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Should the Bush Twins Be in the Media Spotlight?

Aired May 31, 2001 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, trouble for the president's twin daughters: a brush with the law makes front-page headlines. Is this anyway to treat two unelected teens?

For firsthand perspective on the fish-bowl experience of being a presidential kid, we've got an exclusive interview with Susan Ford Bales, the daughter of Gerald and Betty Ford. And then, he was abandoned as a baby, led a hobo's life after high school, started in broadcasting the year I was born: The amazing Art Linkletter joins us in L.A. with his thoughts about today's headlines, and he'll take your calls. And it's next on LARRY KING LIVE.

We thought it appropriate to ask Susan Ford Bales to join us to open the show tonight. She's in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the daughter of the president and former first lady, Gerald and Betty Ford. As we know, police in Austin have cited both of President Bush's daughters for violating state alcohol laws.

Is this, Susan, in your opinion, off the top, our business?

SUSAN FORD BALES, GERALD FORD'S DAUGHTER: No, it's not. I really think those girls need to be allowed to grow up just as I was allowed to grow up, and the kids didn't ask to be there, and we should all leave them alone. It's their business.

KING: Does that mean then, if you were in the media, you would not cover it?

FORD BALES: Well, let me ask you this, Larry: Would you want your children covered like this?

KING: No, but is it a fact of life that it's just -- if a child of a famous person, president or otherwise, has something happen to them, you know somebody's going to jump on it.

FORD BALES: But you don't have to. I mean, the thing is it didn't used to be like that, and that's the important thing. When I was in the White House, and I was in high school and college, the same age as these girls, it wasn't like this. And I just think we've gone too far and we need to step back, and let them be.


KING: All right. Tell me what it was like for you. Was -- there was not a glass-house experience for you?

FORD BALES: Oh, it's a glass house. It's a magnifying glass of a house. Everything you do gets magnified 10, 100, 150 percent. It's always overexaggerated, it's always overdone. And when -- usually when you do something right, you don't seem to get the credit. It's always when you do something bad. And that's the hard thing, and especially for the age that I was, which was 17 and 18 years of age, you don't have your tough skin of an adult now. And it's hard to handle those things.

And you've got to -- you know, eventually you let it roll off your back, but it's not real fun when you're going through it.

KING: Did you have any mishaps that were ever reported?

FORD BALES: That were ever reported?

KING: Yeah. I mean, did you ever have like a problem at school or something that made the papers?

FORD BALES: Not that I'm aware of, no. No. That was ever reported? No.

KING: Did you feel bugged by Secret Service police around you all the time or did you feel protected?

FORD BALES: I felt very protected by my Secret Service agents. I respected their job and their situation. They became very good friends to me. And you know, I still keep in contact with my former agents and their families. I babysat for their kids after my dad left office. We continue to send Christmas cards and keep in touch with each other.

And I just always had a really good rapport with them, and I guess I was lucky.

KING: I guess you were criticized, you and your brothers -- what? -- for wearing blue jeans.

FORD BALES: We were criticized for wearing blue jeans. I was -- you know, every time you changed your hair, which still, you know, makes the news, which I don't quite understand why that happens, who I was dating. You know, these long string of long romances, of hearts that were broken out there. I wish I would have known I dated that many people.

You know, it's just so overexaggerated, and it's just -- it's very hard to deal with. And I certainly wouldn't want my own daughters now to have to go through that sort of scrutiny.

KING: The press was showing your prom at the White House. Not many people have proms at the White House.

FORD BALES: No, they don't.

KING: Ari Fleischer, the press secretary, said to the White House press corps today: "I would urge all of you to very carefully think through how much you want to pursue this. I understand there is a question of law. I've never called anybody or suggested to anybody that the coverage today is in any way inappropriate. But go beyond this, I would urge you to be careful, because any reaction of the parents is parental, not governmental." You would agree with that?

FORD BALES: Yeah, I would. But you know what? I've been there and I really don't want to comment on, you know, what they're going through. I just can tell you for me it was not a fun time. It's not fun to be magnified and all the attention brought to you when you're really trying to live a very normal life. And that's very hard to do in that situation.

KING: And you don't think, therefore, the president or the first lady owe us an explanation of this at all. That's parental.

FORD BALES: No. And I don't -- you know, I think it's their choice. If they want to, that's their business. You know, I think my parents were the same way. I know after the "60 Minutes" interview, and my mother said, "I wouldn't be surprised if, you know, Susan didn't have an affair," well, I wish she would have told me that before she went on the national news with it. But you know...

