Larry King Enters the Cable Hall of Fame Laughing

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BOSTON – Larry King couldn’t stop smiling as he took the stage to be honored as one of six new additions to the Cable Hall of Fame during a gala dinner on the first night of the annual National Cable and Telecommunications Association convention. 

As he waited to go on, King was given a glowing introduction by mistress of ceremonies Katty Kay of BBC World News and watched a tribute video on two giant screens, including comments from, among others, CNN founder Ted Turner and Jim Walton, president of CNN Worldwide, who said:  “He helped raise the profile of the entire cable industry and along the way he talked to the most important people in the world.”

“Christ, I thought I died,” quipped King as he took the mic for his acceptance, drawing a big laugh from the crowd in the grand ballroom of the Marriott Copley Place Hotel. Attendees had paid a record sum of over $1 million to attend the annual event, which supports the educational efforts and services provided to the industry by The Cable Center.

King then whipped off his jacket to reveal his trademark suspenders over his pink shirt and said, “First, it is me.”

Then the jokes really started.

When King left his seat at CNN in December 2010 following a record 25 years on the air with the same show, he said one of the things he wanted to do was be a stand up comedian. Instead, he starts later this year as the star interviewer on Ora.tv, a new online network backed by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim.

His eyes twinkling as he accepted his latest honor, King sounded more like a comic.

Paying homage to the other five people inducted into the Cable Hall of Fame this year, joining the 90 who have been inducted over the past 15 years, King looked out into the crowd and said, “A lot of people brought their wives and kids. In tribute to the cable industry I brought my accountants.”

Turning serious for a moment, he said, “I love this industry. I love being part of it. I’m happy to have contributed to it.”

Then it was back to the jokes. His wife, he explained, was home with his two sons, 12 and 13 years of age. “It was done without Viagra,” King exclaimed. “Still alive, huh?”

King said he was proud to be honored and recalled how he felt when he was given a Lifetime Achievement Emmy last year, because when he started in cable the Emmys did not even recognize what is now a platform that reaches into millions of homes.

“It reminds me,” said King. “I spoke once for the city of Miami police department when I was just starting my career. At the end, they gave me an honorary chief of police certificate. “

“Two days later I’m driving down SE 2nd Avenue. They had just made it one way….I make this right hand turn and I’m the 12th car getting a ticket…The guy was writing the ticket. I remembered that I had left the certificate from the police in the car and I took it out and put it down on the seat. I didn’t say anything, just left it there. The policeman looked at me, looked at it on the seat and then told me what I could do with the certificate. My first thought was, thank god they didn’t give me a plaque.”

Before the laughter died down, King had grabbed his award and was off the stage.

For the rest of the honorees, it was enough just to be honored. Several accepted with tears in their eyes as they described how they had found success in life and in cable.

Disney Media Networks chair Anne Sweeney said in a video tribute to honoree Ann Rallis Carlsen, who for more than two decades has been a top executive recruiter specializing in cable TV industry personnel, “She doesn’t just put people in jobs, she wants to make sure they are happy.”

And it was a night for happiness among the other honorees. The other four inducted were:

·      Leo Hindry Jr., who helped John C. Malone make TCI a cable success story before it was sold to AT&T, after which Hindry returned to a career as an investor and grand old man of the cable TV and media industries (and occasional race car driver).

·      Debra L. Lee, who went from being a corporate lawyer to helping shape BET and after its sale to Viacom, and the retirement of the founder, took over as CEO.  She has since helped make it a force in African American broadcasting.

·      H.F. (Gerry) Lenfest who served in the Navy, got a law degree and then in the 1970s created one of the first cable TV systems in the Philadelphia area. He sold it in 2000 by which time it has about 1.4 million subscribers to Comcast and since has been a philanthropist supporting education and the arts.

·      Phil Lind who played a vital role at Rogers Communications, which is a Canadian media giant with interests in wireless, cable, broadband, radio, TV, magazines, sports and more.

Alan Gerry, who was chairman of Cablevisioin Industries Corporation for 49 years, and is now an investor and philanthropist who supports education, medical research and economic development, was presented the William J. Bresnan Ethics In Business Award by Cable Center chairman Jerry Kent and Cable Center president Larry Satkowiak. Discovery Networks president David Zaslav headed the committee which selected Gerry to the honor.

In accepting his award, Gerry quoted the late William Bresnan, another cable pioneer whose vision helped establish the Cable Center in Denver. “Some might call (those who work in cable) personnel,” said Gerry. “He preferred to call them the company’s soul.”

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