My maternal grandmother loved Art Linkletter and as a kid growing up in the 60s, I would sit with her after school and watch Art Linkletter’s House Party Show.
Art Linkletter, who hosted the popular TV shows ‘People Are Funny’ and ‘House Party’ in the 1950s and 1960s, has died. He was 97.
His son-in-law, Art Hershey, says Linkletter died Wednesday at his home in the Bel-Air section of Los Angeles.
‘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.
Though it had many features, the best known was the daily interviews with schoolchildren.
“On ‘House Party,’ I would talk to you and bring out the fact that you had been letting your boss beat you at golf over a period of months as part of your campaign to get a raise,” Linkletter wrote.
“All the while, without your knowledge, your boss would be sitting a few feet away listening, and at the appropriate moment, I would bring you together,” he said. “Now, that’s funny, because the laugh arises out of a real situation.”
Linkletter collected sayings from the children into ‘Kids Say The Darndest Things,’ and it sold in the millions. The book ’70 Years of Best Sellers 1895-1965′ ranked ‘Kids Say the Darndest Things’ as the 15th top seller among nonfiction books in that period.
The primetime ‘People Are Funny,’ which began on radio in 1942 and ran on TV from 1954 to 1961, emphasized slapstick humor and audience participation — things like throwing a pie in the face of a contestant who couldn’t tell his Social Security number in five seconds, or asking him to go out and cash a check written on the side of a watermelon.
The down-to-earth charm of Linkletter’s broadcast persona seemed to be mirrored by his private life with his wife of more than seventy years, Lois. They had five children, whom he wrote about in his books and called the “Links.”
But 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 toxicology tests found no LSD in her body after she died.
Still, the tragedy prompted him to become a crusader against drugs. A son, Robert, died in a car accident in 1980. Another son, Jack Linkletter, was 70 when he died of lymphoma in 2007.
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.’
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; when he was about 7, he and his adoptive parents moved to the United States, eventually settling in San Diego.
He recalled his preacher-father forced him to take odd jobs to help the family. So Linkletter left 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.
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.’
A recording Linkletter made with his daughter Diane not long before she died, ‘We Love You, Call Collect,’ was issued after her death and won a Grammy award for best spoken word recording.
“Life is not fair … not easy,” Linkletter said in a 1990 interview by The Associated Press. “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.”
Bill Cosby tried to bring “Kids Say the Darndest Things” back to television, and as delightful as it was, it just couldn’t compare to those afternoons sitting with my maternal grandmother watching Art Linkletter after school. Take a look at the video below to the Art Linkletter tribute done by Cosby.
Linkletter is survived by his wife, Lois, whom he married in 1935, and daughters Dawn and Sharon.
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Many arriving inaugural tourists dived right into Washington rituals. At Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street NW — which was upgraded from a local to a national icon this month when Obama dropped in for a chili half-smoke and sweet tea — crowds got so big that the staff started turning them away at 10:25 a.m. Many were directed to another D.C. favorite: the Florida Avenue Grill. Click the above photo for some history and interviews on Ben’s.
Below is a Washington Post article describing the Saturday arrivals into our Nation’s Capitol for the big historical event
Visitors Pour Into D.C., Loaded With Luggage But Lightened by Hope
By David A. Fahrenthold
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 18, 2009
They were rolling north, at the end of a four-hour drive from Durham, N.C., almost there. The rest of the car was focused on the directions to a hotel downtown.
Then the Washington Monument appeared in the distance.
Anjanée Bell pointed it out, but the others were distracted. So she savored her thrill in silence.
“That was the moment to say, you know, ‘We’re really here,’ ” said Bell, 31, the artistic director for a dance company. She had visited Washington before, but Bell said she could feel something different in the capital at that moment yesterday — even if, technically, she was still in Virginia.
Inauguration fever broke out across the Washington region yesterday as thousands of visitors began filtering into spare bedrooms, rundown motels and four-star lobbies. They came with Obama action figures, with snoozing babies, with homemade signs and with a more noble view of the capital than most of its full-time residents can sustain.
And many came with memories that made this occasion — the swearing-in of the first African American president — seem wonderful and a little unreal.
“I lived through segregation,” said Marion Garrison, 87, of Bakersfield, Calif. She and five friends were settling in at a Comfort Inn along New York Avenue NE. “I waited for this. It finally came.”
Yesterday was expected to be one of the busiest arrival days for inaugural guests: All but 400 or so of the District’s 29,000 hotel rooms were booked.
But the rush didn’t seem to strain the seams of a city used to conventions and tourists. Highways flowed smoothly. Airports were busy — Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport reported 28,000 passengers, up from 20,000 on a normal day — but didn’t feel Thanksgiving-crowded.