KING: I remember that.

FORD BALES: But you know, that's just -- yeah. It's -- it's a very difficult position to be in. And I wish people were kinder and gentler to the family members.

KING: How do you think generally Amy Carter and Chelsea Clinton were treated?

FORD BALES: Well, I think we all were treated OK. I think being sneaky is part of, you know, living in that -- you either choose to be public or you choose to hide. I hid as much as I could. My brothers did some.

But the important thing, when we were there, was my parents said school comes first; you know, the White House activities come second. Your education is important. And that's what you need to focus on.

I moved out eventually of the White House and moved into a townhouse with a group of girls while I was in college. There was not a lot of, you know, problems with that or press -- you know, press were not certainly sitting outside my townhouse in Arlington, Virginia, waiting...

KING: No, they didn't bug you.

FORD BALES: No, they didn't. And they really respected that, and I think it would be nice if we could go back to that.

KING: And you, of course, came from a Washington background, right? You weren't -- you weren't an uprooted family. You were living there. FORD BALES: No, no. You're right, Larry, and I think that's a big advantage to me. I continued at the same high school that I was already attending. The only difference was I did change residencies. I was living in Alexandra and then my father became president, and we moved to Washington. But my friends were already made. The kids that I hung out with already existed, and so I did have the advantage of being a Washingtonian, if you want to call it that, and not having to change schools or make new friends or do anything like that.

So, that did make a difference, and I think it made it a lot easier on myself and my brothers.

KING: I saw your father -- had the honor of introducing him and your mother a couple of weeks ago at a big family award he received here in Los Angeles. And he got that great award, a Profile in Courage Award from Kennedys, which must have made him...

FORD BALES: Yes, we are so...

KING: ... proud.

FORD BALES: We are -- we all are very proud of him, and you know, he is going to be 88 years old in July. And I only hope that I'm in as good shape and can live as long as he is, and be as productive as he is. And he's -- you know, he's still out there going hard.

KING: So all we can certainly do is wish well the Bushes.

FORD BALES: Yes, it's a difficult time, and my heart goes out to them, but you know, they'll adjust and it will be OK. But I think it would be really nice if everybody would just give them a chance, and you know, give them a chance like they did the Ford kids.

KING: Well said, Susan. Thanks for joining us.

FORD BALES: Thanks, Larry.

KING: Susan Ford Bales, the daughter of the former president and first lady.

Art Linkletter knows about children and he knows about fame and he knows the Bushes, and we'll get his thoughts right after this.


KING: There's always a lot of areas to cover with Art Linkletter, one of our favorite people, one of my heroes: the radio and television personality, best-selling author and motivational speaker, activist. Only 89 years old. We'll get to a lot of those things later, but I want to stay on this subject, because, one, he knows -- he knows the Bushes well and he knows the Fords well and he knows about having problems with kids. He lost a kid, and we'll talk about that as well.

Police, as we know, have cited both children because of a problem with alcohol. How do you think the media should deal with this?

ART LINKLETTER, ENTERTAINER: Very gently, because kids are going to be kids. I know that I was well-known, might call it a celebrity while mine were growing up. And I used to tell them, you know, kids, you're getting a lot of advantages I never had. I was an orphan, a poor kid. And you live, you travel. I take you to Russia and China and all these good things. But you, you have to pay for that in only one way, and that's not to embarrass or bring our family to ridicule by some stupid thing that all young kids are likely to do.

KING: But you're asking them, though, in this case -- I guess many, many kids at that age drink.

LINKLETTER: Yeah, they do. All I could do was to tell them be as careful as you can, because you have the eyes of the country on you, and if you do something wrong, it reflects indirectly on us. And of course, later we lost a daughter through suicide from LSD. So my lectures, my talks on the subject didn't -- didn't fit everyone.

KING: What do you think -- what would you advise the Bushes to do?

LINKLETTER: I would advise them to have, if they don't have, some long, friendly, communicating talks. Do you kids feel that you need to kick up your heels? Do you feel that there's an obligation? Tell me, what do you think about this situation and the fuss that the press has made.

The press has gotten a great deal more intrusive and sensational in the last 15 years, I must say. And that's partly because those tabloids have been stealing stories, and the -- forcing the press to be more low and dirty (AUDIO GAP) network has forced the networks to use language and situations to compete with what goes on a private phone line and a cable network.

