The New York Times has a front-pager on the fate of Larry King’s show on CNN, which seems pretty cloudy. The web version features a photo of King taken at the correspondents’ dinner this spring, looking 112 years old. I was shocked to learn he’s only 76; I thought he was 91-year-old Andy Rooney’s college roommate or something.
Everybody lucky to live long enough gets old, but not everybody in their eighth decade is old. I met an 81-year-old man at the Economic Club gala last week who looked like he could tow a tanker down the Houston Shipping Channel with his teeth. King, on the other hand, fairly dodders. If his show goes away at the end of the season — the once-mighty ratings colossus is already well behind Sean Hannity’s and Rachel Maddow’s shows in the same time slot — it will have died of nothing more than terminal geezerhood.
I lost patience with it years ago. I don’t even understand why the show is named after King, as all he does is show up, sit there and occasionally announce a commercial break between unchallenged chunks of celebrity blathering. Jon Carroll once called him a tabula rasa, and that, in my opinion, would be a much better name for the hour: Tabula Rasa with Suspenders Man. Tonight, Kate Gosselin!
I can never, ever in a million years improve upon this James Wolcott takedown of King, pegged to the last week of June 2009, when Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson all kicked the bucket within days of one another. King is at his best, or worst, or whatever-you-call it when celebrities die. I remember reading this in the car on our way down to Defiance one day last summer, and laughing so hard Alan told me to put a sock in it, I was distracting him from the road. A lengthy passage, but all in one paragraph:
For his June 26 show, he assembled an A-list trauma team to pay their respects: Liza Minnelli, Usher, Quincy Jones, and Deepak Chopra. O.K., maybe Deepak dragged the overall grade down to B-plus, but the next evening Larry gave us Cher, Celine Dion, Smokey Robinson, and Corey Feldman—Cher and Celine on the same show being Christmas come early for the drag-queen community underserved by cable news. For the next two weeks, Larry King Live was wall-to-wall Michael Jackson in memoriam, the guest list and the quality of insight being offered beginning to betray moth holes—in a surreal interview with renowned dermatologist Dr. Arnold Klein, rumored to be the biological (sperm donor) father of two of Jackson’s children, King asked, “Is it true that he wanted to look like Peter Pan?,” to which Klein replied, “I didn’t see him implanting wings on the back of his back or doing anything like that, right?”—until the addled nadir was reached during an interview with Jermaine Jackson at the Neverland Ranch when, as an inside tour was being conducted of the vacated rooms, a shadow crossed the end of the hallway. To those who dare to believe, who dare to hope, it was the ghost of Michael Jackson returning to his place of solace. On YouTube, the shadow was there for all to see. “Plenty of America’s most staggering dipshits saw it,” reported Gawker, “so CNN devoted an entire segment on King’s show tonight to solving the mystery. And the answer to all of this is—A crew member walked [past] a lighting fixture, creating a shadow on the wall. Yep, that’s it, just as any person with moderate levels of oxygen flowing to the brain should have deduced on their own.” I’m not sure how large a percentage of CNN’s core demographic fits the definition of “staggering dipshits,” but it is reassuring to know that the network isn’t ignoring their needs.
But that’s King at his best. Most nights he just sits there, grunting. Wolcott again:
Eloquence is not his thing. He solicits and accepts banal clichés that convert every celebrity death into a crunchy meal, while tossing off non sequiturs that keep everyone guessing. Part of what makes King perfect for his role is that he came out of the Walter Winchell world and thinks in staccato three-dot segments (as witness his widely mocked column in USA Today), equipping him with a built-in short attention span that some believe makes him the unofficial godfather of Twitter. A typical Larry King Live is a pastiche whose absurdism defies parody. Wearing his trademark suspenders and purple shirts, he looks as if he’s strapped to the chair with vertical seat belts, unable to eject. Sitting across from him may be former Incredible Hulk Lou Ferrigno—whom Larry mistakenly refers to as “Lou Ferragamo,” corrects himself, then repeats the error—and Marlon Brando’s son Miko, dressed in a festive Hawaiian shirt, followed by a panel exploring “the world of celebrity autopsies.”
