RIP – ART LINKLETTER


EXPIRED: 05/26/10 – Art Linkletter, 97, was abandoned as an infant in the small Canadian town of Moosejaw. There he was adopted by an elderly Baptist preacher and his wife. They traveled around a lot – and since young Linkletter didn’t have permanent friends, he learned to strike up a conversation with anyone he met along the way.

It was a skill he learned to use later in life as a talk show host. One of the best!

Linkletter used to keep my family entertained for hours and hours every week when TV was still kinda new. To me, he was the “guy in the box.” He was always on TV.

His shows, People Are Funny and House Party were on for decades and millions of Americans made it a habit to tune in – it was easy, there were only 3 networks to choose from back then.

Linkletter got his start in radio, in 1933. As he was preparing for one of his shows with an early version of a portable home tape recorder, his then 5-year-old son Jack came home from his first day of school. Linkletter says he turned on the device and asked Jack what he thought of school.

Jack: ‘I ain’t going back.’

Linkletter: ‘You’re not going back? Why?’

Jack: “Well,’ he says, ‘I can’t read, I can’t write, and they won’t let me talk. Why go back?’ “

Linkletter played the recording on the radio, and a bit was born. “Kids Say The Darndest Things” became part of his new CBS radio show, House Party, in 1944. And it remained in place when the Party joined CBS’ daytime TV lineup in 1952, where it aired until 1969. You could say he invented using children as the perfect source of TV entertainment.

“What do your parents do for fun?” Mr. Linkletter asked one boy.

“I don’t know,” the boy replied. “They always lock the door.”

He also hosted Life With Linkletter (1950-52); The Art Linkletter Show (NBC, 1963) and Art Linkletter’s Hollywood Talent Scouts (CBS, 1965-66), among others.

Yet for all his success, he wasn’t without setbacks. In 1969, his 20-year-old daughter Diane leapt out of a window to her death, a suicide Linkletter blamed on LSD use. He never really recovered. He tried a brief 1988 revival of Kids Say the Darndest Things, where he played second fiddle to Bill Cosby, but the bulk of his TV career was over by the early ’70s.

Regardless, he did OK. A pretty good businessman, Linkletter also made a lot of cash by investing in Hula Hoops and Australian sheep farms. He also was an early investor in the board game “LIFE.”  And he was a successful author, publishing more than 20 books including the best-selling Kids Say the Darndest Things and Old Age is Not for Sissies. He also hosted Disneyland’s opening ceremony in 1955 and at its 50th anniversary in 2005.

Goodnight Art. Good talking to ya.

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