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CNN Special Reports

The King Of Talk: Remembering Larry King. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired January 23, 2021 - 21:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: The following is a CNN Special Report.


LARRY KING, LEGENDARY TALK SHOW HOST: When I hear people say that I'm softball, I've never understood what softball means. I try to ask very good questions. My role is to not make a guest uncomfortable. I'm uncomfortable if I make them uncomfortable. You don't learn a lot if you're confrontational.

It's exciting, why did you do this? If someone points a finger at me and says, why did you do this? I guarantee you will not learn why he did this. You will not learn it. So I learned a long time ago the best way to be is really curious.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: He was the king of talk.

KING: Who came up with the bunny? Do you miss it? Was it embarrassing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello, Larry, nice to have you here.

KING: Do you know the Dalai Lama well? What is it like to be shot? How do you handle tabloids? The one thing you didn't answer is, why? Is it true you once thought of taking your own life? Why do you have one name?

COOPER: Brando, Broncos --

KING: O.J. Simpson is in this car.

COOPER: To Liza to Z.


COOPER (on camera): Liza Minnelli, David Guest.

KING: Train wreck.

COOPER: Train wreck? I didn't want to say it, but it was.

(Voice-over): Behind that mic, those specks, those iconic suspenders, he was the TV legend, who hosted "CNN'S LARRY KING LIVE" for quarter of a century.

(On camera): Would you consider the Frank Sinatra interview the best interview you've done?

FRANK SINATRA, MUSICIAN: From the minute you step out of that spotlight, you've got to know exactly what you're doing.

COOPER: What comes to mind when you think of Monica Lewinsky? Are there ever times you can't come up with a question for somebody?

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: They weren't there -- let me finish now. I'll let you --


COOPER (voice-over): From political to personal.

(On camera): Heather Mills McCartney takes off her leg.

KING: That's what you call good risk taking. I take risks.

COOPER (voice-over): He had a career so rich, so deep, and he saw it all.

JOAN COLLINS, ACTRESS: When someone says Larry King, what comes to mind is always fun in a hotel room.

KING: Should reporters be embedded?

JON BON JOVI, MUSICIAN: Ginzo (PH) Hotel, I go yes. King is on.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I just loved the way he dresses. I wouldn't do it. But, man, do those suspenders look good on television.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's interested in what you have to say. If he isn't, he's a hell of a good actor.

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Larry has a way of getting things out of you in a nice way.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG, ACTRESS: It's effortless with him. I think it's the suspenders.

DOLLY PARTON, MUSICIAN: Larry King does not need an introduction. He's a big star. Bigger than most of us, really.

COOPER: From Hollywood's Walk of Fame to Miami's golden beaches, Larry's 60 years of broadcasting began right here.

KING: It was May 1st, 1957, WAHR, Miami Beach. Always wanted to be on radio.

COOPER: That childhood dream became a reality at WAHR. But not until the 23-year-old gave up a bit of himself. KING: And he calls him in, the general -- Marshal Simmons, and he

says, well, you ready to go, Larry? I said yes, OK, what name you going to use? I said, what do you mean? You can't use Zeiger. It's too ethnic. So let's pick another name. So he had the "Miami Herald" open, and there was an ad for King's Wholesale Liquors, Washington Avenue. And he said how about Larry King?

COOPER: Lawrence Harvey Zeiger now had a new job and a new name, Larry King. All he had to do now is do what he does best, talk.

KING: Like I fade the music, nothing comes out. Nothing. I fade the music. I bring it up. I bring it down. I bring it up. And I said to myself, you're not going to make it. You don't have the guts. You can't get through this. You're scared to death. Marshal Simmons kicks open the door to the studio and says, this is a communications business, damn it, communicate. And I turned on the mic, good morning, my name is Larry King. That's the first time I've said that.


COOPER: It was the beginning of a legend, a broadcasting dynamo who talked to anyone.

RICK SHAW, MIAMI RADIO LEGEND: Occasionally, somebody would be scheduled for an interview with Larry and for whatever reason didn't show up. We then went into emergency mode, we'd just literally go out on the street on A1A and grab the next person who's coming down the street, saying, hey, do you want to be on the radio? And they'd look at you, you know, are you crazy?

COOPER: On the radio, in the newspapers, bylines, headlines, Mr. Miami was everywhere. Rubbing shoulders with the likes of Don Rickles.

DON RICKLES, COMEDIAN: He was doing a disc jockey show. And two ladies and one Cuban were listening.

COOPER: Joan Rivers.

RIVERS: Every Brooklyn Jew like Brooklyn Jew. We just got lucky.

