Hail To The King

CNN has been celebrating the fact that Larry King has been in the interview business 50 years.  This is quite an accomplishment; to do anything for 50 years should be celebrated. 

Personally, King is a relic.  He represents the old  guard, non-southern Democratic party – the one that grew up with the New Deal and came of age with the Great Society.  I actually miss this version of the Democrats; although they would eventually obtain too much power and become corrupt, their idealism is far more attractive to me than the cynical opportunism of today.

But, back on track.  For all his accomplishments, King once actually said the most ridiculous thing I ever heard on the radio.  It was so memorable, 20 years later, I can still with confidence claim to be directly quoting him.

It was the late 80’s.  I was working 2nd shift for the state of TN, and had a long, midnight drive home to Murfreesboro.  So, I had a lot of drive time to kill late at night.  The pop music of the time was in transistion; there wasn’t much worth listening to.  Larry King still had his radio show, although he was also doing the TV show as well.  Modern talk radio was still in its infancy, so at that time of night, King was it.

Rush Limbaugh had just started to take off (one day I’ll post about the early days of Rush; for all his faults, he doesn’t get enough credit for single-handedly reviving an entire media industry). 

Anyway, on a particular drive home, someone called Larry during his “open phones” hour, and asked him what he thought of Rush Limbaugh.  This would be the equivalent of someone asking Brett Favre what he thought of Vince Young.  It was at this time that Larry said something offhand that almost made me wreck my car.

I don’t like him, he said.  He makes fun of the Kennedys. OK, I can accept that – Larry is a partisan at heart.

There’s nothing funny about the Kennedys.

I then spit a mouthful of Dr Pepper on the dash of my Isuzu truck.

There’s nothing funny about the Kennedys.

20 years later, it still makes me laugh.  Larry obviously holds the Kennedy family in such reverence that they’ve risen above mere mortals in his mind.  After all, every single one of us is, simultaneously, tragic and comic.  I am.  You are.  Cindy Sheehan has oodles of tragedy, and gobs of comedy. Don Imus, Rush Limbaugh, Larry King:  they are all very funny and very sad at the same time.

But Larry King, at least in the late 80’s, did not permit the Kennedy family any human-ness.  And, I guess this is the downside of his generation.  To someone my age, this mindset is downright silly.

I just think it’s weird that, of all his accomplishments, when I think of Larry King, I think of that silly statement years ago.  I guess that’s why we should always be careful what we say.  People remember.


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