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CNN Larry King Live

Interview with Art Linkletter

Aired July 26, 2002 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight -- Art Linkletter. He just turned 90. Can you believe it? He says it's better to be over the hill than under the hill. This straight-talking conservative tells us how he coped with the tragic deaths of two children, stayed married to the same woman for more than 60 years and went from being a hobo by choice to one of America's best-loved broadcasters ever. Art Linkletter for the hour next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Happy birthday.


KING: What's it like to be 90?

LINKLETTER: I prefer to call it the 40th anniversary of my 50th birthday.

KING: What is it like?

LINKLETTER: It feels...

KING: No one thinks they are going to be 90.

LINKLETTER: No, no, they don't feel -- I feel so much younger inside. Now I know from experience I can't do the things I used to do. For instance, now when I ski, I ski from 10:00 to 2:00, not from 9:00 to 5:00. But as far as sex is concerned, I can still talk about it for hours.

KING: When you were like 40, 50, did you think you'd be 90?

LINKLETTER: No. In the first place, I knew that the average child born when I was born in 1912 lived to be 47. That was the average age I could expect to be.

KING: So you've doubled your expectancy?

LINKLETTER: I have done more than doubled that, and I'm ready to start on my triple. Because after all, being over the hill is better than being under it.

KING: I know. But you didn't expect it?

LINKLETTER: No, no, I didn't think about it. When you are young, you don't think about dying. As a matter of fact, when you are young and really young, in your 20s, you don't think about anything bad happening to you, which is why so many kids get into drugs, get into trouble, and you can tell them over and over what's going to happen if their health and mental capacity is hurt. They don't really believe it. Nobody believes that.

KING: What do you get someone? What kind of presents do you get at 90, when you have got everything? I mean, you don't need a dollar. What do you get?

LINKLETTER: I got the darndest present this morning. At 6:00 o'clock in the morning, I was awakened by a telephone call from Texas, my oil drilling partner, Jeff Rand (ph), told me we hit a major gas field in southern Texas. Now, there is no better present than that, because a gas field is one that lasts 10, 15, 20 years. So for the next 15 or 20 years, I can go anywhere, do anything I want.

KING: Art, you don't need it, do you? So what is the kick of it?

LINKLETTER: The kick of it...

KING: Whether that came in or didn't come in don't change your life one iota.

LINKLETTER: No, but why am I in many businesses?

KING: Why?

LINKLETTER: I'm in real estate -- because it's growing, it's learning, it's taking...

KING: It's not the money.

LINKLETTER: Now, the oil and gas business is the only place I gamble. I can go to Vegas, not put a quarter in a machine or a dollar on anything, and I don't gamble, poker, anyplace. But I am fascinated by the combination in the oil business and gas business that you have science, you have experience, you have engineering, you have the market, but is it there? You can test it and show that it should be there. There's a reservoir there.

KING: And two geologists could disagree.

LINKLETTER: But at 18,000 feet, which is five miles deep, you don't know whether that place is gone, the oil has migrated.

KING: Is that called wild catting? What is that called?

LINKLETTER: Wild catting. Yes.

KING: That's real rolling dice, though.

LINKLETTER: And a real wild catter in Texas is the kind of a guy that would come to you and say, look, Art, I got a sure thing. We know it's there. Mortgage the farm. And he does the whole thing and you get a dry hole. And he says, Art, we got a dry hole. But we learned from that hole that if you just drilled 150 yards upstream, or uphill, you're going to get one. And they live and die by that. And it's fun, exciting.

KING: Back to 90. You don't feel 90?




KING: Here's what Bill Cosby's office sent us from Mystic Sea concerning you. "Art claims he and his wife never fight. But a few times, things have gotten a bit heated. That's when Art says, if you don't stop what you're doing right now, I'm going to kill you. Since Art's wife is still alive and he's not in jail and the marriage is intact after more than 6 1/2 decades, his laying down the law is clearly the secret for his successful husband/wife relationship."

LINKLETTER: Well, that's kind of...

KING: Bill Cosby, who succeeded you with "Kids Say the Darndest Things."

LINKLETTER: Yes, and I produced the show. Incidentally, that's kind of a joke, you know. The real secret to the fact we've never had a serious argument in 66 years of marriage...


LINKLETTER: I always say yes to anything she says.

KING: So how do you stay happy?

LINKLETTER: Oh, that's happy. She's happy -- when she's happy, I'm happy.

KING: That works for you?

LINKLETTER: Yeah. Why not say yes.

KING: The reason -- we get serious for a second. Your children were killed, one through drugs, jumping out of a window, a girl, and a son killed by an auto accident?

LINKLETTER: A stupid car accident where somebody just lost control of their car, came across on a highway on a plain day, ran head-on into him.

KING: No matter what the age, a child is always a child to you.

LINKLETTER: Oh, yes, yes.

KING: How do you deal with that?

LINKLETTER: Well, in the first place, everybody first of all denies it could happen, even if you saw it happen.

