When Larry King died in January, it wasn’t entirely unexpected given his recent battles with Covid-19 and an earlier stroke.
I knew of Larry King but didn’t really start listening to him regularly until college, after I heard him in the opening scene of Albert Brooks’s great “Lost in America.”
One night in fall 1989, I decided to call into the “Open Line ’89” segment and ask him about how his voice got to be included in the movie. (The things I didn’t know then … )
“To Kalamazoo, Michigan, hello …”
Larry told me that Brooks asked for permission and they used the recording of a show with Rex Reed (which I knew from the movie.). I asked him if he knew Albert Brooks (“Sure do.”) and if Albert was at all related to Mel Brooks. (“Is not.”)
My final question was if he knew if Albert Brooks was working on a new film. “He is, it’s a comedy and Meryl Streep is set to star.” Then I sneaked in: “Do you know when it’s coming out?”
“Thank you. To Spokane, hello …”
I called in a handful more time over the next couple of years, sometimes with questions for the guests — Charles Grodin, Fay Vincent — and during the open-line segment which became “Open Phone America” chiefly, as I recall, because they couldn’t think of anything that rhymed with “ninety” like “open line” rhymed with “89”.
When he left the radio show for CNN full time, I didn’t watch very often. Now that I think about it, of course I didn’t. I was more intrigued by radio than I was by TV.
Over the years I read several of his books which were really just transcripts of his radio interviews, with a little setup by Larry. (“Tell It to the King“, “When You’re from Brooklyn, Everything Else Is Tokyo” and “Tell Me More” are three breezy titles.)
In recent years, I got a kick out of his tweets — like his weekly “Kings Things” column in the USA Today — including this one, from 2016:
Larry King was one of a kind, and I miss him being around.