Please enjoy this transcript of Cal Fussman’s interview with Larry King. Cal is a New York Times bestselling author and a writer-at-large for Esquire magazine, and Larry has been dubbed “the most remarkable talk show host on TV, ever” by TV Guide and “Master of the mic” by Time magazine. Transcripts may contain a few typos—with some episodes lasting 2+ hours, it’s difficult to catch some minor errors. Enjoy!
Listen to the interview here or by selecting any of the options below.
DUE TO SOME HEADACHES IN THE PAST, PLEASE NOTE LEGAL CONDITIONS:
Tim Ferriss owns the copyright in and to all content in and transcripts of The Tim Ferriss Show podcast, with all rights reserved, as well as his right of publicity.
WHAT YOU’RE WELCOME TO DO:
You are welcome to share the below transcript (up to 500 words but not more) in media articles (e.g., The New York Times, LA Times, The Guardian), on your personal website, in a non-commercial article or blog post (e.g., Medium), and/or on a personal social media account for non-commercial purposes, provided that you include attribution to “The Tim Ferriss Show” and link back to the tim.blog/podcast URL. For the sake of clarity, media outlets with advertising models are permitted to use excerpts from the transcript per the above.
WHAT IS NOT ALLOWED:
No one is authorized to copy any portion of the podcast content or use Tim Ferriss’ name, image or likeness for any commercial purpose or use, including without limitation inclusion in any books, e-books, book summaries or synopses, or on a commercial website or social media site (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) that offers or promotes your or another’s products or services. For the sake of clarity, media outlets are permitted to use photos of Tim Ferriss from the media room on tim.blog or (obviously) license photos of Tim Ferriss from Getty Images, etc.
Tim Ferriss: Hello, boys and girls, ladies and germs. This is Tim Ferriss, and welcome to another episode of the Tim Ferriss show where it is, typically, my job to deconstruct world class performers of all different types, whether they comes from the world of chess, military, business, entertainment, sports, or otherwise. This time around, I’m doing an experiment. And I want you to support a friend of mine. And there’s not much involved. You just have to listen. Cal Fussman has been on this podcast, @calfussman on Twitter.
He is a New York Times bestselling author and was the writer at large for Esquire Magazine where he was best known for being a primary writer of the what I learned featured. What does this mean? He has conducted interviews with icons who have shaped the last 50 to 100 years of world history. Mikhail Gorbachev, Jimmy Carter, Ted Kennedy, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, the list goes on and on and on. He did his first long-form interview as the interviewee on this podcast. I interviewed him twice. He is an incredible storyteller.
And I have been trying to get Cal to do his own podcast since we first did that probably a year and a half or two years ago. So, this is what we did for this episode. I said, “Cal, let me take the pressure off. Rather than over thinking the podcast, why don’t you interview a friend of yours who I would love to have on the podcast anyway, Larry King?” All right. So, this episode is Cal Fussman interviewing his friend, Larry King.
And if you like it, I would love for you to tell Cal. You can just hit him on Twitter @calfussman or on his website, calfussman.com. But hit him on Twitter and let him know what you think. Encourage him to do a podcast. My first podcast was a hell of a lot rougher than this one that he did with Larry. So, Larry King, if you don’t know who he is, is on Twitter @kingsthings, or the website you can check out is aura.tv/larrykingnow. He has been dubbed “the most remarkable talk show host on TV, ever” by TV Guide and “Master of the mic” by Time magazine.
He has done more than 50,000, that’s right, I think I’ve done a lot with 260 or 270 guest interviews, he’s done 50,000 interviews throughout his half century in broadcasting, including exclusive sit-downs with every US president since Gerald Ford.
Larry King Live debuted on CNN in 1985 and ran for 25 years. He’s been described as the Muhammad Ali of the broadcast interview. And Larry has been inducted into five of the nation’s leading broadcasting halls of fame and is the recipient of the Allen H. Neuharth Award for Excellence in Journalism, an Emmy, the George Foster Peabody Award for Excellence in Broadcasting, 10 Cable Ace Awards, it goes on and on. He is also the author of several books, including his autobio, My Remarkable Journey.
And I mentioned the link just a bit earlier. But he is, currently, the host of Larry King Now, which is produced on Aura TV. And you can find that at aura.tv/larrykingnow. So, without further ado, here is the conversation between Cal Fussman and Larry King. And if you think Cal should do his own podcast, then, tell him to not over think it and to get started. And you can hit him up on Twitter @calfussman.
And you can also check out his website at calfussman.com. So, here you go. Enjoy Cal Fussman with Larry King.
Cal Fussman: All right. Here we go. This is Cal Fussman on his first podcast.
Larry King: The Fussman Factor.
Cal Fussman: Can you believe that, Larry?
Larry King: You should name this the Fussman Factor. I’ll bet no one has a podcast with a factor because Bill O’Reilly is out of work.
Cal Fussman: As you can tell, my first guest is none other than Larry King.
Larry King: In person.
Cal Fussman: Sixty years.
Larry King: Sixty years on the air. Could you believe it, Cal Fussman?
Cal Fussman: That I can believe, 25 on CNN now or at dot TV.
Larry King: In the sixth year now already.
Cal Fussman: Interviewed more than, what, 60,000 people?
Larry King: That’s the best estimate in almost 61 years.
It could be right because I worked radio and did five hours of radio a night, many times, having multiple guests. And that was five nights a week, five hours of television every week. Yeah, a lot. Radio, television, race track interviews. I did afternoon shows, remotes, 60,000 is about right. I had a full career of this.
Cal Fussman: So, this is my first time behind the mic. Thank you, Tim Ferriss, for giving me the opportunity to guest host the podcast.
Larry King: Oh, this is not your podcast.
Cal Fussman: Well, it’s my podcast, but Tim is being kind enough to set it off into the atmosphere.
Larry King: So, this is kind of a Ferriss Wheel.
Cal Fussman: Oh, man. Lar.
Larry King: I love that. He wheeled it over to Fussman. Okay, I get it.
Cal Fussman: Okay. This is my first. Let’s immediately talk about your first time behind the mic.
Larry King: There’s a little back story. I was in love with radio. As a kid, even I remember 5 or 6 years old, I would listen to the radio, imitate radio announcers. There would be shows like a tale well calculated to keep you in suspense. And I would, at 5 years old, run into the bathroom and, a tale well calculated, the Shadow knows. And I was fascinated. My father died when I was 9.5. And that threw a roadblock into a lot of things. I couldn’t go to college. I had to help support my mother. But, when I was a teenager, I’d go into Manhattan, we called it the city. We lived in Brooklyn, and we called Manhattan they said going to the city.
I would visit radio shows that had studio audiences. And I would watch announcers read off scripts and drop the paper down, look at microphones.
And I said I want to do that. I really want to do that. I had a bunch of odd jobs after high school, one of which was for the Associated Merchandizing Corporation whose offices were at 1440 Broadway on the third floor. On the 20th floor was WOR Radio. Later, when I had a nationally syndicated show, WOR was my New York affiliate. But I would take the elevator up to the 20th floor, and there were elevator operators then. And I would say to the elevator operator, “Lobby please,” pretending I was an announcer. I fantasized I was an announcer. I worked for United Parcel Service. I worked for Hearn’s Department Store. And then, I –
Cal Fussman: So, you knew this was your destiny?
Larry King: Yeah. Well, I knew it was my destiny. I didn’t know where I would start. I’m 22 years old. My mother is now working. I had to help support her. My brother is in college.
And I’m walking down the street, and a friend, I don’t know who it was even, introduced me to a guy named James Seramos who was director of announcers at CBS. And I said to him, “I would love to be a radio announcer. What advice do you give me?” And he said, “Well, are you single?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Try Miami. It’s a big market, a lot of stations, no union. And they might have older people on the way out and younger people on the way up. And it might be a shot.” So, my uncle, my mother’s sister had passed away, and my uncle who owned a tuxedo store in New York had retired down to Miami Beach.
