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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:
CNN
IMDb
The Larry King Cardiac Foundation

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I later talked to Arthur Godfrey a lot, and did Arthur Godfrey's show, and he would be on my show. The only other time I was nervous was my first night on television. I was never nervous again because I learned something that day. And if more people could learn this, it would be the best advice I'd give you. As Godfrey later put it into better words, he said to me, "The only secret in this business is there is no secret. Just be yourself. If yourself is good enough, you're going to be good enough. If it ain't good enough, you can't be someone else."

[ Key to Success ] Preparation


Once I knew that, instead of being nervous, every day became expectancy. I couldn't wait for nine o'clock. I couldn't wait for that red light to go on. I was a glutton. If they asked me, "You want to do two shifts?" I did two shifts. I did sports, I did news, because, instead of being nervous, I loved it.

Larry King Interview Photo
My first night on television was only three years later. It was May of 1960. The radio show had really gotten popular. I was doing a morning show on another station. I was doing a lot of funny stuff, and I thought I would be a funny morning disk jockey. There was no Don Imus then, but that's who I thought I'd be.

There was a fancy Jewish delicatessen called Pumpernick's, and the owner liked me, his name was Charlie Bookbinder. He wanted a mid-morning coffee klatch show where I'd interview people. We didn't book any guests, I would just interview whoever came in. I interviewed waitresses, and waiters, and just people hanging out.

One day Bobby Darin walked in. He was singing across the street at the Deauville, and I interviewed him. I couldn't prepare for it, but I got to like that. And then Hoffa came in, and a lot of famous people came in and the show really caught on. The Miami Herald gave us big write-ups, so I got a television show. It was called Miami Undercover. Sunday night at 11:30 on Channel 10. There were a lot of write-ups in the paper: "Young radio star makes television debut tonight."

Larry King Interview Photo
My first night on TV, and now I'm nervous. This is the second time I'm nervous, because I realize that I'll say whatever I want to say, but I can't control it. The camera came on me, and I said, "Good evening." I'm scared, but I'm not panicky. And I just said, "We're going to have debates every Sunday," and explained the format. "And tonight is..." and I introduced my guests. The subject was, should Communist China be admitted to the UN? Two lawyers were debating. They were on the left and the right, and I was in the middle.

But the producers had made a major mistake. They gave me a swivel chair with no back, this was supposed to look hip. What happens , I turned to my left and I just kept swiveling. I could not stop the swivel, I would go to one and have to grab myself to stop. So I swiveled the entire show. I was also smoking at the same time. You smoked on television then all the time. So my reviews said, "The swiveling, smoker! It could start a whole new concept!" It was just the wrong chair.

That show really took off because Gleason came to Miami. He did that show and stayed all night with me. We stayed till five in the morning. He didn't like the set, so we broke into the general manager's office and changed the set. Gleason changed the set, he changed the lighting, and he became like a mentor of mine. So I had Gleason helping me on television, Godfrey on radio.

Larry King Interview Photo
What was it about your background --- the people you were surrounded by growing up, your family, your friends --- that allowed you to realize that vastly important lesson in broadcasting? That there is no secret. What gave you the chutzpah to realize that if you're good enough, you're okay?

Larry King: That's a very good question. In fact, it's one of the questions I'm almost never asked. I have lifelong friends, and we ponder it a lot. My oldest friend, Herbie, has been a friend since I was nine and a half years old. I have other friends from when I was 12 years old. Herbie's in Washington, other friends are in Los Angeles. So I've had bonds for over 50 years with people.

We were all in the same neighborhood. Ernie Kovacs was in this neighborhood, a lot of federal judges, a lot of people came out of this neighborhood. There was something very different about Brooklyn. We were an island unto ourselves. We were very Jewish. The whole neighborhood was Jewish and Italian: synagogues and churches. I didn't know what a Protestant was.


Your neighbor was your neighbor, no one ever moved, no one ever got divorced. And we had a value system that dealt with a kind of loyalty, even a perverse loyalty. By that I mean, I know that I could walk out of here today, run into someone from 30 years ago and if he was in trouble, I'd help him. There was a bonding developed.

[ Key to Success ] Integrity


There's a little story I'll tell you. It shows you what kind of bonding it is.


Fred Wilpon, who was one of our friends, went on to be owner of the New York Mets. Owner of the New York Mets! He was an outstanding pitcher, he and Sandy (Koufax) are great friends. He goes on to own the Mets. Lenny Lefkowitz, another one of the guys, goes on to be sales manager of the New York Post. A regular working job, he sells advertising. I'm at a Met game now, and Herbie was with me, and we're up in Fred Wilpon's box, watching the Mets play. And we look down, and there's Lenny. Haven't seen him in 20 years. Lenny's walking with a couple of guys. Lenny looks up and he waves. And Fred Wilpon leaned out of the box and just yelled, "Lenny! Lenny! You paid?! You paid?!" He was mad, he's banging his fist. "You don't pay, Lenny! I own this team!" And the whole -- "I own this team! You don't pay!"

[ Key to Success ] The American Dream


So the guys in the neighborhood didn't have to pay.

Larry King: That's still true. The guys in the neighborhood don't pay, because all of us would be that way. "You call me!"


If I do something caring for a friend, I have no doubt in my mind they would do it for me. People I've tended to bind to in life -- I've made a lot of mistakes. I've bonded with some people who use you, and some people that take advantage of you. But I was raised in that culture in Brooklyn -- which is part Jewish I guess, and part the culture of Brooklyn -- which was, giving was better than receiving. Much better to give than receive. It's joyful to give. And a sense that I know that if I give to Herbie if he's down, he would give to me when I was down.

[ Key to Success ] Integrity


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