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Interview With Art Linkletter

Aired February 18, 2002 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, he is nearly 90 and still going strong. Broadcast legend Art Linkletter, on private tragedy, public achievement and paling around with presidents. He's next. And we'll take your calls, too, on LARRY KING LIVE.

A couple of notes. Tomorrow night the second lady of the land will be our special guest. An exclusive interview with Lynne Cheney. On Wednesday night, my man Ross Perot returns to LARRY KING LIVE.

Tonight, our featured guest is Art Linkletter. We'll be taking your calls later. One of America's best loved broadcasters, house of "House Party: People are Funny." Best-selling author, one of the most popular motivational speakers in the United States.

And that little USA tag on his jacket stands for the United Seniors Association. He is their spokesperson, we'll talk about that and a lot of other things. But as a man who has been extraordinarily successful, made a lot of money, major Republican figure. Are you personally bothered, corporately, by Enron?

ART LINKLETTER, BROADCAST PERSONALITY: Yes. Yes, it's a blow against capitalism, it's a blow against trust. This whole country -- all of our business and all of our politics, everything, runs basically on trust. And when Enron demonstrates that top people with huge money and huge influence can cheat and lie, it destroys the fabric of democracy.

KING: Have you been able in all your years to explain greed?

LINKLETTER: No, because I've known people who are very, very rich and they want more.


KING: For what?

LINKLETTER: It's a score. It's a score. In capitalism how much money I have, how much power you have is the score of the game. And I've been with billionaires, and I've said that to them. How much do you want? They said it isn't what I want, it's what I want to do, it's what I want to accomplish.

KING: But it can also lead to some of the down sides of it, too. LINKLETTER: That's right. And, of course, it leads to the downside, many times, of associates who even under cut the top guy, because they see the money coming. And the whole thing that happened with Silicon Valley just blew the minds of everybody.

KING: And also, a lot of people --- you -- people you are spokesman for, seniors and the like who had pensions...



KING: ... wiped out.

LINKLETTER: Yes, yes. And so whenever I read where somebody with trust, whether he's the president of the United States, an important corporate head or anybody forfeits that trust, it hurts me and it hurts you.

KING: Speaking of trust, what do you make of the Olympic squabble?

LINKLETTER: Well, I think they've gotten out of it, and fast.

KING: Handled it pretty well, didn't they?

LINKLETTER: And fast. I like the new way they have of scoring. You know, it's an interesting thing that the way I really got to know Walt Disney was back in the 50's when they had the Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley. He called me up and said, Art, how would you like to go up to the Winter Olympics, and you and I put on the entertainment for the athletes? And I said, yes, let's go do it. So we flew up people, we put on the greatest shows and I had more fun, and I started to ski then. I was 50 years of age, by the way.

And I saw all the skiing. So some of them said, it's easy, Art, after 50 everything's downhill so get a pair of skis and jump. And so I watched the Olympics now with a great deal of interest. It's much bigger, it is much more grandiose. Everything costs more.

KING: But there's always politics, right?

LINKLETTER: Yes, there's always politics everywhere. Because politics is really getting along with the problems that you have, and making the best of them and that calls for making people and manipulating a little bit, conning a little bit. Always seeing that your employees are as happy as you can you make them. That's why Welch was a great guy for General Electric.

KING: Do you miss broadcasting as a host?

LINKLETTER: Not much. I did for a number of years. I stopped --

KING: How many years did you host shows?

LINKLETTER: From 1936 to 1970. And I --

KING: So it's been 32 years since you've hosted an Art Linkletter program.

LINKLETTER: Yes. But what changed my life was the death of my daughter.

KING: Suicide.

LINKLETTER: When Diane died --

KING: She jumped out of a window, right?

LINKLETTER: Yes, on LSD. And --

KING: That changed you?

LINKLETTER: It changed my life and I began to do other things for other people. And a death of a daughter --

KING: Ain't real.

LINKLETTER: It either leaves you diminished or enhanced, and I chose to pick the high road for my other children and for people. So I began lecturing on drug abuse.

KING: How old was she?

LINKLETTER: She was 20.

KING: Did you know she was a user?

LINKLETTER: No. Not in the least. I knew she was an experimenting girl, and a challenging girl, she was a flirty girl. I had five children, she was the youngest. And she was the one -- when she was four and she walked across the floor, I said to Lois look out. Look at that walk.

KING: You never get over that kind of loss.

LINKLETTER: No, you never do. But you can make the best of it, and things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.

KING: I like that. Did you make -- did you therefore get less interested in being Art Linkletter the host?