COOPER: Larry befriended rising movie stars like Ann-Margret.

ANN-MARGRET, ACTRESS: I met Larry in 1963. I was doing a publicity tour for "Bye-Bye Birdie."

COOPER: Alan Alda.

ALAN ALDA, ACTOR: The first time Larry interviewed me, we were both starting out.

COOPER: And legends like the great honeymooner himself, Jackie Gleason.

JACKIE GLEASON, ACTOR: One of these days, pow, right in the kisser.

COOPER: Gleason had a nose for a bright young talent like Larry, and promised him his first big get. Frank Sinatra. There was nobody bigger, and for young local radio talk show host, an almost impossible booking. Could Gleason really deliver?

KING: Now, the radio station is going to run an ad in the "Miami Herald" and they called me in, you know, they said we've called him 10 times and he hasn't returned any calls. We're about to spend a lot of money on this ad. I said, Jackie says he's coming. OK. Now it's that night. The whole station stayed in. The secretaries didn't go home. This is how big he is. This is bigger than big. About 5 to 9:00, this limo pulls in, two guys get out of the car. Frank Sinatra and another guy.

SINATRA: Hi. This is Frank Sinatra. I'm talking to you from WIOD, which has got to be the swingiest radio station in Miami.

MARTIN ZEIGER, BROTHER: And Larry leaned over and said, why are you doing this? And Sinatra said, many years ago Jackie Gleason did me a very good turn. At that time, I told him I owe you one. On your request, Jackie wrote this is the one. He was picking up a chip for Larry. Isn't that something?

COOPER: Sinatra was just the beginning. Soon, there was Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr. and President Richard Nixon.

KING: He asked me if I wanted to be an assistant press secretary. I couldn't take the cut in pay.

COOPER: Larry interviewed them all. Many times in a turbulent decade that started with a bang. But ended in a bust for Miami's king of talk.



COOPER: Miami Beach, sun, surf and the soothing radio sounds of --

KING: Larry King helps you do your thing.

RIVERS: Larry was a huge deal in Miami. When you went to Miami, you went on Larry King. That was very important.

JERRY LEWIS, COMEDIAN: I met Larry in Florida.

ROBERT WAGNER, ACTOR: I was on radio in Florida.

ANN-MARGRET: He just was unique. He was different.

COOPER: And then after years behind the radio mic, Larry took his talk show to local Miami television, and almost immediately started getting the big gets.

KING: I'm Larry King and my special guest this weekend is the editor and publisher of "Playboy" magazine, Mr. Hugh Hefner. It's a real pleasure having you, Hugh.

HUGH HEFNER, PLAYBOY MAGAZINE: It's a pleasure to be here.

KING: So how does one start a magazine without a dime?

HEFNER: Well, "Playboy" literally started from nothing.

COOPER: Larry also loved sports. He got a job doing play-by-play for the Miami Dolphins.

KING: Good afternoon. The National Football League is on the air.

COOPER: Life in Miami was good for Larry. For a while maybe too good. Married and divorced twice, his third wife was a "Playboy" beauty.

KING: Not a playmate. Playboy.

ZEIGER: Larry became a little reckless. If Larry had $100, he'd spent $200. He went to the racetrack a lot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you arrested?

KING: They said I wrote a bad check, but I didn't.

COOPER: The charges were dropped, but in 1972, life in the fast lane caught up with him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He fell from grace in a jumble of nearly $300,000 in bad debts.

COOPER: It was a tumultuous time, but it was also the beginning of a new era for Larry King. 1974, now living in Louisiana, he found work. PR for a local racetrack. But Larry wasn't doing what he loved to do.

KING: I missed it so much. You know, I had trouble listening to other shows.

COOPER: Later that year, however, he got a second chance.

KING: It was the general manager of WIOD Radio, and he says, do you want to go work there?

And now Larry King helps you do your thing. If you have a problem, a question, something been really bothering you, lay it on me. Let me take the burden, dear friends, slip it off your shoulders and on to mine, because what the hell, I don't care any way.

COOPER: The king was back on air, in Miami interviewing everyone, including his old pal, Jackie Gleason.

GLEASON: We never know how we're going to go when we talk to each other. I guess we'd done about 352 hours.

KING: Yes.


KING: Welcome back to hour number two of the Larry King Show for this Monday night.

COOPER: January 1978. After 20 years in local broadcasting, 45-year- old King was about to hit the bigtime.

KING: The Mutual Radio Network came to me and said, how would you like to do a national radio talk show? And I said, can it work? I have a guest on here, would Phoenix be interested? We can get it to work, especially it was an all-night show. We started with 28 stations and it just took off. "The Wall Street Journal" did a big story like six months later, you know, who is this guy?

