Larry King at Borgata: He shoulda stayed in Brooklyn

It was a fabulous--but ultimately false--start for Larry King Saturday night at Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa. But once the erstwhile CNN celebrity interviewer left the old neighborhood, his presentation ran out of steam in a hurry.

Prior to last night's set, King's autobiographical offering was billed as "Larry King Standing Up." But in his monologue, the 77-year-old ex-broadcaster referred to the piece as "How Did I Get Here?"

Either way, the show started out with King delivering two extended reminiscences, both of which recalled his days as a teenaged knucklehead in his native Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, geting into truly hilarious fixes with friends who had names like "Moppo" and "Hoo-Hah."

The first concerned a fake-death scam he and his pals ran on his junior high school. The second, equally rib-tickling, bit was the tale of a particularly goofy road trip involving a New Haven, Conn. Carvel soft- ce cream outlet and that city's incumbent mayor.

So far, so good. But then King left his adolescense and spent the bulk of the evening regaling the far-from-sold-out Music Box audience with scenes from the beginning of his broadcasting career, when he broke into radio in Miami in the late 1950s.

It's not that these stories didn't have a mildly amusing charm. But compared to King's opening salvos--which were reminiscent of the late radio humorist Jean Shepherd's riffs on his boyhood in Depresion-era Hammond, Ind.--they were a couple of bloop singles following a pair of monster home runs.

Had he stayed in his Brooklyn childhood, the performance could have been something truly special. As it was, the evening, while far from a bust, was equally distant from being a smash.

Still,  King--who regularly referred to his real name, Larry Zeiger--is a first-rate storyteller with a natural feel for things like voice inflection and effective pronounciation of words. This made his weaker material stronger and his strongest material compelling.

There were a couple of odd ommissions. Although King became a pop-culture totem via his CNN prime-time talker, there was no video montage show-opener filled with clips from his 26-year CNN career.

It was also unexpected that, except for a few audience questions he answered during the program's closing segment, he had nothing in his repertoire from his halcyon CNN days, when he nightly shared the screen with the biggest names in politics and show business.