Skip to main content
CNN.com
Search
Home World U.S. Weather Business Sports Analysis Politics Law Tech Science Health Entertainment Offbeat Travel Education Specials Autos I-Reports
U.S. News

Larry King on pop culture, star power and suspenders

Adjust font size:
Decrease fontDecrease font
Enlarge fontEnlarge font

(CNN) -- Almost from the start of his broadcast career in 1957, Larry King has been asking questions, to everybody from the person next door to the man in the White House.

CNN anchor Anderson Cooper sat down with the host of CNN's long-running "Larry King Live" to ask him about guests who have fascinated him over his 50-year career, the secret to a good question -- and how his trademark suspenders began.

COOPER: So, Larry, what is pop culture to you?

KING: The answer is very difficult ... Is it anything that's popular? It's a hard thing to answer. I don't know the definition. For example, is George Bush part of pop culture? Is Lindsay Lohan part of pop culture? The answer to both may be yes. If you're in People magazine -- someone said that People magazine determines what's pop culture. ...

COOPER: Name pop culture icons who've moved you.

KING: Brando, definitely. He was a pop culture icon. Sinatra more than anyone, because I got to be fairly friendly [with him]. He was very nice to me. Had him on CNN; it probably was his last interview. He was a wonderful interview. He was hard to get because he didn't do interviews, but once you got him, he was everything you want in an interview.

What you want in an interview is a passion, a sense of humor, ability to explain what you do very well, and a little bit of a chip on your shoulder. ... Frank had it all. So you could go anywhere with him. ...

I would put Sinatra and Brando way, way up there on my list of special people who didn't do interviews, who I got to interview, and who in the interview responded well to me.

COOPER: Who do you wish you'd interviewed that you haven't interviewed?

KING: I would loved to have interviewed the last pope. I'd like to do this pope, too. But the last pope fascinated me for so many reasons. And we got a "maybe" once, which was a big thrill. "Look, we got an e-mail from the Vatican." [Pope John Paul II] was raised among Jews, lived under Hitler and Stalin, was a playwright, a poet, a recording artist, a best-selling author, a very, very conservative pope with regard to abortion, women in the priesthood. He was of the dark ages in the sense he was extremely conservative, but in other areas extraordinarily liberal.

COOPER: What would have been the first question you asked him?

KING: What's it like to be pope? Then, I'd ask him, does a pope ... do you ever doubt your faith? ... But if he does, what do you do if you're pope and you doubt? How do you deal with that?

COOPER: It was June 3, 1985, your first broadcast [on CNN]. Were you nervous?

KING: I was. You know something? I didn't know whether I was going to like it or not. I had done television. I wasn't nervous about television. ... Ted Turner had convinced me to come over, and he was like a friend of mine. I liked him a lot. So we were being made up in this little studio in Georgetown, where you had to be made up here, and then walk through an alley to go to another building to go on the air, and [former New York Gov.] Mario [Cuomo] was there. But five minutes in I said, "It's going to make it." There was an electricity. ... It had an intimacy of radio with the kinetic adventure of television. I liked the set, I liked the whole thing about it, so I knew five minutes in.

COOPER: Your interviewing style is different than so many other people, and I was asking around to a couple of people who had been on your show about what it is that makes it work so well. And they said that you make guests comfortable, to the point where they feel they can say anything, ... therefore [they] will say to you what they haven't said before, and wouldn't say anywhere else.

KING: I do know this, I know I'm intensely curious ... and I make good eye contact, I listen to the answers, I ask short questions. If you ask a question over two sentences to me, you're showing off. No question should have to take more than two sentences. If you turn on the camera on "Larry King Live," the guest should be on, nine out of 10 times. If I'm on nine out of 10 times, the show is about me. So I never thought the show was about me.

My role is not to make a guest uncomfortable. I know some people like to make a guest uncomfortable. I don't. I'm uncomfortable if I make them uncomfortable, and I, at least in my sense, you don't learn a lot if you're confrontational. So I learned a long time ago that the best way to be is really curious, and people like responding to someone who they know is. Like Sinatra said to me once, "I know you care about my answer, therefore I'm going to answer it because I know you care." I do care. And that's true to this day. Whether it was Anna Nicole Smith or Frank Sinatra or band leaders or presidents, I care about their answer, and then I hope through me it goes to the audience. I'm a conduit. I think that's my role. I'm a conduit.

COOPER: 1987 was the dawn of the strap suspenders. How did that start?

KING: My ex-wife, Sharon ... said, "You know, you're slimming down, you stopped smoking, maybe you need a new look." I used to wear sweaters, half sweaters. I said, "What?" She said, "Did you ever try braces?" She said, "Try them." So I tried them one night ... and the control room said, "You know, three people called and said you look terrific." That was enough. ... That was it. Suspenders forever.

COOPER: Have you worn them every day since then?

KING: Yeah, I have. .. I'll wear them to dinner, except on weekends with jeans, you know, hanging around with the boys now. ... But I like them, they hold your pants up better. (laughs)

COOPER: Did you ever think you would be in this business so long?

KING: I never thought it. I still can't believe it's 50 years, because I remember my first day like yesterday. I never thought I'd be on all over the world. All I wanted to do was be on.


story.larry.king2.jpg

Larry King's suspenders -- now part of pop culture -- made their debut in 1987.

SPECIAL REPORT

• I-Report: Your memories, photos
• Gallery: Did you know?
• Audio quiz: Guess the guest
Advertisement

Advertisement

Career Builder.com
Quick Job Search
  More Options
International Edition
CNN TV CNN International Headline News Transcripts Advertise with Us About Us Contact Us
Search
© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
SERVICES » E-mails RSSRSS Feed PodcastsRadio News Icon CNNtoGo CNN Pipeline
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by CNN.com
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more