He had an apartment. And he said I could stay with him because I had no money. And I took a train down to Miami. And I think I had $11.00 or $12.00 in my pocket.
And I went to stay with him. I arrived at the train station. The first thing I saw was a water fountain that said “Colored” and “White”, two water fountains. I drank out of the colored fountain. I had never seen a thing like that growing up in New York. Couldn’t believe it. I get on a bus to go over to Miami Beach. I’m sitting in the back. The bus driver pulls over and asks me to please move up to the front. The back is for negroes, and the front is for whites. First day in Miami. So, I said, “My father is negro. I prefer to sit in the back.” I mean, it just annoyed me so much. Anyway, I went over, and I went around the radio stations.
And they wouldn’t listen to me. I was 22 years old.
Cal Fussman: So, you’re just knocking on doors?
Larry King: Yeah. No experience. Do you have any jobs open? I went to WIOD was one of the first stations I went to where I later worked for 19 years. So, I went to this small station on Miami Beach, WAHR, went in, very small station. General manager was Marshal Simmons, a nice guy.
And he said, “I’ll give you a voice test.” And he put me into a little studio with a microphone like this. And he gave me a news analysis to read. And that’s the first time I ever – and I read it. And he said, “Well, you have a nice voice. And we have a lot of change over here. We’re very small. We don’t pay a lot. If you want to hang around and watch the announcers work and watch how they get the news, if an opening happens, we’ll give you a shot.” So, I hung around for maybe three or four weeks. I stayed there day and night. I watched the announcers. I watched them rip and read.
I would go out with Sunny Hirsch when he did sports interviews. I just was taking it all in. And one day, a Friday, Marshal Simmons, the general manager, called me, and he says, “Well, Tom Bayer is leaving.”
Tom Bayer was an unusual situation. He made $55.00 a week, and his alimony was $60.00 a week. He figured out once that he could not make it on this. He used to live off coconuts, coconuts from trees. So, he says, “You start Monday morning. You’re on from 9:00 to 12:00 in the morning, and in the afternoon, you’ll do news and sports.”
Cal Fussman: So, you got your whole weekend to prepare for this now.
Larry King: I went crazy. The whole weekend I had. I went back home. I came back to the radio station Saturday morning, started picking out the music I’m going to play, hung around there all Saturday. Sunday practiced, went into the little studio, good morning, good morning. This record, Les Elgart, Swinging Down the Lane. I’m so excited. Now, it’s Monday morning, May 1, 1957. I get there like 6:00. I go on at 9:00. My uncle hugs me and wishes me the best. It was a warm, muggy, sunny, Miami Beach morning, 840 First Street right opposite the police station.
I would visit there last year, by the way. It’s another station now. But, anyway, I walk in. There’s a secretary that comes in at about 8:00. I say hello to the all night guy, stack up my records, I’m ready to play. And then, Marshal Simmons says, “Come into my office,” at like 8:45. And I go in. And he goes, “Well, this is your first day on the air. The best of luck to you.” And I said, “Thank you.” And he said, “What name are you going to use?” I said, “What are you talking about?” And he goes, “Well, Larry Zeiger,” that was my name, “ain’t going to work.” Now, it would work.
Now, any name would go. Engelbert Humperdinck, any name would go. So, he says, “Zeiger won’t work. It’s a little too ethnic, and people won’t know how to spell it. And we got to change your name.”
And I said, “I’m going on the air in 12 minutes.” And he said, “Yeah,” and he had the Miami Herald open, and I would later write a column for them. All of these things are like miracles. And there was an ad for King’s Wholesale Liquors on Washington Avenue.
Cal Fussman: So, he looks down at that ad –
Larry King: He looked, and he said, “How about Larry King?” And I said, “Okay, sounds good.” A year later, we legally changed, and it’s legally changed in AFTRA. So, if you’re a broadcaster today at an AFTRA station, even if your name is Larry King, you can’t use Larry King because it’s a branded name. yeah, it’s true. And then, it becomes where you become famous, no one can ever use it. No one could be Arthur Godfrey or Jackie Gleason, even if your name is Jackie Gleason. If you get a television show, you can’t be Jackie Gleason on an AFTRA station. Anyway, so, now, I got a new name. Now, I go in. I’m about to go on the air.
At 9:00, I start the record [humming and singing]. I lower the record, put on the microphone, and nothing comes out.
Cal Fussman: Nothing comes out of your mouth?
Larry King: Nothing. I bring the record back up, lower it down, bring it back up, lower it down, and I am panicked. I am sweating. I’m looking at the clock. And I literally said to myself I can’t do it. I can do a lot of things, but I’m nervous, and my whole career is done. And Marshal Simmons, God rest him, kicked open the door to the control room and said, “This is a communications business, damn it, communication.” He closed the door. I turned down the record, put the mic on and said, “Good morning. My name is Larry King. And that’s the first time I’ve ever said that because I’ve just been given this name.”
“And let me tell you, this is my first day ever on the air. And all of my life, I dreamed of this. When I was 5 years old, I would imitate announcers.” The story I just told you, I told the radio audience that day. My father died, I had to – and I’m nervous. I was very nervous here. So, please bear with me. I played the record and was never nervous again. And later in life, that story, I would tell it to Arthur Godfrey, Jackie Gleason, and others. And they said, “Well, you learned the secret of this business, which is there’s no secret. Be yourself.”
So, what I did that day, I wasn’t brilliant, I wasn’t conceiving this, carried through me for 60 years, which is be yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask a question. Don’t be afraid to sound stupid.
Cal Fussman: What did that teach you about honesty?
Larry King: And not just honesty. Yeah, it teaches you a lot about being open and honest on the air. But, of course, what you do when you do that is you bring the audience into your circumstance. And when you do that, if they like you, you win them. If they don’t like you, they’re not going to like you anyway. You can’t make them like you. I asked Edward Bennett Williams, the great criminal defense lawyer, once what’s the No. 1 role of a criminal defense lawyer. And he said, “Put one juror in my client’s shoes.”
Cal Fussman: How would that play out?
Larry King: If you can put one client in your client’s shoes, he’ll never vote guilty because he would say I would have done that. All right. So, what I did that day was put the audience in my shoes. And I recommend that. I’ve done a book, How to Talk to Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere. I do a course. If you’re going to be – your first public speech.
You’re scared. Get up and tell them you’re scared. They would understand because they’d be scared, too. Bring them into your situation. I was on the air when we had the earthquake here. I was on television, CNN, there were cameras bouncing around. I’m broadcasting the earthquake. We’re having an earthquake. Desks are flying. I’m over there, “I hope we’re still on. If we’re still on,” you know what I mean? I was in the station alone during a hurricane. And I broadcasted the hurricane. For example, we were out of money. It was a cigarette machine and a candy machine. It was just me and the engineer in the station alone. No one could get there. I broke the machine on the air.
Cal Fussman: They heard you breaking into the machine?
Larry King: Yeah. Of course, I told them my situation. I got no cigarettes, and I got no food. I said, “You want to hear what a hurricane sounds like?” We were the only station in the city, WIOD, with a generator.
An emergency generator, we were the only thing on the air. You had to tune to us. So, I would go outside, lean the microphone out the window, and say, “Here’s what it sounds like.” And I broadcast the hurricane. I just ate it up, yeah.
Cal Fussman: This is the power of storytelling what you’re talking about.
Larry King: Yeah. Well, the power is I was always good at that. When I was a kid, they called me Zeke like short for Larry Zeiger. I was Zeke the Creek the Mouthpiece because I would, as Herby said, I would go to a two hour baseball game and come back and tell the guys about it and take two hours. In other words, I was descriptive. I always had the ability. I thought I would be a baseball announcer. That was my goal to be a sports announcer because I knew I could describe things well in front of me.