There was some talk in the NYT story that the reason Hannity and Maddow are thriving and King isn’t is because they appeal to people on the ends of the political spectrum, who want nothing but an amen corner for their own beliefs. Um, no. It’s because they have a pulse. I can’t watch Hannity — those close-set, beady eyes just creep me out — but Maddow registers with me because she seems to have all of her big brain engaged with whomever she’s interviewing. Of course she goes easy on lefties and hard on their opponents, but even a few lobs are more tolerable than King’s non-engagement. You get the idea he’s thinking about his alimony payments.
Or maybe he’s thinking about his replacement. The story speculates on who might replace him. Katie Couric? Eliot Spitzer? But then, once again, comedy gold:
Mr. King has said in the past that his first choice for a successor is the entertainer Ryan Seacrest.
I’d watch that if he wore suspenders.
OK, another morning when I’d like to get the exercise over with early — it’ll be mid-80s before too long. I leave you with a bit of bloggage:
The non-link between vaccines and autism, as explained by Dr. Andrew Wakefield… in comics! Via Metafilter, where a commenter adds the Jenny McCarthy Body Count.
And may I just say, yesterday’s comment thread was fantastic? I never knew that about Austin Peay, the college whose name rhymes with “pee.” Basset, last night: Back in the, I don’t know, late 60s or early 70s the star of Austin Peay’s basketball team was one Fly Williams… which led to the cheer, “The Fly is open! Let’s go, Peay!” You guys are great.
And now I’m off. Rumor has it Greg Kinnear is shooting a movie in the Farms, so I’m off on bike patrol to gawk.
Deborah said on May 27, 2010 at 10:15 am
I doubt that Larry is really only 76, those folks lie about their age don’t they. When I was about 7 I remember him having a TV talk show in Miami, FL where I grew up. He seemed like an old man then, let’s say he was 30 (to work his way up to a talk show of his own would have to take a few years, right?), that would make him 23 years older than I am (I’ll be 60 in Oct [yikes!]), he has to be at least 83 or so. OK maybe I was older than 7 then, but still…
I am so addicted to this site, I keep checking it during the day at work to see what’s new in the comments. I hope it doesn’t get me in trouble. Last night when I read Basset’s comment about the Peay cheer I laughed until I just about peed myself.
brian stouder said on May 27, 2010 at 11:12 am
I recall reading a profile (or some such) about King once, and was struck that he actually takes pride in his unpreparedness! Seems to me he said something along the lines of – his job is just to talk to people, as anyone else might, if you met this ‘celebrity’ person yourself; he felt that this was the secret of his show. Maddow, I do believe, really does want to question and explore issues with her guests. True enough, she might be guilty of letting a like minded person (such as Dr Chu of the Department of Energy) up a little easier than a too-cute-by-half potential US Senator like Dr Paul, but she does her homework and asks the questions and gives her guests lots of rein (Dr Paul might even complain that she let him go on too long!), whereas Hannity plainly and routinely advocates and attacks, and that’s it.
Aside from that, let me say that it was raining cats and dogs and buckets (a genuine gulley washer) yesterday just before 5, and the sun was shining brightly the whole time. Made for a very brilliant rainbow – which was a nice consolation as I drove home with wet hindquarters (windows were down during the deluge). No kidding – I didn’t drive 1/2 mile, and I was not only out of the rain, but on bone-dry pavement; a genuine ‘storm cell’ simply blew in and poured down. Then, when I arrived home, Pam came out and got in the car before I could adequately warn her about the deep damp within the seats (we had a school thing to go to), which made for a somewhat unpleasant interlude, before we got into her van.
Anyway – here’s hoping that our biking proprietress doesn’t ride into another rogue storm cell
Julie Robinson said on May 27, 2010 at 11:17 am
I never got the popularity of King–was it just that he was ubiquitous?
