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Larry King on why he started wearing his signature suspenders on TV

TODAY logo TODAY 1/23/2021 Ronnie Koenig

Larry King, known worldwide for his conversational interviews, his deep baritone voice and of course, his signature suspenders, has died at age 87. His production company, Ora Media, confirmed the news in a statement Saturday. Prior to his death, King had been hospitalized due to COVID-19.

Fans and viewers of King know that he was often seen wearing his suspenders on air in the latter half of his six-decade career and in an interview for the Television Academy Foundation's Archive of American Television — conducted on two separate days in 2009 and 2010 — he revealed the story behind his iconic look.

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"When I started doing television in Miami in 1959, I wore the traditional jacket, tie," he said.

"Then as time evolved, I started wearing a half sweater. I was more comfortable in it. I'm not a suit kind of guy," he said, describing the sweater vest look he initially took to wearing, even on his early CNN shows.

But after he had heart surgery and lost a lot of weight, King's ex-wife Sharon had an idea over dinner. "'You know, you're much trimmer, you look good, you ever tried suspenders?' I had never worn suspenders in my life," recalled King. "'You ought to try it. It might be a nice look.' I tried it and one night, put suspenders on. Some people called in and said, 'Boy that looks good' and that's all you had to hear. And I've worn them ever since."

Talk Show Host Larry King Dies At 87 (Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images) © Alberto E. Rodriguez Talk Show Host Larry King Dies At 87 (Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images)

When asked where he acquired the wide variety of suspenders he wore on air, King said that people sent them to him and that he picked out some styles himself and that his producers also helped select others.

"We have a whole bunch of shirts in the L.A. office and the Washington office and the New York office with braces (another term for suspenders) so when I travel, it's made very easy," he explained at the time. King said that each night, they would select which combination he would wear on air and occasionally coordinated with a theme.

"Sometimes they'll try to say, if you're doing a show on Valentine's Day, you're going to wear red, that kind of thing. We try to keep it all thought. It's all informed so that the colors match," he said, describing his shirt-suspender combinations.

Larry King wearing glasses: CNN talk show host Larry King speaks at ceremonies unveiling comedian Bill Maher's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood (Fred Prouser / Reuters) © Fred Prouser CNN talk show host Larry King speaks at ceremonies unveiling comedian Bill Maher's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood (Fred Prouser / Reuters)

King also recalled a moving moment when he spoke in front of an audience with over 10,000 people in Syracuse, New York.

"I got up to speak and as they introduced me, the whole audience — males — took their jackets off and they were all wearing suspenders," he said with a smile.

Larry King wearing a costume: Sometimes, King, along with his producers, would coordinate or match his suspenders to a particular theme. (Samuel Kubani / AFP - Getty Images) © Samuel Kubani Sometimes, King, along with his producers, would coordinate or match his suspenders to a particular theme. (Samuel Kubani / AFP - Getty Images)

In another interview, King said didn't mind being parodied, with many actors donning his recognizable suspenders to play him over the years, and took it as a sign that people knew who he was. King said his favorite impression that anyone did of him was by comedian Norm MacDonald on "Saturday Night Live."

"Norm MacDonald ... he did me the best. He had me down," King observed.

"It's a compliment to be parodied," he said, though he did note that he didn't like to be kidded about his age.

King at times even took to social media to share his different suspender looks.

"I love my new holdup suspenders check 'em out!" he tweeted in 2013.

"Pretty sweet Mr king!" one commenter posted at the time.

"You stylin LK" wrote another fan.

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