KING: All right. We will agree this is not conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat. If Chelsea had been arrested for drinking, it would have been a big story, Amy Carter, a big story. This would be a story (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

But you seemed to say in your opening remarks that the kids have some responsibility here.

LINKLETTER: Oh yes. I think kids who live with a family and get all the advantages and marvelous opportunities that those kids are getting, and that my kids got, owe it. They aren't working. They aren't out as I was doing, washing cars and...

KING: But they also have a magnifying glass you didn't have.

LINKLETTER: No, that's true, but they should be reminded of it. It's just part of the thing you should think of and put into the equation of how you're going to live. If you're out with some kids, they're going to do something silly, you've got to say, now, if I do it and we get caught, it's going to be in the papers. Do I want that?

KING: Do you express, do you think, as a parent anger over something like this?

LINKLETTER: No, no. You -- at my age, having now 13 great grandchildren and nine grandchildren, and having had five children grow up practically, I know that kids are going to make mistakes just as we grownups do. And the thing you have to have is communication and understanding and love. And if they do something wrong, you say to them, I hate what you've done, I love you."

KING: Now, we all know that the president once had this problem. He's discussed it, having an alcohol problem...

LINKLETTER: That's right. That's right.

KING: ... and getting rid of it through belief and the like. So he would have a greater understanding.

LINKLETTER: He certainly should. And of course, the fact that they've had a couple of beers or done that is very, very light. They are not out drinking and orgying and doing ridiculous things, like Downey does, for instance, our actor friend, who has just been given another chance, by the way. And I'm glad he was, because...

KING: Obviously there is a problem there that's not criminal.

LINKLETTER: Yes, that's right. He doesn't hurt anybody, although he could have in driving. But the point is that people who are drug victims should be given a chance to be rehabilitated.

KING: We'll talk about parents as victims in a minute. Our guest is Art Linkletter. We'll get lighter late. Don't worry. Don't go away.


LINKLETTER: Supposing you were the president, what would you do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would sit on the pot and think about it.


LINKLETTER: Ladies and gentlemen, I think you'll admit that is one of the most democratic things...





LINKLETTER: What do you think you'll be when you grow up?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A bus driver or a pilot.

LINKLETTER: A bus driver or a pilot. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

LINKLETTER: Well, suppose you were a pilot on a big airplane and suddenly all four engines stopped right away, what would you say?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our Father which art in heaven...




LINKLETTER: By the way, who's the boss in your house, your mother or your dad?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My -- both of them.

LINKLETTER: Hey, you're a diplomat, are you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. I'm a Catholic Baptist.



KING: Kids say the darnedest things. By the way, Robert Shapiro, who will be with us Saturday night, was a kid -- the famed lawyer -- on your show, "Kids Say the Darnedest Things": one of the great memories of his life.

LINKLETTER: And one of 27,000 kids.

KING: That's how many you've had on that.

LINKLETTER: Yeah. I had a girl come up to me the other day in Massachusetts where I was speaking. She says: "Do you remember my father? He was in your camp in YMCA in San Diego when he was five." And I said: "I probably don't. What's his name?" She said Ted Williams.

KING: Ted Williams went to your camp? And you were a great athlete.

LINKLETTER: Yes. I was a good athlete.


KING: You're in the NCAA Hall of Fame, you were a basketball player. Everything you did, right?

LINKLETTER: I was always very athletic and still am.

KING: I want to get back to this, though. And I know we did a long interview about this in Miami once, when your daughter, right soon after your daughter passed away. LINKLETTER: I remember.

KING: You lost a daughter to a different kind of drug, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) but still a drug.

LINKLETTER: That's right. That's right.

KING: And she was how old?

LINKLETTER: Twenty, just 20. And everything ahead of her.

KING: Right in this age group.

LINKLETTER: Just at the wonderful time of life. And she wasn't a bad girl. She was a curious, experimental girl, the kind who, you know, wanted to be with the crowd.

KING: Do you ever blame yourself?

LINKLETTER: No. I look back many times and think I had four other children older than her, we'd never had a bad experience. The drug experience at that time was new in America. It was the first time that an epidemic in the history of the world ever occupied the children of a country. Always before it was a civil war or a natural catastrophe or some dreadful thing that fell the grown-up population. They took drugs. Here in America, the kids had everything, but the Vietnamese war and all the flower children were making them experiment with things. And then came the stuff with sex and drugs, and it was exciting. It was interesting.

KING: How did you handle it, though? I mean the loss of a child, how did you deal with it?

