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If you like Larry King's story, you might also like:
Sam Donaldson,
Charles Kuralt,
Ted Turner,
Mike Wallace and
Oprah Winfrey

Larry King also appears in the video:
Making a Better World: What is Your Responsibility to the Community?

Related Links:
Larry King Now
CNN Specials

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Larry King
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Larry King Interview (page: 2 / 5)

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  Larry King

You say you'd never spoken into a microphone before you went to Miami. Really? After all those years you wanted to be on radio?

Larry King: It was all fantasy. We'd have parties in the club room, I'd be the emcee. I'd participate in school plays. I was in the Speaker's Bureau, but I'd never spoken into a microphone for the purpose of going out over the air. And this was a test he gave me. He gave me news to read. I'd never read a newscast. And he had a tape machine, a big Ampex. I was nervous. I sat down and did my thing for five minutes.

He said, "Well, you sound very good. I'll tell you what, I'm going to give you a suggestion. I don't have any openings, but a lot of people come and go here, we're a very small station. Why don't you hang around? You can clean up the place. We'll give you a little money every week, and the first guy that quits, you've got the job." I literally lived at that station. I was there day and night. I would help sweep up. I would also learn how to rip and read, and learned news. And I would go to the Miami Stadium and watch the Marlins play, and watch the guys do the baseballs games. Everywhere I could go, anything I could do, I was there.

[ Key to Success ] Preparation

One day, a guy named Tom Baer quit. I'll never forget it. He quit because he figured out life was not treating him too fairly. He was making $60 a week and his alimony was 65. So Tom Baer was living off the fruits off trees and he figured at the end of the year he was minus $60. So Tom Bear quits and it's Friday afternoon.

Marshall Simmonds called me in and said, "Larry..." -- my name was Larry Zeiger -- he said, "Larry, Tom Baer just quit. And here's your shift. You start Monday morning. You're on from nine to noon with a disc jockey show. You play music, you talk. And then in the afternoon, you'll do two newscasts and one sportscast, and you'll work every day from nine to five, $55 a week."

Music, news, sports? You did it all.

Larry King Interview Photo
Larry King: All the radio stations did that. Rock and roll was just coming in. WQAM was just starting to play formatted rock, the Top 40. May 1, 1957 was my first day on the air. I don't sleep all weekend. I pick out my theme song: Les Elgart, "Swinging Down the Lane." I am scared to death, but it's finally come, my moment. I was 22 and a half years old.

Marshall Simmonds calls me in. It's like five to nine, there's a newscast at nine, and I go on at five after. And he said to me, "Wonderful. Are you ready?" I said, "I'm ready." And he said, "'What name are you going to use?" I said, "What do you mean?" He said, "You can't use Zeiger. It's too ethnic and people won't remember how to spell it. You've got to get another name." I had never thought of another name. He had the Miami Herald open and there was an ad for King's Wholesale Liquors on Washington Avenue. He said, "How about Larry King?" I said, "Sounds fine to me." He said, "Okay, you're Larry King. Get in there, baby. Good luck."

I go in, I sit down, cue my record up -- Les Elgart, "Swinging Down the Lane" -- and my hands are shaking. This is, by the way, the last time I was ever nervous, was that first day. And I'm really scared. Now I start the theme music. I turn on the microphone, I lower the theme music and nothing comes out. Nothing! I turn off the microphone, I turn up the record, and in that one minute of all you're hearing at home is a record being faded, I am realizing that I don't have the guts. In other words, I have everything else I wanted, but I don't have the chutzpah to say, "I'm a broadcaster." This was a pipe dream, and I really in that minute saw everything going away.

[ Key to Success ] Courage

Marshall Simmonds -- God rest him, he died last year -- kicked open the door to the control room, and screamed, "This is a communications business! Communicate!". And he slammed the door. I did something then, almost 40 years ago, only 22 years old, that I still do now. I decided I had nothing to lose, so I was just myself.

I turned on the microphone, turned down the record and I said, "Good morning, this is my first day ever on radio. All my life I wanted to be in radio. I prayed for this moment. I was just given a new name. My name is Larry King. It's the first time I've ever said that name and I am scared to death. But the general manager just kicked open the door and he said that this is a communications business. So bear with me, I'm going to try to communicate." I never was nervous again.

[ Key to Success ] Courage

Never nervous again?

Larry King: Never on radio.

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This page last revised on Mar 01, 2011 19:10 EST
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