Larry King announced he's retiring as host of CNN's Larry King Live this fall after 25 years. According to the transcript of his announcement on CNN's web site, Larry King Live holds the Guinness Book of World Records title for the longest running show with the same host in the same time slot. Wikipedia says he has conducted 50,000 interviews.
I will always think of Larry King as the syndicated, all night radio host in the late 1970's and mid 80's that stayed up with America's truckers and anyone else awake because of work, love or worry deep into the night.
I was one of those my senior year at college while working as a reporter for a local radio station and assigned to the Saturday morning broadcast beginning at 6:00 a.m. For that year, 50,000 farmers in Upstate New York - as many people as Larry has interviewed - would get their news from me, which I would get from the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle and the newswires beginning when I arrived at the station around 4:30 a.m. - usually, directly from the fraternity parties. The overnight engineer would be at the controls, the morning DJ, who played in a band 100 miles away on Friday nights, would be asleep on the couch in reception and Larry King's show would be piping through the speakers in the ceiling with the sound - or at least the image - of him leaning over the microphone, chain smoking (which he did in those days), his finger on the pulse of the people.
"Fort Worth, Texas you're on the air."
"Hello Salt Lake, you're on the air."
I have always wondered what the Larry King legend would have become if he had remained purely associated with that overnight radio program. He became a celebrity, interviewing celebrities. I walked pass him once sitting at his power table in some Washington D.C. restaurant and I believe if I'd had the opportunity to share we could have bonded over the fact that I listened to him as a college student earning beer money working nights at WGVA in Geneva, New York: a square, cinder-block bunker on a hill with an antenna and broken office furniture.
"Geneva, New York you're on the air."
As media experiences go, it was formative. It is, perhaps, why I love the internet, especially the (real) people parts.
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