LINKLETTER: Well, John Wooden has a great philosophy that I have espoused when that happened, and that is that things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out. You have to just accept your sadness like a sword in your heart, and then resolve to be a better parent, if you haven't been, but we were the best parents we could be. We never had any other problems.

KING: You took your anger out on drugs, though.


KING: Boy, you went everywhere.

LINKLETTER: Well, Norman Vincent Peele called me and he said, Art, God may have a plan for you no one ever knows, and that is, that you have been part of American family 25 years, you have been hurt. They sympathized with you, and you can help warn parents, warn children.

And I made a crusade for 15 years, spoke at the United Nations, was a member of President Nixon's first Drug Abuse Commission. Wrote a book called, "Drugs At My Doorstep." And spoke at schools, all to be a little memorial to my daughter. KING: Are we losing that war? Or -- George Soros, the famed financier, William Buckley, the noted conservative, thinks we shouldn't fight it, thinks we should legalize it and approach that it way.

LINKLETTER: We have never fought a war, we have fought, as we did in Vietnam, sporadically. But there never has been the kind of thing that it deserves, because a war means all out.

When I went to Washington, I was disabused, first of all, by the fact that there was territorial fights between the groups in Washington that were in charge of the fight against war. And time goes on, and there are new things and new drugs and new audiences. We will never win it. We can just hope top save the best.

Walt Disney, who was a dear friend of mine, as you know, used to tell me, when I said, you ever going to sell your pictures, Walt? He says no, he says, every 10 years, I have a new generation that is curious, interested, and wants to see Mickey Mouse.

The same thing is true of the drug business. Because it is fascinating. It is something that they were familiar with, because growing up each generation sees their parents turn to drugs for headaches, for schizophrenia, for emotional distress, for stomach aches.

KING: All legal.

LINKLETTER: All legal.

KING: Alcohol is legal.

LINKLETTER: Then we see all the things in the movies, about some of the famous stars, who got excited about drugs, and seem to be having a great time. And there is always a new bunch that has to be educated. We can never stop, because the drugs are always there.

KING: You were never legalized, though? You would not legalize them.

LINKLETTER: No. No. No. Never legalize them. Never.

KING: Our guest is Art Linkletter. We will come back, lots more to talk about, we'll include your phone calls, we'll also include clips from the extraordinary series on old shows that I used to listen to on the radio, "House Party," and the like, and on television.

He is one of the great pioneers in this business. He is 89 years young. You have a goal, by the way?

LINKLETTER: Yes, I want to live 10 more years, because last month -- last week, Congress passed a bill in which the inheritance tax is going to be eliminated 10 years from now. They aren't going to get a nickel of what I have worked so hard for!

KING: Where in Scotland are you from? We will be back with more of Art Linkletter right after this.

LINKLETTER: What do you want to be?


LINKLETTER: What do movie stars do for instance?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They go to studios and do some stuff.

LINKLETTER: How do they start a day out, do you suppose? What is the first thing a movie star does?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Has a movie star breakfast, and goes in a movie star car and then it has a movie star lunch, and then they go to a movie star studio, then you drive from movie star, and then goes to bed with another movie star.



LINKLETTER: What do you want to be when you group, as a grown man?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An actor and an artist.

LINKLETTER: Actor in motion pictures? Let me give you a little test; you ever done any acting?


LINKLETTER: Try it. Say, Art Linkletter like you are mad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Art Linkletter, like you are mad.

LINKLETTER: That is good; you are going to be wonderful.


KING: We're back with the amazing Art Linkletter who also, three years after his daughter passed, lost a son in a car accident. Life hasn't been all peaches and cream.

LINKLETTER: Life is what happens to you while you are making other plans.

KING: Yeah, you were like a hobo weren't you?

LINKLETTER: Yes, after high school, I graduated at 16, and I decided to see the world, and set out, and hitchhike up to Walla Walla, Washington, and started grabbing freights across to Minneapolis.

KING: What was that like?

LINKLETTER: It was exciting. And it was an adventure, that was wonderful, for...

KING: King of the road!

LINKLETTER: Yes. I never begged for money, I never hit anybody up for anything, but I always could find a job. And when I finished that trip after a year and a half, I had security in my mind that you couldn't get any other way. And that is, that you can always make out. I could always do a job. I took jobs doing, well, I was in Minneapolis, and they said -- I went to an employment office and they said, we need a bus boy at a night club, I thought, I never been to a nightclub, but anybody can help old people off the bus.

I took the job. I found out that was not the job.

KING: What were the other ones like?

