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Interview With Art Linkletter

Aired August 5, 2005 - 21:00   ET


ART LINKLETTER, FORMER TV HOST: Say Art Linkletter like you're mad.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Art Linkletter like you're mad.


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Art Linkletter, the broadcasting legend, straight-talking conservative, is going to turn 93 years, celebrating 70 years of marriage to the same. From devastating personal tragedies to 50 years of "Kids Who Say the Darndest Things." He's seen it all, he's done it all. And we'll talk about a lot of it, too. The one and only Art Linkletter, for the hour, is next, on LARRY KING LIVE.

We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE, another visit, it's been two years for Art Linkletter, one of America's most loved broadcasters. The host of "House Party" for years and "People are Funny." Best- selling author, motivational speaker, the national chairman of USA Next.

It's been nearly two years. Do you feel 93?

LINKLETTER: Not at all.

KING: How much -- do you feel a certain age?

LINKLETTER: No. I feel tired sometimes after a big busy day, but something new is going to be the next day. You and I have the same life. We have something different every day.

KING: What has slowed down? Markedly to you?

LINKLETTER: One thing that's slowed down is I've stopped skiing. And it was done while I was away on a tour, speaking. My wife gave away all my skis and my clothes. It was a warning.

KING: You skied up to what age?

LINKLETTER: Ninety-two. It was all downhill, you know.

KING: The brain matter has not slowed down at all?

LINKLETTER: Not that I know of. KING: Eyesight?

LINKLETTER: Eyesight is good.

KING: Hearing?

LINKLETTER: Everything is good.

KING: Do you think about mortality?

LINKLETTER: Yes, because my friends keep dying. And I say that not to get a laugh, but the fact is, that one of the saddest things about outliving your normal lifespan, according to science -- I should have been dead in 1959, '59. That's 47 years after 1912, when I was born.

But when you live past that, and you have a child who's 67, you begin to think, "How much longer can I go?" In fact, I was at the doctor's office about a week ago getting my checkup, because I get recent check -- you know, frequent checkups. And I said, "How much longer do I have to go?" He said, "Well, if you live one day at a time, it'll all work out." I'll see what I got.

KING: A typical doctor thing.

LINKLETTER: Yes, one of those hopeful things.

KING: Do you read the obituaries?

LINKLETTER: No. Well, yes and no. If there is a picture of someone in the paper, naturally, whom I know, I read it. For instance, I do funerals, you know. Have you booked anybody?

KING: What do you mean, you do the eulogies? You M.C. the funeral? You're George Jessel?

LINKLETTER: Yes, I am of the George Jessel of many appearances.

KING: What is the secret of doing a good eulogy, a good funeral?

LINKLETTER: The secret, really, is to think of it as a celebration of life. You say, "Let's celebrate the life of my old friend," so-and-so and so on. And we talk about that. And I say, "It's wonderful. He had a wonderful life. We should be happy for him."

KING: Billy Graham, on this program recently, said if he died right then and there, he would be very happy. He knew what would be ahead. It would be paradise. He's going to heaven. What do you believe?

LINKLETTER: It would depend on what's going on. I'd like a lot of activity. Heaven sounds too placid to me. Now, there's a lot to do in hell.

KING: Why do you want to go there? LINKLETTER: I don't know.

KING: But I mean, if you died right now, he said he would be happy. Have you led a happy life?

LINKLETTER: I've led a happy life, yes. I've worked hard to be successful in happiness. I've, you know, been a good husband. I've been a hard worker. And I'm not ashamed of anything I've done.

KING: You don't know your genetics, do you?

LINKLETTER: I don't know who my mother and father were.

KING: Explain that.

LINKLETTER: Well, I was abandoned in a little town in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada, a very small town, to which a young couple, coming from the big city in Canada, probably because they were unmarried and she was pregnant. And the minute they had me in the hospital, they left, and I was left without a name.

KING: Who raised you?

LINKLETTER: The Linkletters saw me. The Linkletters were two old people in their 50s. He was an evangelist, a street preacher. And they read about it, and they were childless. They came down and they take a look at me and they couldn't resist my innate childish charm, and my dry diapers, and they adopted me.

KING: Did they always tell you the truth?