LINKLETTER: It seemed to have less -- I'd done it for so many years. You know, you've done it for a lot of years.

KING: Forty-five. I still love it.

LINKLETTER: I did, right up to the end. But I suddenly found something more serious to do.

KING: Which is? LINKLETTER: And I lecture. And it took me from lecturing on drug abuse to lecturing on positive thinking, to lecturing on what life should be about. Raising money for worthwhile organizations, being on the boards of big universities and colleges, raising money for small Christian schools where lepercy. All kinds of things. And I love it.

KING: You still travel a great deal?

LINKLETTER: I travel 200,000 miles a year and do 70 appearances a year. And I find that I love being alone on the stage. Here you and I had the same thing. We were interested in what the people said. Now I became the head guy. Now you do the solo thing. Isn't it a kick?

KING: Biggest kick.

LINKLETTER: It's the biggest kick. I'm up there for an hour, hour and a half, no notes.

KING: Yes.

LINKLETTER: I got a thousand stories but I always have something serious to get into.

KING: And you are having as much fun as the audience?

LINKLETTER: Oh, I love it. I love it. I sit on a stool -- there maybe 2,000 people up there, but the very fact that I come up and sit down tells everybody it's going to be a chat. I'm not going to give them a lecture.

KING: We've got lots to talk to you about. We are going to talk about presidents and kings and ups and downs.

LINKLETTER: Yes. I've known both.

KING: When you hosted programs, they were all live, right?

LINKLETTER: Yes. Mostly live.

KING: And you did everything. People are funny, quiz shows. You were staff announcer, right?


KING: You did it all.


KING: And made the convergence from radio to television easily.


KING: Many didn't. LINKLETTER: Well, those of us who were working in front of audiences, we just had to get used to having a camera being a devertisement.

KING: Godfrey told me all this is is radio with pictures.

LINKLETTER: That's it. And the problem with it was, that whereas on radio, on stage, let's say "People are Funny," or one of the other shows, "Hollywood Talent Scouts," you have the whole audience watching you on radio, whereas with television the cameras were first up on stage, And you had to look around them. And there were people with booms. And so they weren't quite listening to you. You had to get used to a lot of things going on.

In the old days, in the orchestra, they weren't even supposed to fix their tie and here were people running around with things. Between you and the audience.

KING: Did you have a preference for one or the other?

LINKLETTER: I liked TV better. Radio had some very good things. I like TV, too. I still like TV. It's great, it's talk.

KING: It ain't bad.

LINKLETTER: Oh, I love it. And they're both great.

KING: We're going to talk to Art Linkletter about a multitude of things. We are going to be taking your phone calls for this living legend. By the way, do you have anything physically wrong with you?


KING: No major illnesses, nothing?

LINKLETTER: No. I've had some close scrapes when Ronald Reagan had his cancer, he came back and told me have you had a colonoscope, Art? I said I heard about those, and I'm not ever going to have one. He says you better. And they looked, and I a pre-cancerous polyp.

KING: Colonoscopy.

LINKLETTER: And it stopped. I go to the doctor every six months, I go to the skin doctor. I had melanoma, three months ago I didn't even know had, out it went. I keep -- look, I get my eyes tested, I go to the dentist. I have all my teeth.


KING: Amazing.

LINKLETTER: Want me to bite you?

KING: No! We'll be back with Art Linkletter.

(LAUGHTER) Later we'll include your phone calls. Don't go away.


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. 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, who art in heaven --


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


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

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



KING: Art Linkletter is our guest. He lost a daughter. He also lost a son.


KING: A lot of people lost a lot of things, people and other things, on September 11. Where were you?

LINKLETTER: I was home in bed.

KING: Did you wake up? Did somebody wake you up?

LINKLETTER: Yes, somebody phoned me, one of my many children. And you know why? I travel a lot. They didn't know that I was not there.

KING: Hmm.

LINKLETTER: So they...

KING: You turned on the TV?

LINKLETTER: Is this you, daddy? Oh, thank god you're there. Isn't that interesting?

KING: What's the first thing you thought? LINKLETTER: Disbelief, which is almost what everybody thinks. Just couldn't have imagined it. Shock, and then anger, and then of course a great feeling, as the days passed, of the way -- the resilient nature of our people. We can take the shocks. We can live through them. Our problem is going to be maintaining a certain amount of indignation.

KING: Did it change you?

LINKLETTER: Well, it changed my travel plans considerably at first, but I was set to go overseas on a business trip to Istanbul three days after it happened. And my children were at my door in tears, some of them, grown children, that I would fly overseas three days after this happened.

KING: You didn't go, did you?


KING: I thought they didn't allow flights.

