Before Tucker and his bow tie, there was Larry and his suspenders.
Back in the 1990’s and early 2000’s everybody who was anybody in the UFO world had to be invited into the Larry King Live show, as a sign they had truly arrived. During those decades in which the American public were introduced to stories of UFO crashes, alien abductions, and government cover-ups to hide the ET presence on Earth at the tone of the X-Files soundtrack, Larry would regularly have people like Stan Friedman, Michael Salla, Steven Greer, Kevin Randle and James Fox butting heads with notable skeptics like Philip Klass, Seth Shostak, Michael Shermer and Bill ‘The Science Guy’ Nye –who can forget his ‘Ooooh’ hand gestures as an attempt to win an argument against Fox?
It is difficult to ascertain how much of an agnostic he was on the subject, seeing how he always played the part of neutral referee while the true believers and the debunkers engaged on ideological wrestling. What we can be certain of, is that the King of Broadcasting –such an iconic figure he played himself more than once in movies– knew one thing his competitors failed to recognize: that UFOs are entertaining AF.
In November of 1994, Dennis Stacy (editor of the monthly MUFON UFO Journal from 1985 to 1997) wrote about meeting Larry King in September of that year, while CNN were shooting his talk show in location at Rachel, Nevada. This was around the time the whole world had learned about Area 51 thanks to another “Dennis” (Bob Lazar) even though the U.S. Air Force still denied its actual existence. For that special broadcast CNN had invited Randle, Friedman, Greer and Glenn Campbell (editor of The Groom Lake Desert Rat, an online site which published scoops on Area 51), and they also had pre-taped segments with Carl Sagan, Jacques Vallee, and others. Stacy was accompanied by my good friend Greg Bishop (back then the editor of The Excluded Middle fanzine) and L.A. writer Scott Sawyer (below the video is an excerpt from Stacy’s article).
Somewhat to my surprise, prior to broadcast, Larry King emerged from one of the production trailers at our request, showed us around the set, and granted us an interview. He looked fit and relaxed, and was completely cooperative, giving off very little of any air that implies “I’m Chevy Chase and you’re not.” All three of us asked questions at one time or another. I began with the obvious: “What’s your general opinion on the subject?”
“To tell you the truth, I have no idea,” King said. “So you’ve never seen one yourself?”
“No, I saw something one night flying home with the Dolphins,” King answered. “I used to do color for the Miami Dolphins. There was this glowing light following our plane about a mile off, at the same altitude. It glowed, and then dimmed and glowed, and we didn’t know what it was. We reported it to the ground and they didn’t have anything on radar, and it went away in about an hour.”
“The size of a star?” I wondered.
“Larger. It wasn’t a star. It could have been anything. I talked to Carl Sagan, and he said it could have been a Brazilian aircraft.” King was unclear as to whether Sagan meant to imply an aircraft smuggling drugs or some sort of off-shore operation in which one plane monitored another’s guidance system. But King himself was adamant: “It wasn’t a plane,” he said.
I asked what year it had happened and how could he be sure?
King’s eyes crinkled. “It was the 72-73 undefeated season.”
Noting that live guests Randle, Friedman and Greer could all be considered ardent “believers,” or at least enthusiastic supporters of the UFO phenomenon Bishop wondered who was supposed to represent the skeptical viewpoint?
“The skeptics were invited, the Air Force were invited,” King replied. “Very hard to get them. You know, I had to really talk to Carl Sagan just to be on tape, because he thinks they [UFO believers] give it credibility just by talking about it. He does not say that there isn’t life, he just has no proof that they’ve ever landed. And the same guy who’s always on, the roving skeptic?”
“Yeah,” King said. “I’ve had him on so many times. So I guess the skeptic is me. You know, show me! Show me a good photograph, but even there you have to be careful because they can be doctored.”
King seemed much more animated regarding the issue of a possible cover-up. “I abhor secrecy in any form,” he said, “unless in the case of extremes, say, when you’re at war, experimenting with something like the A-bomb. But now there’s no reason. So what if you’ve got a base there and you’re working on a plane that goes 9000 miles an hour and takes off vertically…”
“Isn’t that something you’d want the Russians to know?” I ask.
“I want them to know,” King laughs. “What Russians? That was one of the greatest myths of all time.”
“So theoretical secrecy only exacerbates the problem,” I said. “And if we’re not able to keep it secret from the Soviets, who are we keeping it secret from?”
“You only add to the confusion,” King answered, “to the conspiratorial theories, by letting things go on.”
“It’s partly out of habit, then,” Bishop offered.
“Right,” King said. “Let’s say there is life out there. I think that’s something people want to know. If you take it to its wildest extreme, that there is life on another planet that’s threatening us and we’re dealing with them through their leadership, then that I’d keep a secret. That’s the only way: there’s life out there, they have extraordinary arms, they’re mad at Earth, they’re going to blow us off the face of the planet, and we’ve got someone to negotiate with them, then I could say if I were president that it should be kept a secret.”
“Do you think Clinton might make a move in that direction?” I asked, referring to the recent release of previously unclassified documents by the Department of Energy.
“I’m going to talk with him in the next few weeks and I’ll ask him. He’s always been pretty open. I don’t know why he wouldn’t. He’s anti-secrecy,” King said.
Sawyer raised the issue that it was taxpayer money that funded such secrecy, “yet there’s really no oversight of it by the public. Is that something you’ll go into today?”
“Absolutely,” King responded. “There’s no defense of that. There’s got to be someone that knows all about this stuff. I mean. they work for us. We don’t work for them. Last I checked, the military works for the civilians.”
“Perhaps you can remind them of that,” Bishop said.
“They’re out there,” King said, gesturing toward the desert. “Any secrecy about this is unwarranted if there’s no cold war. Who’s our enemy? Has Moammar Quaddafi got these kinds of planes?”
Reading this 28-year-old paragraph, it’s interesting to see how the field has progressed in some instances… and how it has painfully remained the same in so many others.
Rest in Peace, Mr. King.