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Art Linkletter

he allowed kids to say the darndest things

Art Linkletter

Gordon Arthur Kelly was born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada, on July 17, 1912. Abandoned at a church when he was an infant, he was adopted by Fulton John and Mary (Metzler) Linkletter. The family moved to San Diego, California, about 1915.

After graduating from high school at age 16, Linkletter criss-crossed the country doing a variety of odd jobs before entering San Diego State Teachers College (now San Diego State University). He originally intended to become an English professor, but his plans changed during his junior year, after he was hired as an announcer at San Diego radio station KGB. After earning his Bachelor's Degree in 1934, Linkletter decided to stay with announcing, because it paid better than teaching. He subsequently worked as radio program director at the California International Exposition in San Diego in 1935, radio director at the Texas Centennial Exposition in 1936, and radio director at the San Francisco World's Fair in 1937.

On November 25, 1935, Linkletter married Lois Foerster. The marriage ended up becoming the second-longest in Hollywood history, lasting almost 75 years. It also produced five children -- Arthur Jack, Dawn, Robert, Sharon, and Diane.

Linkletter became a naturalized citizen in 1942, the same year he moved to Hollywood. There, he met John Gruendel, with whom he partnered to create two of the longest-running audience-participation shows in broadcast history, "People Are Funny" and "House Party." Debuting on NBC and CBS radio in 1942 and 1945, respectively, both shows featured people doing a variety of stunts in order to win prizes, as well as off-the-cuff interviews with audience members. Both made the transition to television, lasting until 1960 and 1970, respectively. Linkletter also hosted some shorter-running television programs, including "Life with Linkletter" (ABC, 1950-1952) and "Hollywood Talent Scouts" (CBS, 1965-1966).

The idea to showcase children's unrehearsed comments came to him during a conversation with his oldest child, Jack, after the boy's first day in kindergarten. Informed by Jack that he would never go back to school, his father asked why. Jack responded: "Because I can't read, I can't write and they won't let me talk." Linkletter captured the exchange on an early recording machine and played the interview on his "Who's Dancing Tonight?" Sunday program broadcast from the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. The segment proved so popular that Linkletter decided to make it a regular part of his show. The children's interview segment debuted in 1945 on the CBS radio version of "House Party," and continued throughout the television version. Few of the segments failed to produce at least one seemingly "off the wall" and/or "inappropriate" comment from a kid, and those comments inspired Linkletter to write a series of books based on them, beginning with Kids Say the Darndest Things in 1957.

interviewing 4-year-old Ronnie Glahn
interviewing 4-year-old Ronnie Glahn

Tragedy entered Linkletter's life in 1969, when his daughter Diane committed suicide. Although an autopsy revealed no drugs in her system, Linkletter blamed her death on LSD and became a very outspoken anti-drug advocate. In 1972 he was appointed to President Richard Nixon's National Advisory Council for Drug Abuse Prevention, and he remained with the Council until it was dissolved in 1975.

Although Linkletter essentially retired from television in the early 1970's, he never retired from working. Always good with his money, he invested in a wide variety of projects and businesses, including hula hoops, oil wells, lead mines, manufacturing plants, restaurants, television production, real estate, a bowling alley, and even a charm school. He used some of the millions earned to support a number of causes, including the National Easter Seals Society, the National Heart Foundation, the Foster Parents Plan, and Goodwill Industries.

Linkletter was also the author of 23 books, including:
People Are Funny (a coloring book, 1947)
Kids Say the Darndest Things (1957)
Secret World of Kids: How to Enjoy Your Children -- In Spite of Them (1959)
Confessions of a Happy Man: Art Linkletter's Own Story (1960)
Kids Still Say the Darndest Things (1961)
Kids Sure Rite Funny: A Child's Garden of Misinformation (1962)
Oops! Or; Life's Awful Moments (1967)
Linkletter Down Under (1968)
Drugs At My Doorstep (1973)
How to Be A... Supersalesman (1974)
Women Are My Favorite People (1974)
Yes, You Can! How to Succeed in Business and Life (1979)
Hobo On the Way to Heaven (1980)
I Didn't Do it Alone (1980)
Public Speaking for Private People (1980)
Old Age Is Not For Sissies: Choices for Senior Americams
How to Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life
(with Mark Victor Hansen, 2006)

Art Linkletter died in Bel-Air, California, on May 26, 2010.

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The Robinson Library >> Broadcasting

This page was last updated on 07/17/2018.