20 May 2009

Larry King's Pants Must Be On Fire

Larry King is touting his new book "My Remarkable Story" right now. In it, there is a blurb about a big score he had at the race track. Maybe his book should be renamed "My Impossible Story."

A few of us on Pace Advantage had some fun today playing sleuth on this story, because it just didn't seem right.

Here is the excerpt from the book that has red flags coming from everywhere. My comments are included where appropriate:

I was thirty-seven years old. (In 1971). I had no job. I had a couple hundred thousand dollars in debts. And a four-year-old daughter. I'd take Chaia to our secret park on our visiting days. That's when the pain cut the deepest -- looking at my daughter and knowing I had no way to support her.
Larry King has made it known that he went personally bankrupt in 1978. So this looks OK.

Things got bleaker and bleaker. I became a recluse. By late May, I was down to forty-two dollars. My rent was paid only until the end of the month. I locked myself in my apartment wondering how bad things could possibly get. Pretty soon I wouldn't even be able to afford cigarettes. I remembered a night when I was a young man in New York, alone, cold, and without cigarettes or the money to buy them -- I had smashed open a vending machine to get a pack.
I don't smoke, but I've been broke like this many times before. Maybe if I smoked and I was broke, I might have done the same thing. Probably not though. Although when I was around 9 or 10 when being broke didn't matter, there was a flaw in some coke machines where you could reach up and cause free cokes to come down. I vaguely remember having some free pop.

A friend called up and told me to start living like a human being again. He invited me to the track. I had nothing better to do, and I figured it would be good therapy to get out and have lunch with a friend and watch the horses come down the stretch.
I've had friends invite me to the track, and I've invited friends to the track. But a friend is more likely to say "STOP going to the track and "start living like a human being."

I'll never forget that day. I put on a Pierre Cardin jeans outfit that had no pockets and drove to Calder Race Course. I can still see the horses warming up before the third race. There was a horse called Lady Forli -- a filly running against males.
I'm not going to debate the jeans outfit too much, though I remember having a knockoff of it when I was around 12, and there were small pockets if I remember correctly. Did Larry keep his $42 in his hands while at the track or maybe in his cigarette pack? Ok, that's enough.
The big deal is the horse, Lady Forli. A little research, and what happens? Lady Forli was foaled in 1972. Tough to race in 1971. Could it have been a Forli horse with a name that had Lady or Girl in it? Maybe. Forli went to stud in 1968, and his first crop ran in 1971. It could be likely that a 2 year old filly might have to race against boys first time out in May because filly races may not have filled.

Normally, female horses don't beat males. We're talking cheap horses. I scanned the board and saw that she was 70-1. But my eyes really opened when I looked at the racing form. Racetrack people talk to each other. So I turned to the guy next to me and said, "You know, this horse, three races back, won in more or less the same company. Why is she 70-1?"
So much for this horse being by Forli. Not very many two year olds, even back in 1971, were making at least their fourth start in May.

"Well," the guy said, "there's a couple of new horses here."
Since Calder was just opened for the first time May 6th, 1971. I would expect many "new" horses in the race.

"Yeah, but she should be, like, 20-1. Not 70--1."
Screw it. I bet ten dollars on the horse to win. But I kept looking at the horse. The more I looked at this horse, the more I liked it. So I bet exactas. I bet Lady Forli on top of every other horse and below every other horse. Now I had what's called a wheel.
Back in 1971, there were no $1 wheels. And if you read a little more, you'll see this horse was number 11 according to Larry. Assuming an 11 horse race and no scratches. A back wheel would cost $40. With the $10 to win, the cost is $50.

I kept looking at the horse. Wait a minute, I told myself, I've got four dollars left. I have a pack of cigarettes. I've gotta give the valet two bucks. That still leaves me with money to bet a trifecta.
Oh, oh. Larry, Larry, Larry. I had an inkling that trifectas weren't invented in 1971. Turns out I was wrong. Apparently Arlington originated the triactor in 1971.
But further research tells us that Calder didn't have triactors in 1971 according to Bill Finley. Finley also comments that Lady Forli never even made an appearance at Calder in her short career, and that she never won a race in the United States. I think Larry would have remembered if he went to Ireland to make the big score.