Cal Fussman: Do you think that’s a learned skill? Or is that something that you just had inside of you?
Larry King: I have no idea. I think you can teach certain things. You can’t teach a good voice. I never had a voice lesson. I had laryngitis maybe once in the 60 years. I’ve worked sick. When I had a heart attack, I was only off the air 10 days. I think one of the reasons for my longevity is the love of what I do. In other words, I may have an unhappy day at home. Things may not go right. I can’t control – but when that light goes on, I control my environment. And then, how many people get to control their environment? So, when I hosted a radio show every night or television show every day or wrote a column, I controlled the question I would ask. I controlled my environment.
Cal Fussman: It’s interesting you say that because when I was thinking of doing the podcast, one of the things that scared me was, as a writer all of those years, I had control of the content.
And I can do an interview, but, afterwards, I could piece it together to create the story in the best way possible. When you’re doing an interview, certainly, that’s live, you don’t have that.
Larry King: Correct.
Cal Fussman: And so, I was going to have to give that up in order to do this.
Larry King: You’ve got to trust yourself. If you trust yourself, if you say to yourself – I have never said to myself, “Can I ask this?” I asked it. I never doubted myself. I don’t have it in social circumstances. I don’t have it in life. I don’t have command of situations. But I trusted myself because I loved it.
If you love communicating – a lot of writers aren’t good broadcasters.
Cal Fussman: A lot of them are terrible broadcasters.
Larry King: Yeah. Because they’re used to the comfort of the control on the typewriter, and they write it. If they only said to themselves, you know, I control this, too, I control it, you do control it. You’re controlling this podcast right now. Not me, you.
Cal Fussman: You know, the interesting thing, and maybe we can set this story up together because it reminded me of a story that Al Pacino tells that goes back to the Godfather. And I know you’re good friends with him, and you’ve heard about his arc through that beginning where, in the very beginning –
Larry King: They were going to throw him off.
Cal Fussman: Yeah. Do you want to tell a little about that, and then, I’ll take it up to a point where he knew that the Godfather was going to be great. And it speaks to this, what we’re talking about.
Larry King: I’m trying to remember. I got so many memories.
Cal Fussman: All right. So, Al started, and he wasn’t I think the top draft choice of the studio brass.
Larry King: They wanted Robert Redford.
Cal Fussman: They went along with it. And then, in the beginning, he was having a hard time grasping the part. And then, I believe it was, at a point where they were thinking of getting rid of him, and he did that famous scene where he goes into the bathroom to get the gun –
Larry King: Get the gun to kill the cop.
Cal Fussman: That’s right.
Larry King: And he throws the gun away, which was his idea, and he had the confidence. And they kept him.
Cal Fussman: That’s exactly it. And so, later on, the movie is proceeding, and they’re doing the scene where the Godfather is going to be buried. And everybody works through the scene all day. At 6:00, everybody is going home.
They’re all walking away. And Al is about to leave. And he looks over, and he sees Francis Ford Coppola sitting on a grave stone weeping. And he walks over. And Francis is balling, and he says, “Francis, Francis, what’s wrong? Are you okay?” And Coppola says to him, “They wouldn’t give me another set up, meaning the brass wasn’t going to pay for him to be able to shoot it again.” And Al knew this guy is going to make a movie here because, if you care that much, and you have that kind of passion –
Larry King: See, now, I didn’t know that story. So, you are telling me that story. I knew the story of they were going to throw him off until he finished that scene. I know Brando, I talked to Brando a lot about it. I know one of the great scenes in the Godfather was totally adlibbed by Brando. And that’s the scene right before he dies.
He’s sitting with Michael, his son, Al, and he’s an old man now. And the grandson is playing. That’s where he dies. He falls over playing with the grandson. He’s sitting, and the waiter comes by, and the scene was, “Do you want anything else,” and they say, “No,” they both say no, and he dismisses the waiter. And they keep talking. The waiter comes by for the scene. And the waiter says, “Do you want anything else?” And Brando, out of nowhere says, “I’ll have some wine.” And he looks at Al Pacino, and he says, “Lately, I drink a lot of wine.”
Cal Fussman: Oh, man.
Larry King: But it so fit. He’s old now. He’s not the mafia don he once was. “Lately, I drink a lot of wine.”
Cal Fussman: And the passion that that must come from, whether you’re Al seeing Coppola on the grave stone or whether you are in that moment and these words just come out of you, it just seems central to what makes people great.
Larry King: Well, you hit a great word, moment. And what I’ve tried to do the whole career is be in the moment. So, I’m always in the moment. That is, if I’ve interviewed Al Pacino yesterday and Barack Obama tomorrow, but I’m interviewing you today, I’m totally into you today. I’m not thinking about yesterday. And once the show is over, I never think about it. I don’t listen to it. I know what I did. I don’t have to listen to it.
I don’t have to watch it.
Cal Fussman: Wow. That’s what I need.
Larry King: You won’t have to listen to this podcast. You’ll remember it. You know what you did. What are you going to listen for, unless you want to judge it? I don’t. I never have, in my life, listened to myself. Once I’ve done it because I know I’ve been in the moment, I trust – see, the word is trust. I don’t trust myself off the air. And that’s weird. I made so many mistakes, been in debt, many marriages. Life didn’t always work out for me. I tried to be a good father, sometimes was, sometimes wasn’t. But on the air, no one ever called me in in my whole career to say what did you say yesterday.
Cal Fussman: Well, there was one great story from the first station in Miami. You got to tell this. It’s my favorite Larry King story.
Larry King: It’s a great story. It’s a true story. But management never really reamed me out.
But what happened was I had just started in radio. I was on the air two months. I’m working 9:00 to 12:00. I’m on in the afternoons, and I’m loving every second of it. I can’t wait to get there. I can’t wait to be on. God, I loved it. And the general manager, Marshal Simmons, called me in and said, “Al Fox, the all night guy, is sick tonight. Would you do the all night show?” And I said, “Sure.” He said, “Well, you’ll be here alone.” Very small station. “We don’t have an engineer at night. You just record the meter readings, play music and talk, and you’re on from midnight to 6:00. And then, you’ll hang around, and you’ll be on again at 9:00 and then, get some rest.”
“Oh, sure.” Now, I’m alone in the station. I’m playing records, and I’m talking to people. We talk about the time and the weather and what’s going on in the world because I’m living every minute of this.
And the phone rings, and I pick it up, and I say, “WAHR.” And this woman, I could tell you the truth, Cal, I can almost hear it now. This sexy woman voice says, “I want you.” Remember, I’m 22 years old. I think the pimples on my face are from Hershey bars. I am a Jew in heat. And this girl – no one has ever said to me I want you. And I suddenly said to myself, there are more than two benefits to being in this business. So, I said, “What do you want?” She says, “Come over. Come over my house.” I said, “I’m on the air. I get off at 6:00. I’ll be over at 6:00.” She says, “I only live 10 blocks away. And I have to go to work at 6:00. So, it’s now or never.”
“Here’s my address. Try to come over.” I got this moral dilemma now. My career, my radio, or no one has ever said I want you. So, here’s what the radio audience heard. “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m just filling in tonight. So, I’m going to give you a particularly good time here. I’m going to play the entire Harry Belafonte at Carnegie Hall album uninterrupted.” I had 23 minutes, which is all the time I needed, and which is still true to this day. Anyway, I put the record on. We didn’t have tapes then. It was an actual record. Zoom out to the car, drive out to her house, there’s the car she described it in the driveway. I pulled into the house, the light is on. Over to the door, I go in.
There’s a little, dark room, and there’s this woman in a white negligee sitting on the couch. She opens her arms. I grab her. I pulled her around. My cheek is against her cheek. And she’s got the radio on. And I’m hearing Harry Belafonte and he says – he’s singing Jamaica Farewell. And he sings, “Down the way where the nights, where the nights, where the nights, where the nights,” the record gets stuck. I place the girl back at the end of the couch, run out to my car. Jewish masochism. I keep the radio on all the way driving to the station. Where the nights, where the nights, where the nights, where the nights.
