Veteran CNN host Larry King hangs up suspenders

Veteran CNN talk show host Larry King hangs up his famous suspenders Thursday, after a quarter of a century of interviewing the powerful and famous.

The 77-year-old, who will be succeeded by former British journalist Piers Morgan, is finally retiring from "Larry King Live," the show he has presented on the Atlanta-based news network since 1985.

Typically combining high politics with showbiz news and gossip, interviewees on his final shows this week have included Barbra Streisand and former British premier Tony Blair.

Born Larry Zeiger in Brooklyn, the CNN icon has become one of the most recognizable figures on US television, after previously anchoring a national radio show for seven years.

Over the decades the gravel-voiced broadcaster has quizzed everyone who is anyone on his nightly programme, including every US president since Gerald Ford.

Other highlights included Playboy founder Hugh Hefner with a bevvy of Playmate girlfriends, Mike Tyson interviewed inside the boxing ring at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

While critics say his interviewing style can be too soft-soap, others argue that's why he gets everyone to come on his show, winning scoops which some credit with helping establish CNN in its early days.

The Emmy award-winner has conducted over 40,000 interviews over the years, and recently broke the world record for the same TV interview show in the same time slot with the same presenter.

To celebrate his 40th anniversary in broadcasting, Tinsel Town honored King in 1997 with a star on the Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard, a short walk from CNN's LA offices.

King's private life has been almost as storied as his on-screen career: in April he filed for divorce from his seventh wife Shawn Southwick, citing "irreconcilable differences."

Although Southwick was King's seventh wife, it was the eighth time he had filed for a divorce. He was twice married and divorced to Alene Akins, with whom he split in 1972.

Tributes have been flowing since he announced he was leaving the show. "We will miss Larry's giggle. We will miss Larry's stupid suspenders," said Washington Post TV columnist Lisa de Moraes.

"We will miss the way he, at times, has no idea who he is interviewing. There will never be another like Larry," she added.

King's last show, broadcast from CNN's Los Angeles offices on Sunset Boulevard, will air at 6:00 pm Pacific Coast Time (0200 GMT) Thursday, and CNN says it has "a bunch of surprises for him."

But King insists he is not retiring.

He is contracted to do four "specials" per year for CNN, as well as more of the charity work he has done for years. He is expected to remain a regular at the Beverly Hills delicatessen he has frequented for years for breakfast.

Former British tabloid editor turned talent show judge Morgan, who will take over from January, has praised King while promising to develop his own more "theatrical" style of interviewing.

"I have watched Larry King Live for much of the last 25 years, and dreamed of one day filling the legendary suspenders of the man I consider to be the greatest TV interviewer of them all," he said.

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