TV Host Larry King: I Didn’t Die

December 22, 2012 by  

TV Host Larry King: I Didn’t Die, Television’s “Methuselah” Larry King tweeted to confirm he was still breathing yesterday, after the web feared he’d died. A noted playwright of the same name (and author of “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”) passed away on December 20th, sending fans of the high-waisted interviewer into a tailspin of R.I.P. tweets.

The confusion was not uncommon throughout both men’s lives. According to the playwright’s obituary, one D.C. restaurant settled the problem by asking them, when reserving a table, to identify themselves as either “Larry King ‘Radio” or “Larry King ‘Whorehouse.”

Before he became known the world over as a playwright, Larry L. King was a reporter, a Capitol Hill aide, a raconteur, a brawler and a full-time Texan. He helped define the freewheeling New Journalism of the 1960s and 1970s, partly with an article he wrote for Playboy magazine in 1974 about the Chicken Ranch, a house of ill repute in southeast Texas.

A few years later, Mr. King and several collaborators refashioned his article into a musical comedy about a brothel that operated for years under the averted gaze of the law. “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” ran on Broadway for almost four years and has been in almost continuous production since. In 1982, it was made into a Burt Reynolds-Dolly Parton movie — which Mr. King loathed.

Mr. King, who had lived in Washington since the 1950s, died Dec. 20 at Chevy Chase House, a retirement facility in the District. He was 83. He had emphysema, his wife, Barbara Blaine, said.

He was the author of seven plays and more than a dozen books, including memoirs, a novel and collections of articles and letters. In 1982, he won an Emmy Award as the writer and narrator of a CBS documentary, “The Best Little Statehouse in Texas,” that looked at the legislature’s behind-the-scenes horse-trading.

Mr. King also was known for his outsized personality, full-bore drinking and an ability to tell outrageously droll stories in a profanity-laced drawl that was almost indistinguishable from his writing voice.

“His certain knowledge of his origins informs his point of view and his prose style,” New York Times book critic Christopher Lehmann-Haupt wrote in a review of Mr. King’s 1971 memoir, “Confessions of a White Racist.” “And this confidence in his roots is what makes Mr. King’s writing so alive, dramatic, warm, and funny.”

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