I get in, all of the lights are going flashing from people calling in. I’m totally embarrassed. I’m picking up, I’m apologizing to people. And the last caller was an older Jewish man. And I just said, “WAHR, good morning.” And all I hear was, “Where the nights, where the nights, where the nights. I’m going crazy with where the nights.”
I said, “Gee, I’m sorry. Why didn’t you just change the station?” And he said, “I’m an invalid, and I’m in bed. And a nurse takes care me. She leaves at night. She sets it to your station. The radio is up on the bureau. I can’t reach it. I’m stuck.” And I said, “Gee, can I do anything for you?” He says, “Yeah, play [inaudible].” But I didn’t get fired for that. Another thing that I almost got fired, and I don’t know if you even know this story, Cal. I had to make a living, so, I was making like $60.00 a week from the radio station. And I was doing – when I first started on television, I was making $100.00 from that.
And I was also the announcer at the dog track. There goes Rusty, Miami Beach Dog Track. It was right near Joe’s Stone Crabs. I used to walk in, look into Joe’s Stone Crabs window, and say, “I wonder if I can ever eat there.”
Anyway, I was doing three jobs. And this was New Year’s Eve. So, I taped the television show, did my radio show, and did the dog track. Now, the next morning, I’m on. I think it was on that shift, I was on 8:00 to 12:00 or 8:00 to 11:00, whatever it was. So, I’m dead tired. And it’s New Year’s morning. No one at the station. And it’s a news station, WKAT. And there’s big window doors leading in where you could look up and see the announcer in the station. And I’m so tired. And I’m just playing music and talking. And oh, my God, please. And 9:00, Don McNeil and the Breakfast Club goes on. That’s a show from Chicago.
It’s an hour every day, syndicated. Good morning, breakfast lovers and howdy do ya. At the 9:30 point in that show, Don McNeil would say we’ll be back in 30 seconds.
This is the ABC Radio Network. And all I had to do was turn off that mic, turn on my mic and say this is WKAT, the big cat in Miami Beach, and switch that switch back on and go back to Chicago and turn mine off. Well, what I did was, he said, “This is the ABC Radio Network.” And I turned him off, turned my mic on, and fell asleep.
Cal Fussman: Oh, man.
Larry King: No, I’m the only one in the station, and I’m snoring like this. Anyway, all people at home hear is [snoring]. So, they panic. Somebody called the Miami Beach Police Department, and the Fire Department comes. They look in the window, and they see a guy slumped against the microphone. And they figure I’m dead.
So, they take hatchets and break their way in through the window. And as they break all of the hatchets in, I wake up. And now, you’re listening on the radio, and the firemen are going, “Are you okay, sir.” “What the hell is going on.” All of this is on the air. And I look up, and it’s like 9:45. And I say, “Now, back to the breakfast club with Don McNeil.” And the general manager of the station, Frank Catzentine, called me in.
Cal Fussman: Did you think you were going to get fired?
Larry King: Think? All he said was, “I know you’re glib, and I know you’re good. We like your work. But give me any reason why I shouldn’t fire you. Any reason, if it’s within reason, I’ll accept it because I like you, but I got to fire you. By all rules of radio and ethics, I got to fire you.”
I said to him, “Okay. Here’s what I was doing. I was attempting to check the reaction of the Miami Beach Fire and Rescue Department. How quickly can they come to an emergency? They got there pretty fast. We could have a good report on this. I’ll do a little special.” And he said, “You son of a bitch. Get out of here.” But I had to pay for the window. He took out $10.00 a week out of my salary until the window was paid for. But those occurrences, with the lady, nothing ever happened because management was asleep. I never got in trouble for something I said. I never cursed on the air. I never said something that would bring me into repute. I just was – I loved the radio. And then, now, I’m on the internet.
And people curse on the internet. I’ve had guests say the F word. I still can’t. I can’t bring myself to do it because I’m so cognizant of the microphone and the old rules.
Cal Fussman: Well, first thing, are we hearing Biscuit the dog snoring?
Larry King: That’s fine.
Cal Fussman: I’m just taking Larry’s advice here and just describing what’s going on.
Larry King: Biscuit snores. You can take him and put him in another room. He don’t care. He’s 8 years old now. He’s just an old dog. That adds to the – see, here’s the beauty of the podcast.
Cal Fussman: That’s right. Now, they know Biscuit.
Larry King: Right. In the old days, you would have been signaling the guy to try to get him to take the – cut that, cut that, watch that, don’t do that, don’t – what the hell?
Biscuit was snoring, if you heard the sound. If you didn’t hear it, okay, that’s what he cut for. If you did hear it, it’s cute.
Cal Fussman: And Tim has got a dog, Molly, who he often has on his podcast and is always a great audience. One of the things about Tim’s audience is they want to know how to be better in all aspects of life. What would you say – let’s talk a little about curiosity, about speaking, listening, empathy. You are one of the most curious people I’ve ever met. Is that something that is engrained? Or is it something that everybody has but somehow, you never lost?
Larry King: Good question, Cal. That’s why the Fussman Factor podcast will be a success. Truthfully, I don’t know.
I was always curious. I remember, as an 8-year-old or 9-year-old, I’d get on the bus and ask the bus driver why do you want to drive a bus. My curiosity was endless. So, it lent me into a broadcast booth that worked for me. That worked for me. My curiosity worked for me. I never got good grades in school, except in things with oral projects like English where I could ask questions of the teacher. So, I always had that curiosity and managed to find a work place that brought it to me. I don’t know the answer to that, but I could give you rules.
Cal Fussman: Sure, what are rules?
Larry King: Listen. Listening is as important as what you’re asking. So, don’t worry about your next question. Now, that’s risk taking, but don’t worry about your next question.
Cal Fussman: Often, you see, when people are in conversation, you can almost look at somebody carefully and see they’re thinking about what they’re going to say next.
Larry King: Now, that is natural. I react. You can’t tell someone just starting. So, someone just starting, if it’s comfortable for you to make little notes to yourself so you have a bridge to fall back on, do it. You want to be good. But, eventually, get to be where you don’t need those notes. Your curiosity works for you. And sometimes, the simplest question is the best. Like when we had the first – the war in Kuwait when we went into Iraq, we didn’t go to Baghdad.
Cal Fussman: Oh, Desert Storm, right.
Larry King: We would have generals on every night and reporters. And I would hear people out of other stations, “This happened today and this happened.” My first question was what happened today.
Okay. Now, I’m getting their perspective of what happened today. Now, based on their answer, I’ll have to have another question, and I would. Whatever the answer was, even if it was today, the troops advanced 10 miles into the enemy territory. That’s the answer.
Cal Fussman: Okay.
Larry King: Did that surprise you?
Cal Fussman: There you go.
Larry King: Here we go, go right with it. Why did they do that? Do you trust the information that your superiors give you? There’s so many things like I watch interviews today, they’re nuts. People are terrible, especially after sporting events.
Cal Fussman: What’s the worst thing you’ve seen?
Larry King: I see it every day. We have just seen a sporting event. A guy just got his first major league homerun to win the game.
One stupid question I saw was this was your first major league game. It was the ninth inning. The count was 2 and 1, and you hit that homerun to right field. And they put the mic in front of them. What’s the question? There’s no question. Or the second dumbest question. You got a home run and you’re first at bat. What does it feel like? He’s going to answer, terrible. I didn’t to hit a homerun. I wanted to strike out. I would go other areas like when you played little league, what were some of your baseball dreams. And he might say to play in my first game. Did you ever visualize hitting a homerun? What were you thinking when you were on deck? Were your parents here?
Cal Fussman: And not only are these unexpected questions, but they’re easily answered. Yes, my parents were here or no, they weren’t.