COOPER: That guy was becoming a household name for insomniacs and the graveyard shift.

KING: Welcome back to more of the Larry King Show coast to coast.

ZEIGER: People who are physicians and all would tell me that Larry got them through the night shift. Truck drivers used to write to him and say, you kept me awake.


COOPER: As Larry's audience grew, so did his guest list. Desi Arnaz.

DESI ARNAZ, COMEDIAN: By this time, "I Love Lucy" was number one.

KING: Desi was fun. And Desi was, I'm going to be a hit business guy.

COOPER: Johnny Unitas.

KING: Your hair, is it worn the high crew cut style because it's smarter for the helmet and the game you play?

JOHNNY UNITAS, FOOTBALL QUARTERBACK: I wear it like this because I like it this way.

COOPER: It was all night long for Larry's guests.

LIONEL RITCHIE, MUSICIAN: At the end of the evening, I'd turn on and Larry King is on all night long. All night long.


COOPER: And a hit for '80s icon Lionel Richie. And on TV, the debut of an upstart cable news network.

DAVID WALKER, NEWS ANCHOR: Good evening, I'm David Walker.

LOIS HART, NEWS ANCHOR: And I'm Lois Hart. Now here's the news.

COOPER: Coming up, Larry catches the eye of a media maverick.

TED TURNER, FORMER CNN FOUNDER: We didn't have e-mail in those days, so I think I said to my assistant, would you please get Larry King on the phone?


COOPER: By 1985, CNN's maverick owner Ted Turner had set his sights on the king of talk radio.


TURNER: We really needed a new primetime talk show host. And I knew Larry, I had known his radio show.

KING: We're live from Washington.

TURNER: He was good. He was -- he was the best interviewer available. And I thought he'd be interested in a proposition that put him in primetime.

COOPER: Ted got his man. Larry was ready for CNN, but was CNN ready for Larry?

RANDY DOUTHIT, FORMER EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, LARRY KING LIVE: He actually got the show on, "LARRY KING LIVE" on in about two weeks from the time that he signed his contract to the time that we actually went on with our first guest, Mario Cuomo. We had two weeks.

COOPER: In June of 1985, "LARRY KING LIVE" debuted.

KING: Good evening. My name is Larry King. And this is the premiere edition of "LARRY KING LIVE."

COOPER (on camera): Your first broadcast. Were your nervous?

KING: I didn't know whether I was going to like it or not, and I didn't know CNN. But five minutes in, I said, this is going to make it. There was an electricity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: CNN, that's my favorite. I love CNN.

KING: Our first guest tonight is Oprah Winfrey. She's nominated for Best Supporting Actress for "The Color Purple." Let's watch.




KING: Did she hit you?

WINFREY: Yes. You know, the thing about it is, Stephen let her hit me, but I wasn't allowed to hit her.

COOPER: 1986, you had a young talk show host on your program, Oprah Winfrey. Did you know that she would become Oprah?

KING: Did I know she'd get this enormous? No one could have predicted that. Did I know she'd be successful? Absolutely.

COOPER (voice-over): "LARRY KING LIVE" was quickly embraced for its fascinating guests.


RICKLES: Larry was an investigator, and he probes, and he does it pretty good.

KING: I've had a fantasy wish about you.

RICKLES: He has fun. It is great without pretending. He knows the business so well.


GOLDBERG: Well, I mean, he is Larry King. I mean, you know, he's been around since the year one.

COOPER: The must-stop spot on TV for viewers to talk directly to some of the world's most famous pop culture icons.

KING: Do you ever get sick?

GEORGE BURNS, ACTOR: Well, once in a while. Every three months I cough a little.


COOPER: Laughs. Leaders.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't want any more Vietnams.

COOPER: Larger-than-life personalities.

KING: Have you ever had a face-lift?

BOB HOPE, COMEDIAN: God, no. If I had a face-lift, would I be stuck with this?

COOPER: "LARRY KING LIVE" covered it all.

BARBARA WALTERS, TV HOST: When Larry King comes into your home, you feel he's a friend. He's part of the family almost. And even though his questions are very probing, he doesn't attack.

COOPER: By the late 1980s, Larry was king of the hill.

KING: Our guest is the vice president of the United States, the honorable George Bush.

COOPER: Top of the heap.

WINFREY: Hi, Larry, by the way, hey.

COOPER: The little boy from Brooklyn sitting across from the biggest names --

BILL COSBY, COMEDIAN: Yes. COOPER: -- and the hardest guests.

