So Larry King will be quitting his landmark cable chatfest in the fall. I can’t say that I ever watched a complete episode of Larry King Live during its 25-year run on CNN, and his column for USA TODAY, published weekly from 1982 to 2001, was a popular target for parodies — and homages, too. (Its three-dot spirit lives on, appropriately enough, via Twitter.)
But whatever King became in his later years on television, he was truly great in his original medium — radio. In fact, he may have saved my life once. Let me explain.
Back in the summer of 1986, I had a job as a bank courier. During one late-night run, I was fighting off sleep behind the wheel of the van when the A.M. dial stumbled upon King’s radio show. He was interviewing Albert Brooks, and it was fantastic — smart, well-paced and hilarious. Like Johnny Carson and other great interviewers, King was unobtrusive, and he had a knack for asking questions that landed right in his subject’s wheelhouse.
Of course, a sharp wit like Brooks would be a great guest for any host, but King’s interview was special. This flawless bit of radio kept me awake until I spotted a truck stop and pulled in for a much-needed cup of coffee.
So thanks, Larry King, for keeping the company vehicle out of a ditch somewhere between Charlotte and Raleigh that summer night 24 years ago.