LINKLETTER: Well, I went three days after. I took Lufthansa and flew from here to Frankfurt and Frankfurt in. I figure, actually, the safest time to fly is after any kind of an accident or tragedy.

KING: Because they're double careful?

LINKLETTER: Everybody's taking very good care of everything.

KING: Now, you've flown a lot since, have you not?

LINKLETTER: Oh, yes. I fly all the time.

KING: Does it bother you, the security tie-ups?

LINKLETTER: No. They're very nice. They're handling it well. I haven't had any bad experiences. I fly first class, which helps because that means you don't have the long line going in like 350 people versus 20.

KING: You lived in New York for a time.

LINKLETTER: Yes. I lived in New York. I lived in Brooklyn. And I was on the board of directors in my later life that took me to New York constantly.

KING: Were you surprised at all as how New York reacted?

LINKLETTER: No, I wasn't. New York is...

KING: A lot of people put down New York.

LINKLETTER: Oh, yes. I don't. New York is a going town. New York is a town...

KING: If you ain't going, get off. LINKLETTER: You're left. You know, it's like the song says. If I can make it in New York, I can I make it anywhere. And it's a town full of excitement and all kinds of constructive, can-do things.

KING: As a father, what do you make of the John Walker Lindh story?

LINKLETTER: I don't know what to make of it. I don't know what to make of the statement of the lady that he loves this country and we love this country. They lost track of who he was.

There's two stories there. There's the story of the boy and what caused him to make the break that changed his whole life. And then there's the story of the parents. Were they good parents? Probably. But on the other hand, they weren't alert. But you can't control kids when they grow up.

KING: You can't tell them what to do.

LINKLETTER: No, you can't tell them what to do. I saw a piece on TV today where, apparently, the parents were on the television with their children who are puncturing their skin with all kinds of metal things and the parents were talking to their own 20-year-old children saying why do you put a thing through your tongue? What are you doing with it in your ear and up your nose and other places? God, I can think of the worst places possible, especially for boys. And I just wonder.

KING: What's come of it.


KING: The old days, huh?

LINKLETTER: Yes. Were they that good?


KING: Let's talk a little about presidents. This is President's Day.

LINKLETTER: I know it is.

KING: When did this become a holiday? It used to be Lincoln's birthday and Washington's birthday.

LINKLETTER: It actually became a holiday, according to what I read, by a humor columnist in a local paper making it a subject of a kind of a humorous column, and then it was picked up by Nixon who said it's going to be President's Day. But they can't find anything in any of the papers where he made it. And then I think Kennedy and the rest went along. It just seemed like a good thing. But nobody has passed a law.

KING: Now, is this for Washington and Lincoln as it used to be, or is this for all presidents? In other words, are we honoring Zachery Taylor today?

LINKLETTER: I think for a lot of people, it's a chance to get in their car and have a long weekend.

KING: And go shopping.


KING: Is this Martin Van Buren, is not being saluted?

LINKLETTER: No, I don't think so. We're very respectful of our presidents. But when there's a holiday, it's a holiday. Let's be honest about it.

KING: How many presidents have you known?

LINKLETTER: I have known about eight or nine.

KING: Clinton you did not know, right?

LINKLETTER: Clinton I did not know.

KING: Not an admirer of his, right?

LINKLETTER: No. I was an admirer of him in some ways. I thought he was bright. I thought he had a lot of charm. I thought he was probably a great politician. He just lacked a few little things in the character line. And once again, we come back to trust that we talked about at the start of the program. If you have don't believe somebody, everything's gone.

KING: Do you know the current president, George W. Bush?

LINKLETTER: No. But I know his father and his mother and I've known them for years. George Bush, his father, had a big part in the change in my life because following the death of my daughter, he was ambassador to the United Nations. And he got me a speech -- I spoke at the United Nations, was introduced by the secretary general Hugh Thant (ph) and I spoke on the international implication of the drug abuse epidemic in America. And so I stayed with him and his wife, Barbara, in the Waldorf where he was.

KING: How do you assess how well his son is doing?

LINKLETTER: Very well. Better than I expected, although I thought he'd do well because I think he came from very good stock. I love his mother. Barbara is one of my favorite, favorites. Of course, I've known a lot of the presidents, but their wives have been closer to me than the presidents.

KING: And how do you explain that, you rogue?

LINKLETTER: Well, they watched me in the afternoon.

KING: They all saw you. They grew up with you.

LINKLETTER: Sure. Oh, yes. Pat and Mamie.

KING: Who is the first president you knew?

LINKLETTER: Roosevelt.

