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November 20th, 2010 by Dr. Phil

Larry King: The End of an Era

Larry blog picI first appeared on Larry King’s show on CNN over a decade ago, back when I was still appearing regularly on The Oprah Winfrey Show. He graciously would bring me on to talk about a book I had written, or have me help analyze some breaking news event or a tragic or controversial event that had taken place somewhere in the world. I was a pretty frequent guest, and last week, I had the honor — and I mean it was truly an honor — to appear on his final CNN show. 

It was a star-studded lineup featuring everyone from President Barack Obama, to former President Bill Clinton to Regis Philbin. Bill Maher and Ryan Seacrest were there, as were Donald Trump, Suze Orman, Barbara Walters, and of course, CNN’s Anderson Cooper. Tony Bennett sang a tribute to Larry. The three major network anchors — Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer and Brian Williams — made a rare joint appearance to bid their farewells. And, by the way, if you want to get a look at the next great King, be sure to watch the end of the show where he introduces his kids, Chance and Cannon. I especially want you to watch Cannon, all of 10 years old, do an impersonation of his father. As I said on the show, “I’ll tell you what, we have met the talent here in the family.”

You probably don’t have to be told about Larry’s significance in the history of broadcasting. Between his radio career and his stint on television, he’s done about 50,000 interviews. He’s been doing his show at CNN for the last 25 years. Name anyone famous or infamous, and that person has probably been on Larry’s show. He was able to get most any guest he wanted to get — from presidents to celebrities to UFO experts.

The fact was that Larry’s show was a comfortable, safe place for people to come and basically say what they wanted. The conversation between him and a guest was unhurried. Larry usually asked one-sentence questions that cut through everything and got to the heart of the matter. Television critics sometimes said his questions were softballs — but night after night, he pulled things out of people that no other interviewer could. Just think about the night he got the elusive Marlon Brando to appear on his set, and it all ended with the actor planting a thank-you smack on Larry’s lips. Or how about the 1993 show when he persuaded Vice President Al Gore and Ross Perot to appear together for a debate? That one show drew 20 million viewers, CNN’s largest audience ever for a regularly scheduled program.

As I told him on his final show, I was simply amazed at his ability to hang up his suspenders and walk away from the spotlight with such grace. The fact is that all of us in this business will someday have to walk away. As I said that night, “We’ll all be going home. We’ll all run out of things to say.” I only can hope that when my time comes, I will say my goodbyes the way he did — with such dignity and compassion.

Larry & DPMMuch of the cable television landscape has changed since Larry first arrived at CNN. It’s now mostly dominated by very partisan, very aggressive and very opinionated hosts. Larry was not among today’s current cadre of “gotcha journalists” who embrace more of an ambush interview strategy than an information-gathering approach. Yet he still seemed to bring out the information needed to understand a story. 

Larry will be missed. I will continue to see him, of course, as we are friends and live not far apart. But his antique microphone that sat so prominently on his desk will be retired.  As I sat with Larry in the last minutes of the last show on the last night that he ever would sit at that desk behind that mic, I felt a sense of history. It’s a history I so appreciate getting to be even a small part of. 

By the way, if you missed his last show, you can look at highlights here.

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6 Responses to “Larry King: The End of an Era”

  1. Scentsy says:

    It is sad to see the classics like Larry King and Oprah leaving our homes, but I am grateful, positive inspirational television like Dr. Phill will still be around. In fact, I just watched your episode where the 19 year old was dating a 41 year old man. We have a very similar situation in our home with our 19 year old dating a 33 year old. It has brought frustration and tears to all of us, but your episode helped us realize what we can, or should I say, can’t do. Thanks for making a positive difference for so many families. :)

  2. Blgspc says:

    Larry King literally set the standard for really GREAT investigative TV Journalism! There is no one EVEN CLOSE to Larry King when it comes to capturing information with poise and dignity. I will miss him, always. I know one thing, I sure would hate to be following Larry in that spot, because someone has some BIG SHOES to fill!
    A special thanks to Larry for always honoring himself and his profession by approaching and executing every situation with worth, respect and nobility. We’ll Miss You Larry!
    Thanks, as well, to Dr. Phil for pointing out the differences and the things that truly made Larry King so great! There will be a hole where Larry King was in television journalism.

    T.T.F.N. Larry!


  3. Alice Stephenson says:

    “And That’s the Way It Was,” Dr. Phil. I forget who that’s a quote of so I’ll have to Gichi Gichi Google or Voila Bada Bing that after this. For those of us who consider you the rock star of psychiatry it is nice for you to share who your rock stars are, Dr. Phil. Definitely, Larry King has stood the test of time with dignity & grace, as you say. (That y’all are friends says a lot about you, too, Dr. Phil.) Like Oprah, I use to want to be a news caster… inspired by David Brinkley & Walter Cronkite. Barbara Walters inspired Oprah & I like her & Oprah as well. That never happened nor did my other passion of being a disease detective although my Business Law Professor did write a nice letter of recommendation for me to go to UTSW Medical Scientist Training. I never did yet I still have the letter. I just returned from a Christmas Light Stroll & saw this link on Facebook so here I be. Dr. Phil, glad you got to be part of the honor of being on Larry King’s last show.

  4. FosterBoys says:

    Whenever I see Larry King, I’m reminded of the time his guest was medical marijuana pioneer, Robert Randall, and Larry lit up a joint for him.

    I have a friend who used to self-medicate with marijuana for her depression. She stopped using it a couple of years ago because the fear of getting caught was too much for her. Now, she’s on a bunch of different prescription anti-depressants and is a complete zombie. It’s too bad. You could tell how much better she was when she was smoking. Now, she’s a mess. She says that her kids would be better off without her, the way she is now. I feel really bad for her, but the law is the law. I think she realizes this too and maybe that’s contributing to her overall depression. She’s not allowed to use the only medicine that has ever helped her.

  5. Pat Vance says:

    I thank you for your blog and the context has really hit home with me. I have had a lot of time this last year to think over the way I treat people and hopefully I have done a 180 turnaround. I have been battling and hopefully winning the fight over a very serious illness for most of this year and boy does it give your life a new perspective. I asked myself how do I want to be remembered and I have hopefully set my path to be that person. I have come to realize that I want to be thought of as a peacemaker, joyful, humble, giving, loving. Also one who accepts all as they are and only give my opinion if someone asks for it. As I celebrate this Christmas, I am so grateful to be here that the way others act doesn’t really matter. I am thankful they are in my life.

  6. You could tell how much better she was when she was smoking. Now, she’s a mess. She says that her kids would be better off without her, the way she is now. I feel really bad for her, but the law is the law. I think she realizes this too and maybe that’s contributing to her overall depression. She’s not allowed to use the only medicine that has ever helped her.

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