With the passing of Roger King, the television industry lost one of its most storied characters (see our tribute on page 12).
Some of those stories came from King himself, who told B&C back in 1985 about the time he landed in Paris via the Concorde to meet with investors and managed to collar a baggage handler to help him call WCAU Philadelphia to clinch a deal.
"I hold the record for making the longest-distance sales call by a syndicator," he boasted.
When we asked friends, colleagues and competitors to share some of their favorite stories about the CBS Television Distribution CEO, the best response came from Bill Applegate, VP/general manager of WOIO Cleveland.
"I've got a lot of stories about him," says Applegate, who was news director at WLS Chicago when King put The Oprah Winfrey Show into syndication. "But none I can tell in this publication."
In the end, he and several others obliged us with printable tales of Kings legendary negotiating prowess and his outsized personality. To read more stories and share some of your own go to Broadcastingcable.com/RogerKing.
HE LOVED THE CHASE
Arnie Kleiner, president/general manager of KABC Los Angeles, recounted the time when he was at WMAR Baltimore in the 1980s and got into a marathon negotiation session with King. After 10 hours, with a very wide difference between the two, neither King nor Kleiner was prepared to give up much ground.
"Finally, I said, 'That's it, Roger.' I don't have any more money," Kleiner recalls. "Roger said, 'You sure?' I said, 'Yes.' Then Roger said, 'OK, you have a deal.'
"It was all about the negotiation he loved the chase," says Kleiner. "I should've stopped $100,000 earlier."
TIME FOR COCKTAILS
Perry Kidder, president/general manager of WFRV Green Bay, Wis., got into a similar stalemate with King.
"We were negotiating from 8 a.m. to 5:30 or 6," Kidder recalls. "Finally, when cocktail hour came around bing, bang, bong! the deal was done in five minutes and everybody was happy. If not for cocktail hour, wed probably still be there. He was more than happy to sit and stare at [you] all day, but wasn't willing to miss cocktail hour."
STUDENT OF THE GAME
"What made Roger so great was that Roger was a student of the game," says National Association of Television Program Executives president Rick Feldman. "So when he walked into your office to discuss with you why you needed his show, he was essentially inside your mind. He kind of knew what your vulnerability was, and he knew how to play your vulnerability and his ability to fix your problem by giving you a show."
"I remember the time when he tried to sell me Candid Camera with Dom DeLuise. I said, 'You know, I don't think this show is going to make it, and I don't think Dom is the right host.'
"He got really upset and said, 'You're totally wrong, and you're going to see.'
"It turned out that, of course, he was wrong. But he wasn't often."
"He was almost like Sir Laurence Olivier," says Sony Pictures Television President Steve Mosko. "You look at him off-stage and you go, 'OK he's got some miles on him. He looks a little disheveled.'
"But when the curtain rose and the lights came on, you saw pure genius. And that's what you got from Roger King. When that presentation came out, there was nobody better."
"He was a real throwback to the great buccaneers of the broadcasting age both professionally and personally," says Applegate. "It sometimes got him in trouble."
"I saw him in Atlantic City one late night. He lost a quarter million in craps in about 20 minutes. He walked away from the table and threw the croupier and those guys $10,000 in chips."
Tim Bennett, president of Harpo Productions, summed up King this way: "He ate, he drank, he drank some more and he slept this business. He loved what he was doing, and frankly, he died doing it."
With Michael Malone, Marisa Guthrie and P.J. Bednarski
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