Larry King dies after getting COVID-19; influential talk show host was 87

January 23, 2021

by John Larson

Larry King, who was best known for hosting the talk show “Larry King Live” on CNN, died at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, on January 23, 2021. He was 87. King was being treated for COVID-19 for the past several weeks.* His death was announced on Twitter by his company Ora Media. Before coming down with COVID-19, King had had several other health issues over the years, including heart attacks, diabetes and lung cancer.

King was a longtime host in radio and television. He reached his greatest fame as the host of CNN’s “Larry King Live” from 1985 to 2010. The show featured a wide variety of guests, including famous entertainers, politicians, business leaders and non-famous people. There are very few celebrities in King’s era whom he didn’t interview. After leaving CNN, King founded Ora Media and hosted a self-titled talk show on the Internet. Jimmy Kimmel, Oprah Winfrey, Piers Morgan (who briefly replaced King on CNN) and Craig Ferguson are among the entertainers who have cited King as a major influence in being a talk show host.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, on November 19, 1933, King was one of two children of restaurant owner/defense-plant worker Aaron Zeiger and garment worker Jennie (Gitlitz) Zeiger, who emigrated to the United States from Belarus. King started his broadcasting career in radio and eventually had a nationally syndicated radio talk show called “The Larry King Show,” which could be heard on Mutual Broadcasting from 1978 to 1985. He left the show to host “Larry King Live” on CNN.

King had a chaotic personal life, with seven wives. His first marriage was annulled, and his next five marriages ended in divorce. His estranged seventh wife, Shawn King (formerly known as singer/actress Shawn Southwick), whom Larry married in 1997, had an on-again/off-again relationship with him. The estranged couple first filed for divorce in 2010, but cancelled those legal proceedings. Larry filed for divorce from her in 2019, but the divorce was never finalized at the time of his death.

Larry is survived by his sons Chance and Cannon (from his marriage to Shawn) and his son Larry Jr., whose mother was King’s second ex-wife Annette Kaye.

The King family has had several tragic deaths within a short period of time. In July 2020, Larry’s son Andy passed away of a heart attack age 65. In August 2020, his 51-year-old daughter Chaia died of lung cancer.

*January 27, 2021 UPDATE: In an interview with “Entertainment Tonight,” Shawn King said that Larry King died of sepsis, an infection complication that he got after he recovered from COVID-19.

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