing anything differently now than I did in 1957, when I started. I take my curiosity — and I make a living with it,” Mr. King said in an interview with The Washington Times. “I leave myself out of it. I never learned anything when I was talking. My motto is this: I am a regular guy who walked with kings — and got to ask them things.”

Mr. King, 81, will be honored at the Newseum in the nation’s capital on Wednesday, recounting interviews with the famous, the infamous, the celebrated and the just plain interesting. A heart-to-heart with Frank Sinatra — the last interview the iconic singer ever gave — is his personal favorite. Mr. King’s secret of longevity? Stick to the basics, stay grounded and don’t get too fancy.

“I have what’s been called my street questions. What would the guy on the street want to know? I am not an intellectual. I haven’t read the world’s great books, but I am curious, I do care, and I am interested in myriad things,” Mr. King said. “I think I am able to relate. I am not George Clooney; I am everyman.”

The itch to ask questions started at the tender age of five, when the feisty Brooklyn-born kid decided he wanted to be on the radio. Little Larry conducted imaginary baseball broadcasts on his own, telling the news of the day to his playground chums.

His broadcast aspirations became reality when he moved to Florida as a young man in the 1950s; he went on the air and ultimately found considerable fame as an all-night radio host, five nights a week, midnight until dawn.

TV and the camera were calling. Mr. King spent a quarter-century conducting nightly interviews on CNN before collaborating in 2012 with Mexican entrepreneur Carlos Slim, who was intent on launching Ora TV — a digital network. Among the resulting broadcast products also licensed to be seen on RT: “Larry King Now” and “PoliticKING.” In addition, he penned a column for USA Today for over 20 years, and more recently moderated the 2012 third-party presidential debate featuring Libertarian hopeful Gary Johnson.

His march through the media leaves Mr. King somewhat unimpressed, however.

“So we end up with 500 channels on cable TV? I think the public was better served in the days of Walter Cronkite,” he observed. “Network news is fine, but it’s only 22 minutes long. But even they’re doing tabloid stuff. Or they spend a minute and a half on a hippopotamus giving birth in the Columbus Zoo. In our clamor to get attention, we’re force-feeding the public. And a lot of it is ‘get it first’ rather than ‘get it right.’”

Some of his fellow interviewers come close though.

“Charlie Rose on PBS is pretty good, but his questions are a little long. My questions are one or two sentences long,” Mr. King said. “A lot of press conferences, it’s just the press showing off. My question is always the same: What happened today?”

There’s still some wonder at work.

“The weirdest part for me is that I am basically that kid from Brooklyn who just wanted to be on the radio. Now I know all these people, and people know me around the world — and I still pinch myself. I do it every day when I think that this all happened,” Mr. King said.

“A Life in Broadcasting: A Conversation With Larry King,” will be broadcast live online at 7 p.m. EDT Wednesday at Newseum.org.

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