Added on January 25, 2021
jefferson graham , larry king , newsletter
Some of Larry King’s answers to me in 2012 were so exasperating, I called him back the next day to see if he wanted to revise them.
“Nope,” he said. He stood by every word.
The occasion was my “Talking Your Tech” series, which I did for USA TODAY from 2011-2016, where I interviewed celebrities about their take on tech. King, after a long 25 year career at CNN, had spent a year and a half in retirement, got bored, and was able to cut a deal to bring his talk show to a new arena—the internet and Hulu.
That was about the only tech angle we got out of King, who died this week at 87.
But that’s okay. If you watch the interview, which I just recut into an expanded version that hasn’t been seen before, you see a man totally comfortable in his skin, who seemed to enjoy talking with me, even though he knew some of his answers were driving me crazy.
He was such a savvy interviewer, and as he has said, a curious soul, that he casually flipped the lid on me several times to start asking me the questions.
So what got me nuts?
We were there to talk tech.
But as King told me, “I’m not a gadget man.”
He had a flip phone, no computer, he didn’t read his e-mail, nor did he have any interest in doing so. He didn’t believe in texting, but he was, of course, happy to be back on the air again, via streaming.
I loved King’s CNN talk show and I wish there was still a place for it in today’s world. Yes, he asked softball questions and didn’t research, but that’s OK. The show was comfortable. I liked hearing the general back and forth between celebrities, politicians and newsmakers on his show. I hate that the 6 p.m. timeslot on CNN is now indistinguishable from the 5 and 7. For the last 4 years, it’s been like, “Do I have to listen to stories about Trump at all times?” There was a place for a good news/talk show on CNN.
King didn’t research, because he wanted to be the proxy for the viewer, asking the questions they would ask, without knowing the backstory. That wouldn’t work for everyone. But it worked for him. Except when he didn’t. Like when he asked Jerry Seinfeld how it felt to have his show canceled by NBC. (It wasn’t.)
King wrote a column for USA TODAY that ended in 2001, but I had no interaction with him during his time at “the nation’s newspaper.” He sent in his stream of consciousness tidbits to editors at the main offices near Washington, DC, while I was always based in Los Angeles.
When I did meet him, for the first time, at his TV studio in Glendale for the “Larry King NOW” TV show, he told me how it had been built to resemble his home and how good it felt to be back in action. “I want to be in the mix,” he said. “I love this.”
Talking tech, however, was another story.
When I asked about e-mail, he told me his then wife read them aloud to him. He said she handled his tweets. This is what I called the next day to confirm. Really? His wife was basically performing secretarial services? In 2012?
Cut to 2021 and his Twitter feed, @kingsthings has over 2 million followers. In reading his musings, my hunch is that nothing changed. He may have dictated some of them, but I don’t believe he personally typed any Tweet.
Still, watch the video, (click the link please) and see King come alive when he flips the switch and starts asking me about how the internet actually worked, and my thoughts on taking a time machine.
In those few minutes, you can see the genius of King on display.
Originally published in Jefferson Graham’s newsletter. To subscribe: click http://jeffersongraham.substack.com