LINKLETTER: Yes. They didn't tell me I was adopted until I was about 9. And then I found it out when I was looking through some papers. They said, "Oh, yes, you were adopted," but it was quite a shock. Quite a shock.

KING: You don't know your genetics but obviously, they're good.

LINKLETTER: I think so, but genes only count for 30 percent in longevity. Your lifestyle is 70 percent and your genes, as you get into the 40s and 50s, are bound to 30 percent. For example, if you had the best genes in the whole world and you smoked three packs of cigarettes a day, I would say that the genes have been canceled.

KING: Have you had a major disease?

LINKLETTER: No, I've never had one. I've had some injuries from sports. I was very ardently interested in sports. And I've had a couple of small, you know, hernias.

KING: No major surgery, though?

LINKLETTER: No major surgery. I've had heart fibrillation, but they gave me an electric shock, and it went back to its right place.

KING: You know, you could well make 100. LINKLETTER: Yes. I'm serious about it. Yes. I'm like George Jessel. I've already booked myself into a paid date on July 17, 2012.

KING: Do you have a living will?


KING: Can you tell us what it says?

LINKLETTER: That's secret, because you're not in it.

KING: No, I mean, do you want to share...

LINKLETTER: I puzzled over putting you in it and then I heard about your money.

KING: Yes. Oh, yes, you need a benefit. Do you want to be kept alive artificially.

LINKLETTER: Oh, that way? No, no, no.

KING: Not Art Linkletter.

LINKLETTER: When it's ready, time to go. In fact, in thinking of my mortality now at 93, I think that I've beaten -- I feel glad about it, because I've beaten the odds. You're beating the odds.

KING: I'm 71, though.

LINKLETTER: Yes, but you're just getting into the dangerous part.

KING: We'll be right back. He'll never be back. We'll be right back with Art Linkletter after this.


LINKLETTER: Now, see how much you know about your little girl. What's her name?


LINKLETTER: How old is she?


LINKLETTER: Boy or girl?


LINKLETTER: So far you're doing well. And is this your only child?


LINKLETTER: First child. How old are you, Mr. Jennings (ph)? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 46.

LINKLETTER: 46? What kept you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looking around.

LINKLETTER: You were looking around?


LINKLETTER: How long have you been married now?


LINKLETTER: Three years. In other words, you were a bachelor 43 years. Boy, this made a change in your life, hasn't it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You could say that.

LINKLETTER: Are you a good dad? In other words, do you handle the changings and everything?


LINKLETTER: You don't do that? Maybe you better let me hold her. I get along with the children better. Yes, I know how to handle them better.




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

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: To keep my legs together.


KING: We're back with the wonderful and talented Art Linkletter. What a career. What is USA Next?

LINKLETTER: USA Next means United Seniors Association, and "Next" means the next group coming along. The baby boomers are the next senior association, we hope. And of course, we are a conservative organization that pumps for a lot of things, like, for instance, a private personalized account in the social security setup. And we have a lot of other things we do for seniors. We compete with another bigger one.

KING: You disagree with that other bigger one a lot? LINKLETTER: Quite a bit. We are very conservative and very Republican, although we're nonprofit. And they are for government operation and government taxation, and a lot of things we don't believe in. They make money, and we don't. We're nonprofit.

KING: Don't you think government, though, with spiraling medical costs, has to be involved? There has to be a Medicare?

LINKLETTER: Medicare itself, as you know, inside of 15 years, is going to take more money than social security and the defense department together.

KING: What's a life worth?

LINKLETTER: Why? I mean, it's going to be the single biggest thing in the government, so we have to have it run by the government.

KING: Since you were last here, Ronald Reagan died.


KING: And I know how close the two of you were.

LINKLETTER: We were very dear friends. And I knew Ronny so well.

KING: How far back do you go with him?

LINKLETTER: We go back about 55 years, when Walt Disney asked me to be the host of the opening of Disneyland, which celebrates its 50th anniversary on my birthday, July 17th, and I'll be out there, of course.

KING: It opened on your birthday?


KING: When you got the Kodak concession?

LINKLETTER: And everything.

KING: They couldn't pay you, so they gave you the camera concession?

LINKLETTER: Well, I asked for it. They didn't give it to me.

