Larry King Spent His Last Year Building a Legacy for Gen Z
The legendary broadcaster Larry King died Saturday in Los Angeles at 87 after being hospitalized for COVID-19. He may best be remembered as the longtime host of CNN who interviewed the most notable personalities of the 20th century, including Vladimir Putin and Frank Sinatra, but he also worked tirelessly to build a bridge for the next generation.
I spoke with King when the pandemic first hit the U.S. last January. He had fallen and needed to cancel his appearance at CES, the consumer electronics show in Las Vegas, where he was scheduled to speak with TikTok influencer Josh Richards about a blockchain app to combat climate change. It was about as Gen Z as it could get.
"The young will inherit the world," he said by phone as I stood backstage with his 21-year-old son, Chance King. Rather than cancel our in-person interview, he was only too happy to talk from home. Effusive in his love and admiration for his child, he said "My day is gone, but Chance is tomorrow."
With Chance as executive producer, King was making his first foray into podcasting. His show, "The Millionth Question," would feature celebrities discussing pressing issues of the day. In May, it was picked up by 4Forty4 Media for $5 million, according to Variety.
Despite having had a near-fatal stroke which put him into a coma in March 2019, the veteran journalist showed no signs of slowing down. He told People that it was Chance that kept him going.
"My dad has interviewed thousands of world leaders, athletes and celebrities," Chance told me. "We're doing this podcast because so many kids do not know who he is. With podcasts revolutionizing journalism, we want to touch as many lives as possible. "
King started in radio in 1957 during the era of black-and-white TV with cable and consumer internet still decades away. Over the course of his storied career which included 30 years with "CNN's Larry King Live," he witnessed the evolution of technology.
"The whole thing excites me," he said. "We weren't talking about Bitcoin even two years ago and now it's part of the culture. Everything is moving so fast. I think it's safe to predict that Bitcoin will become a major part of our economic engine."
But for all his optimism, King had grave concerns about where humanity was heading. "Climate change is the biggest issue facing the world today," he said, expressing hope that Gen Z's passion around preserving the planet would spur innovation that would lead to a more promising future.
Even with 2.4 million Twitter followers, King had no plans to do more on social media. "I'm 86 years old," he said with a laugh. "I'm lucky to be walking!"