Sunday, July 19, 2009

Larry King: Encounters with Richard Nixon & John Kennedy

From Larry King dishes lots of dirt in new autobiography
By Glenn Garvin
McClatchy Newspapers
July 18, 2009

... King’s new autobiography "My Remarkable Journey" isn’t exactly chamber-of-commerce-brochure stuff. He dishes plenty of dirt — on himself, and on South Florida, where he broke into broadcasting and for two decades led an often seamy rags-to-riches-to-rags life.

King gambled. He wrote bad checks. He was arrested on charges of stealing $5,000 from financier Louis Wolfson. ... He regrets a lot of what happened, particularly his involvement with the freewheeling millionaire Wolfson. What started as a friendship devolved into a twisted, lurid codependency as King helped Wolfson shuttle clandestine money to favored politicians and causes, then assisted in the financier’s increasingly frantic (and ultimately unsuccessful) efforts to avoid prison on charges of selling unregistered stock.

King says he even agreed to carry Wolfson’s offer of a $4 million campaign contribution to Richard Nixon just as Nixon was about to enter the White House — an unspoken plea for a presidential pardon. But as he talked with Nixon, King flinched.

"I sure am glad I didn’t make the proposition to Nixon — which, to be honest, I almost did," King says. "If I had done it, we would have had the King hearings right along with the Watergate hearings. This would inevitably have come out during the Watergate investigation, and Nixon would have called it a bribe, even though it wasn’t intended as a bribe."

King’s other encounter with a president-to-be was also out there on the fringes of the law. In 1958, soon after arriving in South Florida, he ran into John F. Kennedy on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach. Not as in, "saw him shopping." As in, "rammed his convertible with a ratty old car."

Kennedy was not yet president, but he was America’s most famous senator, and at the moment, its maddest, too. "How could you?" he roared. "Early Sunday morning, no traffic, not a cloud in the sky, I’m parked — how could you run into me?" King knew the truthful answer — that he was a dumb kid newly arrived from the seedy side of Brooklyn and had been gawking at Palm Beach’s fairy-tale boutiques — wasn’t a good one.

’All I could say was, ’Senator, do you want to exchange information from our driver’s licenses?’" recalls King. ’Eventually he calmed down, and he said he’d forget the whole thing if we just promised to vote for him when he ran for president. We did, and he drove away — though not before saying, ’Stay waaay behind me.’ ...

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