KING: Not bad.

LINKLETTER: We traded things. I did the show for $200. But I've been with Ronnie Reagan for five years before that, so I knew him and Nancy, as you may well know...

KING: Great friend.

LINKLETTER: ... was my wife at one time on a CBS half-hour theater show. KING: She played your wife?

LINKLETTER: I saw you got stopped, didn't I?

KING: I know Nancy very well. Never heard this.

LINKLETTER: She wouldn't mention it, maybe. We did a play, and she was a widow or divorcee with a grown man, son, and I was the same with a woman, and she didn't want us, the girl, and so on and so forth.

KING: You met Ronnie at the opening of Disneyland?

LINKLETTER: No, before. Long before. We used to, when he was married to his first wife, Lois and I and our children used to go up and have ice cream with him and spend evenings going to movies with him.

KING: What made him special?

LINKLETTER: He was so genuine. He was so real. He was so regular. He was a guy with a good sense of humor. And he had great, great character traits, and he had great ideals. And he stuck with them. He wasn't a compromiser, and I was amazed that he got out as far in politics as he did, because he wouldn't compromise.

KING: He had no guile.

LINKLETTER: No, none at all. When I would come into the White House on my frequent visits, sitting down with him, it was like two guys in a locker room. And by the way, I had the same sensation a year ago when I had a half hour with Bush W. I walked in, he said, "Hi, Art. Come on in." He says, "My mother tells me that you've spent more time in the White House than I have."

I said, "Well, where were you when Herbert Hoover was president?" We had a great time. That was the way it was with Reagan. And of course, with people around, I always called him "Mr. President." When they weren't, it was Ronnie and Art.

KING: The controversy over stem-cells. Now, Nancy has come out strongly in favor of embryonic stem-cell research, and most of the country, 60, 65 percent, is in favor of it. I know you're conservative.

LINKLETTER: I'm for it.

KING: As is Orrin Hatch and many others.

LINKLETTER: I think anybody who looks at it -- well, it finally comes down partly to whether you think that the female egg, once meeting the male sperm, is a live creature. I don't think so. And they're taking stem-cells from so early in the embryo that it's not taking a life. It's not living yet.

KING: You think it's going to lead to a lot of cures? LINKLETTER: A lot of them. I doubt if it'll lead to Alzheimer's. They talk about it.

KING: Why did you get so interested in Alzheimer's? Was that before Reagan?

LINKLETTER: Yes. Dorothy Kirston, the great opera star, was a friend of mine, socially. And when John Douglas French, the top scientist at UCLA School of Neurosciences died from Alzheimer's, she asked me to be on the board, along with a couple of other celebrities, so-called, and other people. And I didn't really know anything about it. But I've been, now, the chairman of the board of the John Douglas French Alzheimer's Research Foundation. And I travel and speak and raise money.

KING: Do we know a lot more than we did?

LINKLETTER: Oh, yes. We know so much about the brain that we didn't know ten years ago that it's almost like everything else in life today. We didn't know what was going on in the brain. Now we have a PET scan, positron emission tomography. We can look right inside of a brain and watch the brain work, where that MRI just gives you the structure of the brain.

But you can mass questions after you've injected a person who is taking a live test. And the chemical goes up into the brain and as you talk, the reaction can be seen through this PET scan. So we can detect it long before anybody else ever could, and we only did post mortems to find out after you were dead.

KING: We have good drugs on keeping it off?

LINKLETTER: It helps. Not staving it off, but stopping it and slowing it up. But we have not got the cure yet.

KING: We'll be right back with more of the wonderful Art Linkletter. Don't go away.


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 correspondence, 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: Oh, it certainly 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 main street and the parade and so forth.

LINKLETTER: We have lots to do. Get busy.




LINKLETTER: What's the hardest thing about school for you?

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Buttoning my pants.

LINKLETTER: How are you?

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: I'm fine, thank you.

LINKLETTER: You're all in red, and let me see your eyes. And your -- well, your hair. Your hair is -- what happened to your hair?

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Well, the reason why it's so short is because, you know, when it touches my ears, it grows straight out.


UNIDENTIFIED BOY: I look like an idiot.

LINKLETTER: Well I guess that's a pretty good reason for cutting it off.


