“Shawn!” Larry King shouted to his wife across a hotel lobby. “Shawn. Come here. Shawn! Talk with this lovely lady from the L.A. Times. Come here!”
King's wife, 55 and dressed in a bright orange parka, rushed over and sat down in front of a fireplace.
“I was telling her how you ski and I don’t ski,” Larry, 81, said to her in his familiar raspy New York accent. “I never stayed in a ski chalet. I’m a Jewish kid from Brooklyn. What do we know from ski chalets? I never looked out the window and saw people going up the lift. I’m not a lift guy. I’m a Jewish guy from Brooklyn. What do I know from skis? You can’t walk in them. To ski to me is a broken leg.”
Which raised the question: What the heck was Larry King doing at the Sundance Film Festival?
He looked cold, even in a thick red sweater, crossing his arms tightly across his chest to preserve body heat. And he’d never even heard of a festival swag suite -- the gifting lounges that pop up around the fest to offer stars free puffy coats and leather bags and trips to Aruba -- until Shawn begged him to go to one.
“Larry, you have to come with me,” she insisted.
“I’ll go anywhere you want,” he shrugged.
Shawn suggested her husband bring his Internet talk show, ORA TV’s “Larry King Now,” to Park City this week. The program had set up shop in a conference room, where actors with movies in the festival -- James Franco, Jake Johnson, Toni Collette -- stopped by to chat. Shawn, a Mormon who attended Brigham Young University and owns a home with Larry in nearby Provo, felt it was important the show “have a presence” at Sundance.
“It was time,” she said. “Larry had never been here before, and I couldn’t understand why CNN wouldn’t have sent him.”
“I was in Park City once,” he countered. “I had dinner with George. And I spoke at -- what’s the name of the famous place here? Deer Valley?”
“Stein Eriksen?” Shawn asked, referring to the nearby luxurious lodge. “OK. But you, as an interviewer, have never been here. To a film festival.”
Larry does like movies. He has ever since he was a kid. The day his father died, a cop took him to the movies to see “Bataan” with Robert Taylor.
“So movies have been an integral part of my life,” he explained. “I think it’s the greatest form of entertainment. And the rise of independent film is exciting. My wife’s got one. It’s gonna be at Tribeca. It’s called ‘Stuck,’ about four different elevators that are stuck at the same time. You gotta see ‘Stuck.’ Mention ‘Stuck.’ It’s a great film.”
Larry’s producers set up his interviews in Park City. Unlike his legendary CNN talk show, “Larry King Now” is able to book younger, more diverse guests. Rappers like Snoop Dogg and Tyler the Creator have been on, as has Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Chrissy Teigen.
“The young guests treat me with great respect,” Larry said. “Rappers love me. I don’t understand it.”
“They love you!” Shawn interjected. “They say ‘Larry’s dope.’ ”
“Why? I don’t understand anything they’re doing. I drive along with my boys, and they listen to rap music, and I say, ‘What are they saying here? I don’t understand.’ They know all the lyrics.”
Of course, King has still been able to draw big names to ORA -- Oprah Winfrey, Joan Rivers, the Dalai Lama. The show, which debuted in August 2012, was nominated for an Emmy in the category of news discussion and analysis this year.
Larry still doesn’t write out questions, though he keeps notes and facts on a typed sheet in front of him during interviews. After trying to remain objective for years on CNN, he’s slowly beginning to interject his opinion on his new show. He likes working and feels it keeps him vibrant, especially after surviving a heart attack and heart surgery. He feels proud of the fact that he’s still curious and says most of his questions begin with: “Why?”
“Like her,” he said, pointing to Shawn. “Why did you like me? You’re so beautiful. You’re much younger.”
“Because you’re cute!” she said with a smile.
“We’re a crazy unit,” he said with a sigh. “We fight a lot.”
“We were almost divorced. A couple times,” Shawn said.
“We have differences on faith,” he said. “On raising children.”
“Differences on politics,” she continued. “I don’t know why we got married.”