Larry King, Breezy Interviewer of the Famous and Infamous, Dies at 87

Mr. King had what one writer called a face made for radio. It was gaunt and bony, with a prominent nose, receding hair, thin lips and beady eyes behind oversize black-rimmed glasses. He was raptor thin, a strict dieter since a 1987 heart attack and quintuple bypass surgery. In his trademark shirt sleeves and suspenders, he slouched in a chair on his elbows and peered over a desk at his guests. His voice, a raspy rumble, delivered bursts of irreverence and humor, but his questions were usually brief and friendly.

The topics were anything: politics, crime, religion, sports, business, news events like O.J. Simpson’s long-running 1995 murder trial, with its endless players and analysts. But he rarely plumbed subjects deeply, and he was accused by critics of pandering to the sensational, like the deaths of Anna Nicole Smith and Michael Jackson, by reminiscing with their confidants.

Mainstream journalists scoffed at his lean treatments and nice-guy techniques. But his audiences and sponsors were faithful.

After decades of success, however, “Larry King Live” began losing its high ratings and A-list bookings, as many viewers turned to partisan voices like MSNBC’s liberal Rachel Maddow and Fox’s conservative Sean Hannity. By 2010, Mr. King’s audience had fallen to a fraction of his peak years. He stepped down in December, and CNN replaced him with “Piers Morgan Tonight.”

In 2012, Mr. King migrated to the internet with a show streamed by on Ora TV, Hulu and RT (a United States version of Russia Today). The show was called “Larry King Now.” But it was hardly the same.

Larry King was born Lawrence Harvey Zeiger in Brooklyn on Nov. 19, 1933, the second son of Edward and Jennie Gitlitz Zeiger, immigrants from Austria and Belarus. Their first son, Irwin, had died earlier. A younger brother, Martin, became a lawyer.

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