Brian, we live over by IPFW and the sky turned that funny yellow color but not a drop did it rain. Which is good, because the DH is home and the soil is finally dried out enough to plant, which I will now go back to.
Jason T. said on May 27, 2010 at 11:24 am
It’s nice to see someone in the marketing department at Austin Peay State University has a sense of humor: http://bit.ly/avRxt8
moe99 said on May 27, 2010 at 12:45 pm
That’s a great tshirt, Jason. I’m sending it to my son who already has a Transylvania University sweatshirt to shock the unitiated in Seattle, who’ve never heard of Jefferson Davis’ alma mater.
Dave said on May 27, 2010 at 1:29 pm
I thought Larry was at least 80 myself, I remember listening to him on late night radio driving back and forth to work in what seems like 30 years ago. Wikipedia says his birthdate is November 19, 1933 but maybe Larry edited it.
Deborah, I turned 60 in April and so far, I’m surviving it just fine. Sometimes, I think, how can I be 60, it used to sound so old.
4dbirds said on May 27, 2010 at 1:36 pm
Why would anyone over 50 lie about their age? I mean what’s the point?
alex said on May 27, 2010 at 2:13 pm
Why would anyone over 50 lie about their age? I mean what’s the point?
Getting a senior discount if you’re too young for it.
moe99 said on May 27, 2010 at 2:36 pm
I love Robert Ebert.
Scout said on May 27, 2010 at 2:45 pm
moe, your picture changed… did you just get a puppy?
moe99 said on May 27, 2010 at 3:02 pm
Nah, that’s gravatar changing things around w/o being asked. Puppy came last summer.
btw, guess who used to live in the house McGinniss is renting in Wasilla? Ex-cons. Used to be a halfway house until 2008. Just who did Sarah think was looking at her in her tank tops then?
Dexter said on May 27, 2010 at 3:17 pm
Larry King was at the Dodgers game in LA two nights ago, sitting directly in camera range in the high-dollar seats just a little to the first base side of home plate. It got so I was watching him instead of the game because after a couple innings I had noticed he had not moved an inch.
I figured that since he is such an intense baseball fan his concentration on the game prohibited any need to fidget around in his seat like almost everybody does.
King is a true baseball fan, when he was a kid in Brooklyn he was a Dodger fan at Ebbets Field, and from the stories I have heard him tell of those days, I would think he truly is around 76 years old.
Last week I was sorting out old VCR tapes to trash and I found one I had not labelled. I put it in the old vcr and to my surprise it was a very younger-looking Larry King interviewing an ancient, deaf, confused Ronald Reagan.
The interview wasn’t a disaster because King had yet to deteriorate in his skills yet. Reagan tried to remember what he was supposed to say about politics, stammering around, and he recalled in great detail how his deafness started, when an actor fired a pistol right beside his ear while filming a movie about a hundred years ago.
Watching this interview from twenty-one years ago, it was sort of fascinating to witness what Reagan was going through as Alzheimer’s disease was taking hold.
Dexter said on May 27, 2010 at 4:11 pm
Plumber Joe strangely silent over Gulf leak, Borowitz tells us:
Also, David Simon told nance that the Creighton Bernette character (HBO’s “Treme”) was only partly based on Ashley Morris. I have a hunch another part of the character is formed by Garland Robinette of WWL radio in The Big Easy. NBC Nightly News has been featuring Robinette regularly on the newscasts, and Robinette has been a venting radio host just like he was during Katrina.
James Carville’s rant against Obama the other day was right out of Creighton Bernette’s YouTube rant on Treme, also. I mean, after I saw Carville, I was fully expecting him to invoke “you fucking fucks!!” in his diatribe. There is no doubt in my mind that Carville has been watching Treme.
