Larry King is on the air so much (seven nights a week on CNN) and has been for so long (he got his first radio show in 1957) that it’s remarkable how little we know about him.
Sure, King’s famous for having been married eight times. “I’m good at broadcasting and I’m good at fatherhood,” the 75-year-old television host explains in an interview at New York’s Time Warner Center. “Two out of three…” Yet King has always studiously avoided talking about himself from behind the microphone. “When I do a show I don’t use the word I,” he says, sporting his trademark suspenders in a corner office perched high above West 57th Street. “My show is about the guests.”
But in a new autobiography, My Remarkable Journey, King finally opens up. He reveals the impact his father’s early death had on him, why he changed his name from Larry Zeiger just moments before first going on air, and how a heart attack changed his life. The book is silent, however, about King’s type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Forecast sat down with him on the day his autobiography was released to fill in the blanks.
You devote a chapter of your new book to your heart attack and bypass surgery in 1987 but don’t mention your diabetes. When were you diagnosed?
The first time anyone said anything to me was around 1995. A doctor said, “You have a high sugar count—you ought to have this checked.” And I went to the doctor and checked it, and I’ve been on medication ever since.
How did you respond to the diagnosis?
I was already exercising. I was pretty much watching my diet. Fat free. So I kind of took it as, Now? Now I get diabetes? But I might have had it before my heart attack. I don’t know when the diabetes really started. I was certainly worried. I was scared a little bit the first time I had a sexual experience, scared what that might do to me. But I’m generally optimistic. And I consider myself lucky—a lot of my life has been luck. And I have a good attitude toward health.
Did you experience any symptoms before the diabetes diagnosis?
No symptoms. I try to do the best I can with my health, and diabetes just boggles me. I know when you get a heart pain; I’ve had them. I don’t know what diabetes feels like. I know whenever I go to the doctor, they check my feet. I have my eyes tested once a year, and they report that to my diabetic doctor.
Does that explain why you’ve been more outspoken about your heart disease, founding the Larry King Cardiac Foundation?
I think more about the heart than I do about diabetes. If someone had said to me, “What’s your No. 1 health problem?” I would have said heart disease and then diabetes. And what doctors tell me now is that I can transpose them and say diabetes first. In fact, as my cardiologist said to me, diabetes is heart disease.
If you have diabetes, you’re [more likely] to have heart problems.