Larry King, America’s most iconic interviewer, who smooched Marlon Brando on-air and even conducted Mideast peace talks during his eponymous CNN show, has died, his official Twitter account announced Saturday morning.
The former CNN star died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. The cause of death was coronavirus, his sixth wife Julia Alexander told The Post in a phone interview from her home in Florida.
“I talked to him in the hospital this past week so I knew his time was short,” Alexander said. “He was extremely weak. I just said Larry I am thinking about you. Everybody is rooting for you. He just couldn’t even talk. He was really very weak.”
King, 87, a multiple cancer survivor, had contracted coronavirus earlier this year, but it was not initially reported as a cause of death. In recent days he had appeared to be recovering, and was moved out of the ICU and breathing on his own.
Alexander was married to King between 1989 and 1992. The pair separated as a result of King’s serial philandering with other women, though she said she bore him no ill-will.
“I feel very fortunate because I met so many people and had an extraordinary life to begin with and then I met Larry which is part of my extraordinary life,” she said.
In a statement, Ora Media, his most recent employer, eulogized the interview icon.
“For 63 years and across the platforms of radio, television and digital media Larry’s many thousands of interview awards and global acclaim, stand as a testament to his unique and lasting talent as a broadcaster,” read a statement from Ora Media, his most recent employer.
“Larry always viewed his interview subjects as the true stars of his programs.”
Though he most recently worked for Ora TV, an on-demand digital television network he founded with Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim in 2012, King was most famous for his television show “Larry King Live” which he hosted on CNN from 1985 to 2010.
“Larry King was a giant of broadcasting and a master of the TV celebrity/statesman-woman interview,” said former colleague Christiane Amanpour. “His name is synonymous with CNN and he was vital to the network’s ascent.”
For over 25 years King, wearing signature suspenders and looming over an outsized desk mic, was must-see TV for his long-form sitdowns with the biggest celebrities and newsmakers of his day. He interviewed every US president from Richard Nixon to Donald Trump.
The memorable moments — too numerous to count — ran the gamut from smooches with Marlon Brando to a live MIddle East Peace summit with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Jordan’s King Hussein and Palestinian terror boss Yasser Arafat. During one 1989 appearance, Donald Trump accused King of having a bad case of halitosis and asked to sit back.
King also had a notable dustup with comedian Jerry Seinfeld in 2007 when King suggested the Jerry’s famous sitcom had been cancelled.
“I was the No. 1 show in television, Larry! Do you know who I am?” Seinfeld said before King attempted to shoehorn in a plug for the animated flick “Bee Movie,” which Seinfeld produced.
During his career he won two Peabody Awards, 10 CableACE awards and was inducted into both the National Radio Hall of Fame, and Broadcasters’ Hall of Fame
“Larry King was a Brooklyn boy who become a newsman who interviewed the newsmakers. He conducted over 50,000 interviews that informed Americans in a clear and plain way,” Gov. Cuomo said. “New York sends condolences to his family and many friends.”
King’s first interview as host of “Larry King Live” was Andrew Cuomo’s father, Mario, who was then also serving as governor of New York. For years the program was the anchor of CNN’s prime-time lineup and enjoyed sky-high ratings and a regular stream of A-listers banging down the door.
At his CNN peak in the late ’90s, King’s show was averaging a million and a half viewers a night.
King left the show in 2010 amid declining ratings as cable news audiences increasingly gravitated toward sharper partisan prime-time programming. King said the decision was his so that he could spend “more time for my wife and to get to the kids’ little league games.” The departure was messy, however, and he was at least partly shoved out the door by CNN bosses looking to shake up their lineup.
In his final months, the LaFayette HS alum’s life had been dominated by personal drama. After suffering a stroke in May, King became embroiled in a bitter divorce from his wife of more than two decades, Shawn Southwick King. It was his eighth marriage and seventh wife.
Born Lawrence Harvey Zeiger, King grew up in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn and never lost his trademark accent. In 2012 the city landmarks commission briefly considered preserving his childhood home. He had a difficult upbringing. His father died from heart disease when King was just 9, forcing his family to rely on government assistance. He worked his way up from Florida radio stations in the 1950s and ’60s, eventually hosting his own national call-in show before moving to CNN.
“We mourn the passing of our colleague Larry King,” CNN President Jeff Zucker said in a statement. “His curiosity about the world propelled his award-winning career in broadcasting, but it was his generosity of spirit that drew the world to him. We are so proud of the 25 years he spent with CNN, where his newsmaker interviews truly put the network on the international stage.”
Before he made it big, King lived hard and often found himself in personal and professionals troubles. He declared bankruptcy in 1960 and then again in 1978. A 1971 bust for fraud upended his career for much of that decade. (The charges were dropped in 1972). He also spent lavishly on fine clothes and on fast cars. He was a gambler, too, often losing large sums to horse racing.
Not all of King’s former colleagues remembered him so fondly. Piers Morgan said the two had fallen out after he replaced King in 2010.
“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,” Morgan said in a tweet — sparking some criticism online.
King is survived by his sons Larry King Jr., Cannon King, Chance King and most recent wife Shawn, as well as grandchildren and great-grandchildren.