For years, I've had a lot of fun telling people, "I dated Larry King, but never married him. Of course, he never asked me!"
This message is heartfelt. I just want to thank you for being in my life in the early times and offering me encouragement. We had one rather forgettable date in the 1950s, when you were on radio at WAHR-AM with your alter-ego Captain Wainwright, the crooked Miami cop whose voice you created on a filtered microphone. I loved that character!
I was on television at Miami's WTVJ Channel 4 with "Skipper" Chuck Zink on "Popeye Playhouse," the local live children's show that ran from 1957 to 1979. I was the original "First Mate" on the show while in my first year of college at the University of Miami. Larry, we were introduced by WTVJ salesman Frank Boscia, who thought we might have something in common. You are five years older than I am, and we're both from Jewish backgrounds. I think we ate at the Pickin' Chicken Drive-in Restaurant, but don't recall much else. But I was already in a relationship.
In 1962, I graduated with a B.A. in Communications with honors from the University of Miami. I went to work at McCann-Marschalk Advertising, and then briefly for Miami's Channel 10. In November 1962, I moved to New York City to find fame and fortune. I had a job as a production assistant at NBC's "Tonight" show unit. Later, I worked with NBC's news division, and was there on November 22, 1963, when President Kennedy was assassinated. I was On-Air Promotion Supervisor at WPIX, Channel 11, and did copywriting for several advertising agencies. One temporary production job was with Barry Gray at radio station WMCA. Barry is who credited as the first talk host to put telephone calls on the radio in the early 1960s. I had no idea I would ever work as a radio or TV performer again!
Peter and his parents had come to New York from Europe when Peter was a young boy. The family lived in Washington Heights, on the upper west side of New York City. Peter was an aspiring TV producer and film director with a degree from UCLA. Peter held production jobs at ABC, working with the program development group, then with the Wide World of Sports unit. Our daughter was born in October 1968. Sadly, Peter's dreams of success in his chosen field were not to be. He became disillusioned, but he had one final job offer with Reela Films in Miami, working on documentary fillms. We moved back to Florida in March 1969 with our tiny daughter. I got pregnant again almost immediately. Our second child, David, was born at Miami's Mercy Hospital in December 1969. The Reela job evaporated. After Peter's career crisis, two children, and eight years of marriage, we divorced. I had to support myself, two children born 14 months apart, as well as my first "child," a Cocker Spaniel named Buffy. Peter remarried another woman in April 1971, three weeks after our divorce.
Larry, I reconnected with you in the summer of 1971. I was divorced and working some menial jobs for very little pay. I had the two tiny children to care for, and a monthly home mortgage to cover. One early morning, I was driving from Miami Beach over the North Bay Causeway bridge to Miami Springs. You were on WIOD radio on the overnight shift. You called out for someone to PLEEZE bring you doughnuts and coffee. I stopped at a local shop and bought the refreshments you requested. Although you didn't remember me from our brief encounter in the 1950s, you invited me to stay and screen your calls before they went on the air. I kept dropping in a couple of nights a week. You said you'd talk to the program manager about compensation for my work. One day, I began to supply hour-long "woman in the mall" cassette tapes when you started to fall asleep at the microphone in the wee hours of the morning. Somewhere along the way, a listener re-named me "Ellen Rainbow," which is just a few letters added to my ex-husband's name.
You kept me busy, interested, and even laughing for those difficult months in the fall and early winter. But a few days before Christmas 1971, you were gone -- let go by your employers and caught in a legal and financial tangle that I barely understood. I have not seen nor spoken you from that day to this. Of course, I know your career eventually resumed on Westwood Radio, and then on CNN for years. I was pleased that you were back and saw your program most nights!
After you left, WIOD Program Manager Elliot "Biggie" Nevins hired me do the night show shift several times each week, while they looked for a male host to replace you. He paid me $50 each night I hosted. I might have ended up who-knows-where if I had not had that income.
Dan Griffin offered me the job a few days later. I gave my children to my ex-husband and his wife temporarily, and told them I would let them know when I was settled in an appropriate living space. I packed up my Volvo and my Cocker Spaniel dog, drove to northern Florida, boarded the Autotrain, got off in Virginia, and headed up to Boston.
On May 15, 1972, I started a brand new gig as the first woman with a daily, four-hour radio talk show in Boston. At the beginning, I worked six days each week, four hours a day Mon. thru Sat. on "Boston Forum with Ellen Kimball." Imagine! I was talking for 24 solid hours each week. It was a crushing schedule, but I kept it going for months. Finally, management relented and newsman Ben Farnsworth took over the Saturday show. My show was eventually renamed "The Ellen Kimball Show."
A few years later, another Boston station, WMEX AM, hired me after WEEI changed their format:
I met a widower with three older children in June 1972. He is from a Jewish background, and five years older than I am. His first wife died at age 34 from stomach cancer. He holds a BSEE degree, worked for a long time in high-tech sales and marketing, and then became a software analyst. We married on February 4, 1973 and will celebrate forty years of marriage in 2013.
Photo of our wedding day -- This is Al's second marriage and my third. Daughter Linda was 3 years old. My son, David, was only two years old. He is 14 months younger than his sister. I became stepmother to Al's three older children, Michael, Karen and Cindy, who were coping with the tremendous loss of their mother. I tell everyone that I am so happy to have had their help taking care of their two younger step-siblings. It was a hectic time. We wish we had had more guidance about stepfamilies, but we tried to do the best we knew how to do.
My husband and I moved from Boston to Portland, Oregon, when Linda and her husband were transferred by Intel in 1995. Al and I followed in 1997- 8. I am now 73 years old, and my husband is 78. It has been a full life, but as hubby likes to say, "Not perfect." Even with the setbacks, we are now in relatively good health, and we enjoy various volunteer pursuits, timeshare travel, and digital photography. While I worked at marketing jobs in Portland for awhile, a volunteer connection with the Oregon Public Broadcasting and NBC affiliate website KGW.com from 2001 to 2010 allowed me to stay in broadcasting for some extra time. However, in 2010, I retired fully to move on to other pursuits. Most recently, my husband was motivated to become a self-published author. He completed eight books in 2011. He's now working on a ninth, "The Lost Pharoah | Sobek II." You can check out his work at http://storyteller-spot.com. I swim for health and have become a vegan. That has given me a final opportunity to learn to cook... before I croak!
Larry, once again, thanks for being who you are, and for helping me along my remarkable journey. I wish you all the best for the rest of your life.
Tweet me! @BonusGrandma
Also on Facebook now! New screen name: BonusGrandma
PS. In 2006, I called Steve Z., the radio engineer with whom Larry and I both worked at WIOD. Steve is a wonderful guy, now retired from Cox Broadcasting and living in Venice, Florida. He entertains me with an array of fascinating emails. We speak by telephone quite frequently.
Larry King with his beautiful and talented wife, Shawn Southwick, and their two young boys, Chance and Cannon:
Edited: Monday, May 13, 2013
Larry discusses changing his name minutes before his radio career began on May 1, 1957:
Larry King interview in June 2013