SINATRA: A good question can open up doors in my mind that I would never think of discussing with anybody.

COOPER (on camera): You had Frank Sinatra on CNN.

KING: I had him on CNN. That was probably his last interview.

COOPER: Would you consider the Frank Sinatra interview the best interview you've done?

KING: I'd say best if you consider difficult to get.

COOPER (voice-over): From the chairman of the board to the Candyman himself. Once-in-a-lifetime performers. Legendary and emotional final interviews.

SAMMY DAVIS JUNIOR, MUSICIAN: Some days you have a bad day. You know, up here you have a bad day.

KING: Sammy was a tragic figure. He had arguably the most talent ever produced in America in one individual, and he couldn't stop smoking.

COOPER: For decades, smoking was also Larry's trademark.

LARRY KING JUNIOR, SON: He smoked three packs of cigarettes, sometimes packs of cigarettes a day.

PAT PIPER, LARRY'S FORMER RADIO PRODUCER: He would smoke all through the radio show. You'd see the pictures of old interviews. There's always a pack of cigarettes or there was a cigarette in his hand.

COOPER: Larry smoked right up to the very day it almost killed him.

BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. Larry King is off for a while.

COOPER (on camera): 1987 was, in many ways, a new beginning for you. Tough year.

KING: Bad year. I had a heart attack in February. I was smoking all the way up to the hospital.

COOPER: You were smoking on your way to the hospital?

KING: Correct.

COOPER: Did you know you were having a heart attack?


COOPER (voice-over): But his doctor left no doubt.

KING: He came right up to me, and said, Mr. King, you're having a heart attack. And I said, am I going to die? He said, good question.


COOPER: He laughs now, but Larry's heart attack was a life-changing event.

ZEIGER: And he's changed, he's willing to stop smoking.


COOPER: In late March 1987, Larry was back on the air. His first guest, the Reverend Jimmy Swaggart.


REV. JIMMY SWAGGART, EVANGELIST: It's good to see you. How are you getting along nowadays?

KING: Feeling better.

COOPER: The topic, scandal. The scandal that would bring down the empire of televangelist Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker.

SWAGGART: This cancer has been excised.

KING: That was an incredible story. Because Jim Bakker was one of those guys. He was the forerunner, all these that have come along and preach one thing and practice another.

TAMMY FAYE BAKKER, TELEVANGELIST: I wanted to be here to support Jim. I knew he was going through hell.

COOPER: Breakdowns and hypocrisy.

SWAGGART: I have sinned against you, my Lord.

COOPER: Less than a year after condemning Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart fell from grace in his own sex scandal.

(On camera): Swaggart would come on to criticize Jim Bakker but when Swaggart --

KING: He wouldn't come on. He didn't want to face the music.

COOPER (voice-over): Scandals and the crimes that captivated the nation. Larry covered them all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've heard a very few murderers that were more savage that this one was.

COOPER: Beginning --

MARK GERAGOS, ATTORNEY: Who can possibly shotgun their parents to death?

COOPER: Middle.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why did you kill your parents? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because we were afraid.

COOPER: And end.

KING: And joining us now from prison, where he's allowed occasional calls, has to call collect, is Eric Menendez, convicted along with his brother, Lyle. How long have you been in prison now, Eric?

ERIC MENENDEZ, CONVICTED FELON: I've been in prison for over 15 years.

COOPER (on camera): When you talk to someone who's been convicted of a murder, is it strange?

KING: Very. I've talked to John Lennon killer, Son of Sam. Very strange.

COOPER (voice-over): Strange? That word doesn't each come close to describing what lay ahead for Larry in the '90s.

PEROT: What are you talking about?

GORE: Lobbying the Congress. You know a lot about it.

PEROT: Spell it out. Spell it out.

COOPER: High political drama and a murder trial that left America speechless.

KING: A person said, O.J.'s on the road in a Bronco. Being followed by police.



COOPER (on camera): What is it about him that whether people like him or hate him, they watch him?

KING: Bill Clinton changes the room. You'd be hanging a room, Bill Clinton walks in, the room changes.

Las Vegas, Nevada, hello.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to say hello to my son, Bill Clinton.


COOPER (voice-over): Larry King grabbed exclusive interviews with presidents at their most vulnerable times. In '92 when President George Bush was criticized for being out of touch with the American people.

KING: Oh, so you do drive?


KING: You drive.

BUSH: Yes. Got a car in Washington, but I don't drive it very much. I'll drive around the circle in the Oval Office.

KING: You still have a Texas driver's license?

