We Need More Kings

We need more people like this guy. This guy is no longer with us. This guy was bigger than life. That is why we need more people like him. Bigger than life. He was Roger King, founder and CEO of Kingworld Productions.

Roger passed away in 2007 way too early at age 63. He was one of the first television producers to take advantage of independent syndication when television programming rules changed back in the early 1970s. Under Roger’s vision, we became familiar with Pat Sajak and Vanna White on Wheel of Fortune; Alex Trebek on Jeopardy; and that daytime Chicago-based talk show hostess, Oprah.

Roger made a boatload of cash when he owned the company and liked to share it with his business partners. Roger’s parties were made of type that you see in old-time, lavish Hollywood movies. Roger stopped having these parties after he was acquired by CBS in 2000 for the tidy sum of $2.5 billion. He was forced to become “corporate”. It also coincided with the beginning of the end for lavish entertaining in the entertainment industry.

But before the end came, Roger knew how to have a good time. In 1996, Roger decided to celebrate the Atlanta Olympics by taking his clients and spouses to Atlanta for the entire two weeks of the spectacle. Clients were given three options of the opening, middle, or end of the Summer Games. This was all expenses paid, dinners, expansive suites, plus tickets for multiple Olympic events, including the options of the opening and closing ceremonies. Roger enjoyed playing King.

Roger followed that the next year in Atlantic City for three days of celebrating his birthday. The first was a literal washout when Tropical Storm Danny decimated Atlantic County with 7″ of rain, killing the planned golf tournaments and other events. The next evening Roger was not to be denied. Even though the ocean had remained angry, rolling up/down/front/back, Roger powered his $150,000 a week rental yacht out to sea to view his $150,000 fireworks display. He had filled a barge full of fireworks off the coast of Atlantic City and was hell bent on shooting them off.

And hell it was. The boat had an open bar and a smorgasbord of food which guest enjoyed…through the channel…until they hit open waters on the ocean. The 50′ yacht rocked and rolled, crashing everything at the bar to the floor along with most of the food. Guests were not turning green. But Roger was strong and sailed forth, watching his mammoth fireworks display before mercifully returning to port.

Day three of Rogerfest was the party. Hors d’oeuvres and cocktails flowed freely among the wild animals Roger planted around the ballroom. White pythons, lions and tigers, all waiting to serve with a photo op. Prior to dinner, Roger’s wife was carried into the room Cleopatra-style by a legion of scantilly clad young bucks. Not to be out done, Roger entered riding an Elephant to cheers from the throngs who were drinking and eating on his nickle. Dinner came next with an all-female band that played through the multi-course feast. Which was a prelude to the main act, and evening with KC and the Sunshine Band.

Yet, Roger had already planned a bigger/better/faster! party. The next January in New Orleans at the annual programming convention, National Association of Television Program Executives, NATPE, Roger rented the Superdome for 5000 of his closest personal friends. A gigantic curtain hung from the ceiling to the floor, dividing the arena in two. On one side, the customary multiple open bars and food expanses. After an hour or two of gorging, a limousine-led police caravan drove through the middle of the masses, leading everyone to the other side of the curtain. Once there and seated, everyone was treated to a private Elton John concert.

On a business meeting basis, Roger was known to be quite generous. After cutting a late-afternoon, multi-million dollar TV syndication deal (negotiations took less than 30 seconds) in an New York City 8th Avenue bar, Roger offered dinner to his client with a very famous TV news reporter. The client declined due to a previous dinner engagement with more clients, so Roger said fine, just ride with me to the restaurant and you keep the limo for the evening. Have fun.

And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is why we need more Kings. Roger lived a big life believing that you should work hard, have fun, and always be true to yourself. It obviously work for him. As all bigger than life people, Roger had his moments and struggled with various human frailties. These on-again, off-again habits ultimately did him in as he one day suffered a stroke in Florida and died the next.  He became very successful because he was a tough businessman. Shrewd. Determined. But he had a big heart. A very big heart. Roger King.

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