KING: So you're in denial? You go in denial?

LINKLETTER: You go into denial. Then after denial, you go into a stage where you're cursing the Lord and you're cursing the world and you're cursing the people who are involved in any way, shape or form, and you are angry. You're angry. You've lost one of the most precious things in your life.

And then, of course, if you are a thinking person and you have matured properly, you say, this could happen to almost anybody, and I've had her for 20 years, I've had him for 25 or 30 years. Was a wonderful child. It wasn't my fault. I wasn't derelict. I wasn't a bad parent. Because the third, the fourth thing you do somewhere along the line is blame yourself. All parents tend to look for something. Why did I give him the car? Why did I let him enlist in the Marine Corps? Why did I let him go out and have an apartment of his own?

KING: Where did I go wrong?

LINKLETTER: Even if it's not being a drunk yourself or being a bad person.

KING: How do you, though, deal with pain?

LINKLETTER: The pain just wears out. You wear it out.

KING: Time heals?

LINKLETTER: Time heals it. And for the first year or two, you burst into tears at times when you run into a reminder of it, and then the Lord kind of heals you.

KING: And you used your daughter's death to fight drugs, right?

LINKLETTER: That was a thing I had. I was called by Norman Vincent Peal (ph). And he said, Art, as a minister, I can tell you there is no answer that I can give as to why the Lord took her away. But in your case, there may be a cause that he has for you, and that is to go out and build a memorial in Diane's name by teaching parents what the dangers of overcoming drug abuse are. And I did it for 15 years.

KING: Art Linkletter is 90, and we're celebrating it on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE, and we'll be right back.


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

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Buttoning my pants.

LINKLETTER: How are you?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Fine, I'm fine, thank you. LINKLETTER: You're all in red. And let me see your eyes. Why, your hair is -- what happened to your hair?

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


UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: I look like an idiot.




PHYLLIS DILLER, COMEDIAN: Oh, you are something else. You are so brilliant and so warm and wonderful and still working at your age, 90. That's a biggie. And some people might say, well, who would want to be 90? And I say, anyone who is 89. Happy birthday, my precious Art.


KING: Phyllis Diller, toasting Art Linkletter on his 90th. How long do you go back? You and her friends a long time?

LINKLETTER: Oh, yes. Twenty or 30 years. We have, she's -- it's her birthday, too, you know, July 17. We exchange idiotic and rather ugly cards every year.

KING: Little older man, though?

LINKLETTER: Oh, yes. Yes. It isn't like the kid, I said to him, what's your birthday, and he said August 3, and I said what year? He says every year.

Her birthday and mine, and she's an old friend. We have -- personally, socially.

KING: Someone once said to me when they turned 80 that aging is a bitch. You've never regarded it that way, right?

LINKLETTER: No, but I really think 80 was the time in my life when I seriously thought, I'm beginning to get old because 80 is the first formidable number.

KING: Sounds old!

LINKLETTER: Seventy I went through, 60 I was busy skiing and traveling, but 80, I never even gave thought to 90.

KING: So is 90 like a gift?

LINKLETTER: Yes. Wonderful. Eighty was a kind of a little bump. KING: Do you expect to make 100?

LINKLETTER: Yes. Now I expect...

KING: Is your health good?

LINKLETTER: My health is fine. I have a few little bumpy things. I have a little high blood pressure. I occasionally have gout if I'm not careful. But I'll make 100, because science tells us now that the toughest years for chronic serious diseases as you mature is from 70 to 90. Then there -- if you make 90, for instance, you probably will not get AIDS.

KING: Well thought out.

LINKLETTER: There you are.

KING: If you have prostate cancer, it's dead and buried.

LINKLETTER: And if you have prostate cancer if you're over 90, they probably won't even operate because something else will get you before that.

KING: You'll die with it, not of it.

LINKLETTER: Also you probably won't die in a car wreck where you're driving, because you have more brains about what you're doing. A kid, the dangerous time for kids driving is from 18 to 24.

KING: You won't be shot by a jealous husband.

LINKLETTER: Going out a window. That's a good idea. I wouldn't mind being missed by one.

KING: But you have lost none of our faculties, right?


KING: Luckily you've avoided the aging process that leads to memory...

LINKLETTER: Yes. As a matter of fact. a good friend of mine, Gary Small, who is a psychiatric man and the head of the UCLA Center on Aging, has written a book that I read constantly, called the memory bible.

It is a bible on memory. The kind of food you should eat, the kind of -- for instance, I take vitamin E and I take C, and such things as drinking lots of water, and memory exercises, like crossword puzzles, using the left side of your brain. He has it all outlined.

And I look at it every once in awhile and see if I'm doing those things, because I'm doing them. I'm lecturing every day, every week.

