Friday, May 28, 2010

Bottom of the News… Friday, May 28, 2010

Good morning my fellow Rotarians. This morning I want to pay tribute to a great American, Art Linkletter. Known for his Kids Say The Darndest Things TV segments and books – Linkletter passed away this past Wednesday (May 26) at age of 97.

Art Linkletter hosted TV's "People Are Funny" and "House Party" in the 1950s and '60s and delighted viewers with his ability to get kids to share too much information on national television.

Linkletter was born Arthur Gordon Kelly on July 17, 1912, in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. His unwed mother put him up for adoption when he was a baby and at the age of 5 his new family moved to San Diego.

He recalled his preacher-father forced him to take odd jobs to help the family. So Linkletter ran away from home and became a hobo, hopping trains across the West, working where he could. He recalled later that he felt the religious faith instilled by his father had been a great gift.

"Because of Art Linkletter, adults found themselves enjoying children," said Bill Cosby, whose style interviewing kids on his own show in the late '90s was often compared to Linkletter's.

"Art Linkletter's House Party," one of television's longest-running variety shows, debuted on radio in 1944 and was seen on CBS-TV from 1952 to 1969. The best known feature was the daily interviews with schoolchildren.

The down-to-earth charm of Linkletter's broadcast persona seemed to be mirrored by his private life with his wife of more than a half-century, Lois. They had five children, whom he wrote about in his books and called the "Links."

In 1969, his 20-year-old daughter Diane jumped to her death from her sixth-floor Hollywood apartment. He blamed her death on LSD use, but tests found no LSD and yet the tragedy prompted Linkletter to become a staunch crusader against drugs.

Art Linkletter got his first taste of broadcasting with a part-time job while attending San Diego State College in the early 1930s. He graduated in 1934. "I was studying to be an English professor," Linkletter once said. "But as they say, life is what happens to you while you're making other plans."

He held a series of radio and promotion jobs in California and Texas, experimenting with audience participation and remote broadcasts, before forming his own production company in the 1940s and striking it big with "People Are Funny" and "House Party."

After leaving daily broadcasting in 1969, Linkletter continued to write, lecture and appear in television commercials. Among his other books, were "Old Age is Not for Sissies," "How To Be a Supersalesman," "Confessions of a Happy Man," "Hobo on the Way to Heaven" and his autobiography, “I Didn't Do It Alone."

"Life is not fair ... not easy," Linkletter said in 1990. "Outside, peer pressure can wreak havoc with the nicest families. So that's the part that's a gamble. But I'm an optimist. Even though I've had tragedies in my life, and I've seen a lot of difficult things, I still am an optimist,"

Linkletter is survived by his wife, Lois whom he was married to for 74 years; along with two of his children, daughters Dawn Griffin and Sharon Linkletter, as well as seven grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.

Linkletter admitted that his grandkids were more impressed by his picture being on the $100,000 bill from the board game, Life, which he endorsed in the ’60s, than with any of his TV shows.

His grandkids also went crazy when Linkletter appeared as a caricature in a Bugs Bunny cartoon that spoofed his old TV show, People Are Funny.

In 2005, when re-issuing his 1957 best-seller, Linkletter said…“Kids between ages four to 10 are still the same. They don’t want to eat their oatmeal and would like to get rid of their sister.”

A close friend said, “What a wonderful man. I used to laugh so hard I would cry listening to him talk to the children and their answers. Art was truly a blessing from God.”

Art Hershey, Linkletter’s son-in-law, said on Wednesday, "He lived a long, full, pure life, and the Lord finally had a need for him."

And there you have it, Art Linkletter, an American icon in an era gone by. And that’s our news for this Friday, May 28, 2010.


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