BUSH: Still. You want to see it? I'm legal. See? Where's your car? Let's go for a drive.

KING: We'll be back. Don't go away.

BUSH: He'll ask you a question and you actually think hey, he'd like to know what I think about this. You get your say without kind of yelling and feisty interviewer kind of hitting you before you speak.

BARBARA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY: But he is a man that does not accept no. He's very persistent.

KING: Clearly you're not going to be specific but I can ask if he's asked.

BUSH: You can ask, but I don't have to answer whether he's asked.

COOPER: That same year, Larry rocked the nation and the vote when he introduced viewers to a billionaire Texan with big ears and bigger ideas.

ROSS PEROT, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Throw your old tax law out. It's like an old inner tube. Full of patches.

COOPER (on camera): Did you know he was going to announce on your show?

KING: No. A friend of mine in the New Orleans tipped me off and said, you know, ask Ross Perot if he's going to run for president. Finally, with a minute left, I said to him, one more time, are you giving any thought to running for president? And I'll tell you what --

PEROT: You register me in 50 states, and if you're not willing to organize and do that, then this is all just talk.

So many people had asked me to do it. And I finally decided I had an obligation to do it.

COOPER (voice-over): What followed was the Larry King event that made cable TV history.

KING: This is the first time in history that a sitting vice president ever debated an ordinary citizen.

GORE: Go ahead. PEROT: I'd like to finish. May I finish?

GORE: All right, go ahead but I do want to respond.

PEROT: Let's have an unnatural event, and try not to interrupt.

KING: And it changed it. That night changed it. Broke the all-time phone record.

PEROT: I never knew it. Could have been a Super Bowl game night, that's for sure.

COOPER: In the '90s, Larry also made history with leading ladies. The king went one-on-one with screen siren Sharon Stone.

KING: But this is the first time we're together.


KING: It was always -- you want to do that again?


KING: Go ahead. OK. They pay me for this. This is a good job. My ex- wife, she said, you know, you're slimming down, stopped smoking. I think you need a new woman.

PHYLLIS DILLER, COMEDIAN: His stroke of genius are the suspenders. I give him an A for style.

RIVERS: On the red carpet with the suspenders and the glasses and the pants up to here, ah, worst dressed. All the same.

KING: So I tried them one night, all I had to hear was three people called and said you look terrific.

KERMIT THE FROG, TV PERSONALITY: I saw him, and I wanted suspenders. Well, I actually I wanted shoulders first, and then I wanted suspenders.

KING: The most fun I think I had was with Kermit the Frog and his gang. You totally believe you're talking to a frog, you totally accept him as a frog.

COOPER: Frogs, film stars, first ladies, Larry kept asking questions in the '90s, but it was a famed car chase that took Larry and the world on an unforgettable ride.

(On camera): Could you believe that this was happening?

KING: It was surreal.

Now police radio is saying that Simpson has a gun at his head.

They burst into my ear and said O.J. is on the road in a Bronco being followed by police. So we go back to that. Hey, Cameron, I interrupt this call. I understand we're going to go to a live picture in Los Angeles. Police believe that O.J. Simpson is in that car. This is Interstate 5, one of the many famed California freeways. We don't know if they're going north or south.


I don't know L.A. I live here now. If they bring me a map. They veered off 91 on to 710 North.

And for three hours, following the roads on a map.

WENDY WALKER, FORMER EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, LARRY KING LIVE: We had so much adrenaline going in the control room. And we just couldn't stop.

KING: Police radio is saying that Simpson a passenger in the car, has a gun at his head, which is explaining why they haven't been stopping him and why they haven't moved up alongside.

This is really winging it. But that was the most highlighted drama.

COOPER (on camera): And do you like that?

KING: Oh, come on. It's the high of all highs.

COOPER (voice-over): The O.J. drama began on "LARRY KING LIVE" and six months later was still going hot and heavy in a Los Angeles courtroom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely 100 percent not guilty.

JOHNNIE COCHRAN, ATTORNEY: If it doesn't fit, you must acquit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We ask you to find the defendant guilty of murder in the first degree.

COOPER (on camera): You actually went to the trial for that.

KING: I went through the wrong door. I'm in the courtroom, the cameras are on. Judge Ito was coming back in. As I walk in, he walks in behind me. O.J. says, hey, Larry.

COOPER (voice-over): After four months of grueling testimony, the jury returned a verdict in just three short hours.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Orenthal J. Simpson not guilty of the crime of murder.

COOPER: A few hours later, Larry got a surprising viewer call.

KING: With us on the phone now is O.J. Simpson.

WALKER: We gave O.J.'s people the number of the control room. We never really thought it would happen.