KING: What have we learned about what has hit your dear friend Ronald Reagan? What have we learned about that? LINKLETTER: Well, we've learned that he has a disease that happens at about one percent at 60, and is 50 percent chance of happening to you when you hit the middle 80s. Fifty percent chance. And it comes from a trauma. It comes from genetics. If you have two different kinds of things with your mother and father called APOA 3 and APOA 4, which I will not tell you about, because I don't understand it at all...

KING: Is the Alzheimer's patient in pain?

LINKLETTER: No, no, he's not in pain. As a matter of fact, right now I talk to Nancy quite often, she's an old friend of mine.

KING: Me, too. Yes.

LINKLETTER: You know, she was married to me at one time in a movie for an hour-and-a-half.

We made a movie together. We were married in the movie. But, anyway, he is in great physical shape.

KING: Which will keep him going?

LINKLETTER: Yes, that's the problem. I had one person, a famous, famous person, I won't mention by name, a lady whose husband had it, and she came to me one day and she said John had pneumonia last month, but he got well. Isn't that sad? Because he wasn't living life. He was a vegetable, and pneumonia might have taken him off.

And no hurt, no pain. You just kind of go to sleep. And she said -- and she loved him -- she says, isn't it a shame? He's still with us and not -- doesn't know who we are.

And for the caregiver it's especially bad because you're not thanked, you're not recognized, you're not loved. As a matter of fact, some women are loved -- you may not know this -- by the husband who knows that sexual activity feels good, but it might as well be hamburger.

KING: Yes.

LINKLETTER: And, you know, see what I mean? Think how that would be. To love the man that you love and have no foreplay, no romance, no love you, no thank you, just bang, bang, thank you, Ma'am.

KING: What's it like, though, when you are 90, most of your friends have died?

LINKLETTER: That's one of the worst things. One of the worst things.


Oh, yes, and he didn't live long enough to realize how many can go. I had a call -- I had a call from the president of the University of -- San Diego State University a few months ago. And he said, Art, he said, you don't have an honorary doctorate from us.

I said, I have 14 of them. Please, no more. He says, come on down. He says your old classmates, get the, we'll dig them up and have a party and dinner. And I said that's how you're going to have to get them.

They're all -- they're all dead.

KING: Is it hard to see them go?

LINKLETTER: Yes. Thank goodness my wife is in good health, goes everywhere with me, takes good care of me. And, you know, sees to it -- put your shoulders back. Get a haircut.

KING: Do you -- one of the things you've always talked about, which Norman Cousins used to talk about, is laughter.


KING: Laughter brings -- good things happen in your body when you laugh.

LINKLETTER: Yes, and they start up here in the brain. They're called endorphins. And the endorphins are manufactured by your brain, and they're like a morphine or cocaine...

KING: They're air high.

LINKLETTER: They're a high, and 100 times more powerful than cocaine. But very, very tiny amounts. They are the things that are manufactured naturally when you see your daughter walking down the aisle to get married to somebody you like, or when an old friend comes and visits you and you hug each other.

It's that feeling of goosebumps up and down you that comes from feeling -- it's from laughter. When you have a good laugh, you manufacture endorphins, and they make you feel good.

As a matter of fact, I say in my lectures to people, when I'm talking in a retirement home, I say look, maybe you don't have anything to laugh at, you don't read anything. Here's a thing. When you get up in the morning tomorrow, take off your clothes and go stand in front of a mirror. Your endorphins will be just firing because it's so ridiculous.

KING: Are nursing homes getting better? I know you don't have to live in one.

LINKLETTER: Nursing homes are very good for some, and some nursing homes are poor. They should be examined very carefully, surprise visits, and...

KING: By Medicare people who pay them.

LINKLETTER: Yes, and so -- but nursing homes are not being used as much. KING: We're get a geriatric lesson tonight and a lesson on longevity from Art Linkletter, who is now 90. He's in that exclusive club, by the way.

LINKLETTER (singing): Say it again.

KING: Ain't too many in it. We'll be back with more on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE 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 MALE: I'd be Papa Bear because I could eat honey and Goldilocks would be sleeping in my bed.

LINKLETTER: Roxanne Burns (ph), 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 turn -- how did he make the wine?


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




PAT BOONE: Hey, Art. What in the world do you say to a guy who's older than Social Security, and who's, well, in my case, my great-great-great-great-grandfather Daniel Boone told me that you were always his favorite entertainer. You really are a great man, a great example to all of us, and I honor you tonight.


KING: Isn't that nice?

LINKLETTER: Isn't that nice? Pat Boone. We've been friends for 40 years or so...

KING: Daniel Boone was his great-great -- you know, they were related.

LINKLETTER: Yes, I know they were.

KING: They are family. And he was a fan of yours, Daniel.

By the way, with your abilities and your mind, don't you miss being on television regularly, hosting?


KING: Because you could do it.


KING: Maybe you couldn't do it daily, but you could do it.

LINKLETTER: You know, I don't like television so much these days. I like your show and I like a few other shows. I'm not saying (UNINTELLIGIBLE) because you have interesting people.

