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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: 5 / 5)

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  Larry King

Why is it that you, Larry King, ended up talking to heads of state, world figures, presidential candidates, and somebody else from the old neighborhood went to the electric chair?

Larry King: Eddie Cantor once said years ago, "The only difference between me and Louie Lepke (who went to the electric chair, and they grew up together. Louie Lepke founded Murder, Inc.) is that I could sing, and Louie couldn't. So when we went down to the corner, I sang and someone threw me a dime. Louie had to rob the apple." That was so profound to me. The gift was the blessing of talent. That's a gift, and I had that gift. I don't know what I would have been if I didn't have this gift. I mean, I couldn't tell you what I would have been. I had no particular skills. I knew I was bright, and I was funny. Maybe I'd have been a comic. But I don't know what I would have been if I didn't have a gift.

Larry King Interview Photo
My ethic was such that I don't think I would have stolen. But people say, "Never say never." Les Miserables is one of my favorite stories. That's why I hate moralists when they say, "Thou shalt not steal." A good rule, right? Let's say my daughter has a fever of 104, and the only thing that will help her is this antibiotic. And the drug store is closed and I can't reach the druggist. And I see that antibiotic through the window, and I break in. That's wrong, but there's a higher morality there. We were raised with a pretty high moral code, high sense of loyalty, high degree of stick-to-it-iveness, a high degree of care.

Now Tony Mancuso, who went to the chair, had that same sense of loyalty, perverted. He would not rat. Squealing is the worst. That is still bad to me. I'm still offended by the guy who talks. That's the code of the streets, "You do not talk." It's very hard to explain this, but I understand A.C. Cowlings, because I'd have done that for Herbie. All I would want is the truth. I would want Herbie to tell me. "Did you harm your wife?" And I would expect him to tell me the truth. "You need a car? You need a witness? You're my friend."

What do you say to kids who don't grow up in neighborhoods like yours, who don't have that kind of support from friends? How do they get to be Larry King?

Larry King Interview Photo
Larry King: I could be glib and say, "In some cases, you might grow up in a better atmosphere than that. Maybe your father doesn't die. Maybe you go on to college and get a much better background than I ever had, reading the great books." I never attended a day of college in my life, so all my learning was self-learned. I wasn't a very good student. I was until my father died, and then I lost interest. I think I used his death, but I lost interest.

What I would tell kids today is: persevere. This is a very tough business and it's a business everybody wants to get into. Communications is the number one major in America today. We know that CNN had 25,000 applicants for five intern jobs this summer. 25,000 applicants for five intern jobs. People would pay money to work at CNN.

When I broke in, in 1957, you didn't have to have gone to college. It was wide open. Now it's a very "in" field. So you're up against strong competition. So the first thing I would say is, it doesn't matter where you grew up. If you grew up in Indiana, or Mississippi, or New York, or you grew up poor, or rich, you've got to want it. You've got want it real -- every one of my friends who are successful wanted. If they didn't know what field they wanted, they knew they wanted to be somebody. That great Marlon Brando line in On The Waterfront , "I could have been a contender!" We wanted to be that. We had a high ratio of success orientation. One of my jokes is, even our criminals went to the chair. We didn't have guys do two to five. Come on! We didn't have no petty larceny. These guys were heavyweights. Tony Mancuso died in the electric chair. He was one of our heroes. I mean, he was a gutsy guy.

[ Key to Success ] Passion

You've got to know you want it. This is true in any field. If you think, "Well, I think I might want to be a broadcaster," then don't do it, because the competition is vicious. I have great friends in the field, I love people in the field, and there's nobody in the field, nobody in broadcasting who doesn't like it. Nobody.

I know guys in medicine who are disappointed in medicine. Guys in law who would give it up. Guys in business who say, "I wish I could do something else." I never knew a broadcaster that wanted to make a mid-life career switch. There's something about it. It's an art form that is always as good. In other words, I'm having as much fun today as I did when I made $55 a week, because it is as much fun. I mean, the names are bigger, the show is worldwide, but basically, I get a chance -- and any broadcaster gets this, if you're co-hosting a show, if you're broadcasting a game, if you're doing anything -- you've got a royal pass onto life in the broadcasting business. If you're a disk jockey in Biloxi, Mississippi making a hundred dollars a week, you're having as good a time as me.

[ Key to Success ] Passion

Well, thank you Larry King. It's been a real pleasure.

Larry King: For me too. Thanks.

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