We Asked Larry King the Secret to Working on TV for 60 Years

Jun 14, 2017

It was May 1957, and Larry Zeiger was getting ready to go on TV for the first time.

But there was a hitch: a few minutes before airtime, the general manager of the station called him in and asked, “What name are you going to use?”

“Larry Zeiger,” Zeiger said.

“You can’t use that,” the manager replied. The name was confusing, and besides that, “too ethnic.” The manager pointed to the Miami Herald, which was open to a page for King's Wholesale Liquors.

“How about Larry King?”

Zeiger responded, “That sounds good!”

And the rest is history. Later on, Larry King officially changed his name and went on to become a TV legend.

This spring, King came to Fortune to talk about the 60th anniversary of his first day on television. In a wide-ranging interview, he touched on Trump, Russia, and the future of the TV industry.

Watch the video above for the full interview. Here are some of the highlights:

On Trump:
“I’ve always liked him personally. He’s been very good to me. I’ve read some terrible things that I’m sad about. He’s never done anything bad to me. I want to be optimistic.”

On wearing suspenders:
After he recovered from a heart attack, he was back on TV and feeling good, but he had lost a lot of weight. One day over dinner, his ex-wife suggested to him, “Why don’t you try suspenders?” After he wore them for the first time on the air, people started calling in to say that they liked the look. The suspenders became a signature item ever since.

On the changing TV landscape:
“What I did in the late 50s is what I’m doing now. Just transmitted differently.”

On the secret to success in television:
When he started 60 years ago, King once froze on live television. But after that, he was never nervous again. “The only secret in this business is no secret. Be yourself. I can’t make the viewer like me. I don’t even think about it. I’m just myself. If it’s good enough it’s good enough."

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