But TV is so commercial. When I was on, you know, we did 26 minutes a show and three minutes of commercial. Now it's 22 minutes of show and eight minutes of commercial, and the two or three minutes of commercial is made up of eight commercials, with the cars flying through the window and angels arriving, and they come back, they don't even remember you.

When I was on the air, I did the commercials.

KING: Are any of the old "House Parties" and the like still shown?


KING: None of those old TV Land networks don't have them?


I'll tell you a funny story: When I first came to Hollywood and became well known, Jack Benny was a friend of mine. And he said Art, there's something you've got to understand about being in Hollywood and being a star; see, you're a star now, you don't do commercials. What are you doing selling? I said, I'm making the guy who pays the bill very, very happy, because when I'm on, they don't know the show is off. The first time Lucy and Desi on a big hit that they were, they took the commercial off and put an announcer on, all of the power companies all over the united states thought there were breaks in the water lines.

KING: Same principle...


KING: Why don't you let me do the commercial so people keep watching?

LINKLETTER: That's right. And as a result of that, I was on one show for 19 years and another show for 26 years. I had Kellogg for 12 years, General Electric...

KING: But it never took away from your credibility.

LINKLETTER: No it didn't. And I did commercials that were believable. Today the commercials -- sometimes I look at commercial on TV, I don't know what they're selling.

KING: A lot of dot-com companies, I don't know what they're selling.

LINKLETTER: I don't know what they're selling.

The other thing is that there seems to be a growing number of television viewers, because of the ratings, who want scatological, pornographic, miserable things. You have shows with dysfunctional families -- you know what I'm talking about, Springer or...

KING: Or you want screaming or hollering or...

LINKLETTER: Or terrible stories of things that are happening to them, and they're just wallowing in this. And there's more than one that does that.

KING: So a "House Party" couldn't succeed today?

LINKLETTER: I don't think so. And don't forget, my "House Party" was about one-tenth stars, and the rest was in the audience. Nobody does that. I just walk out in the audience and make up a show.

KING: I'd love to do that.

LINKLETTER: And I'd say -- you could do it.

I'd say, anybody here been married lately or come from someplace?

KING: Go with it.

LINKLETTER: Just go with it. And you find out all kinds of things. I said to a woman, anybody get -- fall in love under unusual circumstances? And a blonde lady put her hand up. I walked over to her, I said, what happened? She said, well, I'm a ecdysiast.

I said, ecdysiast? And of course I'm didn't know what it was either. And I said, I'm so sorry, what are you doing for?

No, no, she says, ecdysiast is a stripper, she says. So I was working on a stage and I had a great finish to my act. She says, I ran off the stage and I had dangling from my breasts two fireworks- soaked...

KING: Pinwheels.

LINKLETTER: Pinwheels. And when I came out and I walked up the aisle, one of them was going one way and one of them was going the other. She says, I got up a few steps and the one on the right fell off, whirled down and landed in a man's lap.

She says, oh, he began yelling, and I jumped off. And by the time we beat out the flames, we were in love.

True story. You can't make it up.

And all of the other things. You and I have hundreds of stories about...

KING: I love working with people.

LINKLETTER: Just people. But you don't see that anywhere anymore.

KING: Or kids.

LINKLETTER: Yes, or kids either.

KING: Is anybody working with kids?

LINKLETTER: Yes, I never talked to kids before we just went on the air.

KING: But now they have kids' channels -- Nickelodeon and...

LINKLETTER: And of course, they will take kids and they will interview kids that are really good.

I had any kids that arrived.

KING: Everyday kids.

LINKLETTER: I only had one kid I remember I love. I used to ask him, why do you think the teacher in your school picked you out of the whole class to be one of the four out here?

This little boy, about 7, looked up: He says, I'm the smartest kid in the room. I said, did the teacher tell you that? He says no, I noticed it myself.

KING: Remember the kid who said my mommy -- my daddy goes away on business two days a week and my uncle comes to sleep with my mommy, but he isn't really my uncle.

And that was live television, folks.

LINKLETTER: And they never cut us off, because in those days censorship was strict.

But the children were saying it out of innocence.

KING: Did you ever host something you didn't like?

LINKLETTER: Yes. I hosted a show in San Francisco on radio called "What Do You Think" from the basement of the Telenews (ph) Theater on Market Street. And I would take the hottest news in the -- that day, and I would go in the audience. They were all a news audience, so they were interested in news, and asked them what they though of it.

KING: What's wrong with that?

LINKLETTER: I got nuts who got me into all kinds of trouble.

KING: Oh, in the audience.

LINKLETTER: In the audience.

They weren't screened. And they would say, the immigration department of the United States are all criminals, they should all be put in jail and they're a bunch of bastards. And as a result, they examined who I was, and the immigration department had me up for trial.

KING: Ever turned down a show you regretted?

LINKLETTER: No, but there was...

KING: Didn't they come after you to do like -- things like "Truth or Consequences"?

LINKLETTER: Well, I did "People are Funny," which was the opposite number.