KING: We'll get to that in a minute. My guest is Art Linkletter. We'll be taking your phone calls. He's been around, folks.

Lynne Cheney tomorrow night, Ross Perot Wednesday. Don't go away.


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

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


LINKLETTER: Well, ladies and gentlemen, I think you'll admit that is one of the most Democratic things a president could do.



KING: We're back with Art Linkletter. First president you knew was Roosevelt. First president you were aware of was Wilson, right?

LINKLETTER: I remember Woodrow Wilson as a little boy, but not much.

KING: How did you meet Roosevelt?

LINKLETTER: Roosevelt, I was radio director of the San Diego World's Fair, a small world's fair in 1935, and he came there to do a Navy Day broadcast and I went down to get time for our world's fair.

I'm standing at the pier waiting for him to come off the cruiser and he didn't come off. We had to go on the air live. And I started then one of the first man in the street shows. I had to do something. So I talked to people around until he came out. Then when he came out came the big surprise. He was so crippled. He could hardly walk. I'd seen him as the photographers showed him, always standing, alert, strong, powerful. But getting up out of the chair and getting him up to the place and getting him there and nobody took pictures. Nobody ever revealed that -- in fact, they didn't reveal it when later he was practically dying with that picture with Churchill.

KING: That was amazing.

LINKLETTER: They protected the presidents. Nowadays if he even scratch his nose they got a picture of it up the nose.

KING: Did you know Truman? LINKLETTER: Yes. After he'd been president. I had a publishing company among others at the time. I did a book on his life and worked with him at the Hotel Carlisle in New York. And we --

KING: What a man he was.

LINKLETTER: Oh, he was a marvelous guy.

KING: You knew where you stood with him.

LINKLETTER: Oh, yes. When we broke -- just had been talking for a while, working, we'd go out and walk around the block. There were no security men, no security people for the president. There was a girl coming down in a bridal costume in one of those brownstone fronts and he stops, walks up the steps, gave her a kiss, shook hands with the guy and we walked on.

KING: When he left the presidency, he walked to Union Station in Washington with his wife, just the two of them.

LINKLETTER: And I will tell you what he said to me one day. I asked him, what was the worst thing, Mr. President, about being president? He said you sit there at the Oval Office, you're one of the most important men in the whole world, and you have an idea that you'd like do something, and you write out a simple declarative sentence, you give it to your secretary, and it goes to the bureaucracy, and it comes back in three days, it's totally changed and you don't know who has changed it.

Nobody has signed off, but the whole thing has changed. He said there's a word for that, he said the tyranny of anonymity. Isn't that a wonderful phrase? The most important guy in the world and the bureaucracy just takes it off in a different direction.

KING: Eisenhower.

LINKLETTER: Well, I met him in a restaurant in Paris. I was traveling with Andy of Amos & Andy, Charlie Corell (ph) .

KING: Is that when he was the head of NATO?

LINKLETTER: He was the head of NATO. Andy -- Charlie Corell -- was a great fan -- a great star for Eisenhower. So he called us over to the table. Now, Mamie was sitting there and Eisenhower didn't know me from a load of hay and Mamie said, Art, she says I missed you after the shows. I'm sitting here in Europe and I don't get them, how are they going? Then later I did a big dinner at the White House for Eisenhower. The first big dinner I ever did. I was scared to death.

KING: You were the Emcee?

LINKLETTER: I was the Emcee.

KING: What was it like the first time to work the White House?

LINKLETTER: Well, to begin with people kept coming up to me, the staff, and saying don't tell any riskee jokes. Don't embarrass the president. I said I won't embarrass the president. I don't do that kind of stuff. And then I found out why. Because when I did tell some jokes, as I told the joke, the big audience, here there was the Senate, and the Supreme Court, and a lot of other people there, everybody would turn and look and see how the president was reacting. So if you tell a joke to the president, his reaction keys the audience and if it's a dirty joke, what's he going to do? He's on the spot.

KING: Was it a good audience?

LINKLETTER: Oh, good audience. The other thing I remember, just walking around beforehand, the security man, I put my hand in my pocket, they came up and slapped my hand out of my pocket. I said what's that? They said don't put your hand in your pocket around the president.

KING: Nixon.

LINKLETTER: Nixon I knew here. After all, I was busy in L.A. He was a young Congressman. We met at a lot of Daises where I was the master of ceremonies for the Rotarians...

KING: Complicated man.

LINKLETTER: Very complicated.

KING: I knew him in Florida, and on the air.

