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Larry King the comedian? And a new 'Hollywood Bowl' in Utah

What do you picture when you think of Larry King? Suspenders? Direct questions fired point blank at his interview subjects? No-nonsense discussion about serious issues? How about humor? No? Not at all? You may think Larry King is about as humorous as Winston Churchill or Clint Eastwood, but you’d be wrong. Intelligent people are often not very humorous, but humorous people are often very intelligent. So it is with Larry King. Known for his intelligent and pointed interviews, few people know King’s humorous side.

But they’ll get a chance to experience it June 18 at 7:30 p.m. as he performs his comedy (via exclusive video feed) at Utah’s Stars and Friends, a concert spectacular at Orem’s SCERA shell outdoor theater. The concert will be hosted by King’s wife, Shawn King, who will also be singing in the program. Shawn King will be joined by current and past stars of the Utah music scene, including Jenny Oaks Baker and Kurt Bestor playing Led Zepplin together, Ray Smith and a 40-piece orchestra, a reunion of London Bridge, and Dallyn Bayles, to name a few.

King would not describe himself as a comedian, but he insists one of his true loves is comedy. “I love doing comedy. I give speeches all over the world and my favorite part is when I can tell funny stories,” King said.

That’s not all you don’t know about King. He was born Lawrence Leibel Harvey Ziegler on Nov. 19, 1933, in Brooklyn, N.Y., to Orthodox Jewish restaurateur parents, Eddie and Jennie. Before his untimely death at age 44 (when Larry was 9), his father taught him two valuable lessons: Never lie and never talk to strangers.

From an early age, he exhibited an intense interest in having a career in radio. He would often find a private place, away from others, and practice his radio voice or announce an imaginary sports game. He started working as a janitor and gofer at a Miami Beach radio station in 1957. One of the radio announcers suddenly quit without notice, allowing King to go on air for the first time. Moments before going on air, he noticed an advertisement for King's Wholesale Liquors and changed his last name to King on the advice of his station manager that Zeigler sounded too ethnic.

To date, King has conducted more than 50,000 interviews with politicians, athletes, entertainers and other newsmakers. King admits that it is too tough to pick a favorite interview, but one of his favorites was with Frank Sinatra, who was not doing interviews at the time. Jackie Gleason, a friend and mentor to King, helped arrange the interview because Sinatra owed him a favor. The nature of the favor is another story.

Who would King like to interview most? “Fidel Castro,” he says with that impetuous grin. And as for the suspenders, “I have over 150 pairs,” King admits. He has suspender buttons sewn into every pair of pants he buys.

And King is a Utahn. Kind of. “I have a home in Utah, I’m married to a BYU alumnus … my wife, Shawn King,” he said as he describes his wife’s upcoming visit to Utah.

Former producer of the Stadium of Fire, Carl Bacon, music executive Karl Engemann, BYU Jazzman Ray Smith and the city of Orem have combined to produce Utah’s Stars and Friends. They promise it will include “something for everyone” and will be a tribute to former friend and Letterman Bob Engemann, who died in January surrounded by family and friends. They also hope to start a new tradition.

“Our good friend, and my manager, Karl Engemann, approached Shawn and me about helping to start a regular concert series in the tradition of the Hollywood Bowl,” King said. “We live in Hollywood much of the year and attend the Hollywood Bowl often. We love the atmosphere and the phenomenal acts that play there. We're excited to help get something like this off the ground here in Utah.”

If you go …

When: June 18, 2013. Gates open at 7 p.m., show begins at 7:30 p.m.

Where: SCERA Shell, Orem, Utah

What: The concert will feature a tribute to the late Bob Engemann, a founding member of The Lettermen and the Reunion hit vocal groups, as well as some of Utah's most renowned entertainers for a spectacular show that will include something for everyone — from pop to Broadway, with a little rock and a little country thrown in for good measure. The line-up includes Reunion, Jenny Oaks Baker, Kurt Bestor, Dallyn Bayles, London Bridge, the Engemann family, a 40-piece live orchestra conducted by Ray Smith, and many more. Revenue from Utah's Stars and Friends performance will be used to help the SCERA Shell continue with its mission of providing outstanding entertainment to the community. SCERA is a nonprofit organization.

Tickets: They are available on the Utah's Stars and Friends website

More info: Utah's Stars and Friends website

Nate Keller is an arts enthusiast and real estate developer living in Orem, Utah.