OJ SIMPSON, FORMER FOOTBALL STAR: Fortunately for me, the jury listened to what the witnesses said, and not Marcia Clark's or Garth's or anyone else's rendition of what they said.

WALKER: It was just such a shock that it was the first time we'd heard from him.

KING: Would you describe yourself as relieved, angry, what?

SIMPSON: I'm a little bit of everything. COOPER: In the '90s, Larry was the place for star sightings. In '94,

he landed "A Streetcar Named Desire" actor Marlon Brando. Over the years, the film legend had become something of a recluse.

WALKER: One day, out of the blue, we get a call. He's decided to write his own book, they're making him do one interview and he's chosen Larry King.

KING: The phone rings up, I pick it up, you know, a little nervous. Hello. And this voice says, Larry King? Yes. It's Marlon. I said, Marlon who? I swear to God. I said --


KING: And he goes, Marlon Brando. He says, I'm going to send a car for you, it will be downstairs in about 20 minutes. So I go downstairs and who pulls up but Brando, in the car driving a white Chevy, like a Chevy Nova. I get in the car and we start to drive doing songs. Like he would do the first line of a song and I had to do the second.

COOPER: Before the show was over, the song birds were in a lip lock. The kiss became a king classic.


KING: Goodbye.

I've kissed my brother on the cheek, and I've had friends hug me, but he's the only man to ever kiss me on the lips and I can't stop thinking about him.


TOM BROKAW, TV ANCHOR: Well, before the movie "Brokeback Mountain" came out, he got kissed by Marlon Brando. He's always been a trendsetter.

COOPER: From trends to tragedies. When we come back, the shocking murder that sent a shiver down the nation's spine.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The body of the former Little Miss Colorado was found in the basement.

COOPER: And kept viewers turned into Larry for another explosive debate.

KING: That's a crystal moment in my broadcast life.



COOPER: In 1997, Larry King had love on his mind and married again. Though according to his bride, their first meeting was a little awkward. SHAWN KING, WIFE: So he walked across the street and looked up at me

and had his hands in his pockets. And he looked up and went -- literally grunted. I just thought, how bizarre.

COOPER: On September 5th, 1997, Shawn Southwick became the new Mrs. King. But the wedding was nearly called off.

S. KING: He went in for a checkup, and the doctor said you can't leave this hospital. If you leave, you could die.

COOPER: Just before an emergency angioplasty, vows were quickly improvised.

ASHER DAN, FRIEND: Only Larry King would get married at 5:00 in the morning in a hospital bed.

SID YOUNG, FRIEND: Yes. With eight of us. Yes.

DAN: And they wanted to fly him out? Did they fly him out?

YOUNG: Yes, they fly him out.

DAN: They fly him out.

YOUNG: Right after that.

COOPER (on camera): The joke -- people tell the joke that, you know, you like to ask questions, your favorite question is, will you marry me?

KING: I don't mind that. You know, hey, it goes with the territory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How long have you been married?

KING: Seven months.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seven months, which is a record.

COOPER (voice-over): Fatherhood came in 1999 with the birth of a son, Chance. One year later, Cannon arrived.

KING: They totally own me. I can't believe how much I love them.

COOPER: In 1998, a scandal at the White House.

CLINTON: I did not have -- indeed I did have a relationship with Miss Lewinsky that was not appropriate.

MONICA LEWINSKY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE INTERN: People still don't fully know me as a person and people are still getting to know me because there was an entire year spent with the media sort of creating Monica Lewinsky, and that wasn't me.

KING: Smart, bubbly, infectious laughter, nice personality. I wouldn't picture Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky having dinner.

COOPER (on camera): Apparently neither did he.


COOPER (voice-over): Scandal, tragedy, unsolved murder. Sometimes all in one story. Case in point, a 6-year-old beauty queen found dead in her Colorado home. Her name, JonBenet Ramsey.

KING: And another thing that made her story was those pictures we had of her. There were pictures of her in contests.

COOPER (on camera): And something about that fascinated the public.

KING: The public. It added to it. And it fascinated the television producers who said, we have something here. I would say if we didn't have that film and those pictures of her, the smiling picture, there would not have been a story.


COOPER (voice-over): Suspects in the court of public opinion, but never charged with a crime. John and Patsy Ramsey faced their accusers as Larry looked on.

STEVE THOMAS, BOULDER POLICE DETECTIVE: After it became a homicide, Patsy waited four months before you came and talked to the Boulder Police Department and answered questions.


