Saturday, May 29, 2010
Art Linkletter (July 17, 1912 – May 26, 2010)
Arthur Gordon "Art" Linkletter (July 17, 1912 – May 26, 2010) was a Canadian born radio and television personality and the former host of two long-running United States television shows: House Party, which ran on CBS radio and television for 25 years, and People Are Funny, on NBC radio-TV for 19 years. Linkletter was famous for interviewing children on House Party and Kids Say the Darndest Things, which led to a successful series of books quoting children. A native of Canada, he became a naturalized United States citizen in 1942.
Linkletter was born Gordon Arthur Kelly in Moose Jaw, in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. In his autobiography, Confessions of a Happy Man (1960), he revealed that he had had no contact with his natural parents or his sister or two brothers since he was abandoned when only a few weeks old. He was adopted by Mary (née Metzler) and Fulton John Linkletter, an evangelical preacher. When age 5 his family moved to the United States to San Diego, where he graduated from high school at age 16. During the early years of the Great Depression, he rode trains around the country doing odd jobs and meeting a wide variety of people. In 1934, he earned a bachelor's degree from San Diego State Teachers College (now San Diego State University) (SDSU), where he was a member of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. While he attended San Diego State, he played for the basketball team, and swam for the swim team. He had previously planned to attend Springfield College, but did not for financial reasons.
In his junior year as he earned a degree in teaching, he took a job as a radio announcer at KGB in San Diego. Radio paid better than teaching, and Linkletter directed radio programs for fairs and expositions in the mid-1930s. In the 1940s, Linkletter worked in Hollywood with John Guedel on their pioneering radio show, People Are Funny, which employed audience participation, contests, and gags and served as a prototype of future game shows on radio and television. People Are Funny became a television show in 1954 and ran until 1961.
Other early television shows Linkletter worked on included Life With Linkletter (1950-1952) and Hollywood Talent Scouts (1965-1966). He also acted in two movies, People Are Funny (1946) and Champagne for Caesar (1950).
In 1963, Linkletter became the endorser and spokesman for Milton Bradley's Game of Life. His picture appeared on the box with the statement "I Heartily Endorse This Game", and also on the $100,000 bills featured in the game.
Linkletter was a successful businessman and made considerable wealth from a variety of investments. This financial success led to considerable philanthropy.
Linkletter had one of the longest marriages of any celebrity in America, at over 74 years. He married Lois Foerster on November 25, 1935, and they had five children: Arthur Jack (known as Jack Linkletter, a TV host), Dawn, Robert, Sharon, and Diane. He was also a good friend of Walt Disney.
Linkletter outlived three of his five children. His 20-year-old daughter, Diane Linkletter, died on October 4, 1969, by jumping out of her sixth-floor kitchen window (while a student at UCLA). Linkletter claimed that she committed suicide because she was on, or having a flashback from, an LSD trip, but toxicology tests done after the incident detected no signs of LSD use, and it is quite likely that the drug played no part in her suicide. Linkletter spoke out against drugs to prevent children from straying into a drug habit. His record, We Love You, Call Collect, recorded before her death, featured a discussion about permissiveness in modern society. It featured a rebuttal by Diane, called Dear Mom and Dad. The record won a 1970 Grammy Award for the "Best Spoken Word Recording".
His son Robert died in an automobile accident on September 12, 1980.
His son Arthur Jack Linkletter, (1937–2007), died from lymphoma.