Now I am already hoping the Treme show becomes a two-parter, dealing with this catastrophe in the Gulf…WWL radio has linked some tragic photos, I couldn’t get past the first one, which showed a dead dolphin. Not the fish kind, the people-friendly Flipper kind. I almost puked. Goddam it.
nancy said on May 27, 2010 at 4:24 pm
Some bloggers put these things in separate posts, but I hate touchdown dances on the front page, so here you are:
I was right.
“No one is stalking anyone,” Joe McGinniss, Jr., a novelist whose father is the non-fiction writer, wrote in response to an email from a Palin supporter who confused his email address and his father’s. (He shared the email with me.) “A woman was renting her house and sought out the author because the Palins had crossed her (owed her money for renovations she had done at their request and never paid her for). So she knew McGinniss was writing the book and found him and offered him the house.”
brian stouder said on May 27, 2010 at 5:04 pm
Madame Proprietress, Professional Journalist and Social Observer Extraordinaire: Congratulations!
One of the nicest things about reading NN.c is, it always puts me a day or two ahead of the curve
I’m thinking the Day Three story will be a compilation of the half governor’s series of half truths on this whole thing, followed by a lame bit of semi-humorous jokes from she-who-her-own-self; capped off (or top-killed) by a Day Four piece recapping the whole thing, and comparing it to some examples of supposed antagonists who managed to work together, for their mutual profit; an example of adults who “leave it at the office” at the end of the day. (Like President Reagan and Speaker O’Niell)
Really, wouldn’t it ever have occurred to the former governor to privately approach the reporter, and make some quiet deal with him? Give him a little “dish”; a scoop or two, just for him, and then have a favor due from him, down the road?
Jean S said on May 27, 2010 at 5:22 pm
oh Larry indeed…let’s see, the movie of “Fahrenheit 451” was released in 1966 & we went to a screening. I remember Larry coming over to talk to my dad (who wrote the book review column for the Herald). My memory of Larry pegs him in his 30s at the time, but who can say…
Deborah said on May 27, 2010 at 5:55 pm
After commenting about my nnc obsession earlier, I found myself too busy and otherwise occupied to check-in again until now. Moe, I agree, I love Roger Ebert too, in fact I’m stalking him. Ever since he wrote about one of his favorite walks in Chicago I have gone out of my way to walk that way too hoping to see him and his wife Chaz. Of course if I do spot them I won’t say a word to them. It will just make me feel good. Don’t worry Roger, I’m harmless.
del said on May 27, 2010 at 5:58 pm
Thanks for mentioning the Ebert post Moe. Pretty neat.
Little Bird said on May 27, 2010 at 8:17 pm
One of Deborah’s favorite pastimes is celebrity spotting. She’s gotten quite good at it. Though, the jury is still out on whether that was really Mr. Fonda at Pasqualls.
Holly said on May 27, 2010 at 10:28 pm
I went into a food store the other day. When I went to check out I was asked if I wanted the senior discount. It hit me that maybe I did. I could not remember if I was 52 or 53.
Denice B. said on May 28, 2010 at 12:23 am
Autism sucks. And watching Jenny McCarthy spouting her bile is just plain annoying. I just finished reading ‘The Horse Boy’ by Rupert Issacson. It’s about a family’s search for healing. No blame, just the ‘It is what it is’ attitude and a will to do anything to help their boy. And reading Temple Grandon’s book ‘Animals Make Us Human’ has deep insights into autism and how the mind works. Very interesting topic.
Dexter said on May 28, 2010 at 1:49 am
Garland Robinette video from WWL, New Orleans.
coozledad said on May 28, 2010 at 7:31 am
I can’t think of any punishment or censure strong enough to slap John McCain with for nearly handing the country over to that leather fetish Hog Queen. But I can’t say I’m surprised she doesn’t pay her bills. That’s her trailer-slattern sense of entitlement showing through the SM gear like a leaky colostomy bag.
These people are horrifying. No moral center, no ethics.
Dexter said on May 28, 2010 at 1:00 pm
Since some of you folks are interested…