But I was -- I always dreamed of doing a show that I never got to do. That show was "60 Minutes." Now "60 Minutes" to me...


KING: ... "60 Minutes"?

LINKLETTER: I went to talk to Bill Paley, who was a buddy of mine, president of the company. And he was an admirer...

KING: That's going over the top there. LINKLETTER: I went to the top.

KING: You bet.

LINKLETTER: And I said Bill -- I used to call him Bill. I was carrying a show on his network every day for 26 years, he had some obligations too.

KING: You brought some income.

LINKLETTER: Made a lot of money.

Anyway, I said, I want to do just people and what they do.

KING: Oh, talk to regular people?

LINKLETTER: Regular people; one regular person I'll get, and we'll have his own ideas, not the prime minister of Australia, not so- and-so.

KING: One, just, person.

LINKLETTER: And he said, well that's a good idea Art, but you can't do it. And I said, why?

He said, because you're an entertainer first, and you do commercials second. And there's an iron wall in the news department against you doing -- he says Mike Wallace, he came to me, he was doing a quiz show.

He wanted to be in news. And he said, I want to be in news. He said, you'll have to take a big cut in salary and you'll have to start at the bottom. And he did it.

But I said, I don't want to do that.

KING: And no more Parliament cigarettes, Mike.

LINKLETTER: That's right.

KING: He was their spokesperson.

LINKLETTER: Of course, he's a guy who fights depression, too.

KING: Great guy.

LINKLETTER: Wonderful guy. You did a good interview with him the other night.

KING: Art Linkletter is our guest. He's 90!

We'll be right back.


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


LINKLETTER: Ah, you are an American. That's good, I'm glad you're thankful for that.

You know what an American is? What is an American?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Someone who lives in California.




LINKLETTER: The grounds are loaded with about 15,000 people who are specially invited guests of Walt Disney's. And they are 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: Yeah, 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 square.

REAGAN: Well, right out here in front of the depot, yes, for the main street and the parade itself.

LINKLETTER: We have lots to do. Get busy.



KING: We're back with Art Linkletter, who is now 90. By the way, are you afraid of dying?

LINKLETTER: No, I'm not afraid of dying. I'm afraid of the way I may die.

KING: You don't want to die horribly.

LINKLETTER: Yeah. I've lived a long time. I've done everything, gone everywhere, had everything. I just can't remember what it was now, but I' did have it.

KING: I suppose it's appropriate to ask in view of Ted Williams, do you want to be frozen?

LINKLETTER: Oh, no. Oh, no. KING: What do you care, you're dead?

LINKLETTER: Because they might possibly bring me back to life.

KING: What's wrong with that?

LINKLETTER: I don't want to be brought back to life and not know anybody and not know anything and maybe be sick. And you know never what's happened to the brain. There are many, many things you might be able to refrigerate a body to be come back, but we don't know what goes on in the brain.

KING: But wouldn't that ease the pain of dying, knowing, maybe?

LINKLETTER: No. No. And my only objection about possibly going to heaven is that I still don't know what I'm going to do up there. If I don't have something to do up there, I'm not sure I want to go.

KING: Do you believe in an after life?

LINKLETTER: Yes, I believe in it, because my father was a Baptist minister and he told me I damn well better believe it.

KING: But do you believe it in your gut, or do you question it?

LINKLETTER: I question it, but it's a big leap of faith. However, there ought to be some reason why we're here and there ought to be some reason why the universe has been built. Things we can't answer, powers that we don't know about.

But I really -- I've never been able to -- I asked Billy Graham. I said, "Billy, what are you going to do when you get to heaven?" He says, "the Lord will take care of it." I said, you know, "you won't be able to preach. Everybody already is there."

KING: You're talking to the choir.

LINKLETTER: And so what this really tells you is that I like to work. I have a passion for working.

KING: Why?

LINKLETTER: Because it's learning. It's living.

KING: It's not the money. You had enough money years ago.


KING: You had enough with the hoola hoop.


KING: Not known by many people.


KING: Linkletter backed the hoola hoop.

LINKLETTER: I had enough of -- I had enough of the game of life.

KING: Game of life.

LINKLETTER: One of the big games in the country.

KING: Motels in Australia, I remember that story.

LINKLETTER: Thank you, Reuben Kramer (ph), for bringing me in the game. And, by the way, I think learning means that you're adjusting to change. And I think the big thing people have to learn as they grow up -- and I say this at colleges -- you're going to have a lot of changes. Don't think you are just going to have a comfortable rot. I want to have change. I welcome it. And that's why going into new ventures of all kinds -- I've been in 35 businesses. I can tell you how to lose money almost in any direction you look.

KING: But the goal now when you have...


KING: ... is not money.

LINKLETTER: No, the goal is success and accomplishing something. And seeing if you can do it.

KING: What do you think of corporate America these days, or some of corporate America?

LINKLETTER: Some of America, I'm ashamed of them, and I've seen a lot of it in my life.

KING: Greed.