KING: We're back with Art Linkletter. Staying with Alzheimer's for a minute, do we know why it's on the increase?


KING: Because people are living longer?

LINKLETTER: Yes, yes. At the age of 60, you have about one degree of 1 percent chance of getting it, and it doubles every few years until, by you're my age, it's 50 percent.

KING: And you've had no slowdown at all?

LINKLETTER: Not at all. Not in memory, although I must say that in the last ten years of lecturing -- you know, I go out and talk for an hour, hour and a quarter, without a note. About two weeks ago, I was speaking, and I was telling one of my favorite jokes. And I was talking and I was thinking to myself while I'm talking, as you know you do, "What am I going to do next? Which way am I going to go?" Suddenly, I thought, "How does this damn joke end."

So I thought, "Well, when I get right to the tag line, the end of it, like coming to a familiar intersection in a street, I'll recognize it." So I got right to that place. It was nowhere, so I said, "And now, ladies and gentlemen, we've come to the line that I'm supposed to give you, here, because it's the funny line. It's the thing that makes all of this thing work. And I can't remember it." And got a even bigger laugh than I did before. But if you're honest with audiences...

KING: That's the whole key.

LINKLETTER: But if you say (inaudible) you know, then you're embarrassed, then they're embarrassed.

KING: Were you a natural host?


KING: It came easy to you?

LINKLETTER: Easy. See, when I started in radio as an announcer, I was in college, studying to be an English professor. And I was watching radio develop. It was 1933.

KING: I was born that year.

LINKLETTER: Oh, weren't you lucky.

KING: Yes.

LINKLETTER: And then -- now I can't tell what we were talking about. See? You've shaken me up with that...

KING: You were a natural host.

LINKLETTER: When you give personal information like that, it's shocking.

KING: I know. I don't usually do it.


KING: You were a natural -- but the year hit me.

LINKLETTER: Anyway, in 1933, there was "Amos and Andy" coming up, and Jack Benny was new, and Bob Hope was just a blip on the horizon. "Mert and Marge," all those things. And I listened to them all, and I said, "Where is there a place for me to ever be a star or a celebrity? I don't act. I can't sing. I can't play a musical instrument and I don't tell funny stories."

And then I heard a couple of guys in Dallas, Texas, on CBS, our network, do a crazy thing. They took a microphone out on the street. And that was the beginning of the reality shows, because they didn't know who they were going to talk to, what they were going to say. There were no prizes. There was no production. Who are you? Where are you going? What do you think? When I saw that, I knew what I should do. KING: How much of your success do you think was due to your unusual and highly recognizable voice?

LINKLETTER: I don't know. I don't know. But I think my success was about being able to talk clearly and easily and think and listen. As you well know, being one of the best interviewers, a good interviewer is listening. These guys who say, "And what's happened to you lately? I was just down on an alligator hunt and I fell in and they cut their leg off," and they say, "But have you seen any good movies lately?"

KING: They don't listen.

LINKLETTER: Tough. But I was a listener and I was interested in people. I liked people. And especially liked kids, and I like old people.

KING: And your voice had a natural appeal. It came through the way -- it was soothing. How did the kids thing start?

LINKLETTER: I was doing a series of about eight or ten shows as a local broadcaster in San Francisco, where I had gone as a radio director of the World's Fair on Treasure Island in 1939. And I had developed a business, and I was doing about 15 or 18 shows a week. Daytime, afternoon and night. Who's dancing tonight? What do you think? All the stuff you did in Miami and everywhere else.

I knew what was going on and there were all the advertising agencies and who is -- it was a hustler. And I had a show where I interviewed people that's on the hotel called "Who's Dancing?" Sunday night. And I was home, actually, talking about a voice, I had just bought the newest -- one of the new big record machines, which cut a record with wax coming up, you know. Not a tape or anything.

And I had this, and I was saying things at home and then listening to it to see whether it sounded right. And my son, Jack, came home. He was five years of age. Just came home from his first day of school. So I called him over to the thing and I said, I put a thing on there, that was there, and I said, "Jack, tell me what you did today."

He said, "I went to school."

"For the first day?"

"Yes, first day."

"Well, how did you like it?"