LINKLETTER: I had a very interesting conversation with him one time on an airplane, private airplane, coming down from the Bohemian Grove up above up above San Francisco, and he was thinking of rerunning again. He was out. And I said why would you do it? You've never made you much money. Now you're the legal counsel for Pepsi Cola, you are making money. And he says, well Art, he says, you've made a lot of money. Why are you still doing this? I said because I love to do it and I'm a pro and I get satisfaction. He says that's why I want to be president. I know how to do it.

KING: Was he a tragedy to you?

LINKLETTER: Oh, yes. I said to him at the time, if you're going to do it again, I have some advice for you. He said what's that? I said don't make speeches if you can keep it. You're not a natural born extrovert. You were called Silent Sam.

KING: A president has to speak, though.

LINKLETTER: You have to speak, but I said whatever you can, do your television commercials with just a couple of friends, no notes and just talk. Because he knew everything about everything. All over the world. He could tell you any state, any country and go through all of the things.

KING: A great man died today, Howard K. Smith.

LINKLETTER: Howard K. Smith, a wonderful broadcaster. KING: An honor to have known him and he was the moderator of the first Kennedy-Nixon debate. We'll always remember that debate.

LINKLETTER: That's right, which Kennedy won on TV and Nixon won on radio.

KING: Because the way he looked was terrible.

LINKLETTER: But Kennedy was a natural born goer, and Nixon was an introvert making himself into an extrovert.

KING: How did you get to know Kennedy?

LINKLETTER: I was the national chairman of the Easter Seals Program and you were supposed to show up each time with a crippled child and meet the president. So I went there and didn't know anything about him. But what I had done in Hawaii the year before, I was swimming and I helped a young man get ashore when he was having some trouble with the waves.

And his name was Robert Kennedy. And so when he heard that I was going to be there, he came over from the Justice Department to see that I saw the president and was introduced to him and I was not just a guy passing through for the Easter Seals. So Bobby Kennedy gave me my inside to Jack Kennedy. Isn't that a novelty?

KING: Where were you when Kennedy was shot?

LINKLETTER: I was in my office getting ready to go to a lunch with a man close to me and a lady that I wanted him to meet, who was an important producer. And when we went to lunch, they sat down, I introduced them, and he said, wasn't that great when he was shot, and she said, why you dirty -- and so she got up and the lunch was over. We weren't meeting on politics, but he had two sides. Everybody either loved him or hated him.

KING: More with Art Linkletter. We will include your phone calls. Don't go away.


LINKLETTER: Hello. Are you ready?

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: You make me giggle.

LINKLETTER: You are a giggler. Are you ticklish? Tell me, Susan, do you have a boyfriend?


LINKLETTER: Can I be your boyfriend? All right. Have you got a date for tonight?


Can you dance? Would you like to dance with me? UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: No.

LINKLETTER: You wouldn't? I'm a good dancer.



KING: There's a lot of bases we want to touch so we'll cover a couple more presidents and get to other things with Art Linkletter and include your phone calls. There was a time though, Sinatra -- you pinch hit for Sinatra at an inaugural?

LINKLETTER: Well, I was there to do the inaugural ball for Dick Nixon on his second presidential run.

KING: '72?

LINKLETTER: Yes. And I was putting on my tuxedo in the hotel to go see the big Kennedy show.

KING: At the Kennedy Center?

LINKLETTER: Frank Sinatra the first hour, Bob Hope the second hour.

KING: Kennedy Center?

LINKLETTER: Kennedy Center, yes. And the phone rang. And somebody from the committee said, can you do the first hour in place of Sinatra? I said, you're kidding. I don't sing. They said no, no, emcee it. I said well of course I can emcee it. I've been practicing. But they said come right over. And I got over there and I said what the heck happened to Sinatra?

They said, well, you know his temper. He got into an argument with the stage manager as to how something should be shot and he walked out. I said he stiffed the president of the United States? He said he would stiff the Lord if he got mad enough. And I did the first hour. And Bob Hope showed up at the intermission. He said, what are you doing here? I said I'm getting ready to take your place next.

KING: Of the presidents, Reagan was your best friend, right?

LINKLETTER: He was my closest friend because the family, Lois and I and he and Jane and then when he married Nancy, we knew them socially. And we had done the friar's roasts together. We did the opening of Disneyland together. And we were both former swimmers. In fact, I gave him the International Swimming Hall of Fame plaque because I was president of that at one time.

And as I gave it to him at his office after he retired, and he hung this around, he said, gee, that's pretty good. And I said, just remember, Ronnie -- if there was nobody around, or I'd have said Mr. President -- I said, Ronnie, just remember, this plaque is only to show that all jocks are not necessarily jerks.

KING: And by the way, everyone...

LINKLETTER: And he laughed. He loves to laugh.

