Question from the caller in Muncie, Indiana: What kind of birthday present do you get for the talk-show host who has everything?
For my money, nothing says "I love you" like a cornfield maze depicting that talk-show host’s likeness Did I mention that ginseng tea is the universal panacea?
To commemorate his upcoming 70th birthday, media icon Larry King will hover over Queen Creek’s Schnepf Farms today for a surprise look at himself in what surely is the largest, greenest, organically grown birthday card he’s ever received: His image outlined in a sprawling cornfield.
The early birthday present is the handiwork of King’s wife, Shawn Southwick, and Carrie Schnepf. Schnepf is Southwick’s childhood friend and the wife of former Queen Creek Mayor Mark Schnepf.
Although King doesn’t turn 70 until Nov. 19, Southwick and Schnepf began planning back in August for the surprise, which took nearly two months to grow and was designed with the help of cornfield-maze specialty firm The Maize Co.
The unusual artwork began with a caricature of King, which was entered into a computer grid corresponding to stalks of corn in the field. The artists used a global positioning satellite to view their work from above while they marked the corn stalks to be removed using blue paint.
The painted stalks were then sprayed with weed killer when they were about 6 inches tall, Carrie Schnepf said.
King, the host of Larry King Live on CNN, is scheduled to arrive with his family mid-afternoon at Scottsdale Airpark and then board a private helicopter for a flyby of the farm. Southwick said King thinks he is coming to Arizona to watch her son, 21-year-old Danny Southwick, who plays for Dixie State College out of St. George, Utah, compete tonight against Scottsdale Community College.
"He’s just going to wig — he will flip out," Southwick told the Tribune. "Let’s hope he doesn’t have a heart attack."
Southwick said she and King have a history of giving each other outlandish gifts. One year, she had a photographer shoot all the covers and inscriptions in the autographed books her husband has collected throughout his career. The result was a three-volume photo book, she said.
She added that King once bought her eight 15-gallon jars of maraschino cherries — her favorite.
Schnepf said she was honored to help her friend this year because King is a humanitarian who has contributed to many charities. The Schnepfs will charge admission for the public to view the 3-mile corn maze, and part of the proceeds will go to the Larry King Cardiac Foundation, she said.
A recent freak storm that devastated the Queen Creek area almost destroyed King’s present as well, Schnepf said.
"When the microburst hit, the corn was leaning to one side," she said. "Then the next day, the wind came in from the opposite direction and blew it upright again."
Schnepf said she might come up with trivia questions about King that visitors must answer as they make their way through the maze.
"Please be a girlfriend and don’t ask the marriage question," Southwick said.