Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Book Review: Truth Be Told: Off the Record about Favorite Guests, Memorable Moments…Half a Century of Asking Questions

Since he began a career in radio in 1957, the main question that prompted Larry King’s interviews was what motivated every guest to do what he/she chose to do. He was always curious to discover...why? In later years, after he moved on to CNN, he always tried to make his guests comfortable, and usually succeeded because, as Frank Sinatra told him, “What you do is make the camera disappear.” For that reason, guests relaxed and gave great informative interviews. Truth Be Told: Off the Record about Favorite Guests, Memorable Moments, Funniest Jokes, and a Half Century of Asking Questions is a potpourri of King’s memories from interviews with everyone from Michael DeBakey to Elizabeth Taylor to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Interspersed throughout the book are also his recollections of special moments shared with celebrities outside of the interview format such as the time Paul McCartney gave a surprise performance at King’s producer Wendy’s birthday party. Even if you are not a Larry King fan, the stories he tells about all sorts of people from all walks of life are fascinating. However, with the exception of elected officials, he feels that personal lives should be off-limits unless the person being interviewed decides to share. He feels very strongly about what constitutes real news and what does not, avoiding any tabloid type stuff.

One aspect of the book that the reader may find surprising is the far reaching effects of some of King’s interviews. When he interviewed Michael Milken, the junk-bond king, they focused on the fact Milken survived his bout with cancer years longer than expected; they ran clips of other cancer survivors and focused on funding for cancer treatment. The result was that increased awareness helped funding grow from $14-$15 billion when that first show aired to $29-$30 billion after subsequent shows. After he had heart surgery, Larry King discovered that many people had to go without the surgery because they had no insurance. He began raising funds for his cardiac foundation from those same celebrities he interviewed so that many who could not afford the surgery now have a chance, not only to survive, but to enjoy a better quality of life.

The reader will find a book packed with trivia about many personalities (like the fact that Barbra Streisand took 57,000 photographs to get the design of her new house exactly right), great stories behind the creation of many songs, and finally, the reader will discover many little known qualities in the man who relates all these memories.

Submitted by Mary Branch
Arts, Literature and Sports Department
Central Library

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