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Larry King Reflects on Life and Death
I gambled only on horses. I liked the thrill of them turning into the stretch. I still like it. Except it’s not as much fun when you don’t need the money. It’s much more fun when you’re riding on the rent.
The best day I ever had at the track—it could never fit the way you do this story, because it’s a whole magazine piece. I’m dead broke. Station I was working at had just switched to ethnic. Hired all black—and we were all let go at once.
So I’m out of work. I have forty-eight dollars to my name. It’s late May, and I’m paid through the end of May rent. I got a daughter I’m trying to support. I’m divorced. It’s 1972. I drive to Calder racetrack. I’m sitting there and it’s the third race and I look up at the horses. I see a horse called Lady Forli. It’s a filly running against males. Normally, fillies don’t beat males. We’re talking cheap horses. I look up at the board and she’s 70 to 1. I look at the guy next to me and say, “You know, this horse, three races back, won in more or less the same company. Why is she 70 to 1?” Guy says, “Well, there’s a couple of new horses here.” I said, “Yeah, but she should be, like, 20 to 1, not 70 to 1.” Screw it. I bet ten dollars on the horse to win. I keep looking at the horse. The more I’m looking at this horse, the more I like it. So I now bet exactas. I bet it on top of every other horse and below every other horse—11 over everybody and 11 under everybody. Now I’ve got a wheel. It’s called a wheel. Oh—I’m wearing a Pierre Cardin jean outfit that has no pockets. The keys are in the car where the valet parked it. So I said, “Wait a minute. I got four dollars left. I gotta give the valet two bucks. I’ve got my cigarettes—don’t need money for that. You could also bet a trifecta.” So my birthday is November 19. The horse is number 11. So I’ll bet 11-1-9. Now I’ve got 11 on top, I’ve got 11 on bottom, I’ve got 11 to win, and I’ve got a trifecta 11-1-9. I’ve got two dollars left to my name. Now the race begins. They break out of the gate, the 1 breaks on top, the 9 is second, and the 11 is third. The 11 passes the 9, the 11 passes the 1, and they run in a straight line all around the track. No question. The 11 wins by five lengths. The 1 is three lengths ahead of the 9. So I’ve got every winning ticket. I got it to win. I got the exacta. I got the trifecta. I collect $11,000—eleven thousand dollars! But I got no pockets. So I stuff all the money in my jacket. I don’t know what to do with it. I run outta the track. The valet guy comes out and brings me the car. He says, “You leaving so early?” I said, “Yeah.” He says, “Bad day, Mr. King?” I tip him fifty dollars. Guy nearly faints. I gotta go somewhere. I drove into a vacant lot which is now Joe Robbie Stadium. I parked among the weeds. And I opened up my jacket and all the money spilled out. I counted out $11,000. You know what I did? My child support was $100 a month. I sent $1,200. My rent was $360 a month. I paid my rent for a year. I bought twenty cartons of cigarettes, stacked ’em up in my apartment. And that may have been the happiest moment of my life. Now, today, if I go to the track and win $11,000, it’s very nice, but it won’t affect my life one iota. It’s nice to win. But when you really need it…
Larry King at the Democratic National Convention in 1988.
Ed LalloGetty Images
The truth about foxhole humor is it’s never funny when it’s happening.
I have more faith in myself on the air than off.
I love bums. Bums in New York are literate bums. Bums in New York could run a grocery chain in Des Moines.
There’s no trick to being yourself.
A sense of humor is a major aphrodisiac. I’m certainly an average-looking guy, but I’ve had some very nice women in my life. I always could make ’em laugh.
A good ensemble—tie and suspenders—should be about $200.
When your mother’s living, there’s always a place to go home to.
Once the mind gets curious, no law can stop it.
You only get one mother. When your mother’s living, there’s always a place to go home to. No matter what age you are. Because your mother’s door never closes. Your wife could close a door. Your sister could close a door. Your brother could close a door, and your father could run away. Your job could fire you. No mother ever fires you.
“Why?” is a great question for a talk-show host because it can’t be answered in one word.
You always remember the date of your heart attack.
Larry King on CNN in 2010.
Jordan StraussGetty Images
Retire? To what?
I’m not an atheist because that’s a religion.
If you really believe, death should be great. You’re going to a better place. Why wouldn’t you want to go sooner? Mark Twain said the least-liked instrument on earth is the harp. There isn’t one famous harpist. Harps are boring. But these people can’t wait to get into heaven where if they’re very good, they get harps twenty-four hours a day.
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