Lawrence Harvey Zeiger (1933-2021) was born in Brooklyn to Orthodox Jewish immigrants from Belarus. His father died when he was just a child, leaving the family impoverished. Young Larry was fascinated by radio and always wished to become a broadcaster. In Miami, he found a job cleaning at a radio station and, when the station’s broadcaster suddenly left the show, Larry was given a chance to take his place. The manager said “Zeiger” was not a good stage name, so Larry quickly chose “King” (based on an ad he had just seen for King’s Wholesale Liquor store). He got the job to radio DJ for three hours every morning, earning $50 a week. King soon started doing interviews, too, and would occasionally have a celebrity who was in town to do a show. He was then hired as a commentator for the NFL’s Miami Dolphins. It was in 1978 when The Larry King Show aired its first episode (on radio). It would be broadcast live every weekday at midnight, starting with a one-hour interview and followed by several hours of discussion. By 1985, King was a household name and was hired by CNN to star in a television version of his interview show. CNN’s Larry King Live went on to set a Guinness World Record as the “longest-running TV show hosted by the same person on the same network”. Many iconic moments took place in his studio, including the Perot-Gore debate of 1993 (which became CNN’s most-watched segment ever), and the joint interview of Rabin and Arafat in 1995. Famous people loved to come on his show because he asked simple questions and made his interviewees feel at ease. He famously avoided reading up on his guests, preferring not to know much about them. King retired in 2010 after 25 years and a whopping 6000 episodes. Over that same time period, he was a regular columnist for USA Today. King went on to do several more popular shows on other networks, including Larry King Now and Politicking with Larry King. Over the years, he made countless appearances in sit-coms, commercials, movies, cartoons, and even the WWE. All in all, King conducted some 60,000 interviews over his career. He won two Peabody Awards for excellence in broadcasting and was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame. After suffering a heart attack in 1987, King started the Larry King Cardiac Foundation which has donated millions to pay for life-saving heart surgeries for people who cannot afford them. He also helped raise millions for Israel and for Chabad. He generally identified as a “Jewish agnostic” and said several years ago: “I love being Jewish, am proud of my Jewishness, and I love Israel.” Sadly, Larry King passed away earlier this year.
Words of the Week
Everyone loves the truth, but not everyone tells the truth. – Yiddish proverb
Alan Stuart Shlomo Veingrad (b. 1963) was born in Brooklyn and grew up in New Jersey and Miami. He went to Hebrew school as a child, then to Miami Sunset High School where he was captain of the football team. Veingrad was also an All-American track and field athlete. He went to what is now Texas A&M University on a sports scholarship. In 1984, he was voted the Lone Star Offensive Lineman of the Year. Despite working out round-the-clock and gaining over 100 pounds he was still considered too small for the NFL and went undrafted in 1985. Still, he was able to sign with the Tampa Buy Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent. The following year he signed with the Green Bay Packers and played on the starting line up as a right offensive tackle. In 1991 he signed with the Dallas Cowboys and was instrumental in helping the team win Super Bowl XXVII in 1993. After earning his championship, Veingrad retired from professional football. Since then, he has worked in real estate and finance, as a motivational speaker, and an AIPAC advocate for Israel. One Friday, his cousin invited him for Shabbat dinner, which lit a spark inside him. Veingrad then went to a Torah class to learn more, and soon found new meaning in life. He eventually became fully Torah-observant, and has since been called the “only Orthodox Jew to wear a Super Bowl ring”. He has traveled around the world to share his story, and also made an excellent series of 1-minute Jewish motivational videos, called Shlomo’s Playbook. Veingrad was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2010 and was the NYPD’s Person of the Year in 2012.
Words of the Week
The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct Palestinian people to oppose Zionism…
– Zuheir Muhsin, member of the PLO Executive Council, in a March 31, 1977 interview with Dutch newspaper “Trouw”.
Lawrence Edward Kasdan (b. 1949) was born in Miami and raised in a small West Virginia town, where he was often picked on for being Jewish. He intended to become an English teacher, and graduated with a Master’s in Education from the University of Michigan (where he met his future wife of over 40 years). Kasdan couldn’t find a teaching job, however, instead winding up with a position as a copywriter. Despite finding success in the field, and winning the prestigious Clio Award for creative excellence in advertising, Kasdan didn’t like his job. He wanted to become a screenwriter and pitched his work in Hollywood, initially to no avail. One of his first scripts was The Bodyguard, which was rejected some 60 times! (It would eventually make it to the big screen in 1992, starring Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston.) Kasdan finally managed to sell a script – to Steven Spielberg. After this initial success, he was hired to write the screenplay for Raiders of the Lost Ark (the first of the Indiana Jones series). Just as he finished that script, George Lucas hired him to write The Empire Strikes Back, the second of the Star Wars films. This movie went on to become the most popular of the series, and transformed Star Wars into a timeless film franchise (now worth over $30 billion). The Library of Congress chose the film for preservation because of its cultural and historical significance, and its famous “I am your father” quote has been nominated for the list of greatest American quotes of all time. Kasdan also wrote the screenplay for Return of the Jedi (the final film in the first Star Wars trilogy), and has co-written the newest film in the franchise, The Force Awakens, soon to be released. All in all, Kasdan has written, directed, or produced 19 major films, and has been nominated for four Academy Awards. He is working on one more Star Wars movie, about the early years of Han Solo, which he said will be his last.
Words of the Week
Just as it is forbidden to slander a fellow, it is forbidden to slander oneself. – Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch