Still a King in the Eyes of Many

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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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