THOMAS: Well, tell me when. I was there every day. Tell me how many hours --

P. RAMSEY: Were you in our home that day?

THOMAS: How many hours --

P. RAMSEY: Were you in our home the day that JonBenet --


KING: Don't talk over each other.

JOHN RAMSEY, JONBENET'S FATHER: I mean, how would you feel if someone accused your wife of murdering your child on national television? It was pretty bizarre.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We love you, Martha.

COOPER: After a highly publicized stock scandal, Martha Stewart went from domestic diva to convicted felon.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Martha Stewart found guilty.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you think that that was the end of Martha Stewart? KING: No. Because she has gump shun. I've known her a long time, she

has comeuppance. And she would never quit. I knew she would make a story out of prison.

Tonight's exclusive, Martha Stewart.

COOPER: And what a story it was. In 2005, Martha turned to Larry for her prison tell-all.

KING: Can you say you were treated well in prison?

MARTHA STEWART, TV PERSONALITY: I was treated just like any other inmate.

COOPER: Martha was just one of a multitude of celebrity scandals and slip-ups. In 2002, a memorable moment with Paul McCartney's soon to be ex, Heather Mills.

HEATHER MILLS MCCARTNEY, PAUL MCCARTNEY'S FORMER WIFE: Which I pop up actually if you don't mind.

WALKER: I had no idea it was going to happen. Larry had no idea it was going to happen. And that's why it was such an amazing moment. If you see Larry, the person you thought of, what do I do? And he was very quick to take the leg.

KING: It feels a leg.


KING: Can you describe what it's like to have a leg? So all I said was, kick your leg. Can I see the leg? Now, she goes, feeling there.

MILLS MCCARTNEY: Yes, yes. Full feeling. Completely.

KING: Full feeling.

MILLS MCCARTNEY: If you touch it, it makes me feel like my toes are completely opening.

KING: I knew she was so expressive about it. And obviously it didn't bother her to have a wooden leg, so she took it off.

COOPER: That same year, rumors of a meltdown. Mariah Carey.

MARIA CAREY, MUSICIAN: I think during that time a lot of questions were unsettling.

KING: You were almost a blackout. There were all these stories, nervous breakdown. What happened?

CAREY: OK. Well, it was an emotional and physical collapse. Basically, I came out of the studio thinking that was really cool. I just couldn't believe where it came out, and what I'm doing with my whole life, and wow, it was amazing.

COOPER: And that's exactly what people said when Hollywood's oddest honeymooners stopped by for a visit.

KING: The story has been bordering on the bizarre.

COOPER: Tragic figures.

STEVE IRWIN, WILDLIFE EXPERT: You're a legend in my world. My absolute legend. You're at the top of the food chain, just like the crocodile.

COOPER: Fallen heroes. Breakups.

NICK NOLTE, ACTOR: It was controlling my life.

COOPER: Breakdowns.

KING: (INAUDIBLE), I'm only kidding.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will you stop it!

KING: That's a joke.

COOPER: Unbeatable comebacks.

BOB WOODRUFF, JOURNALIST: Every week better than the last.


COOPER: Riveting interviews.

KING: Why, Dolly, have you been so open to discuss your cosmetic procedures?

PARTON: Well, because people like you ask me.

KING: Intimate scenes, are they harder to do?

JENNIFER ANISTON, ACTRESS: God, get me out of here.

COOPER: Coming up, will the man dubbed the most remarkable host in talk ever leave the chair?

KING: Who knew it would come to this?



KING: Steve, ready? Let me do a couple of reads here, guys.

DILLER: When you hear the name Larry King, you think --

ANN-MARGRET: Music maker?

BROKAW: America's host.

CELINE DION, SINGER: Professional.




RICKLES: Annoying.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tremendous sense of humor.


KING: Hi, I'm Larry King. In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

RICHARD ROEPER, FILM CRITIC: I see a movie and Larry King makes that movie interviewing a fictional character.

SAMUEL L. JACKSON, ACTOR: I'm always frank and earnest with women. In New York, I'm Frank. In Chicago I'm Earnest.

ROEPER: There's always a certain kick out of that.

CAREY: When Catherine Zeta Jones goes --


CAREY: Right after --

ZETA JONES: I just want to reach over and choke him to death with those stupid suspenders.

CAREY: It was one of my favorite moments in a movie ever.

COOPER: Indeed with more than 20 credits to his name --

KING: Professional paranormal eliminators in New York at the cost of it all.

COOPER: Larry proved himself a cameo king throughout the years. He even got to do drag in an animated land far, far away.

KING: Hey, buddy, let me clue you in.

RIVERS: I think "Shrek" should not have been animated. I think it should have been live and I think Larry and I finally would have gotten our do.

