Titan of Talk Larry King May Ask the Right Questions, but 'I Do' Was the Wrong Answer

updated 11/26/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/26/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

Days after his engagement to Julie Alexander in July 1989, TV and radio interviewer Larry King put on his columnist's hat for USA Today and wrote, among other stream-of-consciousness jottings about life, the romantic notion, "If every time the phone rings you think it's her, you're hooked, my friend." Three weeks after their Oct. 7 marriage that year, King—still on a honeymoon high—wrote, "If there's nothing worse than an unhappy marriage, there's nothing better than a happy one." By this past April, though, the tone of his prose had shifted. "If you love her in skirts and she always wears slacks, call your travel agent, fella," he mused, with a sadder-but-wiser air. "If she keeps putting you on hold, partner, it's time to hang up the phone."

Apparently the phone line has gone dead between Larry, 56, and Julie, 42. After 13 months and five days, the couple have separated—"with the intent to end the marriage." says King's lawyer, Mark Barondess. This was the fourth (or, by other accounts, fifth or sixth) marriage for King, and the second for his wife, a legal headhunter who lives in Philadelphia and would join King in Washington, D.C., on weekends.

"Our foundation is solid," Julie said last year. Solid, and swiftly set in place. Her engagement to King followed a two-week courtship conducted almost entirely over the telephone. Their first encounter, at a celebrity roast, lasted all of five minutes and struck King as electrifying. "The feeling was a jolt of lightning," he once said. "The kind songwriters write about." They didn't even consider a prenuptial agreement "julie ain't in this for the money," he said then—although, considering that he has since signed a five-year CNN contract reportedly worth $8.7 million, she would have plenty to be in it for, if she chose.

What went wrong between King and his interviewee-for-life?

Well, for starts, King's marital history rivals Zsa Zsa's. Another possible problem, says a source familiar with both, was that Mrs. King "was trying to get involved with his business affairs," and according to a profile in Business Philadelphia magazine last month, she has involved herself in negotiating her husband's deals ("It doesn't matter what the product is," she said. "If you're a good negotiator, you can negotiate anything").

Three days before the separation announcement, however, all seemed right with the marriage. "I'm planning to move to Washington soon," she was saying. "We've been looking at houses." Now he will say only, "It just didn't work."

Julie isn't commenting either. Whatever went wrong, it must have been something that the songwriters couldn't foresee. "Everybody falls in love and they think it's across a crowded room," King's daughter, Chaia, 22, observed at the wedding. "I think it's one in a million. And especially one in a million if it lasts."

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