Larry King Said This Was The Worst Interview of His Entire Career
"I got another 56 minutes to deal with this woman."
Larry King, who passed away in January, was in broadcasting business for 63 years across radio and television. He specialized in long, in-depth interviews with everyone from convicted killers to A-list actors. CNN estimates that he conducted over 50,000 across his career. Despite his experience getting guests talking, he wasn't always successful in facilitating a scintillating conversation. Before his death, Larry King revealed the interview he counted as his worst. Read on to find out who it was with, and for more on the legend, here's The One Question Larry King Regretted Asking.
King's worst interview was with the former wife of an old Hollywood star.
When King was a guest on SiriusXM's Sway in the Morning in December 2012, co-host Heather B. Gardner asked if he ever had an interview that didn't go well. King launched into a story about a 2004 episode of Larry King Live in which he welcomed on Phyllis Gates, a former talent agency assistant who was briefly married to actor Rock Hudson in the 1950s. Hudson was famous not only for his films but for his homosexuality, an identity which he kept private for much of his life. He died of complications from AIDS in 1985.
While Gates had co-written an autobiography, My Husband, Rock Hudson, which came out in 1987, she didn't make many public appearances. CNN promoted the episode to viewers with that in mind, and King was looking forward to an interesting conversation.
"So we had Phyllis Gates on and we promoted her all day," he said on Sway. "'Phyllis Gates! Rock Hudson had a wife, you're going to meet Rock Hudson's wife!'…And then they over-promoted it."
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Gates wasn't particularly chatty, however.
King described Gates as a "a nice little old lady." Unfortunately, she wasn't a talkative one.
He recalled that she gave him one-word answers to his questions, declining to expand on subjects including whether she had known that Hudson was gay when they were married (she hadn't) and what happened when she reached out of her ex-husband after learning of his AIDS diagnosis.
The whole hour was blocked off for their interview, which presented the host with a challenge.
"I look up at the clock, I'm four minutes in," King continued. "I got another 56 minutes to deal with this woman, who has nothing to say. I almost said, 'Did you know him?'"
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King still enjoyed doing his interviews live on-air, despite the snags.
Years later, King still remembered his discussion with Gates as one of his most challenging ones. In a conversation with political consultant Frank Luntz in August 2020, he explained why not even a painful night like that could have tempted him to pre-tape his interviews.
"But that's the vagaries of this business," King said. "That's why, another thing, I love, love, love working live. I like live better than tape…I loved the moment, I loved it happening then."
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And he liked being surprised by his guests.
In the latter part of his career, King didn't even always know in advance who he was going to be talking to on air.
"Often, I don't know who I'm going to interview when I'm driving in," he told Entertainment Tonight of Larry King Now, which ran from 2012 to 2020. "Cause I like it off the top. So I'll get some notes, they'll hand me who the guest is, but then I wing it. You, know, it's just free flow."
For a guest who didn't make a good impression, check out This Was the Worst Guest The View Ever Had, Former Host Says.