He says, "I ain't going back."

I said, "You're not going back? Why?"

"Well," he says, "I can't read, I can't write, and they won't let me talk." And I took that record down, and played it on a Sunday night, "Who's Dancing?" I said "You'll never guess who was dancing." I put this on.

Letters came from around San Francisco and Oakland saying, "What a wonderful thing, a father talking to his son about things that he thinks. He's not a professional. He's not rehearsed, nothing he's written for him. The kid isn't playing a violin while riding a unicycle at the age of 6. He's just a kid."

And I thought to myself, "Maybe there's something in that, but I only have one kid. So I went home to have a talk with Lois. You met Lois. Pretty girl, very attractive. And I suggested to her that, since there're only two important people in show business, radio, one was entertainer and the other was a producer. And I was the entertainer, and she was going to become a producer. She didn't understand this until four children later.

KING: We'll be right back -- well said -- with Art Linkletter right after this.


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

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: I'd be Papa Bear because I could eat honey and Goldilocks would be sleeping in my bed.

LINKLETTER: When Jesus went where?


LINKLETTER: At the wedding. What did he turn -- what did he have to make the wine?

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: With his power.

LINKLETTER: Out of what did he make the wine?


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

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: We 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 in

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: George Washington. LINKLETTER: George Washington. That's right. He's married, isn't he?


LINKLETTER: You know who his wife is?


KING: We're back with Art Linkletter. "Kids Say the Darndest Things" was part of "People Are Funny."

LINKLETTER: It was part of "The House Party."

KING: It was the end of the show or ...

LINKLETTER: The last six minutes of a show that was the first of the magazine shows. Oprah has done it better. She's certainly got paid more than I did.

KING: You never knew what was going to happen.

LINKLETTER: No, I did stunts, music, I did stars but in those days, unlike now, stars were much harder to get here in Hollywood because the movie studios didn't want anything to do with the coming of television. They kept stars away. Now the stars are making the movies work.

KING: It was a radio fixture.

LINKLETTER: It was a radio fixture in 1941 and 1942 and went into television at '52 and stayed on the air for 26 years, five days a week. You know about that.

KING: Oh boy. And this other side of you, this business side was that always something that came naturally to you? Were you naturally a good businessman?

LINKLETTER: No, but I was a curious businessman. I was beginning to make money in San Francisco as a local broadcaster. You know what that is. I was making $100,000 a year.

KING: What year?

LINKLETTER: 1940. Long time ago. It would be $1 million today. I was all over the town, so for the first time, I got a partner, Uncle Sam and he proved to be a very eager, greedy partner, and the more money I made, the more money I gave him. I began to see ways to invest money so that I had something to keep and I wrote off things and became tax conscious and I started something else. I wanted to know how business really worked. I never had money. I didn't know anything about money or anything about business. So when I would sell a show, I would say, if it was a big company, I would take "x" money, whatever the money is but I'd like to be on your board of directors, and so I have been on 15 or 18 boards all the way from huge boards like General Electric to very small boards, and I've been on the various audit committees. I watched the tax people preparing things.

KING: You did this by design?

LINKLETTER: By design, by design. I wanted to see how big business worked. And so I traveled, and I've been on the board of MGM and the board of Western Airlines for 23 years, and the board of Kaiser hospitals, and I'll go an own an and on.

KING: A lot of responsibility for that, being on the board of a company.

LINKLETTER: Yes, and I was on the board of MGM/Grand Hotel and the board of MGM/Grand movies. When Kerkorian met me on the board of Western Airlines and saw me on the board, one time he came up to me and he said, "Art," he said, "I'm thinking of taking over MGM" and I said, "you don't need it and I don't know why the hell you'd ever take it," but "would you be on the board with me at MGM?" he says. "Take your time." I said "No, I'll be on your board." He said, "why do you accept this?"

I said because eight years ago, "I couldn't get through the gates at MGM, and I want to drive through and park at the Thayer building and have all the tail kissing going on," and he laughed. He says, "I can understand."

KING: What a man he is.

LINKLETTER: Oh, Kerkorian is quite a guy.

KING: And why do you explain what keeps him, you, these guys going? He's out buying things, General Motors.

