When I attended grad school at Stanford, Larry King became a big part of my life. Then we became colleagues, sort of.
During the baseball season, one of Bay Areas teams was usually at home and the other was usually playing in a different time zone. With luck, from 4.30 in the afternoon to 11pm there’d be baseball on the radio. Then there’d be Larry King’s overnight show on the Mutual Broadcasting System for as long as I stayed up.
King was my nighttime companion, as he was for millions. My second year of grad school, my pal Ken joined the party – he was already a King fan; I never dared ask why – and the show was part of the soundtrack that began our four decades of friendship. King wasn’t brilliant, but for his interview subjects and his listeners, he was a comfortable fit.
As a kid in Brooklyn, King grew up with baseball legend Sand Koufax. King told a riotous story about driving with Koufax and couple of other friends as high schoolers on a cold night to find a cheap ice cream at a New Haven outlet of the Carvel chain. The story was on tape and King would replay it every couple of months. A years later, as a baseball writer I was at Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida, and ran into Koufax, then a spring training instructor for the Dodgers. I asked him if King’s Carvel story was true. Koufax shrugged and replied, “What do you think?’ with just the hint of a smile.
When I worked as a news writer and producer in CNN’s Washington bureau a few years later, in the hour ahead of shooting Larry King Live, King and his suspenders would regularly drift into the newsroom and try to act like one of guys. For King it seemed easier talking to movie stars and word leaders than to us working stiffs, even though he was doing double shifts those days, the TV show followed by the radio overnights. Even though I saw him dozens of times, I never asked King about the Carvel story.
Former US diplomat and broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is a contributor to Forbes and Inside Asian Gaming, columnist/correspondent for Asia Times, and author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, online archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com; follow him on Facebook and Twitter @MuhammadCohen.