KING: Everyone who knew him well -- or knows him well -- we keep talking in the past and we shouldn't -- everyone who knows him well, Ronnie was what you called him.

LINKLETTER: Yes. Some people called him Dutch. I called him Ronnie. And he loved to laugh. He said to me, I'm moving into Bel Air. Aren't we neighbors? I said well, in a sense. He said, what do you mean? I said, I live about $879,000 above you.


He laughed his head off.

KING: Sag Harbor, New York. Hello.

CALLER: Hello, Mr. Linkletter. Thank you for being you.

LINKLETTER: Well, thank you.

CALLER: I have a friend about your age with similar background, by no means parallel. But she's having trouble feeling grateful lately. She's having a lot of memory and language challenges, which I'm sure you can identify with how challenging that would be, leaving her very frustrated and angry.

And I think there may be a lot of people out there that would appreciate your thought on this, both the friends of folks like this as well as the former stars.

KING: Well asked.

LINKLETTER: Well, as you know, I'm the chairman of the board of a big Alzheimer's research foundation, the John Douglas French. And that would be some indication that he might be coming -- is it a she?

KING: I'm sorry. They're off the phone. I think it's a she.

LINKLETTER: Your friend might be coming down with Alzheimer's, but there are a number of dementias that have the same kind of memory loss, the same kind of problem and recollecting, so you can't be sure unless you...

KING: What do you suggest for people?

LINKLETTER: What I suggest is she get to good psychiatric care at a major hospital that deals with neurosciences. There are some good drugs and there are some good treatments that can help her. She needs to be with friends.

KING: We can slow the onset of Alzheimer's.

LINKLETTER: You can slow it. The earlier we get it, we can slow it but we can't stop it.

KING: How about blood tests for it?

LINKLETTER: No. The tests are purely questions and answers and memory and...

KING: Aren't we searching for a way...

LINKLETTER: We can now take a PET scan for the brain, which is a Positron Emmission Tomography device that let's you see how the brain is working and where it's working just almost like you'd look at a pinball machine. We have many ways how to look into the brain never before possible 10 years ago. And she should go to a fine hospital. If she's in the east, John Hopkins would be a great one, the Mayo Clinic.

KING: In New York, yes. What do the USA, United Seniors, do?

LINKLETTER: The USA is United Seniors Assocation, formed by Senator George Murphy when he was senator and for...

KING: The dancing senator.

LINKLETTER: ... for the purpose of lobbying in Washington. We have about a million members to save Social Security and reform it, to redo Medicare now that it's changed. Social Security started in 1935 and a lot of changes in the world have happened.

KING: Are they in conflict with the major seniors organizations?

LINKLETTER: No, no, no. They do that too. But this is our only purpose. And the reason was the John Douglas French who was the head of the neurosciences at UCLA, was married to Dorothy Kirsten, the opera star who was my friend. And when he died, she asked me and R.J. Wagner and several others and I finally stayed in there. And in the 10 years I've been in it, all kinds of new things, new drugs.

KING: Do you have a fear that with this accelerated increase for Defense Department spending, increases for war on terror, seniors are going to be pushed aside?

LINKLETTER: No, I think temporarily, there will be emphasis on that because that's what we're all concerned with, but I believe there's room for both. There's enough money and we always can use more, but there is plenty of money being raised now for all kinds of wonderful things for older people.

KING: We'll take a break and come back with more for Art Linkletter, and more of your phone calls. You're watching LARRY KING LIVE.

Lynne Cheney tomorrow night. Ross Perot on Wednesday. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LINKLETTER: The grounds are loaded with about 15,000 people who are especially invited guests of Walt Disney's. And they're here from Movieland, from motion picture and correspondents from every possible kind of activity connected with the opening of the eighth wonder of the world. Ronnie Reagan, come on in.

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, how about that son of yours? I've been buttering up to him all morning hoping he'd say that about me.

LINKLETTER: Isn't this a riot today?

REAGAN: It sure is.

LINKLETTER: And Ron, your first job is down here in the town square.

REAGAN: Well, right out here in front of the depot, yes, for the Mainstreet and the parade and so forth.

LINKLETTER: We have lots to do, get busy.




KING: The clip we just saw with former President Reagan, that was the Disney opening, right?


KING: Now how did you get that gig?

LINKLETTER: Well, to begin with, I got a great kick out of seeing it again. I say, Ronnie, go over and do so and so. He goes, yup.

KING: He was an actor then, right?