LINKLETTER: It's like being an inventor or a curious guy who writes novels or anything. You want to see what's the next thing's going to be like and at heart he's a gambler. He's a gambler and I'm not. I'm careful. I never gambled on anything I couldn't afford to lose.

KING: What was -- you invested in things.

LINKLETTER: All kinds of things.

KING: What was an Art Linkletter flop? What would you think would make it didn't?

LINKLETTER: Let me run down the list. Let me see. I thought that -- well, I had one big success.

KING: Hula-hoops.

LINKLETTER: The hula hoops.

KING: You liked that right away.

LINKLETTER: Yeah. Then I have another one where I have roller skates and I have another one where I have the "Game of Life," and then I have oil and gas, and i have had some big disappointments in oil and gas.

KING: You have?

LINKLETTER: Yeah, because I've dealt with wildcats.

KING: You say you're not a gambler. What's any bigger than speculative wildcats?

LINKLETTER: I never gambled any money I couldn't afford to.

KING: Playing with house money.

LINKLETTER: More than house money. There was a time back about 35 years ago when the highest tax you could trap -- bracket you could make was the 90 percent with state and federal. So I was playing on ten cent dollars when I bought a million acres of property in Australia, and made it into a big thing, it was with tax dollars. If they were going to tax you for 90 percent, I was going to get into oil, because you get not intangible write-off against all of the drilling expenses, seven-year write-off on all the equipment you have to buy, but the gas that comes in, and the oil that comes in, you get 15 percent tax free.

KING: You told me once, when I asked you about investments years ago in Miami, you were flying across Australia.


KING: And you looked down and said to someone with you, "Where are the motels?" and the guy said, "What's a motel?" and you went boing!

LINKLETTER: One time I was flying by a helicopter over Reno, over Salt Lake City, and I was up playing the state fair, and I was out at a dude ranch and the helicopter took me in to do a show at 2:00 or a show to do at 7:00. You ever done state fairs?


LINKLETTER: 15,000 people, 105 degrees, out in the open. Anyway, we were flying around town in a helicopter up in Salt Lake and I looked down, what are all of those garages down there with different colored doors. He says, it's the thing called a mini warehouse. People want to -- I said ...

KING: Storage.

LINKLETTER: And people moved out and they have smaller houses and they don't have sellers out here and they don't have, you know, and I said they do. So I said who builds them. What's the name of the guy? He says I don't know. I said find out for me. I came back and called my son, Jack and said we're going to build mini warehouses and we are still building them today.

KING: In L.A. and all over? LINKLETTER: Just built one in Long Beach and opened it, we built one in Tomesco (ph) and we're making plans to build over 40. So I was always on the curious. Always asking questions. Why does it work?

KING: Can't take it with you Art. We'll be right back with Linkletter. Don't go away.



BILL COSBY, ENTERTAINER: What's going to happen when Michael Jordan sees that you have on his shoes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, these are my shoes.

COSBY: No, no, you didn't say that to me, Miles. I asked you, I said whose shoes do you have on. You said Michael Jordan's. That's what you said, miles. Now these are Mr. Jordan's shoes. Did he give you permission to wear these?



KING: We're back with Art Linkletter. Bill Cosby took over and did a version of "Kid's Say the Darndest Things." Didn't quite work. A great talent, why?

LINKLETTER: In the first place, he didn't take offer. We offered it to him. I didn't want to do it and we were trying to sell it to CBS and ...

KING: He wanted it.

LINKLETTER: CBS said how about Bill Cosby? I said he wouldn't do it. He's got a lot of shows. He's living in the East. You don't want to do it out here and I don't know, he's worked with kids well, but they're all professionals doing commercials. They said why don't we see? He was a big name and we got along very well when I met him.

KING: Great guy.

LINKLETTER: So we put him on, and Bill is a funny guy, and he thinks funny but he will never be a great interviewer of children, because he is first and foremost and always will be a standup comic. He gets the laughs. He needs the laughs, and he's going to get them. And we know like you, let the other people talk, like you're letting me talk.

KING: You want the kids to be funny.

LINKLETTER: I want the kids to be funny. So I would sit there and say oh, this kid said something great. Follow it, follow it, but he'd go in some other direction at times. But he did pretty well but it was never like me and he would used to say to me the biggest load I'm carrying is you.

