There isn’t much that gets veteran talk show host Larry King down. But in early March he went to the doctor for his regular six-month checkup. At 85, he’s had his share of health issues, but he didn’t expect to hear bad news: “My white blood cell count was very high,” Larry exclusively told Closer Weekly in the magazine’s latest issue, on newsstands now. “The doctors said, ‘We don’t like the way this looks. There’s two types of leukemia you could have. The first type is acute.’ Acute leukemia … you don’t recover.”
Both Larry and his wife of 22 years, Shawn Southwick, were worried. “My heart stopped,” Shawn, 59, admitted. “But the next morning they came in with great news,” Larry happily recalled. “It was chronic leukemia. It’s completely treatable, you bite the bullet and survive!”
Larry surely is a survivor. He’s still working, currently as the host of Larry King Now and PoliticKING With Larry King, both on Ora TV (airing on Hulu, Amazon Prime and other platforms) — in fact, he’s in the 62nd year of an incredible broadcasting career. And he’s overcome numerous medical issues, from a near-fatal heart attack to lung cancer. But he’s triumphed over it all.
“I feel like the billion dollar man,” Larry raved. “Even though I’ve had all these illnesses, I keep bouncing back.” To what does he owe his resilience? “I have a beautiful, supportive wife, three grown children, two younger children and a stepson,” he shared. But he also has luck. “Paul Newman told me once that anybody who’s successful and doesn’t mention luck is a liar,” Larry said. “I feel blessed to have great people around me, great family, great friends. I pinch myself every day.”
The outcome of this latest health scare could have been much different, however. “Left turn, right turn, this could have been acute leukemia,” Larry mused. “That’s a tough fight.” But chronic leukemia, a cancer in which the bone marrow makes too many white blood cells, is more manageable. “I take one pill a day for the rest of my life,” Larry explained. “The only side effect is that I’ve been tired, but that gets better every day. I go back to work on Monday!”
For Larry, who’s vowed never to retire, work helps him thrive. Born “very poor as a kid” in New York City, his family was on welfare. “I never forget what it was like to be poor,” he said. He dreamed of working in radio, and Larry got his start as a broadcaster in 1957 and hasn’t ever stopped.
He learned early to “be curious, don’t be afraid to ask anything,” he said. It’s a lesson he now teaches in a communication video course called Breakfast With Larry. “The most important thing is to get off the porch,” Larry added. “A lot of people sit on the porch and say, ‘I’m going to write this book, I’m going to do a podcast.’ The only way to do it is to do it.”
Through his years hosting Larry King Live on CNN and his current Ora TV shows, Larry’s interviewed everyone from the Dalai Lama to Oprah Winfrey — and every president since Nixon! — garnering seven Emmy nominations along the way. “There’s no better profession to me than broadcasting, and I’m very proud of it,” he said. “But I’m most proud of the family.”
Larry’s been married eight times to seven women, and his longest union is with Shawn. And Larry credits her, with whom he has two boys, Cannon, 20, and Chance, 18, for keeping him young. “I’m ecstatic about my boys! They’re terrific and they were both drafted by the White Sox,” he boasted. “They’re not like me. They got the genes from their mother!”
With Larry’s luck, though, it’s likely they got the upbeat attitude that’s carried him through some of his darkest hours. “I just really love life,” he exclusively told Closer. “I love what I do, I love the people around me. My whole life has been a blessing.”
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