LINKLETTER: Well, I hung up raw meat in the cooler at Saint Pauls, armors plant, in all in 32 degree thing with blood running down my arm from fresh livers, hanging them on hooks.

KING: Who are hoboes?

LINKLETTER: Hoboes in 1929 was a cross section of America. It was a time of depression. I had worked in a National City Bank in New York on Wall Street as a typist when the crash came. A month later I was a sailor on shape to South America.

KING: All kinds of people who were once successful.

LINKLETTER: Everybody, because one out of every four men was without work during that depression that lasted nine years, and there was every kind of person, and there were no serial killers. I never was threatened. Held up once at a gunpoint on top of a pile of lumber in a freight car, but when they took what money I had they gave me back a quarter for breakfast.

KING: We will be back with more of Art Linkletter. We will go to your phone calls as well, we hope you enjoy and finding this very informative as well.

I don't know how to break this to you, but had she lived, Marilyn Monroe would be 75 years old tomorrow. We are going to talk about her, tomorrow night with Tony Curtis and others. We'll be right back.


LINKLETTER: I'll bet you before you came down here, they all give you orders today, didn't they? Very important before you come on a coast-to-coast show. Paula Brown, what did your parents tell you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To keep my legs together.



LINKLETTER: What is the hardest thing about school for you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Buttoning my pants.

LINKLETTER: How are you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fine. Fine, thank you.

LINKLETTER: You are all in red. And let me see your eyes. And you are -- why, your hair, your hair, you -- what happened to your hair?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, the reason it is so short is because you know, catches my ears and it grow straight out.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I look like an idiot.


KING: How did you first come up with doing kids? How did it come about?

LINKLETTER: I was in San Francisco, doing a show called, "Who Is Dancing Tonight?" at the Saint Francis brought to you by the Albert S. Samuels company, House Of Lucky Wedding Rings. And I would go out -- this is during the 40s, when the big name bands were playing...

KING (SINGING): Downtown Edison Hotel! Edison Hotel Downtown!

LINKLETTER: All that stuff. I would get guests out of the audience. So, one time at home, I had a big recording machine, we made records; no tapes -- I interviewed my son Jack when he was 5.

KING: Good old Jack Linkletter.

LINKLETTER: I put that record on one time, and I said, you will never guess who is dancing tonight at the Saint Francis? They put the record on, and there he was, saying cute things. I said to him, how do you like school? He says, I ain't going back. I said, why not? He says, I can't read, I can't write, and they won't let me talk. That sort of stuff.

I got mail. It came in. So when John Goodall and I put together the house party here in Hollywood, I said I want to interview kids. Let's have kids.

KING: A great idea and it worked. Let's take some calls for Art Linkletter. Minneapolis, Kansas -- I didn't know there was a Minneapolis, Kansas; hello.

CALLER: Hello.

KING: Hi. Go ahead.

CALLER: OK, great, good talking to you guys. I just really appreciated Mr. Linkletter's comments about the advantages all these kids have, and the responsibilities they have with it. I would just like for Mr. Linkletter to share some of his thoughts on the possibility of kids being spoiled and maybe having too much, so where does the responsibility come from?

LINKLETTER: Well, I think especially out here, the kids of stars are often spoiled.

KING: Hard not to.

LINKLETTER: No, I know it. Of course, they ridiculous, my son Jack used to be going to high school with kids, who were driving Lexuses and Porsches. One time, Jack said to me, Dad, can I ever have a whole 20 dollar bill? I said, be reasonable, 10, maybe.

KING: You were able to keep it from them.

LINKLETTER: Very much. But I have seen kids out here, you know, some parents were poor, and decided to give their kids everything. I was poor, and I decided that you could give the kids too much too soon, without anything on their part. They had to do work around the house, they had to do chores, and things like that. And -- but I think that the worst thing you can do is to give a kid a lot of things, without any responsibility or any part of their earning it. They should earn it!

KING: Port Richey, Florida, hello.

Caller: Hello.


Caller: Hi, Mr. Linkletter.


CALLER: How are you, sir?

LINKLETTER: Fine, thank you.

CALLER: I was wondering if could you fill me in on what your thoughts are as far as how the world has changed since the '50s and '60s, as far as television, and, days of "Ozzie and Harriet," and shows like that, that always had a positive influence on the family. Do you think that has a lot to do with the change in the way families are today, and the violence in schools, and things like that?

LINKLETTER: I certainly do. And I could talk to you about that by the hour. My dear friend Steve Allen, for whom I just did a memorial, has a book out now called, "Vulgarians at the Gate." And he has brought out, more than any other person in show biz, and I have done a lot of it, too, how...

