FORBES | I met Larry King for the first time over 33 years ago as an unknown heart transplant surgeon leading the Vanderbilt Multi-Organ Transplant Center in Nashville. Larry was just a few years into his hit show, “Larry King Live”, on CNN.
He had invited my friend Barbara Mandrell, arguably the biggest female star in country music at that time, and me to the show to give us the opportunity to raise awareness about the shortage of organ donors. Those 30 minutes we spent together were plenty long enough for me to witness the profound skill, experience, and purpose of the “Master of the Interview.”
While in the green room with Barbara just before going on air, the show’s producer abruptly announced that Larry’s questions would, to our surprise, all be focused on Barbara’s highly popular music career. We were stunned: Barbara’s whole purpose in setting up the interview and our trek to Los Angeles was to broadly educate others on the serious but commonly misunderstood issue of the national need for organ donors.
On set—30 seconds before going on air—Barbara reminded Larry that we were there solely to highlight a life-changing message, not to aggrandize her career. Immediately, Larry tore up the prepared off-topic questions. He smoothly winged the entire interview, and still managed insightful, probing questions that allowed for thoughtful answers. Because of him, with his willingness to listen and his mastery of the interview process, we were able to help demystify the subject.