KING: Some boys take a beautiful girl --

COOPER: The mic, the specks, the suspenders. Larry became a pop culture icon.

PRISCILLA PRESLEY, ACTRESS: Well, he is pop culture. He's the pop of culture.

COOPER: By 2010, Larry had interviewed everybody from Dolly to the Dali.

(On camera): And you still love it?

KING: I love some folks better than others. And I don't like doing every show I have to do. But once the red light goes, I'm in.

COOPER: Then that summer, that light dimmed when Larry made an unexpected announcement.

KING: Good evening. Before I start the show tonight, I want to share some personal news with you.

COOPER: After a quarter of a century, countless interviews on his iconic set, the king of talk shocked the world with news his show was coming to a close.

KING: It was very sad for me. I loved CNN. I had been there 25 years. I started June 1st, 1985, and I didn't want to leave. It's not very often in my life I've been without words.

COOPER: Six months later on December 16th, 2010, Larry gave his final goodbye.

KING: So you're not going to see me go away. But you're not going to see me here on this set any more.


COOPER: Through tears, to a sendoff party fit for a king, naturally everyone wanted to say so long.

DIANE SAWYER, TV ANCHOR: We are your proteges, your groupies, your peeps.

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, FORMER CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR: The day is official in California, Larry King Day.

WALTERS: You'll be so missed, so missed.

KING: My last night of course was a tremendous night when Ryan Seacrest and Bill Maher co-hosted. Clinton was on and Obama. Trump was on.

TRUMP: We're going to miss you, but I assume you're going to be back bigger than ever.

KING: That was some night.

COOPER: It was Larry's swan song on CNN. But he never hung up his suspenders.

KING: I don't play golf. I don't play shuffle board. I don't want to live in Phoenix. As Milton Burrell once said, retire to what? That would be my answer, to what? The night I knew I couldn't retire was the night Osama bin Laden was killed.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news, we're awaiting even more details.

KING: And my immediate moment was to jump out of the chair to run to CNN because when we had big announcements, I did shows.

COOPER: Yet Larry didn't skip a beat.

KING: I still loved jumping out of bed.

COOPER: In 2012, he was hired by business mogul Carlos Slim who created Ora.TV, an on demand digital TV network featuring a new talk show.

KING: We're in Nashville for Larry King Now with Dolly Parton.

COOPER: With a familiar host, Larry King, at the age of 78, was back on set. His routine didn't change much.

KING: I'm not doing anything different. Still doing Q and A. So I haven't changed. Technology has changed. I'm distributed differently.

How long can you put a violin down?


KING: It's been seven years now. But I couldn't -- I'm going to die falling on this table and the mic is going to hit me on the head and revive me.

COOPER: But Larry still missed his dream gig.

KING: It's the one thing regret I have is I don't work live. I loved live. Live was in my bones. Radio was live, CNN was live. And I like that immediacy. I trusted my instinct.

COOPER: "TV Guide" dubbed him the most remarkable talk show host on TV ever. But in the world of big gets, there were regrets. Yes, he had a few.

(On camera): Who do you wish you'd interviewed that you haven't interviewed?

KING: I would have loved to have interviewed the last Pope. And we got a maybe once, which was a big thrill. Look, we got an e-mail from the Vatican, maybe.

COOPER (voice-over): More than 50,000 interviews, an infinite amount of what, when, where and --

KING: Why? Why? Why? The secret of my ability was stupid, in other words, I didn't know. And I readily confessed I didn't know and I would say help me to the guest. Help me, I don't know. Why did you do that?

Why do you have one name?

MADONNA, MUSICIAN: As opposed to what.

KING: Two names. Like other -- you know, Madonna --


KING: Liebowitz.

MADONNA: That's good, I like that.

COOPER (on camera): I was asking around, to people who'd been on your show about what it is that makes it work so well and they said that you make guests comfortable to the point where they feel they can say anything.

KING: You know the secret. I want the guest to be good. I want them to be responsive. I want them to react. And I'm going to be there tomorrow night.

A lot of good memories. And look at me now.

I look back on my life and I sometimes think I'm looking at someone else. I look at the things that have happened to me, the good and the bad. And I can't believe it sometimes. I mean, I can't believe it. I look at my teenage boys. Who, is that me? Come on, somebody's kidding me. Somebody is kidding. It's all a whirl. It's -- I'm still doing it.

WOODRUFF: Great to be around a professional like you, man.

KING: The King will return tomorrow. He bids all his faithful followers farewell.

ANNOUNCER: The following is a CNN Special Report.