LINKLETTER: There's a certain percentage -- of course, the whole capitalistic system, you know, is built on greed.

KING: Let's face it, that's correct.

LINKLETTER: And greed means more and more. And you get more and more by knowing more and more before anybody else knows more and more. That's called inside knowledge.

KING: But there are rules of the playing field.

LINKLETTER: And there are rules of the playing field. But there are two kinds of rules when you get right down to it. There are legal rules and there's the ethical rules. And sometimes they blend, and that's where you have your problem. It isn't illegal to do something, but you know damn good and well it isn't right.

KING: Explain to me as someone -- as someone who has been fairly well off for a good degree of his life, why does someone with $40 million need $45? LINKLETTER: Because somebody else has $45 and you don't.

KING: And that's the reason?

LINKLETTER: And that's part of the reason. Part of the reason also is, if you are good at something, you want to show off. You want to be better. Whether it's talking or singing or making money or having a bigger house, some people have different ways of being better than the other people. But a lot of people have this insatiable desire.

One of my best friends was a millionaire named D.K. Ludwig (ph). He invented the supertanker. And I've traveled with him on his 185- foot yacht all over the world, and I used to ask Danny, "what the hell do you want with all that money?" He said, "it isn't the money, Art. That's the score." How am I doing? You don't see Shaq O'Neal stop shooting when it's 100-30. They want to beat them 140-30. And that desire, because the people that have it are not meek.

KING: But from that can come bad.

LINKLETTER: Can come bad, of course, of course. Now the Bible says that when the Lord comes back, the meek shall inherit the earth. And I want to be there and watch the un-meek get it all back in the next 10 years.

KING: But some people think that a rich person wrote that one line.


KING: Be good now, and later you'll get it.

LINKLETTER: He's a competitive person. If that same person had been a mile runner, he'd beat everybody in the world. How about this guy who was in a French race? He's won it three times. Why does he want to win it the fourth time? He wants to show them he's got it.

KING: Why does a guy want to fly a balloon around the world?

LINKLETTER: Yeah, there's another idea. So you can't blame people for wanting to excel in what they like or know best. And that brings you into excesses. And the minute you get into that, you get into going over the line to make sure you win. Maybe cheating a little so you're sure you'll win. And that's not good.

KING: Would you, if you were younger, had gone into space? Would you have gone if given the chance?


KING: I would have suspected you'd be the kind that would.

LINKLETTER: No. Because I knew a lot about -- John Glenn was a dear friend of mine, and he told me that most of the people who went up there were sick most of the time. I hate being sick. KING: Me, too.

LINKLETTER: And they're sick. They are upside down and backwards and floating around. Besides, there's no future up there.

KING: And you can't fly the spaceship when you come down.

LINKLETTER: Oh, nothing.

KING: And you can't invest in it.

LINKLETTER: That's right.

KING: What was the dumbest investment you ever had?

LINKLETTER: The dumbest thing I ever did was to sponsor a national chain of dance schools for children.

KING: Sounds bright.

LINKLETTER: Wonderful. Here was a man in town who had seven or eight dance schools and he had it all figured out, how to do it and it was successful. He came to me and he said, with your connection with the American family, we could have the dance school, Linkletter dance schools. We're going to franchise them.

Now here's something you should learn. Don't go into the franchise business unless you have complete control of the salesmen, because they'll sell your product, your service, whatever it is, to people, and then they leave and the people have been told that all you have to do is open the door and they're going to be rich. There's no work. And they do that, and then when it doesn't work, they call me, because my name's on it.

KING: But some franchises do work.

LINKLETTER: Oh, some do. And in selling the dance school, they said, look, children are dying to dance. Parents are dying to pay money. You just open the doors, put the name Linkletter on the front of it, and it didn't work that way. And then when they went broke, they threatened to sue me if I threatened to sue them in their town.

And it was a lesson. Don't put your name in the charge of people who are sales people and are not responsible people. They are just going to sell and move on.

KING: Art Linkletter is never dull, and he's 90 and we're celebrating it, and we'll be right back.


UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: One time there was God, and God made Adam out of dust, and then he put Adam to sleep and made Eve out of a rare rib. And then...

LINKLETTER: Out of what kind of a rib? UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Rare.

LINKLETTER: A rare rib?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: God said, Adam and Eve, don't eat the apple tree or I'll punish you. And then the devil came along and kind of hypnotized them.

LINKLETTER: Who took the first bite?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Adam. And Eve and Eve and Eve...

LINKLETTER: Oh, I bet God was mad?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Yeah, then God sent them to hell and they transferred them to Los Angeles.




ANN MILLER: Art, I remember when you wanted to learn to ski and you were in your 60s. And I said, you can't do that. That's hard. That's hard. You can't do that. It will kill you. You went out and got a man to work with you, and you started out on those little skis, and you gradually worked up to the big skis and you've been skiing ever since. Art, you are my kind of guy. I love you. Happy birthday, and many, many, many more.


