Larry King ends CNN stint with nostalgia and family

Fri Dec 17, 2010 12:30am EST
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Larry King, the gruff CNN personality whose nonconfrontational interviews were a hit with newsmakers and viewers for 25 years, signed off at the cable news channel on Thursday with a series of reminiscences from big names, old pals and family members.

"Good evening and welcome to the last 'Larry King Live,'" the 77-year-old broadcast icon said at the outset of his hour-long swan song. "It's hard to say that. I knew this day was coming. These words are not easy to say."

With comedian Bill Maher and "American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest sitting across from him providing comic relief, King played the straight man professing to be surprised as the tributes rolled in.

In a pre-taped segment, President Barack Obama called King "one of the giants of broadcasting." Outgoing California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared Thursday "Larry King Day," giving King less than six hours to celebrate the honor.

King announced his retirement in June, saying he wanted to spend more time with his seventh wife, Shawn, and their two young sons. The couple earlier this year said they would divorce, but have since reconciled.

Besides returning to CNN for the occasional special, King has revealed aspirations to enter the bagel and standup comedy arenas. Sporting bold red suspenders, he vowed to keep wearing his trademark accoutrements in his retirement.

"Larry King Live" was an obligatory stop for politicians, moguls and celebrities since it launched when CNN was barely five years old. Earlier this month, the show generated worldwide headlines when Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin issued blistering threats against the United States and its Western allies.

Movie stars and rock stars on the promotional trail could be assured of a platform to hawk their wares without having to fend off any probing questions.

On Wednesday, King hosted Barbra Streisand for what the Los Angeles Time described as "a virtual ... infomercial" during which she aggressively promoted her new book, upcoming film and charitable efforts.   Continued...

<p>CNN talk show host Larry King speaks at ceremonies unveiling comedian Bill Maher's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood September 14, 2010. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>