News World Legendary talk show host Larry King dies, aged 87

Legendary talk show host Larry King dies, aged 87

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Larry King, the suspenders-wearing US broadcaster whose interviews with world leaders, movie stars and ordinary people helped define American conversation for decades, has died ages 87.

King died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, his social media accounts said in a statement on Saturday.

No cause of death was given King had been hospitalised earlier in January after contracting COVID-19.

With his celebrity interviews, political debates and topical discussions, King wasn’t just an enduring on-air personality.

He also set himself apart with the curiosity he brought to every interview on radio and on his Larry King Live nightly TV show.

Larry King interviewed presidents including Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Photo: AAP

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews with presidents, world leaders, Hollywood celebrities and sports stars during his radio and TV career that spanned more than 60 years.

He welcomed everyone from the Dalai Lama to Elizabeth Taylor, from Mikhail Gorbachev to Barack Obama, and Bill Gates to Lady Gaga.

His shows were frequently in the thick of breaking celebrity news, including Paris Hilton talking about her stint in jail in 2007 and Michael Jackson’s friends and family members talking about his death in 2009.

King boasted of never over-preparing for an interview, and his relaxed style helped his guests feel at east and made him relatable to his audience.

“I don’t pretend to know it all,” he said in a 1995 Associated Press interview.

Funeral arrangements and a memorial service will be announced later in coordination with the King family, according to the tweet on Saturday from Ora Media, the studio and network he co-founded.

King was born Lawrence Harvey Zeiger in 1933, a son of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe who ran a bar and grill in Brooklyn.

But after his father’s death when Larry was a boy, he faced a troubled, sometimes destitute youth.

King set his sights on a broadcasting career and in Miami in 1957 he landed a job sweeping floors at a tiny AM station.

When a deejay abruptly quit, King was put on the air – and was handed his new surname by the station manager, who thought Zeiger “too Jewish”.

By the early 1960s King had gone to a larger Miami station, scored a newspaper column and become a local celebrity himself.

At the same time, he fell victim to living large.

“It was important to me to come across as a ‘big man’,” he wrote in his autobiography.

One of Larry King’s seven wives, Shawn King. Photo: AAP

He was married eight times to seven women. He accumulated debts. He gambled, borrowed wildly and failed to pay his taxes.

A three-packs-a-day cigarette habit led to a heart attack in 1987, but King’s quintuple-bypass surgery didn’t slow him down.

Through his setbacks he continued to work into his late 80s, taking on online talk shows and infomercials as his appearances on CNN grew fewer.

“Work,” King once said. “It’s the easiest thing I do.”