LINKLETTER: That's right. That's right. Walt Disney and I were very close friends from the Olympics and other things. He said to me, Art, I'd like to have you emcee the opening of Disneyland. I said, well, fine. He said why don't you have an agent like everybody else in Hollywood? He said I'm uncomfortable talking to a friend of mine about a deal and not an agent.

I said, well, try me. He said well to begin with I've been in a lot of financial troubles. We have had problems and overcosts and overruns and I couldn't afford you. And I said, how about scale. He said, scale, a couple hundred dollars? I said yes. He said, well, good.

I said, now, of course, you can do something for me. He says, well, what is it? I said you have the photo concession at the fair, and you're going to give it to somebody and I have a photographic business running downtown, so I'm not asking out of the blue, I'd like to have the ten-year contract for all sales of all cameras and all films at Disneyland and I'll pay you whatever your concession is. He said it's a deal. I said now see how easy it is without an agent? That was the most expensive hour show that anybody's ever been paid.

KING: How well did you do on that deal, ten years of photos? You financed the hoola-hoop. Someone came in your office and swung it around and you said yes.

LINKLETTER: To tell you about the film deal, the Eastman Kodak people paid me a visit one time and they said, Mr. Linkletter, you own the world's largest automatic film vending machine -- Disneyland.

KING: Davidson, Michigan for Art Linkletter, hello.

CALLER: Hello.


CALLER: Are you there?

KING: Yes.

CALLER: I want to ask you, I grew up in the late 70's, early 80's, my teen-age years and drugs were everywhere. Then finally Mrs. Reagan came out and said just say no to drugs, which I thought was a great start because only because of having great parents kept me off of drugs.

But a lot of the kids in the neighborhood wasn't the case and there wasn't nothing else out there. Do you think our government today is doing anything to help this? I mean 20 years ago she said just say no to drugs and it never really went anywhere from there.

KING: Are we losing that fight?

LINKLETTER: Well, I tell you, one of the problems with that statement, just say no, and I know Nancy and I think it was a wonderful thing to say, but the problem there is the word just. Just say no. Now you have to get into details. Just say no to your best girlfriend, or your best boyfriend or the leader of your group. It's not just. Just is a hard word. When you're being tempted as a young person to be part of a group.

KING: And it doesn't match pressure.

LINKLETTER: Yes, so much pressure. So much pressure. It's a terrible pressure. And today we are doing just the right thing gradually. Not nationally, but here in California we just passed a law in which people in the drug business that are caught are given an opportunity to go to jail or to have rehabilitation. That's what we need.

We spend more money on people in jail today, 60 percent of the people in jail are there because of drugs, than we would to rehabilitate them and not just in two weeks. You got to rehabilitate them for months and have them go in remission and come back and you have got to keep going just like you fight cancer.

KING: Isn't it hard to fight something people want to do?

LINKLETTER: Oh, very difficult. Drugs even help -- some people even think after you've used drugs for a long time it, actually changes the receptors in your brain so that you change your brain to absolutely have a hunger for them. That's one of the things. So we're moving in the right direction.

KING: Novi, Michigan, hello.

CALLER: Yes. This is Audrey Turner calling and, Art, you look great. How do you stay so young looking? I met you back in the 40's when you were in Detroit at the Book Cadillac to judge a Miss Cover Girl contest. I was a contestant and was thrilled to meet you.

KING: How did you do?

CALLER: Well, I was just a contestant but I was just so thrilled to meet you. And thank you.

KING: All right. How do you stay so young?

LINKLETTER: It's very nice but I've considered it during the whole evening tonight an attack on me by you and your staff by putting these pictures of me the way I looked 40 years ago with the kids. You know, I think I look pretty good but when people say to me you haven't changed in years I say have you been to an eye doctor lately? We're all getting older.

KING: How do you account for your --

LINKLETTER: I have taken good care of myself. We now know in the study of aging that genes are about 30 percent. Lifestyle is 70 percent. So what do you do? You do what I do. I don't smoke, I don't drink, have a glass of wine now and then. I haven't gotten stout and fat. I exercise. I get eight to nine hours of sleep every night and I've stayed married to the same girl for 66 years, which is important to have a good companion.

I've had a purpose in life and I don't let stress bother me. You told me before we went on the air that the best time of day for you is when the microphone goes on.

KING: The easiest.

LINKLETTER: That's the time for me, too.

KING: You can control it.

LINKLETTER: For most people it's considered the stress time. Red Skelton used to throw up off stage before he started the show.


KING: Our guest is Art Linkletter. What a wonderful time we're having. We hope you are, too. We'll be back with our remaining moments with Mr. Linkletter after this.


LINKLETTER: Right now if you were grown up and you could marry somebody famous in the world, who would you marry, Billy?