KING: Was it hard for you to leave the business, to leave broadcast?

LINKLETTER: No, because I had -- no, it wasn't, because I was pushed out of it.


LINKLETTER: A tragedy.

KING: Your daughter's death?

LINKLETTER: My daughter's death.

KING: Jumped out of a window, right?

LINKLETTER: Yes, on LSD. The death of my daughter ...

KING: How old was she?

LINKLETTER: She was 20. Beautiful girl, lovely girl, and in the midst of my unbelievable hurting and pain, Norman Vincent Peale, the great minister of the Marble Collegiate Church, good friend of mine called up and said I know what you're going through. A minister tries to console, consort and sympathize, and explain why a loving, kind God would permit somebody in a wonderful family, a nice family to have this happen.

He said, but Art, he said, he may have some other plan. He may have a plan for you. I said what do you mean a plan for me? He said you are accepted by the American family as a part of them. You're not a Hollywood -- runabout, you know, and - I was going to say frequently married but sorry, and the ...

KING: I'll let that slide.

LINKLETTER: And he said, "Why don't you start a private personal crusade to convince parents that they are in the front line trenches and the epidemic of drug abuse that is rapidly descending upon this country." And I talked it over with my wife and we decided it was a very tough thing to do to go out and talk about it and I knew very little about it but I learned a lot, went around with some very good people and I began to lecture here and there on drug abuse.

And I found out that all of this radio stuff and all of this television stuff was just a preparation for me being a lecturer. I enjoyed lecturing more than all radio and TV. You they don't have the same size but they're there. You know what it's like. And so I did that for -- I just kind of slowly got out of everything else, and I, then I began to get offers of helping other people, Worldvision came to me and said will you be our spokesman and travel all over the world with the camera crew and take pictures of hurting children and hurting grownups in Africa and India and China and Indonesia and all of these places and for the next year or two, I was doing that and for coming back and they were being .... KING: You never really get over the death of a child though do you?

LINKLETTER: No. But when you have four other children, as we had, and then later we lost another one.

KING: Natural causes?

LINKLETTER: Automobile accident.

KING: Who was that?


KING: How old was he?

LINKLETTER: He was about 30. Left me three more but now I have of course 8 grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren which has made up for it but that got me over into lecturing and lectures got me over into what I love to do. Now I don't think of going back even though I'm trying to resell to Nick at Night now.

KING: What?

LINKLETTER: "Kids Say the Darndest Things." I can't tell you who we're talking to but it's an interesting guy. He might make it.

KING: To host it?

LINKLETTER: To host it.

KING: We'll be right back with Art Linkletter. Don't go away.


KING: We're back with Art Linkletter. Since you have had tragedy, any advice you can offer to people who lose the toughest thing of all? To lose someone younger than you?

LINKLETTER: I'm glad you added "younger than you." It isn't natural for a parent to outlive his children.

KING: Correct.

LINKLETTER: To older folks, I've already told that you, you put on your emphasis on his life, if he's 60 or 70, there's something good to talk about. A young person -- You have to think -- time helps, only time really helps, but you have to think what you owe other children as I did. I had four other children and I couldn't just sink into a bottomless attitude of tragedy, because that ruins a whole family, and so I'm trying to brighten them up and console them, they lost a brother and sister, and then as you go along I say this when I'm talking to many, many couples who have lost children because they've come to me and I say, he was 12 years of age when you lost him and it's tragic. Thinking back to those 12 years, which would be rather do, never have had him at all or paid the price of this sadness at his death, but remembering those wonderful 12 years when you took him to the first roller coaster. When you went on the picnic, get out the old pictures. Don't push him into your background, lock the bedroom door but open it up, and weigh the delights of being a parent, which are wonderful, along with the problems, and that's the answer.

KING: When you look at someone like John Walsh, whose son is killed.

LINKLETTER: Look what he's done. Look what he's done. Most people don't have the ability or the lucky circumstance to be able to do big things like he does or like I did, in all the millions of dollars I've raised and still do because I speak 60, 80 times a year, raising money for Christian schools and for hospitals and for drug abuse, and for all the rest of it still. It gives you marvelous feeling of caring and for people, and things that matter. You know, you and I spend, and I think our lives have been parallel in many ways, handling funny stuff and light stuff, and entertaining stuff, but when you get into the field of really the people who are hurting deeply, and you can help them, it gives you a new life.