Larry King: And then, feeling with them, talk to them. In other words, put yourself – it’s a lot of how would you be in that situation, except you don’t have to refer to yourself. You don’t have to say I would have done. I don’t use the word I. I ask questions because I’m an observer. I’m present at the creation. I like to be there. Again it’s the moment. I like to be in the moment.
Cal Fussman: Can what you do be used by anybody in their office?
Larry King: I would guess so. I do a course based on the book How to Talk to Anyone Anytime, Anywhere. I’ve had some successful people tell me that the book helped them in their life.
It’s still in print. I saw it in Norway. Yes, you can because, in a communicating world, now, the big difference today is, with modern technology, it’s probably easier today to text. So, people text today, which is sad to me. So, you don’t need the art of phrasing. You don’t need to use your voice well.
Cal Fussman: Do we lose something? You see people with their cell phones in their hands looking down.
Larry King: Terrible.
Cal Fussman: What do we lose when we no longer have eye contact with people?
Larry King: Intimacy. That’s what I want in every show I do, an intimate relationship with the guest. If I can establish that like Sinatra, I’ve got a letter here Sinatra wrote to me after his last television interview. You make the camera disappear.
Intimacy, trust. If the guest will trust you, you’re home because they know you’re sincerely interested in them. And, therefore, you could go anywhere. You can go anywhere. It depends how you phrase the question, how you feel. But if you could put yourself in their shoes and get their emotion, it’s a good tip. Nobody thinks they’re bad. Nobody. Hitler didn’t comb his hair in the morning and say, “I am an evil person. I am doing good for my country.” So, if you’re going to interview Hitler, the stupidest first question would be why did you invade Poland.
The best kind of first question is, if I were interviewing Osama Bin Laden, the stupidest first question would be why did you kill 3,000 people on that September day in New York?
I would have asked him, “You grew up in the richest family in Saudi Arabia. Why did you leave?” Now, that gets him to think. But what he didn’t think about why he left that day. But now –
Cal Fussman: You’ve made him curious about himself.
Larry King: Right. But he also knows I’m sincerely curious about him. I have made no judgment in that question. I don’t bring an agenda. What do we want? We want to learn. All we want is information. We why to know the whys of Osama Bin Laden. Wouldn’t that help you understand, when you’re dealing with the Osama Bin Laden of the future, why do you want to know? All we want is – I remember once, I had this great guy on, Swami Satchidananda.
I never forgot him, from India. And he was so calm about everything. And he was the kind of guy, I remember he said, “When you wake up in the morning, when you open your eyes, did you deserve that day? Whether you believe in God or whatever, did Larry – did the Swami deserve this day?” You woke up, it’s a gift. You don’t know where it came from. It’s a gift, the gift of life. You woke up. So, what if it’s raining? You’ve got the gift of the day. So, what if the toast is burnt? Make more toast. You’ve got the gift. I said to him, “Swami, what if I told you I’ll pick you up tomorrow at 3:00, take you to the airport, and I don’t show? What would you do?”
“I would call you and say, Larry, how are you? I know something terrible must have happened because you weren’t there. The shoe is on your foot.” Then, I asked him the world’s greatest question. “Okay, Swami,” I was being cute, “You come home, walk up into your bedroom, and your wife is in bed with another guy.” And he said to me, “What would you do?” And I said, “I would scream and yell, and that’s what everyone would do. Scream and yell. The guy would run out, and the woman would be screaming, and pandemonium.” But what do you want in that situation?
Cal Fussman: Information.
Larry King: Information. How is the best way to get it? “Okay, this is very embarrassing, you two. I’m going to go down and make some tea. Why don’t the both of you come down to breakfast then. Let’s talk about this.”
Who owns that moment?
Cal Fussman: You’re in control.
Larry King: Yeah. That’s the hardest thing to do. But, basically, that’s what I would do on the air. Why are you doing this? Why are you doing that? My curiosity would be there no matter what the situation. And, eventually, I would be asking Osama Bin Laden why did he send those people out that day in September.
Cal Fussman: The more you’re talking, the more I’m seeing the power of control in questions.
Larry King: It’s all control. For most of my life in this great business, I have controlled my environment when working. And, for a lot of time, when I did my national radio show, I did the first national network show, I was on from midnight to 5:00. I was on CNN from 9:00 to 10:00. I wrote a weekly column in USA Today.
When I was writing the column, when I was on the radio for five hours, and when I was on television for the hour, I control all of that.
Cal Fussman: So, people could, actually, use what you were doing to gain a better control over their own lives, even if it’s not in broadcasting, just the use of the questions, like the swami said.
Larry King: Unfortunately, I don’t do as well in the personal life. Everyone has their – a lot of comedians are very unhappy people.
Cal Fussman: Right.
Larry King: And they see things funny for an escape from their own reality. So, I do very well in this circumstance sitting here talking to you. But I couldn’t hang a picture well. I’d hit my thumb.
I’m not a – I try to be a good driver. I’m not a great driver. In other words, no one is perfect. But in areas where you can, especially in the work environment, where you can control something, yeah, I could teach you how to do it.
Cal Fussman: What about empathy? Because that seems to be a quality that you have. You can listen to anybody, and you’re making them feel –
Larry King: I’m not judgmental.
Cal Fussman: Right.
Larry King: That I learned from broadcasting. What am I going to judge? I’m there to learn. Let the audience – see, the audience makes up its own mind. I’m a conduit from me to you. I learn, and through me, you learn. But I don’t make a judgment call. In other words, I’m not the kind of broadcaster who argues with the guest. It’s just not my style. I am passionate politically, off the air.
But I felt at best as a broadcaster that my role as a journalist was to give you – at the end of an hour, and you knew more the hour before. When there’s arguing, you don’t learn. I don’t like broadcasts where the guy just stands on a soapbox and talks for an hour.
Cal Fussman: Well, there doesn’t seem to be any empathy on TV anymore.
Larry King: That’s gone. The day of the long form interview is kind of gone. It’s sad.
Cal Fussman: Actually, it seems like the podcast is one way of trying to –
Larry King: That’s the last venue of the long form interview. This could not occur on television today. What you’re doing right now could not occur. For a radio station, it would be rare because, today, people want eat it up, speed it up, get it out. It’s a spit it out business. Get it up, get it out.
Can’t get enough, get right through it. Today, the rules are you do an interview show today, the guest should be on tops 10 minutes. You don’t want a half hour interview today. They’re going to tune out because they’ve got 500 channels. And you can’t – and I think technology has added –
Cal Fussman: What are we losing?
Larry King: Knowledge.
Cal Fussman: So, we’re not getting the information. And when you look at everything that’s going on politically, it seems like we’re not getting any depth anymore.
Larry King: That’s why this New York Times that I have right here is my Bible. I learn more from it every day than I get from all of cable television. And they’ve got cameras. New York Times doesn’t. But they can write an in depth article that continues on Page 46. And I get more out of it. The sad thing is that newspapers are going away.
That’s all part of – technology brings improvements, and they bring bad things, too. When I spoke in Norway a couple of weeks ago, and someone was asking me about technology, here’s the best and the worst thing about it. We know that somewhere in the world today, a guy is working on a cure for cancer, this brilliant scientist. Another guy is writing a great play. And another guy is inventing a new kind of airplane that will exceed the speed of sound. And another guy is planning how to build a nuclear weapon that you can hide in your hands and get on a plane. He’s doing that, too.
So, the guy who is curing cancer, he’s going to succeed. But the guy with the bomb is going to succeed, too. So, this is what you face as we advance as a culture. We advance. Remember, the small grocer got overtaken. I liked the small grocer. I liked the guy who took the little pencil who added up on the paper bag and took the clipper and got the toilet paper down from the top of the rack. That’s gone.