KING: The great Ann Miller, one of the stars of the MGM musicals of years ago. What a dancer. Hey, you can ski. That looked pretty good.

LINKLETTER: Yeah, I'm a good skier. I ski black diamond trails. I don't do the bumps, the moguls.

KING: Why do you like skiing?

LINKLETTER: It's like dancing in the air. When you are skiing fast down the slope, you just put a little pressure on one side and you go to the other side, and it's just the speed, you're just flying.

KING: Changes in your life in the 90 years. What's the biggest change you've seen? Do you think, the computer age?

LINKLETTER: The biggest change probably is the more than the computer or the airplane or anything else, personally, is the addition of 30 years of life for the average person. The average person today is living to 77. When I was born, it was 47. Now, that's 30 years of life that we've been given.

KING: Boy, you're right. LINKLETTER: One of the reasons you never heard of Alzheimer's before 20 years ago was nobody lived that long.

KING: It's better than any invention.

LINKLETTER: It's better than anything. It's life.

KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) vitamins, exercise.

LINKLETTER: And lifestyle.

KING: Lifestyle.

LINKLETTER: Genes are important, but genes are more important in the first 30 or 40 years of your life, and then lifestyle is more important by far. For instance, you could have perfect genes and smoke three packs of cigarettes a day.

KING: I outlived my grandfather by 25 years.

LINKLETTER: If you can stop smoking.

KING: Stop smoking.

LINKLETTER: Yeah. There are so many things you can do in lifestyle. Get fat. Have you ever been to the airport lately and watched them waddle by? They say that 60 percent of the people in the United States are overweight, and there's about 15 or 20 percent who are obese, which means diabetes, joint problems, bone problems, and all kinds of things.

KING: Did you ever smoke?

LINKLETTER: Never smoked in my life.

KING: Never drank?

LINKLETTER: Because I -- I never smoked and I never drunk. I never smoked because I wanted to be a great athlete, and I was a very good athlete but not a great athlete. I couldn't afford to smoke and be a good athlete.

KING: You knew that then?

LINKLETTER: Yeah. I didn't drink because when prohibition came in and they out -- I mean, left, in 1929 or so, I went to a party and got drunk to celebrate. I was sick for three days, I threw up in the front yard in a certain place where nothing has grown. Nothing has grown on that ground for over 60 years. And that was enough. People will say, let's go out and get smashed. I say ohh.

KING: Me too. What changes don't you like? What's different today that Art Linkletter would say he wished wasn't here?

LINKLETTER: Vulgarity. I detest vulgarity.

KING: And you didn't see it in the '40s and '50s?

LINKLETTER: No, no, no, not at all. And of course, being a Baptist minister's kid, I've had lots of the right bringing up. But I see it all the way through life. It's kind of not just vulgarity of language, but giving the finger and all this stuff that goes on everywhere.

KING: Road rage.

LINKLETTER: Yes, road rage. All these things.

KING: Waste of time.

LINKLETTER: Makes me wonder. When I see the figures on the amount of money that pornography films make a year, more than the motion picture business.

KING: That's right.

LINKLETTER: You wonder what has happened to people's sense of what is right or wrong.

KING: Or you say somebody likes this.

LINKLETTER: Yeah, a lot of them. A lot of them.

KING: Now, you wouldn't make money in it, right? You wouldn't finance a pornographic?

LINKLETTER: I would not only not finance it, but I wouldn't take a big sponsor for any cigarette or any liquor or any other drug that was bad. Ever, for any amount of money. It's just against my -- I may be old-fashioned, but Steve Allen wrote a book called "Vulgarians at the Gate." And boy, what a book, because it takes tabloids, it takes records, it takes pictures, it takes everything and says, my God, what's happened.

KING: You were a hobo.


KING: What was that like?

LINKLETTER: It was wonderful.

KING: You hopped on trains?

LINKLETTER: Hopped on trains, rode them across the United States -- Chicago, Milwaukee.

KING: How did you get money? Doing odd jobs?

LINKLETTER: I would take any job in any town I was in. Never begged. I would take a job, I would come into Minneapolis, and go to the unemployment office, and they'd say, we've got an opening for a busboy in a nightclub, Le Chat Noir, the Black Cat, on the way to St. Paul. And I said, right here. And then I -- on my way there, I'd say, what in the hell is a busboy? I've never been in a nightclub. And I finally figured it out. A busboy helped the old people off the bus into the nightclub.

KING: Did you live on the trains and freight trains?

LINKLETTER: Yes. And I was upwardly mobile, because I moved from freight trains to passenger trains, which is much more skillful. And when I was in New York, I got a job -- I had one skill. I was a fast typist, 80 words a minute on a manual typewriter.

KING: How many hoboes can do that?

LINKLETTER: Very few. So I got a job in the DuPont (ph) collection department of the bond department of the National City Bank of New York on Wall Street in August of 1929. You know what happened in October? My fault. My fault. All of it.