LINKLETTER: Really? Why?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because she's won so many Academy Awards.

LINKLETTER: Well, yes. I can't remember any of the official Academy Awards.

Who would you marry Crystal Garrett?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would marry Dean Martin and Art Linkletter.

LINKLETTER: You'd marry both of us? Why would you marry the two of us?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because Dean Martin he talks too much and Art Linkletter's pretty.

LINKLETTER: I can't argue with that.



KING: We're back with the incredible Art Linkletter. And we go to Houston. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry, thank you. Mr. Linkletter, it is great to talk to you after approximately 56 years, again. I was a sixth grader on your show.


CALLER: It's been a while.

LINKLETTER: You recovered, hey?

CALLER: Yes I did. And quite successfully, I think. And what my question is, just being picked to be on your show made me as a child feel like really I was a winner. And I'm wondering whether you followed up on the lives of any of the other children that appeared to see if they, you know, were winners or became famous or whatever else.

KING: How they did.

LINKLETTER: Yes. Well, I had a chance to do that with the Bill Cosby version of my show in the last three years when we went looking for those who had grown up. So I did find out. But I get your comments every day at airports. Some of them I'm not really flattered by, because when an old man white-haired with a cane comes over and says to me I was on your show when I was five, I don't know.

KING: But it was very important in their lives, that show.

LINKLETTER: Oh, they remembered what they had for dinner, our lunch, I mean. They remember what I gave them from 40 years ago.

KING: That was a big deal.

LINKLETTER: It was a big, big deal.

KING: It was the only place people went on television was in their local community, on the morning "Chucky the Clown Show." Right?


KING: That was the only place kids went.


KING: "Chucky the Clown."

LINKLETTER: Otherwise children were on the show if they could ride a unicycle at seven and play a violin. But these were just kids talking about just parents and their siblings, you know.

KING: Savannah, Georgia. Hello.

CALLER: Good evening, gentlemen. What a pleasure to speak with you. I have such fond memories, Mr. Linkletter, of your radio shows and also share your July 17 birthday.

And my question is, what do you think of today's sitcoms that so many of our young people watch?

KING: Do you like them? Do you watch them?

LINKLETTER: Well, I don't look at them very much.

KING: What about the good ones? You don't watch "Friends"?

LINKLETTER: I watch some. I have some favorites, I like "Frazier" and a couple of others.

KING: "Everybody Loves Raymond."

LINKLETTER: I like "Raymond," that's good. And I liked "Seinfeld." I thought that was funny. My general complaint about all of the situation comedies, practically, almost all of them, is that they go so far. And, well, sex and violence -- not violence so much. But take the "Seinfeld" show. One whole half hour might be built around Alexander and masturbation. Well, I'm a grown guy and it doesn't bother me, but I think of kids. And then I look at the cable shows and I look at "Sex in the City." I can't believe my eyes. I am just absolutely flabbergasted by what they're doing and saying.

KING: It ain't the world we grew up with, right?

LINKLETTER: Oh, this is coming into my living room and this is the kind of stuff that we used to associate with guys with the coats going into the theaters and watching the porno pictures.

KING: But you can't stop it.

LINKLETTER: No, you can't stop it because they get ratings. And if only 30 million people love violence, pornography they can all go to the same programs and give them a rating that makes them unnaturally bigger than they would be if it was just the ordinary.

KING: Are you as happy as you appear?

LINKLETTER: I'm very happy. I'm doing what I love to do. I have finally reached the age where I realize that while I might not be the brightest guy in the room, I probably have more wisdom than the rest of them.

KING: Do you ever get down?

LINKLETTER: Very seldom. If I get down, I say what is this? I have nothing to get down about. I'm healthy. I have a wonderful family. I've had some tragedies.

KING: Sure have.

LINKLETTER: That I have overcome and become a better man. Losing my son and my daughter, made me so much more appreciative of the other children, so much more aware of how important it is to tell the people you love that you love them because it can pass away so fast. It can just go away.

KING: Thanks, Art. Pleasure being in your company.

LINKLETTER: Thank you.

KING: Art Linkletter. What can you say? When we come back, we'll tell you about what's coming up on LARRY KING LIVE. So don't go away.


KING: Tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE, Lynne Cheney will be right with us here in the studios, and an exclusive visit to talk about September 111 and the health of her husband.

Ross Perot returns to LARRY KING LIVE on Wednesday night with lots of things to talk about. Speaking of lots of things to cover, Aaron Brown is next with NEWS NIGHT, they will have a special interview tonight on that program with one of my favorite people, Mark Cuban. The owner of the Dallas Mavericks.




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