Larry L. King
( b. Jan 01, 1929 Putnam, Texas, USA - d. Dec 20, 2012 ) Male
A prolific writer for Texas Monthly, Harper’s, Playboy and other magazines, Mr. King had a big personality suffused with humor, characteristics evident in his work. Critics often noted his affinity for the wordplay, wry attitude and joy in the existence of scalawags that were hallmarks of Mark Twain. Nor was he, like Twain, loath to cast aspersions on the dull, the self-righteous and the oafish.
The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, written with Peter Masterson, was based on an article Mr. King wrote for Playboy about the closing of the Chicken Ranch, a brothel near La Grange, southeast of Austin, that operated illegally for decades with the tacit approval of the local authorities. With music and lyrics by Carol Hall and choreography by Tommy Tune, the show, which opened on Broadway in 1978, had a winking, naughty spirit that caught on, and in spite of less than stellar reviews, ran for four years, more than 1,500 performances.
He grew up mostly on a rural farm until his family moved to Midland, where he went to high school. His mother, Cora Lee Clark, read Twain to him as a boy. His father, Clyde Clayton King, was a farmer and a blacksmith and the subject of one of his son’s best-known essays, “The Old Man.”
Young Larry never graduated from high school; he left to join the Army just after World War II and served most of his stint in the New York area making training films. When he got out, he got his first writing job at The Hobbs Daily Flare, a New Mexico newspaper, and later briefly attended Texas Technological College, now Texas Tech University, in Lubbock.
In the mid-1950s he moved to Washington as an aide to a Texas congressman, J. T. Rutherford. Later he joined the staff of another Texas representative, Jim Wright, the future speaker of the House. He left in 1964 to become a full-time writer. In spite of his lack of formal education, he was granted a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard for the 1969-70 academic year and wrote about it for Harper’s in an essay called “Blowing My Mind at Harvard.”
The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas was made into a 1982 film starring Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton, and a sequel to the stage musical, The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public, appeared briefly on Broadway in 1994.
Mr. King wrote several other plays that appeared Off Broadway or in regional or college theaters, including The Night Hank Williams Died, set in a Texas bar in 1952, and The Kingfish, written with Ben Z. Grant, a one-actor play about Huey P. Long. He also wrote television documentaries, including “The Best Little Statehouse in Texas,” depicting the horse-trading and backroom dealing characteristic of Texas politics.
Source: The New York Times