Bearing Witness

by Billy Shore

Behind the scenes at Larry King Live

Saturday, November 06, 2010


Because L.A. traffic is so impossible to judge, everyone arrived early for Larry King Live: me, Jeff Bridges and even Larry. I was in make-up when Larry King walked in and dropped down into the chair beside me. Because he was taping three different shows this day I introduced myself to him as his guest with Jeff Bridges.

“Oh great. Jeff and I were co-stars in a movie once. A great film. Did you see it? The Contender starring Joan Alan. Jeff played the president. Great film. And I knew his dad Lloyd Bridges of course.”

The make-up woman, feeling pressure to turn her attention to Larry, sprayed something on my face and called it a day. I wasn’t sure how Jeff was going to dress so I’d stuck a tie in my pocket just in case. Then Jeff walked in wearing a grey t-shirt and I realized that I was overdressed just by virtue of having buttons on my shirt. Jeff took my chair. Another make-up woman swept in and I went over to the green room where Natalie Cole was waiting to film a segment for Monday about her kidney transplant and the book she wrote about it. We chatted for a bit, I checked e-mails, and about 30 minutes later walked back over to make-up. Jeff was still in the chair. Granted he has more hair than I do, but this still felt slightly out of balance.

I was debating whether to strip down to my Pittsburgh Steelers t-shirt, when Jeff’s assisatnt produced a suit bag for him with three dress shirts and a sports jacket and I was spared further agonizing.

I knew Jeff was going to be good but I didn’t know how good. A lot of his acting technique is based on scrupulous and close observation of others, even when he seems sleepy-eyed and laid back. On the few occasions we’ve been together he’s noticed small but telling things about people that I missed. On the phone he’d talked about how as an actor he tried to put himself in the shoes of others and tried to imagine what it would feel like to be hungry or to not be able to feed his kids. He’s at his best, I think, when he talks about his personal motivation for fighting hunger, although this day he’d also mastered our message about innovative state strategies, the role of governors, and getting more kids access to existing programs.

In one of the best parts of the segment, Larry asks him what the No Kid Hungry pledge is all about. Jeff says: “Let me see if I can recite it for you”. Then staring straight at the camera, he recites the pledge word for word and urges viewers to go to to take it. Larry also repeated directions to the NoKidHungry website.

As if we needed more evidence that our message is spreading and catching on, the floor producer of the show ran up to me as soon as the filming has ended and while Larry and Jeff and I were comparing notes. Her name is Rhoda Gilmore. She says: “I’m so excited that you were on as a guest because in my other job, for an on-line magazine out here, I just produced a segment about Cooking Matters. All of my friends our here want to be part of Share Our Strength.”