Larry King was one of a kind. He redefined both radio and TV talk shows. I wish his influence carried over to the current hyper-partisan talk show hosts.
Larry, like Walter Cronkite, had strong personal political views. I know. We discussed them frequently over my 30-year friendship with him. But, like Cronkite , he never allowed his political views to influence his choice of guests or his questions.
Unlike Cronkite, Larry would never claim the mantle of journalist. He was an entertainer who often made news with his interviews. He called his shtick “infotainment.” There was nobody better at it.
I began my relationship with him well before CNN was established. I was a frequent guest on his national radio show. Before and after the show, we would schmooze about our common upbringing in Brooklyn: He from Bensonhurst, me from Boro Park. We shared a love for the Brooklyn Dodgers and especially for its legendary announcer, Red Barber and its historic second baseman, Jackie Robinson. We shared stories about watching a teenage Sandy Koufax play basketball at local Y’s and Jewish Community Centers.
On the air, Larry was a true gentleman. He never threw “gotcha” questions at a guest. He was always fair, while managing to get his guests to make revealing, sometimes embarrassing, admissions. He loved Israel and his Jewish heritage, though he never let that influence his choice of guests or his questions. Yasser Arafat was as welcome as Yitzhak Rabin.
I was a guest on his show dozens and dozens of times. I even guest hosted it several times, once interviewing Joan Baez. (I was a better guest than host.) During the O.J. Simpson case, I was among his most frequent guests.
Despite his overwhelming professional success, Larry had a tough life. He grew up poor. He became rich, then he became poor. He married and divorced and married and divorced. For the media, it was a source of humor. For Larry it was a source of pain.
As he once confided in me, “I am a great fiancé, but a terrible husband.” He recently lost two children in their middle years.
He was a devoted father, though not a traditional one. His life was his work, and we were all the beneficiaries of his devotion to bringing the largest array of interesting guests into our living room.
The age of Larry King on talk show television was its golden age of neutrality, objectivity and fun. He brought the country together at a time when it was beginning to divide. Over the past four years, we needed Larry King on network television, but there was no room for a man of his unbiased objectivity. Instead, we get partisan zealots who deny us the ability to hear and see both sides of any story.
If there is a heaven, Larry will be interviewing God, Jesus, Moses, Mohammad, and every other interesting denizen of the hereafter. I will miss Larry. So will the entire world.
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Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law Emeritus at Harvard Law School and author of “Guilt by Accusation” and “The Case Against the Democratic House Impeaching Trump.” Read Alan Dershowitz’s Reports — More Here.
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