Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Remembering Art Linkletter
"Just say in your article I'm Canadian and danged proud of it," laughed Art Linkletter.
He was that kind of guy. "Swell" is the adjective I'd use for one of the giants who virtually invented live TV.
Linkletter and his nearest counterpart Arthur Godfrey came out of radio where they had years of on air experience in making their every word seem spontaneous and very intimate.
"People always think I'm talking directly to them," Linkletter explained. "That's the way I was taught to talk.
"In all my years on Kids Say The Darndest Things I only had one tyke ever cry on camera. I simply wanted them to have a good time."
Linkletter's death at 97 was a long time in coming, I'd talked to him on the telephone about a decade earlier and he wasn't feeling well even then. He sent me an autographed picture and the writing was oh so very wobbly.
When I was at The Spectator in the early seventies I'd caught up with him on a Toronto Street --he was doing commercials for some headache pill, I can't remember the brand. But people stopped to gawk --he was still well remembered.
Linkletter's original radio series House Party debuted on CBS Radio in 1944 and successfully transferred to CBS TV in 1952 (it ran until 1969).
I'd watch it as a kid and anybody could feel that warmth and the great contact with the audience.
Then there was his quiz show People are Funny which started on radio in 1942 and ran on NBC TV from 1954 to 1961.
Linkletter's book of quotes Kids Say The Darndest Things is listed as 25th among the all time best sellers.
Linkletter's naturalness and easy humor seemed to make him the perfect family man.
But in 1969 his daughter Diane, 20, jumped to her death from her sixth floor apartment. Linkletter began a campaign to outlaw LSD but toxicology reports subsequently found no trace elements of LSD in her body.
Son Robert died in a car crash in 1980 and another son Jack who briefly inherited his dad's TV series died of lymphoma in 2007.
Linkletter was born in 1912 (as Arthur Gordon Kelly) in Moose Jaw. His unwed mother allowed him to be adopted when he was a baby and he moved with his new parents to San Diego when he was seven.
His preacher father installed a love of God in him and after graduating from San Diego College in 1934 he went into radio broadcasting.
A wealthy businessman, he owned cattle ranches in Montana and New Mexico, real estate developments and oil and gas wells.
But he never lost his common touch. "Being average has made me a rich man," he chuckled. "Tragedies? I have some of those but I'm still an optimist regarding life."
He's survived by wife Lois whom he married in 1935, daughters Dawn and Sharon and seven grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.
Along with Godfrey, Edward R. Murrow, Burns And Allen , Jack Benny and Lucy Ball, Linkletter helped make CBS the greatest and most prosperous of the American TV networks in the 1950s.