KING: And very liberal Steve Allen, complete opposite, politically, from you. LINKLETTER: I'm conservative and he is liberal. But we were 100 percent together on the fact that, in the last 40 years, the entire approach to ethics and morality and violence and sex has changed television, changed our life, changed our acceptance of things -- there is statistics you can hardly believe how a kid today, by the time he is 16 has seen 40,000 murders, and 600,000 rapes...

KING: Do you think it is...

LINKLETTER: It has got to have an effect.

KING: You like the First Amendment, then you must think it is the industry's job.

LINKLETTER: It is the industry's job, because...

KING: You can't make a law, can you?

LINKLETTER: No, you can't. But the greed and the money and the ratings have driven it to that. And you can't say that people don't recognize it. Because it is so obvious.

Take, for example, the shows that are getting accolades and Emmys. Have you seen "Sex And The City"? What do you think of that?

KING: Funny. It's on cable, I wouldn't -- I don't think it's for kids.

LINKLETTER: Oh, but it is there for anybody to see. And kids are looking at it. Have you heard the dialogue in "The Sopranos"? How many f-words can you say in 30 seconds? I don't know, but they beat all the records!

But all the way up and down: the soap operas in the daytime, the networks exceeding the competitive edge that cable has in not having any sensors. I think you can say anything today.

KING: Yes, but everybody contributes, right? Corporate America buys spots.

LINKLETTER: Everybody -- nice, nice, important guys that head of large corporations want ratings. They want the dividends, and they want -- and so it is a lot of blame and it's spread over everybody. Parents are not saying married. The 25 percent of the homes in America today, and according to the latest rating I read in the morning paper, are with husbands and wives and children together.

Others, I don't know what they are doing. But I envy them.

KING: How long has your marriage last? How long you married?

LINKLETTER: 65 years.

KING: Secret? Was there a secret to this?

LINKLETTER: Well, picked the right person for you. I picked a wife who was with me through thick and thin and tragedy and stayed with me, and she never worked, but she was a mother and she was a family.

KING: Was any of that luck?

LINKLETTER: Part of it is luck, and part of it is working it out. We never went to bed mad. Of course, I have a great sense of humor. If we get into an argument, and I say to her, Lois, this disagreement can become disagreeable, which shouldn't happen, but it is looking toward that. And if it does, I'm going to have to kill you.

KING: We will be back. That works every time, doesn't it?

LINKLETTER: Worked with you.

KING: Yeah, we'll be right back with more of Art Linkletter. Don't go away.


LINKLETTER: If you could be somebody in a story book, like the stories you read about, who you would be?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would be Papa Bear, because I could eat honey and Goldilocks would be sleeping in my bed.

LINKLETTER: Roxanne Burns, what's your favorite Bible story.


LINKLETTER: Where? Where did it happen?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When Jesus -- when Jesus was born.

LINKLETTER: When Jesus went where?


LINKLETTER: At the wedding. What did he -- how did he make the wine?


LINKLETTER: Out of what, did he make the wine?


LINKLETTER: That is right. Now, when Jesus made the water into wine at the wedding, that's a story. What do we learn from that story?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He learned the more wine we get, the better the wedding is.



LINKLETTER: Who is the most important man in the world today, in your opinion?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: George Washington.

LINKLETTER: George Washington. That is right. He is married isn't he?


LINKLETTER: You know who his wife is?



KING: Art Linkletter, I know how close you are to Ronald Reagan.


KING: And is that what spurred your involvement with Alzheimer's?

LINKLETTER: Partly. I was of course, Ronnie and I were friends long before he ever thought of being in the political field. We were neighbors and our families would go down and have ice cream together, and he was a regular guy, and a great guy.

In fact, he saved my life because when he had a colonoscopy and they found cancer in his stomach and we were talking about it, he says you have had one? I said, no, but from what I have heard I never will have one. He says, yes you will. And you will have it in a week, and they found something very suspicious and I had an operation that I would never have had.

KING: Wow. What do you do for Alzheimer's?

LINKLETTER: I'm the chairman of board of the John Douglas French Alzheimer Research Foundation which was founded by Dorothy Kirsten, the famous opera star, when her husband who was the head of neuroscience at UCLA died of Alzheimer's. And she asked our R.J. Wagner and she asked Rhonda Fleming and she asked some movie people, myself, to be on the board. And I said sure. Well, from that I did more. I finally became chairman of the board. And I followed through, as I do.

