The Downs and Way-Ups of Larry King

12/17/2010 08:53 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Lea Lane Author, Travel Tales I Couldn't Put in the Guidebooks

I just watched the last show of Larry King Live after 25 years on CNN. The sendoff included Bill Maher and Ryan Seacrest as co-hosts. Arnold Schwarzenegger proclaimed "Larry King Day" in California. President Obama appeared and called him a "giant of broadcasting." Donald Trump, was there, and Regis Philbin, Suze Orman, all the network broadcasters, Barbara Walters, Dr. Phil, a joking Bill Clinton, a singing Tony Bennett, and King's family.

I remember Larry King from the late 1950s in Miami Beach when he hosted a radio show from a booth in Pumpernick's restaurant, interviewing celebs who were playing the clubs in the glam hotels along Collins Avenue.

Sammy Davis and Frank Sinatra and Jerry Lewis and Peggy Lee appeared in glitzy venues like The Fontainbleau's Boom Boom Room. And some of these celebs would cool off after hours talking to Larry.

Larry was all over South Florida then, day and night, his Brooklyn accent a familiar sound as we drove along in our convertibles. And when I was at the University of Florida in the early 1960s, he would occasionally appear at fraternity parties on Saturday nights, walking around talking to someone or other in the back of the room. I wasn't sure why, and what he was doing.

And then something happened in the early 70s, and he was fired, booked for larceny, and eventually cleared. There has always been a whiff of a scoundrel there. Something off the charts, but tamped down. The many marriages, the wiseacre asides, the red suspenders, the lazy style that was considered, after awhile, to be brilliant.

As the years passed Larry King pulled himself up, up, up and all of a sudden I was hearing his deep voice on the radio wherever I was in the country, and then seeing him on CNN, and he was writing a column in USA Today, and writing books.

I bumped into him two other times, besides when I was in college. One was in the late 1980s when I was living with my boyfriend/boss and we were looking at apartments in DC. And Larry King was in the hall of one building, with a retinue, and I was tempted to say, "Hey, I knew you when." And wisely decided against it.

And another time, a couple of years later, at the 20th anniversary of Walt Disney World, when three thousand of us were invited to take over the place for the weekend, he was reporting from the scene in the press area, where I sat, writing for my local magazine.

When I watched his last Larry King Live show and listened to the accolades I remembered how he was able to reinvent himself, through focus and ambition and talent.

My take from the last show is that even if you stumble, you can gain your footing and move way, way ahead.

In Larry's case, it's been really good to be the King.