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Larry King Shows No Signs Of Slowing, Even At 80

Larry King speaks during Larry King Live: Disaster in the Gulf Telethon held at CNN LA on June 21, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.
(Image credit: Jordan Strauss/Getty Images)

Broadcast veteran Larry King, host of web talker Larry King Now on Ora TV, a digital television network King started with billionaire Carlos Slim, turned 80 Tuesday. In addition to his web series, he also recently returned to his radio roots with Larry King Droppin’ In, a 90-second audio vignette that features the broadcaster’s musings on a variety of topics.

On the eve of his milestone birthday, King spoke with Broadcasting & Cable about a variety of topics including the one subject who got away and what his plans are for the future. An edited Q&A follows.

So what about broadcasting made you want to go into that business?

I don’t know why I loved it. I loved the radio. I loved. I must have had a good speaking voice. I mean I was five, six years old, people always told me, ‘boy, you have a good voice’ even when I didn’t change my voice apparently. I just loved it. I loved the whole mystery of the radio and all I ever wanted to be was be on the radio. And opportunity. And then television came shortly thereafter. I didn’t think I’d be on it. I wanted to be a sports announcer. I wound up doing a lot of. I did Dolphin football for years. I’ve done everything. The shocking news. But once I got into interviewing, I knew that was my chosen end of this career. I love asking questions. I’ve been doing it for 57 years. I never thought. I’ve been broadcasting in seven decades. It’s hard to believe. I started in the 50s and now it’s in 2010s, and I’m still broadcasting.

Do you feel any different than you did when you first started in broadcast?

First of all, when I was a kid never knew anybody who was 80. Nobody lived to 80 when I was a little boy. So, it’s strange to be 80. My father died when he was 46 and I was nine and a half. And then I wound up when I was 53 I had a heart attack and then subsequently heart surgery and type II diabetes… I was a smoker. I stopped smoking. I changed my lifestyle. I never thought I’d be 80. I never thought about it. But it’s still an incredible age to me. It’s chronologically 80 but I don’t feel 80. You know, I don’t have any aches and pains. I get regular check ups. I try to eat well. I have two young children. That probably helps keep me going. One’s 14; one’s 13. I have children much younger than me. So, yeah, it’s kind of kooky you know. I’m an octogenarian.

Are you slowing down at all as an octogenarian?

You know, that’s a good question. I thought I could slow down. I left CNN; I thought I would do some speaking engagements and spend a lot of time watching my boys play ball. But I found I just I missed it. So I was past the age of retirement…Not only I haven’t slowed down, in a sense, if you think about it, I’m probably doing more. I think it keeps me going. I’m just. I’m amazed at people who don’t work. I’m amazed at people who can retire and play golf. I just. I have to be active. You know, I don’t lull around in bed. I get up in the morning. I open my eyes. I’m out of bed. I take the kids to school.

What do you think of the new news networks such as Al Jazeera America and Fusion that have come on the air?

I met with the Al Jazeera people and they were talking about offering me a thing to do with them. I had just started doing Ora TV. I could’ve signed with them. RT now distributes our show. That’s a fine cable network. What they said to me, I thought was interesting. They said they wanted to be very serious. They didn’t want any comedians on. They didn’t want showbusiness people. They were very interested in politics and serious issues, which is fine. It’s something I’m very interested [in]. I never heard back from them. I’d seen them a few times. One of the problems they have is they’ve got to get HD. If you don’t have HD today, come on. I can’t watch shows that are not in HD.

Is there anyone you haven’t interviewed that you want to interview?

I’d loved to have interviewed Fidel Castro. He’s a fascinating figure to me. A revolutionary. If we get into politics now, he’s a man who led his country for 60 years. I think the longest running leader in the 20th Century was Fidel Castro. No one headed a country more than that. And even though he was a dictator, somebody had to like him. You can’t last 60 years…He fascinates me how he came from the hills and he’d been in prison and he takes over a country. Here he is on this island and it’s communist. All enemies surrounding him and the United States is 90 miles away and he thumbs his nose at the. I just like that; he fascinates me. He’s one I’d definitely would have wanted to have interviewed. A couple years ago we had tried to set up. Nothing happened.

What do you watch in your spare time on TV?

I’m a big sports fan. So I watch there’s an NBA game on. Tonight I’ll watch Monday Night Football. I watch baseball. I love old Law & Orders. Late night, I watch Jimmy Kimmel. I watch Ferguson if I’m up.  I’m always reading a book. I love the printed word. I still love newspapers. I read six newspapers a day. Newspapers are not the current, in thing. But I still like newsprint. I read magazines. I read trade papers. I’m constantly involved in learning. My curiosity takes me many places.

Have you seen your interview style change over the years?

No. My style’s always been the same. What. Where. When. Why. It’s still the five basics of all the things. I stay curious. I ask questions. I take myself out of it. I don’t use the word ‘I’. ‘I’ is irrelevant. I hate interviewers where the guest is the prop and they talk more. I don’t like interviewers who give their own opinions. I’m very guest involved. No. I’ve never changed. You can listen to interviews I did 45 years ago. Same. Same style.

What are your plans for the future? Do you see yourself retiring at all?

You’re asking an 80-year-old what their plan is for the future. You don’t sign 30 year mortgages. My plan is to keep on doing what I’m doing. To experience as much in life. To go to my sports events. Hopefully watch my kids grow up. Hopefully, to never lose my never-ending search for the truth and for what’s going on. I don’t want to die because I don’t want to miss anything. The future is open to me whatever it comes.