KING: You get a lot of charities, right?

LINKLETTER: Oh a lot of charity work. I do work for the American Leprosy Association. Do you know that Leprosy is curable now -- absolutely curable in site of everything you have heard -- and all over the world there are millions of people still getting it. KING: There is a drug that cures it?

LINKLETTER: There is a drug -- three drugs, for $200 we can cure Leprosy but we have to get it when they are children, and they are scattered mostly in the tropical countries like India, Brazil.

KING: It's not a problem in America, is it?

LINKLETTER: Not at all. And in fact 95 percent of the industrial world is almost immune to it. But I go to those places, I make -- help to make money, and they have been doing it for 100 years, and they are on the trail of eliminating it. Isn't that great.

KING: The amazing Linkletter. Sacramento, hello.

CALLER: Yes, you have observed politicians throughout your life, and have interviewed many children. Who do you think most often says the darnedest things? Children, or politicians?

LINKLETTER: That's a good -- that is about a dead even thing. But the difference is that children don't know what they are saying and politicians -- don't care.


KING: Westlake Village, California, hello. I may have hit the wrong line here, what is Westlake Village -- I'm sorry, I did hit the wrong line. Westlake Village here, hello.

CALLER: Hasn't the energy problem in California been caused by politicians and bureaucrats? And, if so, shouldn't the state government provide a tax break to pay for the high energy cost which it caused?

LINKLETTER: I don't think so. I think there is enough blame in this energy shortage to go around among everybody. But the worst thing that has happened is that there hasn't been a generating plant built in California in 20 years, and the population has doubled and tripled and in financial -- and the use of energy has gone up more than that.

And furthermore, in the last 15 or 20 years, there have been no transmission lines built because people say we don't want those damn lines overhead in our town, or in my neighborhood, and so the grid that distributes energy and the plants that make it have not been doing it for 20 years, and all of a sudden we are using all the computers and we are using every kind of household appliance.

And we have -- and the politicians and the energy people, thought deregulation would work, but they overlooked one little economic thing, you can't have successful deregulation unless you have at least 15 to 20 percent more of whatever you are going to deregulate than you need. So you have a blanket, you have a margin for the market. And they had less.

And furthermore, we used to be able to trade power in California, between our power and the Coulee Dam and all the things up in Seattle, and the Northwest. And then when they needed power and we didn't we pushed it back up. Now, they are having a paucity of snow and water for their dams, so they don't have power. We have no power enough down here.

And I don't think that -- I think a tax break would be good, I agree with the last part of what you say, but I sympathize with the President Bush who is being really beaten up because he doesn't want to put a cap on power. If you put a cap on power right now you couldn't get anybody to get into the business, because people get into business to make money. Not exorbitant money, that is a terrible thing they have done, but a cap would mean that they wouldn't start building them.

We need them. We need nuclear power, we need solar power, and I'm in that myself so I know a lot about the solar power business, because of the environmental green power, and all the other, but we are just in a mess and we are going to get through it but we are going to have a rough summer.

KING: Well be right back with more of Art Linkletter and more of your calls. Don't go away.


LINKLETTER: Who do you think would make a perfect husband, Karen?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, a man that provides a lot of money, loves horses, and will let you have 22 kids, and doesn't put up a fight.

LINKLETTER: What do you think you will be when you grow up?



KING: We're back with the extraordinary Art Linkletter. We go to Lorain, Ohio, hello.

CALLER: Hello.



CALLER: This is Lorain, Ohio, Larry.

KING: Yes, sir.

CALLER: So I want to ask Art, how in the world does he stay so young to be his age?

KING: Yes, good question. What do you do? You must have good genes. You don't know your genes, right, you were an orphan? LINKLETTER: I don't know my genes because I was abandoned and I never knew who my parents were, but I have lived a lifestyle that has earned me whatever I have, and luck -- both. I have never smoked. I don't drink. I don't get stressed out. I have a sense of humor and laugh at things, which does a lot. I get a good night's sleep. I don't get down on the rims. I've exercised all my life very positively. I have had a good wife and if you are married happily you are going to live longer.

KING: How do you avoid stress?

LINKLETTER: I avoid it by doing the best I can and feeling that a lot of shelf esteem and that things that don't work our right I'm going to do better next time.

A lot of it's between -- you think -- you live between your ears. What you think is what you are. And if you let stress grab you and knock you out, you're going to be hurt by the immune system collapsing which happens and does things like that.