KING: I know with the Cardiac Foundation.

LINKLETTER: Of course what you do there. I don't have to tell you.

KING: Nothing beats that.

LINKLETTER: Nothing beats that.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with Art Linkletter. A joy to always have him with us. Don't go away.


LINKLETTER: I believe this is the way to spend your later years, doing things, being active, good for your heart and lungs and of course good for the spirit, close to God with the views to inspire and exhilarate you and fun in your 70s. That's what I say everybody should look forward to.



KING: Guess what's being reissued, folks, as we come back in our final segment? "Kids Say the Darndest Things," Art Linkletter, introduction by Bill Cosby, illustrated by the late Charles Schultz, the creator of "Peanuts." This is collections of some of the brightest, funniest, double entendre unintended things ever said in American broadcasting coming out again from Celestial Arts. "Kids Say the Darndest Things."

LINKLETTER: Thank you. KING: You're building a resort?

LINKLETTER: Yes, Myrtle Springs, Myrtle Beach. Going to be a 57-acre proposition with a hotel and water world and a planetarium that's being built in Germany just with special characters so the children can come and sleep in it overnight and see the stars moving in the sky.

KING: You don't need the money.

LINKLETTER: I know it. I don't care about the money. I'm leaving money to you.

KING: That's right. I forgot I'm in your will.

LINKLETTER: Of course.

KING: Push him back over the chair. No, you don't need the money so is there a driving thing?

LINKLETTER: Of course. I'm interested in things and I get hooked into them. And I really shouldn't say this but my wife told me one time, she says, if you've been a girl, you'd have been a prostitute. You say yes to everything. Oh, yes, wasn't that a great idea? I'm in the solar energy up to my neck. I'm the chairman of the board of an international solar energy company who is going to revolutionize energy, electricity, which is the basis of industry.

KING: You have never thought of just retiring?

LINKLETTER: Oh, no, I'm not tired, so why should I retire?

KING: Never thought, never entered your mind?

LINKLETTER: Not in the least. What would I do? I don't have hobbies. You know.

KING: You don't play golf?

LINKLETTER: No, everybody I play golf with is mad all the time.

KING: You couldn't live in Somerset Arms, Phoenix?

LINKLETTER: Listen, I speak at all of these places. Great places, wonderful places for people to live, but they don't have my curiosity, my drive, I mean my going to Washington for the seniors and talking to the president, and all of the things that I love to do. Gosh. I swim still. She can't sell my swimming pool.

KING: What's the secret of the marriage, longevity?

LINKLETTER: Pick the right girl.

KING: That was lucky, though right?

LINKLETTER: I think it's lucky now, but .... KING: How did you meet?

LINKLETTER: Dance. High school dance. She was a senior in high school and I was a big shot senior in college.

KING: Canada?

LINKLETTER: No, San Diego where we grew up. My folks moved to San Diego so that the other people might not have remorse and come looking for us. So they didn't leave ...

KING: You met her in high school?

LINKLETTER: Yeah. And I was a terrific dancer. I got to say that.

KING: You cut a rug.

LINKLETTER: And it was free, one thing, and it was a dance, and she could reverse pivot well. I didn't let that get away from me. Very few reverse pivoters.

KING: Reverse pivot.

LINKLETTER: It's easy to pivot normally. Try pivoting the other way.

KING: Love at first sight?

LINKLETTER: No, no. I was a sophisticated world traveler. I'd been a sailor. I'd been hobo. She had been a home girl. She had a normal life. I had an abnormal life. Her mother didn't know what to make of me.

KING: You were a hobo, do that next time.

LINKLETTER: Yeah. You ever wanted to try it? It's great.

KING: No thanks. "Kids Say the Darndest Things" is being republished, collection of all of the best from one of the greats. Ark Linkletter, the host of "House Party," "People are Funny" and one of the renaissance men. 93 years old Sunday, July 17th.

Thanks for joining us. NEWSNIGHT WITH AARON BROWN is next.


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