Dick Cavett

November 19

Dick Cavett (1936)

It was on this date, November 19, 1936, American television talk-show host Dick Cavett was born in Gibbon, Nebraska. In his early career, Cavett was an actor in army training films, a stand-up comic, and wrote material for talk show hosts — including Jack Paar, Merv Griffin, Jerry Lewis, and Johnny Carson — before becoming one himself at age 33. In 1969 he began hosting "The Dick Cavett Show," beginning on ABC (1969-74;86-87), then moving to CBS (1975), PBS (1977-82), USA (1985-86), and CNBC (1989).

Cavett as host is always conversational, civil and intellectual, with a dry wit, saying such things as "If your parents never had children, chances are you won't, either," and, criticizing the scapegoating of violence on TV, "There's so much comedy on television. Does that cause comedy in the streets?" But Cavett could be acerbic, too, saying, "As long as people will accept crap, it will be financially profitable to dispense it." His interviewing style was successful, winning Cavett 11 Emmy nominations and 3 awards.

As an interview subject, Cavett once said:

This is my religious problem: it would be wonderful to believe in the most fundamental way. It would make life easier, it would explain everything, it would give meaning where none is apparent, it would make tragedies bearable. ... But something about the fact that all it takes to make it so is deciding it is so puts me off. Knowing it could instantly make me much happier makes it somehow unworthy of having.*
Underlining the difference between himself and his grandfather, a fundamentalist Baptist minister, Cavett also said, "...I hope there is a God for Grandpa Richards's sake, but don't much care if there is one for mine."**

* Cavett by Dick Cavett and Christopher Porterfield, New York: Bantam Books, 1974, pp. 56-7. (As reported by the Celebrity Atheists Web site)
** Ibid.

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Larry King


Larry King (1933)

It was also on this date, November 19, 1933, that award winning American broadcaster Larry King, host of TV's "Larry King Live" interview show, was born Lawrence Harvey Zeigler in Brooklyn, New York, the offspring of Orthodox Jews who had emigrated from Russia. Young Larry was so close to his father, that when he died of a heart attack at age 43, he was furious that his father was taken from him. He has been an agnostic ever since, saying "Even though I'm a very forgiving person, if there is a God, I'd have a tough time forgiving Him."[1]

Larry King got his broadcasting name from a Miami station manager who thought Zeigler sounded too ethnic. His first broadcast was from Miami in 1957. King gradually grew to local, and then national talk-show stardom, with an interview show on the Mutual Radio Network that ran from 1978-1994. Moving to television, his CNN show started in June 1985. Over the years, King has interviewed some 40,000 guests, winning the Peabody Award for Excellence in broadcasting for both his radio (1982) and television (1992) shows, as well as 10 Cable ACE awards for Best Interviewer and for best Talk Show Series. King once quipped that if he could land an interview with God himself, he'd ask him one simple question, "Did you have a son?"[2]

Larry King Book Powerful Prayers
Larry King's 1998 Book, Powerful Prayers

King gave $1 million to George Washington University's School of Media and Affairs for scholarships and founded the Larry King Cardiac Foundation. Once asked why he was so afraid of death, he responded that when he had his own heart attack, there was no bright light at the end of the tunnel: "I know this is it," he said.[3] King co-authored a 1998 book (with Rabbi Irwin Katsof) entitled Powerful Prayers, but says he's not convinced of the efficacy of prayer, and the only thing he's ever prayed for was for the Dodger's to win a game.[4]

After talking to so many people on so many subjects, Larry King told a German magazine that, yes, he can always learn something new. "Nearly every time. With one exception — if it comes to religious topics everything is already said. I am an agnostic, so I don't learn anything from them. But most of the time it's exciting."[5]

[1] Quoted from the Jewish Virtual Library.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Interview on PrimeTime Live, ABC-TV, 31 January 1996. (As reported by the Celebrity Atheists Web site)
[4] Jewish Virtual Library and Christian Science Monitor, 12 November 1998. (As reported by the Celebrity Atheists Web site); Larry King, Powerful Prayers (with Rabbi Irwin Katsof) Los Angeles: Renaissance Books (Distributed by St. Martin's Press), 1998; ISBN 1580630340.
[5] Interview in Hörzu, German TV-magazine, Nr. 24/2000 (June 2000?).

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Ronald Bruce Meyer is a freelance writer.
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