- Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
“It’s good to be the king” — Mel Brooks, as King Louis XVI in his 1981 movie ‘History of the world, Part I’
I picked as my epigraph for this review a quote from one of the funniest movies ever made by a comedy genius because Larry King, in the paperback edition of his 2011 book “Truth Be Told” (Weinstein Books, 248 pages, written with Carl Fussman, glossy photo insert, index, $15.00) writes that Mel Brooks is “the funniest person I’ve known.”
Brooks is discussed at length in Chapter 13, beginning on Page 197 — a chapter that worth the price of admission alone. It contains King’s who’s- funny-why-and-who’s-not summations of dozens of people, including Lenny Bruce, who made it possible for comedians to use the forbidden dirty words; one of my all-time favorites stand-up comics and writer, George Carlin, who continued in Bruce’s tradition; Don Rickles; Bill Maher; Jay Leno; Jon Stewart; Joan Rivers; Kathy Griffin; Larry David; Steven Colbert; Robin Williams; Groucho Marx, and many, many more, including Colin Powell.
Colin Powell? Yes, Gen. Colin Powell!
King says that when he was doing a show in Washington, DC, the “hot invitation” for anyone was Ben Bradlee’s New Year’s Eve party. Powell and King brought down the show at the party by dancing together. It became a ritual. In the fourth year of attending the party, King says he turned to Powell and said: “Think of it. A poor Jewish kid from Brooklyn. A black kid from the South Bronx. Who would’ve thought that the editor of the Washington Post would invite them to a New Year’s Eve party and that they’d be dancing together. Colin leaped back and said, ‘You’re Jewish?'”
“Truth Be Told” is a look back on Larry’s remarkable run at CNN — including riffs on why he retired his CNN show Larry King Live at the tender age of 76 after a remarkable 25-year run. King says Vladimir Putin of Russia, a guy who knows how to hang on to power, asked him why he was making this dramatic move, saying via satellite (page 2) that in the U.S. mass media there is only one King, adding “We have a right to cry out: Long live the King! When will there be another man as popular as you happen to be?”
With anyone else, this comment and the dozens more like it in King’s book might be self-serving, but it works in a book bearing the subtitle “Off the Record about Favorite Guests, Memorable Moments, Funniest Jokes, and a Half Century of Asking Questions.”
I’m surprised that King discovered when he announced his retirement (oops! He says he hasn’t retired, just changed the course of his career for stand-up comedy) that he was as big a celebrity as those he had interviewed on his show. Maybe even bigger than many. After more than a half-century of asking questions — going back to his radio days in Miami and Washington, DC, and continuing for a quarter century at CNN — King suddenly found everyone wanted answers from him. And this is from the guy whose motto is “I’ve never learned anything while I was talking” (Page 130). As a newsman since the beginning of 1966, I think that statement is as good a motto as any for news people.
Everybody wanted to know why “Larry King Live”, CNN’s highest rated program, was ending after three decades. Was Larry getting divorced again? (King has been married eight times to seven different women, so this was a logical question to ask as rumors swirled around his marriage to his current wife Shawn). No wonder his marriages didn’t last long; he was married to Larry King Live!
King reflects on how much the world has changed around him over the course of his fifty-year career, and he has a lot to say about everything and everyone: from marriage, politics, sports, entertainment, to the justice system, the Middle East, broadcasting, and the American future. “Truth Be Told” was so well-written and captivating that I read it in one sitting (OK, lying down, since I do much of my reading in bed).
About the Author
Larry King, born in Brooklyn Nov. 19, 1933, was the host of CNN’s Larry King Live, the first worldwide phone-in talk show until 2010. The Emmy-winning King has been dubbed “the most remarkable talk show host on TV ever” (TV Guide) and “the master of the mike” (Time). King also founded the Larry King Cardiac Foundation, which has raised millions of dollars and provided lifesaving cardiac procedures for nearly sixty needy children and adults. He began as a local Florida journalist and radio interviewer in the 1950s and 1960s and became prominent as an all-night national radio broadcaster starting in 1978. He lives in the Los Angeles area with his wife Shawn and their two sons Chance and Cannon.