My birthday is November 19. Lady Forli was number 11. So I bet 11 to win, 1 to place, and 9 to show.
No you didn't.

Now I had bets in for 11 on top, 11 on bottom, and 11 to win. And I had a trifecta -- 11-1-9.
Um, OK, but no.

When the race began, I had two dollars left to my name -- and that was for the valet.
I do have a bit of a problem with this. If someone is worried about rent and has limited dough to bet, why would you park in valet parking? And doesn't that mean that he had less than $42 by the time he paid for valet parking and admission (probably a buck or two for both back then).

They broke out of the gate. The 1 broke on top, the 9 ran second, and the 11 came out third. The 11 passed the 9, passed the 1, and they ran in a straight line all around the track. There was no question about it. The 11 won by five lengths. The 1 was three lengths ahead of the 9. I had every winning ticket. I had it to win. I had the exacta. I had the trifecta. I collected nearly eight thousand dollars. Eight thousand dollars!
Could the exactor have paid $7000 and change? Maybe. Highly doubtful, and besides, Larry would remember if he had a $7000 exactor for a deuce....or would he? He definitely didn't have the triactor.

It had to be one of the happiest moments of my life -- certainly the most exciting. But I had no pockets.
So I stuffed all the money in my jacket. It was bundled up. I didn't know what to do with it. I ran out of the track.
I once redeemed a voucher for $10,000 or so in cash, and had pockets but I couldn't fit all the cash in my pockets so I did wrap it up in my jacket on the way out. That is believable.

The valet attendant came over and said, "You leaving so early?"
"Bad day, Mr. King?"
I tipped him fifty dollars. The guy nearly fainted.
Again, Calder opened up in early May. At the beginning of the story, Larry made it apparent that he hadn't been out much. How did the valet know his name? Could he have known him from Tropical Park? Maybe. Larry King wasn't too famous back then.

I had to go somewhere, to stop and make sure it was real. I drove to a vacant lot, which is now called Dolphin Stadium. I parked among the weeds and opened up my jacket. All the money spilled out. I counted out about seventy-nine hundred dollars.
I paid my child support for the next year. I paid my rent for a year. I bought twenty cartons of cigarettes and stacked them up in my apartment, and I filled the refrigerator.
Up to that point, that may have been the happiest moment of my life. Now, today, if I go to the track and win $8,000, it's very nice, but it won't affect my life one iota. It's nice to win. But when you really need it ...
Just a little tidbit: Larry King was charged with grand larceny in December of 1971.

Look, I like Larry King. When I was in my late teens and early 20's I used to listen to his radio show on the Buffalo affiliate WBEN. I used to love listening to the crazies who called in during his Open Air segment that usually started at 3 in the morning. Lots of nuts used to call in....true story.

See also, Shocker: Larry King's Horsey Tale Is Full Of Holes,
and Larry King, Truth And Terminal Stupidity.

Equidaily has uncovered an interview with Larry King, from 8 years ago. Back then he said the amount he won was $11,000 and the year was 1972. The other details are pretty much the same, including the numbers and the non winning Lady Forli.

Thanks goes out to the Paulick Report for linking this post.


jeff t said...

This was the first time I had ever read your blog. Now I have a new bookmark.