Cal Fussman: The interesting thing to me though is that it seems like questions are becoming more important now because, in this age of technology, you can Google any answer. A 6-year-old can Google any answer to any question in 4 seconds. But the right question, no. That 6-year-old might not be able to come up with it.
Larry King: Ask more.
Go through a day, and see how many people ask questions rather than say things. My motto, my broadcast motto all of my life was I never learned anything when I was talking.
Cal Fussman: And that’s interesting because you see TV and the idea is just to talk over somebody to get your point –
Larry King: Now, at times, you have to. For example, if I’m speaking, if you speak, as you do, and I’m making a comment in front of a group, of course. I’m not learning anything. But I’m entertaining. That’s different. You can entertain. If I’m telling a joke, I know the end of the joke. So, I’m not learning anything, but I’m providing entertainment. If I’m making a speech, I’m not learning anything, but I’m providing knowledge. But if I’m a questioner, I never learned anything when I was talking. If I’m asking a question of you, it better be a question not a statement, not a history lesson. Ask the question.
So many people, I want to yell sometimes is what’s the question.
Cal Fussman: I hear what you’re saying. Is there advice that you would give young people to better ask questions? I’ll sit down before an interview, and I’ll write out maybe 200 questions I want to ask.
Larry King: If that’s what works for you. Never do what doesn’t work for you. So, if Larry King says don’t wrote out questions in advance that would be stupid for me to say. I don’t do it. I can’t tell you what to do. Whatever is your comfort zone.
Cal Fussman: Is there something about the foundation of I did these speeches, change your questions, change your life, to look at questions a different way, to look at the power in them. Step aside from where you are.
Look at yourself and see how a different question could change your position. Is this something that you have done? Or you’re just constantly in the moment.
Larry King: I never sat down and figured it out. I’m just in the moment. I didn’t do self analysis. I’m in the moment. But I know that listening is as important as asking. Listening is as important as what you ask because follow up is. You have to be in the moment.
Cal Fussman: Is there advice? Is there ways for people to improve their listening?
Larry King: I guess. In this modern age of technology where you have instant information and where you can text people, listen is a weird word.
Think about the word listen. What are you listening to today? You’re reading stuff off your little iPhone.
Cal Fussman: And often, people have their ears plugged to take in what they want to hear. So, they’re pushing away the outside.
Larry King: I’ll tell you, often, how people don’t listen. We can test it. I did this with Jim Bishop one day. In Miami, he did a column on this. When you see someone that you know and pass on the street, how you doing? Right? I say I’ve got brain cancer. How is the wife? Because they don’t listen. How are you doing? They don’t want to know how you’re doing. Don’t stop. How am I doing? I’ll tell you how I’m doing. The bank called me today. The second mortgage payment. You want to know how I’m doing? Sit down, I’ll tell you how I’m doing.
Cal Fussman: Is there a way to break through that sort of cocktail party banter that means nothing?
Larry King: Now, this I don’t know the answer to. I have always had people respond to me. And it’s worked with women.
Cal Fussman: So, you just get genuine, sincere responses.
Larry King: Yeah. And as George Burns said, “If you can fake that, you got it made.” But I have always known, in interview situations, I’ve always known that I can get people to respond to me. So, I could use humor. I could use – but they know that I really want to know what they’re thinking and why they did what they did. And people appreciate that. I don’t know anybody that doesn’t like to talk about what they did, except Brando who didn’t like to talk about acting.
Cal Fussman: But that can be useful to anybody in any situation, in the office –
Larry King: Of course.
Cal Fussman: Just by looking into somebody and being –
Larry King: Being sincere and zeroing in.
Cal Fussman: Right.
Larry King: There’s two questions you ask in the same quest. Why did you do that? Or why did you do that? You’re going to get a better answer with the second.
Cal Fussman: Right. I was doing some reading, and they say that, when you take in a question, 10 percent is only the words, 30 percent is the tone of voice, what you just illustrated.
Larry King: Tone is very important, which you don’t get with your iPhone.
Cal Fussman: And 60 percent is the body language behind that question.
Larry King: Which you don’t get with your iPhone.
Cal Fussman: Yeah. And so, I guess this is something people can work on, if they want to, to learn how to better communicate.
Larry King: Yeah. Well, we’re trying all of the time. How to Talk to Anyone Anytime, Anywhere. How to be better – we all want to do better.
You’re always learning. And you always accept the fact that you’re still learning.
Cal Fussman: If you’re in sales, you got to connect with people. If you’re a leader of a company, you got to connect with people. And, basically, they can use the same skills that you’re using.
Larry King: Or course. Anyone can use them. Presidents of countries can use them.
Cal Fussman: I got some questions from Tim that he sent over.
Larry King: Okay. This is the Ferriss wheel question.
Cal Fussman: This is the Ferriss wheel question.
Larry King: We’ve been going a long time here, Cal.
Cal Fussman: Okay. It didn’t feel that way to me.
Larry King: Well, we’ve been over an hour. I don’t want to break it to you, Cal, but you’re starting to get annoying. And I want to tell you, listeners. This is going to be a great podcast. But there does hit a point with the Fussman Factor where he gets annoying. And we’re very close to that point now. Yes, what questions does the Ferriss wheel want?
Cal Fussman: This is from Tim. If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere, what would it say and why?
Larry King: A gigantic billboard anywhere? Let me think. Good question, Tim. Slow down! Or ban all guns.
Cal Fussman: There you go. I was thinking the John Wooden line when you said slow down. He said, “Be quick, but don’t hurry.” That’s pretty good.
Larry King: That’s good.
Cal Fussman: What is the book, Tim asks, you’ve given most as a gift and why?
Larry King: I guess, through life, it’s Catcher in the Rye. I love that book. I read it at four different times in my life. Teenager and later.
Cal Fussman: Does it change?
Larry King: Yeah. You get different meanings from it. I get different reactions. For example, my son, Chance, who is 18 hated Holden Caulfield, thought he was a pompous, spoiled brat.
I never saw him that way, didn’t find him funny. It’s interesting the way kids – that perspective. That’s good writing. If you can react hostilely to it.
Cal Fussman: Yeah. And 50 years from now, he may have a very different look at it.
Larry King: Right. For example, you read Dickens, I like Scrooge. He wasn’t a bad guy, Scrooge. Look at it this way, Cratchit was a big complainer. He’s a whiner. Come home, he’s got a son, Tiny Tim. Take care of him. Stop with the crap. Do your work. Look at this dog.
Cal Fussman: Biscuit. Can you name one to three books that have massively impacted your life?
Larry King: Well, Catcher in the Rye would be one. A Quiet Hero, the Life of Lou Gehrig, and then, most of the books I’m currently reaching. Richard Nixon’s biography, it’s terrific, by John Farrell.
I’m into the moment of what I’m doing now.
Cal Fussman: You read like six books at once. I’ve been with you on airplanes.
Larry King: What I try to do is a novel and nonfiction. And I can read those two at once. But I got three going now.
Cal Fussman: What’s the third?
Larry King: I got the Richard Nixon book, and I got Alec Baldwin’s memoir –
Cal Fussman: Oh, you were reading the Franken –
Larry King: I finished Al Franken’s book. Fantastic. Funny, on the mark, funny. And then, I’m reading Shattered, the campaign of Hillary Clinton.
Cal Fussman: Pretty good title. In the last five years, what new belief or behavior has most improved your life? Do you have new beliefs in the last five years?
Larry King: No, but the more I exist, the less I believe in something out there. I don’t believe in God.
I don’t believe in life after death. Most people get older, and they find some belief. I get older and find less. I have no – this is it.
Cal Fussman: You’re just in the moment.
Larry King: The thing I fear the most is death because I can’t imagine not existing. That drives me bonkers.
Cal Fussman: We were talking about this at breakfast that we’re all energy.
Larry King: Yeah. I don’t know what you mean by that, we’re all energy.
Cal Fussman: That’s what we are. We’re energy. And so, you’re still going to be floating around somehow.
