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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 Interview (page: 4 / 5)

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  Larry King

It sounds like your childhood friendships gave you an enormous amount of self-confidence.

Larry King: It gave me confidence in that friendship. However, it also makes you prey for people who want to take advantage of you, because you're kind of an easy mark. That's another aspect of it, because I was on relief after my father died.

We didn't have any money, and I was nine and a half, going to be 10, and my brother was six and we were on relief for two years. Now it's called welfare, then it was called relief. New York City bought my first pair of glasses. Went to Bush Opticians, it was wire frames, that's all you could get. The relief men would come and inspect the refrigerator, see what kind of meat your mother was buying. Yeah, because you couldn't buy -- you weren't supposed to buy Grade A meat, because you buy Choice. You don't buy Grade A, you don't buy top. And they used to yell at her, "Don't do this," because she used to give her children better. Or she'd take in sewing on the side and try to hide it. You know, hide the sewing that she would take in to make some extra dollars.

She must have been tremendously important to you.

Larry King Interview Photo
Larry King: I'll tell you what kind of woman she was. Maybe I've been searching for her all my life, but she was a hell of a woman. Came over with seven sisters from Russia. She lost a son before I was born. Burst appendix. Died on the way to the hospital. He was six years old, but I think he was in fourth grade, like he was operating at a higher level. He was a prodigy, and he was in some advanced school. Never went to kindergarten, never went to first grade.

I was born a year later, then my brother was born. Then she lost her husband, and lost her mother a week after her husband died. She never remarried. After we got off welfare, she worked hard and raised her two kids. I moved her down to Miami, and she died in Miami 20 years ago.

You said that you own circumstances could have been a lot better. The implication there is that you ought to be thinking in terms of the advantages you have, the assets you've got, rather than the liabilities.

Larry King: This is hindsight. We did not look around at 18 and say, "Boy, don't we have a great childhood?" In retrospect, we had a great childhood, friends for life,. We knew we were having a good time. We knew something was kind of special. But you're right.

Larry King Interview Photo
I didn't have a father, so my friend Herbie's father, Morris, who would walk with me and tell me not to be in broadcasting, became like a semi-father to me. I really wanted a father. So I am a father-father when I'm a father to someone. I know what a father means because I didn't have a father.

So, if you have a father and your father's close to you and cares about you, use him! He's a wonderful asset. Mothers are fantastic assets too, and they're different. They're biologically different, temperamentally different. They look at things a little differently.

I remember my father. I was only nine and a half, but I remember. I remember his laugh, I remember the way he smelled, I remember how he felt. He was a real trombenike kind of guy. He died telling a joke, which doesn't surprise me at all. If you're lucky enough to have parents who care about you, or step-parents who care about you, some older figure who puts a stake in you... That's why I like to put a stake in people, because I know people helped me. Tony Bookbinder helped me a lot. Herbie Cohen's father helped me a lot.

Can adversity be an asset?

Larry King: Yeah, if you use it right.

In the early '70s I lost all the jobs I had. There was a guy named Louis Wolfson, was a financier and he got in trouble with the law and he was sentenced to jail and tried to get out, and I was supposed to try to set up a meeting with him with Nixon and I never did it. And all this broke in the newspapers, and I lost my job, and he went to jail, and the district attorney lost his job. And it was like a two-year story, and I was off the air for three years, and then eventually I got back. But that come-down -- and I didn't handle money well, and I was in debt all the time -- that come down taught me. The day I went back on the air, I told myself, "I will never, ever goof again." I'll never get myself in the kind of situation where I could owe people money, or scared of when the phone rings, and stuff like that.

[ Key to Success ] Perseverance

So I hired people to handle money for me. That adversity helped, because I changed my whole lifestyle. See, I was a big man in a small town.

It was heady to me that Lou Wolfson actually called me. I knew Richard Nixon, that I could actually get a meeting with Richard Nixon! That was heady stuff to a Jewish kid from Brooklyn who's suddenly driving around in a Cadillac. So even though I was making 50,000, I was living 80,000. And eventually that catches up with you. So when it all caught up with me and I lost everything and then got back on, I knew that if I could get back on I would never, never lose it.

Were you in agony doing those three years when you were off?

Larry King: Yeah, I did all sorts of odd things. I was a PR director at a race track at a race track in Louisiana. I still had some friends. I wrote some articles for Esquire magazine. Joe Namath was great to me. Everybody was after Joe Namath 'cause he wasn't doing interviews. He liked me, so he had me do this piece for Esquire , and they gave me $25,000. I got the chance to go to training camp with him, and did this long piece with Namath, which was a big help to me.

Larry King Interview Photo
I did odd little jobs, but I always knew I'd get back. I was in San Francisco, where I had a friend, Don Farber. I was staying at his house, so I didn't have to pay rent. This was only 22 years ago. I would go to San Francisco every day, knock on doors. Finally I got hired at KGO to do University of California Berkeley football and baseball. I would do color.

My mother wasn't feeling too well back in Miami. I had two months 'til the job started, so I drove back to Miami to spend some time with my mother and I stayed in my mother's apartment. I got a call one day from the general manager of the radio station where I used to work, saying, "Let bygones be bygones. Why don't you come back?" I came back, and I came back to television, I came back to writing a newspaper column, it all came back. And I stayed in Miami, never went back to San Francisco.

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