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Larry King: Can't Take Brooklyn Out of the Boy

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If cryogenic freezing works and Larry King beats death, he's heading back to Bensonhurst. That's what he told www.nynatives.com in a recent interview. If all goes as planned, he told us he'll be walking down the street in Brooklyn two hundred years from now and "they'll probably just say [Larry] where've you been?" Get ready Jetsons!

In case you have no idea why this matters, the legendary broadcaster caused quite a stir when he shared his cold storage plans with dinner guests, including Conan O'Brian, Tyra Banks, Quincy Jones and Russell Brand during his new CNN special Dinner with the Kings.

By the way, planning an interview with Larry King can leave New Yorkers a little confused. Days before we spoke to Larry, conversations about December's New York Natives Native Icon interview invariably sounded like this: "Oh, Larry King, that's great, he's interviewing you? "No, we're interviewing him." "So, he's interviewing you?" "No, we're interviewing him." Yes, think Seinfeld with a twist...

After all, what comes to mind when YOU think of Larry King? Legendary broadcaster. Check. Those thousands of interviews you've watched on CNN. Check. What else? How about that powerful gravelly voice, or that kind and generous demeanor on camera that belies an underlying tone of 'don't mess with me.' Maybe you're smiling over his fashionable suspenders. Or could it be those glasses that come to mind; a necessity that are now almost something of a conversational tool. If it's the glasses you should know New York gave him his first pair. "My father died when I was nine and a half. We were on relief for two years," Larry explained. "They call it welfare now but it was relief then... I never forgot the generosity of New York."

Take away the red carpet, the microphone and L.A. and Larry King is a die-hard New York Native from Bensonhurst, who graciously afforded us a conversation about "the neighborhood" and a city with its own true grit. "New Yorkers work harder," Larry told us. "Maybe cause there were so many immigrants; even our gangsters worked harder."

Our Native Icon left Brooklyn in 1957, but he has family still in town and he's back often. Not surprisingly, Larry has some opinions on the place. "Williamsburg is hot, I can't believe that," he shared. "Coney Island looks the same. The train still goes on the train line, down 86th Street... Brooklyn's the same, it's just more popular and home values are tremendous... We lived in a little attic apartment on the top floor of a three story house."

Larry King was born in the Brownsville section and raised with his brother in Bensonhurst. He attended Lafayette High School, an institution that seemed to breed a generation of talent. "Sandy Koufax went to the same school as me. I graduated two years ahead of Sandy," recalled Larry. "Vic Damone went to that school; John Franco; A lot of writers, painters. Lafayette has a distinguished Alumni."

Larry's childhood landscape, just blocks on the N train from the nation's most famous urban metropolis of Manhattan, rings like a Rockwell tale with an edge.

"The thing about Brooklyn and I've discussed this with Mario Cuomo who is from Queens. Queens is different from Brooklyn. We were an island," says Larry. "We always felt we were different. We were loyal. If you meet someone from the neighborhood, fifty years could go by but it feels like yesterday. Conversations begin easily. Nobody ever moved when we lived in Brooklyn. Nobody ever heard the word divorce. The neighborhood was your neighborhood and you had all the clubs that played basketball and softball and things like that. That's the Bensonhurst area, still much the same. A lot of Russian Jews there now, lot of Italians. I go back there every other year, wrote a book about it. I've taken my boys to the house I grew up in. Taken them to the site of Ebbets Field, where the Dodgers used to play. They go to all the Dodger games and they play Little League ball. I have infused them with New York spirit."

If you're reading this and you're not from New York we'll give you a hint about what Larry means about that New York spirit. Think Steve Buscemi, Jay-Z, Harvey Keitel, Mary Tyler Moore, Woody Allen, Rhea Perlman, Lorraine Bracco, Joe Torre, Judge Judy and Alan Arkin. All New York Natives, all born in Brooklyn. It's a sense of loyalty, toughness, generosity, survivorship, humor and chutzpah.

While Larry may be based in Los Angeles many of his interests still align with his New York heritage. Today, he's one of several investors interested in purchasing a piece of the Dodgers now in L.A. with a lifetime wish to be "just a miniscule owner of the team" he grew up with. Few people can say they watched Jackie Robinson play his first game, but Larry King age 14 was there at Ebbets Field in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn the day Robinson took the field and made history in the world of baseball and an indelible impression in Larry's young mind. "I never understood why Blacks weren't allowed in baseball. It was always confusing to me why baseball was whites only. It was a big thrill to see him (Robinson) run on the field." Larry interviewed Robinson twice later in his broadcast career.

He is also the spokesperson for Brooklyn Water Bagels and in return has received a piece of the Beverly Hills franchise, which is thriving. "Brooklyn water bagels is a concept where they can manufacture water equivalent of the water in Brooklyn and New York which we all know is the best city water in America which is why the bagels taste so good," says Larry. "I was there this morning. And everybody raves these are bagels they grew up with. So if you're from New York it brings back memories and if you're not you really appreciate what a real bagel is."

No longer residing in the city, when he is in town, Larry stays at the Loews Regency. We asked Larry about the hotel's famous power breakfast. Larry made us keenly aware breakfast at the Loews Regency is about power brokers not pots of coffee. Nonetheless, with a little native chutzpah ourselves we squeezed out of him how he starts the day while rubbing shoulders with the mayors, celebrities and other dealmakers of this town. Here it is folks: Cheerios with Blueberries, burnt corn muffin, large iced coffee. Power it up.

We can't wait to watch Larry's next CNN special, which is on heart disease health, something close to his "heart" as you probably know. It airs on CNN Feb 19th in conjunction with American Heart Month. His guests in the special include Barbra Streisand, Fmr. VP Dick Cheney, and Dana Carvey.

This post was previously published on New York Natives.