'There's no one left like him': Friends, former colleagues mourn the loss of Larry King
TORONTO -- Condolences and personal anecdotes poured in after news of Larry King’s death Saturday, as celebrities and public figures alike react his passing.
The legendary TV host and media personality died at age 87 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, according to an announcement posted to his official twitter account Saturday morning.
King was hospitalised with COVID-19 in the new year, but had been moved out of the ICU earlier this month.
King’s death is “terribly sad, because there’s no one left like him in broadcasting really,” said veteran Larry King Live executive producer Tom Farmer on CTV’s News Channel Saturday.
Farmer, reminiscing when he produced the show in the 1990s, said that King had an “insatiable curiousity, and would interview anyone about anything…people tend to think of Larry in terms of celebrity interviews, but he was a man who could cover a terror bombing or a crisis in the first half of the show and then pivot to Roseanne Barr in the second half without missing a beat.”
The key to King being able to interview elusive figures, such as presidents and reclusive celebrities, was that “everybody knew that Larry would express curiousity, sensitivity, there was no attempt to ‘get’ the guest,” Farmer explained. “People felt they would get a fair hearing and could express themselves.”
Former senior executive producer for Larry King Live, Wendy Walker, echoed the sentiment.
"He was so unique. The one thing that he always said when people would say, 'what's so different about you?' He would say, 'I listen to my guests,'" she told CTV News Channel by phone Saturday.
"He really, really did listen. For somebody who was a big celebrity, he might not have listened the other 23 hours of the day, he always had something going on. But when those lights went on at 9 o'clock there was no other world than who was sitting in front of him."
King treated every guest equally, no matter how excited she was about the booking -- a true hallmark of his legacy, Walker said.
"I'd call him and say, 'Guess what, we got the president, we're going to the White House,' and he'd say, 'ok great,'" she said. "Of course he was thrilled, but he was just as thrilled to talk to somebody who's never been on television before and would make that person feel so comfortable... I think it was really his secret."
Walker, who worked for CNN for 32 years, said her role on King's show changed her life.
The two became very close friends outside of work.
"I remember when he fell in love with his last wife, Shawn [King], he really really liked her and he called me and said, 'Can you please just tell Shawny when you talk to her that I've only been married four times,'" she laughed, noting she followed through on the promise.
"He was one of a kind."
CTV News anchor Beverly Thompson, who has interviewed King in the past, said when she heard news of his death, the world had lost a “legend.”
“I think everybody felt that way,” said Thompson said on CTV’s News Channel Saturday. “I think from an industry standpoint, and from being in the business and from having the opportunity to meet him, I immediately looked back and thought…his was a poignant journalism.”
“I thought he was so gifted with the ability to turn an interview into a conversation with ease,” she said. “He made everybody feel comfortable.”
Celebrities and other TV personalities took to Twitter to express their condolences.
“My friend Larry King has died,” tweeted veteran sports reporter and political commentator Keith Olbermann. “While he was easily caricatured, I’ve never known anybody who made a bigger deal out of the slightest kindness afforded him.”
“Just heard the awful news about Larry King,” tweeted Scottish comedian and TV host Craig Ferguson. “He taught me so much. He was a true mensch. He probably even taught me that word. So long pal, thanks for all the laughs. Say hi to Rickles #RipLarryKing.”
Actor Omar Epps reacted to the news of King’s death on Twitter, writing, “A broadcasting icon, and a legend period…I’m going to miss all of our great conversations…Rest in paradise my friend.”
U.K. television host and personality Piers Morgan, who replaced King on CNN, tweeted “Larry King was a hero of mine until we fell out after I replaced him at CNN & he said my show was ‘like watching your mother-in-law go over a cliff in your new Bentley.’ (He married 8 times so a mother-in-law expert) But he was a brilliant broadcaster & masterful TV interviewer.”
Actress Elizabeth Perkins thanked King for his career on Twitter, posting a photo of the two together saying, “thank you for listening and rest peacefully Mr. King. It was my honor.”
George Takei tweeted “Thanks for the countless interviews and insights, Larry King….there was no one else like you and you shall be missed. Rest with the heavens now.”
King was best known for his interview show “Larry King Live,” which ran prime time on CNN from 1985 to 2010.
“For 63 years and across the platforms of radio, television and digital media, Larry’s thousands of interviews, awards and global acclaim stand as a testament to his unique and lasting talent as a broadcaster,” read the statement announcing his death, which added that funeral arrangements and a memorial service will be announced later in coordination with the King family.