TELEVISION

Q&A with Larry Moore: KMBC anchor exits the daily grind

Updated: 2013-11-27T01:26:07Z

By TIM ENGLE

The Kansas City Star

Spread the news: Larry Moore won’t be seen every night on KMBC anymore, but he’s not retiring.

We checked in with the city’s longest-tenured anchorman — 40 years on Channel 9 — to find out what an “anchor emeritus” does, how he’s feeling as he exits the daily grind and whether we’ll ever hear him do the news like an auctioneer. Oh, and we got to hear his big, booming laugh in person.

Before the interview started, we experienced an only-at-9 moment: The small KMBC conference room Moore selected was occupied by Chiefs legend and sportscaster Len Dawson, who was signing a football before he stepped out.

Q. Tell me about the last few weeks, since you announced you were assuming this new role.

A. It has been a phenomenal, hectic, unbelievable three weeks, I’ll tell you. But a delightful three weeks. And I hate to brag, but of the thousands of messages from regular mail, email, Facebook, telephone — they have all been so supportive and so enthusiastic and so happy that I’m getting to do what I want to do with enough years left to really enjoy it.

What does it mean to be an anchor emeritus?

What it amounts to is, after Wednesday, I’m really not required to be in a certain place at a certain time. I’ll be off the month of December, which will be fun because of all the holiday activities that have always been governed by the 5, 6 and 10 (newscasts). And then in January (wife) Ruth and I disappear to a warm climate for a month. (Laughs) Then, Feb. 1, back to three days a week, basically, for the next couple of years. It will revolve around some special projects, we’ll continue to do Dream Factory segments on Friday, and fill-in anchoring when we’ve got people on vacation.

Does that mean three days a week anchoring or three days a week working?

Three days a week working, but not necessarily anchoring. I’m really excited about it. Everybody I’ve ever talked to said, “Don’t go cold turkey.” This is just a great phase-down. My (8-year-old) grandson (Emmett) has a philosophical statement there: “It’s OK, Grandpa, to be tired. When you get older, you get tired.” (Laughs)

Emmett sounds very wise.

Yes, he has a lot going for him.

Except for five years away, you’ve been at Channel 9 since 1968. That’s 40 years. Does it feel like that long?

No, it doesn’t. Honest to God, I can remember the very first day like it was yesterday. I figured I’d have a day or two to figure out where I was or at least fill out some forms or something. Well, I was out there doing a story about what Kansas Citians were doing on Labor Day. And then I did two hours of the MDA telethon with (weatherman) John Bilyeu.

But you’re basically doing the same thing now you did as an anchor in the 1970s: looking into the camera and reading the news. Does it feel different now?

It feels different because you have the experience and you know what the viewer is looking for. That’s part of my role down the road, really. I don’t want to say teaching, I don’t want to say consultant, but it really is helping some of the young people understand some of the things you have to know to make it work. You really have to have the passion. You have to have the energy. And then you have to have the warmth to convey the other two. Those things can be learned, but they can’t be learned overnight.

You’ve probably spent most if not all of your 40 years here working nights. Is there one night that stands out?

One certainly was the Plaza flood of ’77. It started out: There’s been a drowning on the Plaza. Lo and behold, every 10 minutes there were two more, then three more, then four or five more. We were on the air all night long, we did “Good Morning America” and I finally got off at 11 (a.m.), went home, took a two-hour nap and came back in and did the evening newscasts. (We’ve linked to KMBC coverage of the flood on KansasCity.com.)

The night that was the most emotionally draining for me was the (election night) plane crash in 1976 that killed Jerry Litton (a northwest Missouri congressman running for U.S. Senate) and his family as they were leaving the airport in Chillicothe.

He was flying to Kansas City, and you were planning to interview him?

He was going to do an interview at 10 o’clock proclaiming victory. Jerry was a pretty good friend of mine, and he’d kept me apprised of that Senate race. I’d talked to him at 8:30. I know how far Chillicothe is — not very far by air. And 10 o’clock came and went. I’m thinking, “He’s never been late in his life.” A few minutes later we got a TWX (like a teletype) from the highway patrol saying “An unidentified aircraft is believed crashed in north Missouri.” And a few minutes later the confirmation.

Your cancer scare was more than 20 years ago, but people remember that and seek your advice. What lesson did you take from that experience?

It was a very scary time, because when we went into it the survival rate was not that high for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. So we had a lot of discussions as to how we were going to handle it (on the air). You can’t really say, all of you (viewers) have been with me for 20 years and I’m just gonna leave. And then we got to thinking, well, they probably have a right to know what’s going on. But what if we could turn it into an educational campaign? So that’s what we did. I found that it probably helped me more than anybody else because I had a focus.

The way to enhance your chances for survival: One, early detection. You’ve got to get those regular check-ups, get to the doctor on time. Get a second opinion. … And support. Support from family, friends and faith. You have to have it. You can’t survive cancer alone.

You’ve made countless public appearances, including as an auctioneer at charity events. How did you ever become an auctioneer?

(Laughs) Well, my dad would buy all these antiques at farm auctions and then sell them wholesale to antiques dealers. Some days, the weather would be pretty damn bad, and the main auctioneer would get tired. He’d say, “Come here. Why don’t you do this wagonload. You may not know how to do it, but you can just learn.” So I did that. And after about 10 or 12 auctions, I got to know what I was doing.

You’re a pretty fast talker anyway.

Yeah. (He goes into some auction patter:) Twenty-five thirty-five now forty forty-five …

Have you ever tried doing the news like that?

No. Not yet. (Laughs) One night we sold Bryan (Busby’s) shirt or something on the air. I forget how it came about.

What can we expect on your final regular newscast Wednesday? Any tears from Larry?

No, I think everything’s going to be said pretty much in the half-hour special that follows. (During the news) I’m just probably going to thank everybody for supporting me full time for 40 years. I’m not leaving. I’m not retiring. I’ll still be around.

To reach Tim Engle, call 816-234-4779 or email tengle@kcstar.com. On Twitter: @tim_engle

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