Larry King: Come on. I’m floating around. Do I know where I am?
Cal Fussman: Well, you’re not going to know it. Well, I can’t make any guarantees on that. But I have a feeling that you never go away. And, certainly, you will be around for all of us to remember you. What about memories?
Larry King: Yeah. Memory, you’ll have tapes of me. I can exist. But I’m not there, you understand, Fussman? I don’t exist.
Cal Fussman: I get it.
Larry King: And that bugs me to not exist. For example, who is going to be the next president? Who is going to win the pennant? The why person fears death.
Cal Fussman: Because they’re not going to know the answers.
Larry King: It’s the one thing – I married into a family, they all believe. They’re Mormons. They believe I’m going somewhere else. And I say to them you can’t lose. You’re in a win/win. If you die and you go somewhere else, you were right. If you don’t, you don’t know it. They can’t lose.
Cal Fussman: That’s good strategy.
Larry King: It don’t work for me because I can’t accept the fact. There’s no heaven. There’s no other plain. I’m not going to some planet.
Cal Fussman: Stay here. What purchase of $100.00 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last 6 months or recent memory?
Larry King: Where did he come up with that question? A $100.00 or less?
Cal Fussman: I don’t know. Tim, where did you come up with that question?
Larry King: That’s a Ferriss wheel. That’s the kind of thing, if you’re stuck on a Ferriss wheel, you think of stuff like that. Ferriss, if I’m stuck at the top of a Ferriss wheel, first, I’m panicked. I’m Jewish. It’s never going to start again, and I’m stuck on the Ferriss wheel.
Cal Fussman: So, less than $100.00.
Larry King: What did I spend less than $100.00 on that did what?
Cal Fussman: Had a positive impact on your life.
Larry King: As a child, it was a yo-yo because I never could master the yo-yo, and it would drive me crazy. And the fact that I couldn’t master it drove me crazy. So, I don’t know why I just thought of that.
Cal Fussman: Well, it would probably have been like a Dodger ticket when you were a kid.
Larry King: Yeah.
Cal Fussman: Now, they’re more than $100.00.
Larry King: When I was a kid, one of the biggest thrills of my life was a ticket to Ebbets Field. I’d go down to Montague Street and buy reserved seats when you could afford them, $1.75, to hold those tickets and look at them. Now, there’s a piece of paper. You put it in your phone. I don’t do that. When I go to the airport, I want a boarding pass. And I’d like it to be thick not paper. You can’t get them. You can get pieces of paper. I’m very pissed. You got me very angry, Fussman.
Cal Fussman: First annoyed, now angry. How about what advice would you give to a college senior about to enter the real world? And what advice would you give a smart, aggressive 30-year-old?
Larry King: Well, to a college senior, if you have goal, don’t give up. If you want to do something in life, and someone can tell you you can’t do it, and if you believe that, then, you can’t do it.
If you think you can do it, you can do it. If you think you can do it, you can do it.
Cal Fussman: That’s actually great advice.
Larry King: And if you think you can’t do it, you can’t do it. And if you can do it, but you think you can’t, you can’t.
Cal Fussman: You’re cooked.
Larry King: You’ve got to think you can do it.
Cal Fussman: What about a 30-year-old?
Larry King: A 30-year-old is almost the same thing. A 30-year-old, you’re at that bridge. That’s why I love athletes. Athletes’ lives, their careers end when most of ours begin. So, they face winning and losing. They face the final score. They face cheering that stops. We don’t have it. No one else in life has that. Most of our careers kick off around 35, 40, and that’s when they’re done. And also, they’re getting paid for something that they did when they were 7 years old and did it for more hours.
Cal Fussman: How is it failure or apparent failure set you up for later success? Do you have a favorite failure?
Larry King: Well, you learn from loss. You learn a lot more from losing than from winning.
Cal Fussman: Well, probably the two stories you told about Jamaica Farewell and then falling asleep.
Larry King: There were other failures, too. Failure in marriage. I wasn’t good at it. That’s because my job came first. See, again, my love for my broadcasting has hindered me in other areas because I’m driven by that. CNN and Mutual Radio were the No. 1 things in my life, No. 1. Children were better, but I was a better worker than a father. I’m a better father now. Old age has – see, but the weird thing about old age, Fussman, for the Fussman Factor, is I’m 83.
But I’m 17. In other words, I know I’m 83 from the pains and the little tribulations of life. But I’m 17. For example, you know what keeps me going? I wonder what I want to do when I grow up. I like being called promising. In other words, when I get a call like you’ve just been awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Emmy’s, which I got six years ago, Lifetime Achievement –
Cal Fussman: That probably made you mad.
Larry King: Wonderful thrill, but, at the same time, is that it? You mean it’s over? Over? And I look at my trophy room. I have a trophy room right next door to this room. And it’s got all of the accolades over the years and the awards. I go in there. It’s my ego room.
But I sit in there. And I say to myself who the hell did this? Who the hell – I look around at pictures and people and me with people. Who the hell? How the hell did I do this? And it’s just – you know, Bertrand Russell, the great philosopher and Nobel Prize winner, mathematician was 95 years old, and he had a dinner party. Someone said, “Dr. Russell, you’re 95, a great mathematician, great writer, Nobel Prize. What do you know? What do you know?” And he said, “The only thing I know is that I don’t know.” And if I had to sum up everything about human nature, about war, about life, about love, about the meaning of things, I don’t know.
I’ve had a lifetime of discovery. I’ve learned a lot of things. But on the basic things of life, I don’t know. I don’t know about women. I don’t know about someone looking after me. I don’t know about things up there. I don’t know. I guess I’m an agnostic, but I just can’t make that leap. I can’t make the leap of faith. It’s too big a leap. And when people have it, there’s a sense of envy, but, at the same time, I don’t mean to put them down, but a sense that they need a crutch. I don’t have a crutch.
Cal Fussman: I have a few more questions here from Tim. What are bad recommendations you hear in your area of expertise?
Larry King: I don’t know. I don’t know how to answer that. I’ve never heard people give bad recommendations. A bad recommendation would be you don’t need college.
I think, today, you do. In my day, you didn’t. Now, you do. The world is too competitive.
Cal Fussman: What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?
Larry King: Unusual habit? I have a habit of – thought habits. I try to total up words in a phrase or a sentence and then divide it to see if I get an even number. Like true love divided by two is four. There’s four words in each things, four and four.
Cal Fussman: Oh, the letters. I see what you’re saying.
Larry King: So, I don’t want an odd number, I want an even number. I do that a lot in my head.
Cal Fussman: You’re doing it while you’re asking questions?
Larry King: No, no, no. I try not to get distracted.
Cal Fussman: Okay. Yeah, that would be like having a calculator going off.
Larry King: No, no, no.
Cal Fussman: But that’s okay. That is unusual.
Larry King: Yeah. But everyone has little unusual things. For example, my pills, I take a lot of prescription pills and a lot of vitamins. They have to be in order in the closet. And when, I lay them out for the next day, I have to take them out in the same order. That’s a rule.
Cal Fussman: Well, that’s control and organization. A lot of what we’re talking about is about control.
Larry King: I’m very organized. And I hate – hate is a bad word. Disorganized people annoy me. I told my wife this morning, we’re having dinner at Wolfgang’s tonight. If you want to come over, come over.
Greg is coming. I don’t know who is coming. But we’re having dinner at Wolfgang’s tonight. Two hours later, I say to her we’ll go at 7:30. Where are we going? Wolfgang’s. She says I don’t listen to details like that. You what? She doesn’t know –
Cal Fussman: You’re in the moment.
Larry King: She’s not in any moment. She doesn’t know – she’s got a plane tomorrow. She has no idea what time the plane is going.
Cal Fussman: I think there are a lot of people like that.
Larry King: I know what time my plane is going a week from Friday.