I’m so glad someone else got to tear apart the Larry King story. As soon as I read it, it sounded very familiar, because it was nearly the same word-for-word story he told in Esquire magazine in Jan. 2002. Only one difference I could find. Check out the winnings seven years ago:

So I'll bet 11-1-9. Now I've got 11 on top, I've got 11 on bottom, I've got 11 to win, and I've got a trifecta 11-1-9. I've got two dollars left to my name. Now the race begins. They break out of the gate, the 1 breaks on top, the 9 is second, and the 11 is third. The 11 passes the 9, the 11 passes the 1, and they run in a straight line all around the track. No question. The 11 wins by five lengths. The 1 is three lengths ahead of the 9. So I've got every winning ticket. I got it to win. I got the exacta. I got the trifecta. I collect $11,000--eleven thousand dollars! But I got no pockets. So I stuff all the money in my jacket. I don't know what to do with it. I run outta the track. The valet guy comes out and brings me the car. He says, "You leaving so early?" I said, "Yeah." He says, "Bad day, Mr. King?" I tip him fifty dollars. Guy nearly faints. I gotta go somewhere. I drove into a vacant lot which is now Joe Robbie Stadium. I parked among the weeds. And I opened up my jacket and all the money spilled out. I counted out $11,000. You know what I did? My child support was $100 a month. I sent $1,200. My rent was $360 a month. I paid my rent for a year. I bought twenty cartons of cigarettes, stacked 'em up in my apartment. And that may have been the happiest moment of my life. Now, today, if I go to the track and win $11,000, it's very nice, but it won't affect my life one iota. It's nice to win. But when you really need it ... The truth about foxhole humor is it's never funny when it's happening.

malcer said...

Great stuff!

Anonymous said...

it was fiction, no doubt,
just like the news on CNN


Anonymous said...

Hmm an almost-interesting question might be how an obviously BS tale somehow contains the name of a real but obscure racehorse from roughly the right era....

Maybe next century someone famous will write about the time they hit the triactor with Bodean when they needed a few $ for twittering.

Anonymous said...

Great piece of research and commentary. The whole story smells very strongly of compulsive gambling (more properly, pathological gambling), rather than a lucky day out at the track. We pathological gamblers love to glorify our wins, but you won't hear much about our losses until we've hit bottom (a couple hundred thousand dollars in debt by the time he was 37? Guess he wasn't quite there yet...) We're chronic liars until we get into recovery, and yes, in the same sense that an alcoholic or drug addict has to to get past an addiction. Pathological gambling has almost identical biological and chemical manifestation in the brain to alcohol and drug addiction, which is one reason you see so much cross-addiction.

One thing that you found difficult to believe, that he would have parked in valet parking while being worried about the rest of his finances, is *classic* behavior for the pathological gambler. We often need to see ourselves, and for others to see us, as bigshots and as very altruistic individuals, all the while we are causing tremendous damage to ourselves and others in our lives. Many were the times that I spent my last accessible dollar on video poker, but saved a few bucks to tip the valet on the way out of the casino. For the pathological gambler, gambling is not about getting a "high" from that big win (though that's definitely part of the appeal early on in the addiction) so much as it is about chasing the losses. If I'm down, I need to win it back. If I get back to even, it's like I just started playing, so let's try to win! If I'm ahead, I'm playing on the house's money, so let's try to win more...besides, I need to win back what I lost last week. And so it goes. Other than the obvious obfuscations (many of which are likely "honest" misremembrances and recreations of his own personal reality for Mr. King) that you brought to light, there was one thing I found glaringly unlikely in Mr. King's story (assuming that what we're hearing is a compulsive gambler), and that is that he left the track immediately after winning the $8,000 ($11,000?). It would be *much* more likely for him to have stayed the rest of the day, trying to win more to cover his huge debts. By the way...what is his explanation for the magnitude of the debt he had run up to this point? Ted H., Recovering Compulsive Gambler

Cangamble said...

Ted, thanks for the comments, but I don't think we can paint all gamblers with one brush. There are responsible gamblers and drinkers out there. I might have one drink a month for example. And I can go months without betting.
But I think you make a valid point, there is no way that he would leave right after the win. I don't think there is any gambler on this planet, either responsible or not who would leave after a score with more races on the menu unless they had to be somewhere else, and even then, it is unlikely.
I don't know why or how he owed so much money, but lets not forget he has been married 8 times now, he was probably on number 3 back then. And who can believe how much he owed anyway without seeing his bankruptcy report. I wouldn't take his word for it.
Good luck with you recovery.