“I worked so hard on the campaign that I just wanted to see the fruits of my labor. I’m excited. I’m elated,” said LaRue Henderson, 73, who had flown in from Atlanta with her daughter and a friend.
They were waiting at Reagan National Airport for a ride to a relative’s home in Falls Church, where they will stay for the long weekend. The group brought along Obama T-shirts and caps, although they needn’t have worried. Every business in the region with a roof and a cash register seemed to be selling inauguration souvenirs yesterday.
For some airline passengers, the celebration of Obama’s swearing-in began even before they touched down. Len Solak, 59, of Albuquerque arrived at BWI wearing a homemade sign around his neck. “We The People get our country back in THREE days! (Loyal opposition is welcome, but cynics can go home!),” it said.
“It was the most photographed sign on the plane,” said Solak, who bought his ticket to Washington in September despite his wife’s fears that he would jinx the election. “Of course, it was also the only sign on the plane.”
Many arriving tourists dived right into Washington rituals. At Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street NW — which was upgraded from a local to a national icon this month when Obama dropped in for a chili half-smoke and sweet tea — crowds got so big that the staff started turning them away at 10:25 a.m. Many were directed to another D.C. favorite: the Florida Avenue Grill.
Some visitors were inventing their own rituals. The Hauldren family, from the Chicago suburb of Northfield, Ill., brought along a small plastic action figure of Obama, which they planned to photograph at major Washington landmarks.
Such as . . . the Court House Metro station.
“We took a picture of him on the plane, and we took a picture of him here,” said Julia Hauldren, 43, a stay-at-home mother who was at the station yesterday morning with her husband and four children. She said the idea was inspired by Flat Stanley, a children’s toy that is supposed to be photographed in strange and exotic locales. “We thought we’d do sort of [a] Flat Stanley, but with Tiny Obama.”
On a Greyhound bus from Pittsburgh, Gloria Moore was talking about living in segregated Selma, Ala. She was taking her 13-year-old granddaughter to see a black man become president and thinking about those who didn’t live to see it.
“I wish my grandmother who never learned to read and worked in the cotton fields of North Carolina could see this,” Moore said. She thought of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., too. She added: “I believe God orchestrated this. It is time for a change.”
And as they were arriving, Washington was getting ready. Thousands of National Guard soldiers filed into the D.C. Armory, carrying green duffle bags and wearing fleece jackets under their camouflage uniforms for warmth. As many as 10,000 Guard members from 25 states and territories will be involved in Tuesday’s festivities, the largest deployment of citizen-soldiers for any inauguration.
Other preparations ranged from the elaborate to the mundane. In the lobby of the Capitol Hilton downtown, Brooks Brothers had set up a satellite office for pre-gala fashion emergencies, selling formal coats and giving bowtie lessons. At Frager’s Hardware on Capitol Hill, people began streaming through the doors at 7:15 a.m. to buy hand warmers (still some left) and toe warmers (all out), plus space heaters and weather stripping for houses full of guests.
And keys. Lots of keys. At midday, 15 people were snaked down a narrow aisle of the store waiting to have copies of keys made for their inaugural guests.
“I noticed the lines back there, but it didn’t dawn on me why it was,” said general manager Nick Kaplanis. “It has been extra heavy back there all [day] long.”
In the lobby of the Mayflower hotel downtown, florist Jerome Williams, 60, was touching up his displays, wearing a plaid shirt in a lobby full of suits. Among other arrangements, he had made eight special ones with red roses, white orchids and blue hybrid delphiniums.
Now Williams was checking the flowers again, wanting them to be perfect. He plucked out a rose that was turning slightly more crimson than the rest of the bouquet.
Williams, who lives in Charles County, said he sensed a special enthusiasm among the hotel’s employees, most of whom voted for Obama. Williams said he thought the man himself might walk down this hallway, past these flowers.
“I just want to show my best” in case Obama passes, he said. “Wanted to show the things in my repertoire.”
Even for the workers who didn’t get to see the visitors arriving, the first day of the inaugural weekend brought a special electricity. Renee Sullivan-Norris, 47, of Prince George’s County spent the day in a closed-in office behind the front desk at the Marriott Wardman Park, manning the hotel switchboard.
Throughout the day, she talked to tourists who wanted directions from the airport or updates on their seats for Inauguration Day events.
In five of those conversations, she said, people had spontaneously told her, “Congratulations!”
Why would that be?
“Because I live in D.C., and I guess they figure we need some help about now,” she said. “I say, ‘Thank you, and congratulations to you, too.’ “