Cal Fussman: I got it. In the last five years, this is a good question, Tim, have you become better at saying no to distractions, invitations, etc?
Larry King: No.
Cal Fussman: No, he has not. Larry cannot say no.
Larry King: It’s the hardest word in the English language is no, and that’s what people where people with texts can get away with it.
Cal Fussman: Because it’s easier to type N-O.
Larry King: It’s easier to type no.
Cal Fussman: Why can’t you say no?
Larry King: I guess I don’t like rejection and I, therefore, don’t like to reject others. I know it’s stupid because, eventually, it cancels something because you don’t want to disappoint them initially.
Cal Fussman: So, five people can ask you to go out to dinner on Wednesday night –
Larry King: I’m too much in the moment, so, I have to give a satisfactory answer to each, and it could drive you crazy. It works on the air. It doesn’t work on the air. A lot of things that work professionally –
Cal Fussman: Don’t work off the air.
Larry King: Don’t work off the air.
Cal Fussman: What is the best or most worthwhile investment you’ve made? It could be in money, time, energy.
Larry King: In my career. That paid off the most. The time I invested, the jobs I took, working radio, working the dog track, all of those little things.
Cal Fussman: I’m really getting also a sense of discipline.
Larry King: Yeah. In work ethic not in life ethic. I never handle money well, I still don’t. I don’t handle my own money. I keep kind of a small checking account, but I have accountants in Boston that do everything. I have never seen a CNN check, never seen it. I don’t know what it looks like or what TV checks look like. I keep a checking account, but I don’t know what pay checks look like. When I get speeches, they go right to the Speakers’ Bureau, and they send it to Boston. I don’t know. It would be nice to see what a check looks like.
Cal Fussman: Okay. The last question –
Larry King: Finally with the Fussman Factor. We’ll do an hour. Well, Fussman, we’re at an hour and 35 minutes, Fussman.
Cal Fussman: Okay. Well –
Larry King: This is the world’s longest podcast.
Cal Fussman: Longest first podcast.
Larry King: You’re doing very well, Fussman.
Cal Fussman: Well, thank you. When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or you’ve lost your focus temporarily, what do you do? Maybe this goes back to the swami, you just look for information.
Larry King: No, I get lost in sports. As we’re doing this, I’m watching a baseball game. And I could do this, and I know what’s happening. So, sports is a great thrill to me. I feel sorry for people who aren’t sports fans. Do you know why? When I get up in the morning, I have no idea who is going to win the games that day. None. So, I have wonderment every day. Who is going to win? What’s going to happen?
Cal Fussman: So, you’re talking, and you’re looking at the screen. And your curiosity is at play wondering, okay, what’s happening.
Larry King: Well, I can’t see what this player is saying, but I know the Royals have come here with the hottest team. The Dodgers are the hottest team in baseball by far. And the Dodgers just keep winning, by amazement, they just keep winning. So, I love that. I’m amazed at it. I’m involved in it. And, by the way, I still remain emotionally involved in the teams I like. And so, I get a lot of rewards out of being a fan of games.
Cal Fussman: You’re still in the moment. Now, this is a bucket list request.
Larry King: My bucket list?
Cal Fussman: It’s going to be my bucket list, but go ahead. You tell me your bucket list.
Larry King: Every Fussman Factor goes back to Fussman. By the way, you are listening to the longest podcast ever. Fussman out to break world records at all time. Fussman is trying to write War and Punishment. What was the longest book ever written?
Cal Fussman: War and Peace.
Larry King: War and Peace.
Cal Fussman: And Crime and Punishment.
Larry King: Yeah, I combined two books and got the world’s biggest –
Cal Fussman: There you go.
Larry King: I would like to do a Broadway show, a Larry King on Broadway as himself. Like Larry King Tonight. And you come, and I tell my stories and take questions from the audience, an 8:00 curtain with the theater bill. It’s the one thing – I’ve done standup comedy. I did a comedy tour and everything. But to be on a Broadway stage as a theater group, that’s something I would like to do.
That’s a bucket list. I’m not big on travel. I don’t have to see the Great Wall of China. I’ve seen pictures. Like we have a home in Utah. I don’t like Utah. It’s boring to me. They’re beautiful mountains. Okay. I saw the mountain. I don’t have to see it again tomorrow. So, that kind of wonderment I don’t have. I wonder about people, but I don’t wonder a lot about places. If I’ve seen pictures of Berlin, I don’t have to walk down the street in Berlin. But you, Fussman –
Cal Fussman: I’ve got to walk down the street in Berlin.
Larry King: You’re the wonder lust guy.
Cal Fussman: That’s right. It’s very interesting because you have given me a lot of bucket list stuff.
Larry King: Really? That I can enhance your life is a great moment to me, Fussman.
Cal Fussman: Because of you, I know speak. Do you remember how I was when I first came to the breakfast table to help you?
Larry King: Shy, Fussman.
Cal Fussman: Hardly ever spoke.
Larry King: Fussman did not speak. And now, I want to warn you of something. Do not become a bore. Sometimes, Fussman, you can overdo it. Don’t overdo it. You’re not a bore, Fussman. You’re a great man.
Cal Fussman: I haven’t overdone it yet, but it’s the reason that I’m now on stage speaking to companies is because of you. Because I was sitting at the breakfast table every day listening to you speak. And we’d go to your show at night. You’d put me off on the side of the camera, and nobody would see me. But I’m taking it all in. And I go –
Larry King: And you’ve done very well. I have to say. I’ve watched you. You’re a great speaker. I’m very proud that I played a part in it. And I know that, if I die, maybe I’ll be the one that doesn’t, why not? There has to be a first in everything. But if I die, I will carry on through you.
That you will keep my name going and your children and my children. So, I will exist in some form.
Cal Fussman: As long as I’m here, that’s for sure. So, let’s do the last bucket list.
Larry King: And that is?
Cal Fussman: This is my bucket list. There was a time when you were a kid, and you were listening to a baseball announcer. And then, he moved on to Florida. You moved on to Florida. And then, you were both working together.
Larry King: Same station. Red Barber.
Cal Fussman: Red Barber. And at the end of his report, he said, “Over to you, Larry.”
Larry King: That was one of the great thrills of my life. Still remains a thrill. Here’s a guy I listened to from age 7 or 8 on up. The guy who taught Vince Scully how to announce. The best baseball broadcast I ever heard. He had a southern accent. He came from Tallahassee, Florida.
And I could always hear his voice in my head as people who have grown up in Los Angeles have Scully’s voice in their head. So, when he – I’m sitting there and I did my interview portion, and he would do the sports news. And he said, “That’s the latest in sports. Larry?” And when he said Larry, my God, the thing that went through my head is here’s this little, Jewish kid from Brooklyn with his 48 pound transistor radio walking around on this Emerson radio to Coney Island listening to Red Barber describe a scene. And to make that picture come alive, Red gave me the game.
When I walked into my first game at Ebbets Field shortly after my father died, my uncle took me, Arlene’s father, Bernie, took me to the Dodger game.
And I walked onto that field. And I saw the grass and the dirt and the white lines. But I knew that field because Red gave me that field.
Cal Fussman: And so, then –
Larry King: To work with him and interview him and talk about Jackie Robinson coming into the league and what he meant to Red. Go, give me the bucket list already.
Cal Fussman: Here’s the bucket list. Over to you, Lar? No. If you will say, over to you, Cal.
Larry King: Oh, you want to hear that?
Cal Fussman: I want to hear over to you, Cal.
Larry King: Over to you, Cal. Cal, take it. Cal, go ahead. It’s your turn, Cal. Take the ball and run with it.
Cal Fussman: Over to you, Tim.
Larry King: Over to you, Ferriss Wheel. Hey, Tim. There’s another guy coming that’s going to have his own podcast, Sal Rollercoaster.
Cal Fussman: Oh, no.
Larry King: I think that’s funny.
The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.