KING: Little things don't bother you?

LINKLETTER: No, and big things I can't do anything about.

KING: You were in a stressful business.

LINKLETTER: Oh, but I never stressed because I loved it. I used to watch Kay Kaiser. Remember him?

KING: College of musical knowledge.

LINKLETTER: I did his show one summer as a substitute. He'd walk up and down and he'd be blowing up and down and I said what's the matter? He says this is such a stressful business. I said, they love you. What's so stressful about it? You know, to me...

KING: Nothing is stressful about it. But there is stress off the air in this business.

LINKLETTER: There's stress off the air when the ratings don't come out right.

KING: Or you get into business, you know, you are a businessman.

LINKLETTER: I'm a businessman and I can take losses, because when you start with nothing the worst you can do is break even.

KING: You marketed the "hula hoop."

LINKLETTER: Yes, and a lot of other things. I introduced America to the electric blanket. I introduced America to Tony Home Permanent. I was there when diet cola was invented.

KING: You were the first spokesman for that.

LINKLETTER: Yeah. KING: Did you have a piece of diet cola?


KING: The first diet cola was Diet Cola.


KING: You had a piece of that?

LINKLETTER: Oh, yes. I had a piece of everything after a while.

KING: The Art Linkletter benefit planned for a week from Saturday has been canceled.

LINKLETTER: Have you any stock in LARRY KING available?.

KING: You want to buy into me?

LINKLETTER: How would I just get an option?

KING: He never stops. He's 89. He just took a 40-year mortgage. We'll be right back with our remaining moments. Don't go away.


LINKLETTER: With Thanksgiving and all we're supposed to be thankful. What are you thankful for?


LINKLETTER: You are an American. That is good. I'm glad you are thankful for that. You know what an American is? What is an American.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Someone who lives in California.

LINKLETTER: Very good.


KING: We're going to get one more call in, but Art wanted to talk about United Seniors. What is that?

LINKLETTER: Frank Murphy, the dancer, was a senator. Ten years ago he started a national organization of conservative people for seniors, United Seniors Association, USA and I'm now honorary chairman.

And what we do is we fight everything for the seniors. Social -- reform of Social Security, rewrite of Medicare, the graveyard tax which I have talked about a few minutes ago.

KING: Is it different from that major senior organization or which... LINKLETTER: It's much more conservative. AARP is quite liberal. And we are quite conservative. But we have over a half million people, and they are on the grass roots out there fighting to keep such things as the Social Security, in the pockets of the older instead of in the government's pocket with a trillion dollars of IOUs.

KING: You are president?

LINKLETTER: Honorary chairman.

KING: Let's get one more call in. Philadelphia, hello.

CALLER: Hello Larry.


CALLER: Hi, Art Linkletter.


CALLER: I just want to know what are you going to do the next 89 years?

KING: Your goal is to live. Do you have any other goals? You want to live for 10 years. That I understand. Do you ever -- would you still get into a business, if...

LINKLETTER: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. I see guys who are 103 years old who are -- there is a woman doing operations and is a doctor at 103. And I see Methuselah was doing well at 400, but I have a goal for lifelong learning. I always want to feel there is something out there yet that I don't know that is interesting.

That is why I'm president of the Center on Aging, and why I'm a regent at Pepperdine University. I do a lot of work at universities. I speak. I have 14 honorary doctorates. And I go into all the things because the world so is exciting. I get up in the morning and I say, gosh, let's go.

KING: So, even though you left broadcasting 31 years ago you never retired.

LINKLETTER: No, not at all. If somebody made me a good offer to take over your job I would give it serious consideration.

KING: You still do a lot of miles every year? You still fly a lot?

LINKLETTER: About 200,000 miles. And I'm feeling great.

KING: Take care of yourself, will you.

LINKLETTER: Lois is taking care of me.

KING: You are the best.

LINKLETTER: Oh, thank you, Larry.

KING: Art Linkletter. They don't make them like that anymore, folks.


KING: I'm not kidding. She would be 75 years old tomorrow, would Marilyn Monroe. We have a special panel to discuss it. Six people all whom knew her pretty well including Jane Russell, and Tony Curtis. That is tomorrow night.

"CNN TONIGHT" is next. They always keep you right up to date on everything and do a great job of carrying you through with news of the evening. I'm Larry King for Art Linkletter and earlier for Miss Ford. We thank you very much for joining us. Have a great evening. See you tomorrow night talking about Marilyn Monroe. Good night.



4:30pm ET, 4/16

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