Who Mentored Larry King?
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Watch a public service announcement featuring Larry King in support of National Mentoring Month.
Larry King has been in the interviewing business for over 40 years. He hosts CNN’s Larry King Live, the only worldwide phone-in television talk show, as well as the network’s highest rated program, Larry King Weekend, and a series of specials for Turner Network Television. In addition, he has written more than ten books.
When I was a child, all I wanted to do was be on the radio, and there were two great radio broadcasters who influenced me and whom I admired. Arthur Godfrey was a wonderful broadcaster who exemplified great values–he was a risk taker, had a great personality, and above all, he was always himself. Red Barber was a Dodger announcer whom I not only listened to as a child, but also tried to imitate. I can remember pretending to be him when I was about ten years old, doing imaginary sports broadcasts by myself. I later met and worked with both of these men, which was like living out a dream.
Both of these men had an enormous influence on my career as a radio broadcaster, for they taught me several important lessons. From them, I learned to be myself, and to take risks. They showed me that in our profession, the only secret is that there is no secret, and that above all I should trust my instincts. They gave me simple advice–to be the best I could be...
[O]ne individual who had an enormous influence on me was Edward Bennett Williams, a genius in the courtroom and a wonderful friend and adviser. Just being in his presence had a strong effect on me. Above all, he explained truthfulness and taught me that it was no shame to show one’s feelings.
There is one moment I shared with Edward that has stayed with me for the past ten years. I was walking with him down Connecticut Avenue two weeks before he died of cancer, and he knew he was going to die. He was cheering me up, telling me what a great career I had, and what a wonderful life. I asked him, “Aren’t you scared?”
He was a devout Catholic, had always gone to church regularly and he replied that if this life was all there was, then it didn’t make any sense, and everything was just one big cosmic joke. Why do anything, he asked. Why work? In his mind, there had to be something greater than our life on earth, and he accepted this calmly. This concept was much more logical to him than the idea that there was nothing. I’m agnostic, and his words had a tremendous impact on me. I can still hear his voice, saying those words.
…[These] men had a collective impact on me, teaching me several important lessons through their examples or their friendship. They taught me to never be afraid to take a risk, never cop out on my values, never lie to a friend, and, above all, that all things will pass. I am a commentator, not a brain surgeon. I do not save people’s lives. Knowing that I am not more important than anyone else, that I go on the air at nine o’clock and then off again at ten really puts things in perspective. This kind of awareness is important to anyone who has risen to prominence in their chosen career, for falling down can be much harder than rising up.
Excerpted from The Person Who Changed My Life: Prominent Americans Recall Their Mentors by Matilda Raffa Cuomo, Editor, with foreword by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.