Programming

Still a King in the Eyes of Many

9/13/2010 04:52:00 AM Eastern

If I had one of my dream jobs—you know, like managing the Minnesota
Twins or scouting talent for Playboy—anyone trying to oust me would literally
need several very large men to drag me kicking and screaming from it.

(Oh—and if my bosses are reading this: Running B&C is
right up there with the Twins and Playboy. No, really.)

Larry King shares my sentiment about dream jobs,
which is why he was firmly implanted in his chair until
CNN audibled to Piers Morgan. It’s become alarmingly
apparent that King’s fastball has long departed him, but
the man didn’t—and doesn’t—want to leave. Stop for a
second and put yourself in his shoes: Would you?

Obviously, it would have been easier on many if a
couple of years ago he had gone out in a blaze of glory,
closer to the top of his game, rather than fumble
through too many on-air cringe-worthy moments that
tarnished his legacy. And today’s über-snarky version
of the media (and blogosphere) that dines on its young
(or in this case, elder) was more than happy to shine a
spotlight on his foibles.

But while media-watchers and such tended to bash
King for sport lately, I saw firsthand recently how massive
a name he still is. Walking off the field before a
baseball game in Anaheim, I ran into King and his missus
in a reception area underneath Angels Stadium.

We had a nice chat, and he told me he doesn’t feel
that old, and is in fine health outside of a sore hip once
in a while and a little shortness of breath here and there.
But he has no interest in leaving TV. He wants to do a
series of specials (including one from the Middle East),
and he is also very interested in some sort of show focused
on sports. For the latter, he has talked to networks
including ESPN, HBO and the MLB Network.

He said the toughest part of his eventual departure
will be at 4:30 p.m. California time on the first day he is
no longer hosting Larry King Live. “What am I supposed
to do?” he asked honestly. He also added that, “My wife
doesn’t want me around the house,” a line the snarkier
media outlets undoubtedly would have fun with.

But the chat wasn’t what left the impression with me;
it was the long line of people queuing up to pay their
respects to Larry while he and I spoke. And they were
all journalists either from the U.S. or around the world
who wanted to tell him how much they looked up to
him or get their picture taken with him.

King soaked it up, smiling for every shot and even
taping a message to one journo’s kid.

This is not meant to be a love note to King, but a simple
reminder that while the media mob has long turned
on him, the public—and many journalists—didn’t necessarily
follow.

In the taped message to the journalist’s kid, who
wanted to be a scribe herself, King told her to never
give up on her dream. And that is from a guy who hung
onto his for as long as he could. Maybe a little too long
in the end, but I’m not sure I can blame him.

E-mail comments to
bgrossman@nbmedia.com
and follow him on Twitter: @BCBenGrossman

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