KING: He caused it. We'll be back with our remaining moments on this historic occasion of his 90th birthday with Art Linkletter right after this.


LINKLETTER: What do you want to be when you grow up as a grown man?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: An actor and an artist.

LINKLETTER: An actor in motion pictures? Let me give you a little test. Have you ever done any acting?


LINKLETTER: Well, try it. Say "Art Linkletter" like you're mad.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Art Linkletter like you're mad!




DELLA REESE, ACTRESS: Happy birthday, Art, and thank you so much for all the joy that you've given us and all the fun and the laughs that you've given us and for the things that you did for me personally. God bless you and happy, happy birthday.


LINKLETTER: Isn't that nice?

KING: Della Reese.

LINKLETTER: She co-starred with me on a PBS show on aging. She was a minister now, you know?

KING: I know.

LINKLETTER: And sweet, sweet lady. Marvelous.

KING: What's some of the good things about aging?

LINKLETTER: The good things about aging are you become more tolerant and more loving, more caring because you've been bumped around. You've had some troubles and you know how tough life can be.

Your family, if you are lucky, is growing up and they are the central thing of your life. On the lighter side, if you are old and you're in a hostage situation, you're more likely to be among those released first.

KING: Good way -- hey, never thought of that. Let the old guy out!

LINKLETTER: And if you are in a retirement home, and you meet a -- you're a widower and you meet a widow lady and you get married and go on a honeymoon, Medicare will pay half the expenses.

KING: I love older people at times because they don't care. I mean, they have nothing to lose.

LINKLETTER: That's why they give great interviews.

KING: I was in an old age home. My mother's -- my wife's grandmother was dying. She's in an old age home in Utah. And I'm walking out, and there's a guy sitting in the lobby, must be 98.

He's just sitting like this and looks up and says, "Larry King, big deal."

I wanted to hug him. You know, he looked at me like that. What does he care?

LINKLETTER: My favorite story in a nursing home, a little old lady with Alzheimer's, I gave her a picture. She looked up at me quizzically and I said, do you know who I am?

She says no, but if you'll go to the front desk they'll tell you.


KING: You like the fact that you brought so much joy to so many people?

LINKLETTER: Oh, it's great.

KING: You also bring joy to the people who worked with and for you, and let's bring a few of them out, as we surprise Art a little.

Coming in are Irv Atkins (ph), his producer, director and partner, has been with Art for 60 years. His wife, Ida Mae Atkins (ph), and Lee Ray (ph), his executive secretary, has been with him for 54 years, is going to come out, and where's Barbara? Your Barbara?


LINKLETTER: Hello, Barbara.

KING: Oh, Lee Ray -- Ida Mae didn't make it. Lee Ray made it.

LINKLETTER: Lee Ray made it.


KING: So we got Irv. We got Lee Ray, your executive secretary for 54 years. The job is hanging by a thread, and Barbara, the newcomer, only seventeen-and-a-half years. And your cake.

LINKLETTER: And Irv Atkins, who started as a gopher and became a producer and a partner.

KING: These people love you, Art. Isn't that nice to know?

LINKLETTER: Well, I love them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's family. Without him, we have nothing.

KING: How did you keep a secretary for all that time?

LINKLETTER: I bribe her. I tell her, look, she says, I don't have enough time. I says take Friday off. She says I don't see enough people, take Thursday off. I'm working too hard, go home at 3:00.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He never gets mad. Never. We have a beautiful -- I can't wait to get to the office in the morning.

LINKLETTER: But I keep her, and even she shows up and says hello and goes home.

KING: Never gets mad?


KING: You've never seen him get angry at you?


KING: Barbara, what's it like as a newcomer? Seventeen-and-a- half years?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, when I came to work for Art it was a thrill. My grandparents, my mom -- Art Linkletter! It's fantastic.

LINKLETTER: You see, Larry, the two things that are important is to do what you love to do and be with the people you love.

KING: Here's a great question for you as we approach the end -- the end of the show, Art. Don't panic. LINKLETTER: Oh, thanks.

KING: Because -- what's your goal at 90?

LINKLETTER: My goal at 90 is to go on doing what I'm doing and doing it better. I love to speak. It's a great joy of my life.

KING: Never going to retire?

LINKLETTER: Never going to retire.

KING: In other words, you're never going to go into Lee Ray one day and say, Lee, pack it in.

LINKLETTER: Here's why -- here was the way I feel, and I finish some of my talks with this.

I never want to be what I want to be, because there's always something out there yet for me. I get a kick out of living in the here and now, but I never want to feel I know the best way how, because there's always one hill higher with a better view, something waiting to be learned I never knew.

So until my days are over, never fully fill my cup, let me go on growing, growing up.

KING: Happy birthday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Happy birthday, Art.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Happy birthday, Art.

KING: Art Linkletter. What can we say? He's 90. He's an American treasure.

"NEWSNIGHT" with Aaron Brown is next. I'm Larry King. Thanks for joining us and good night.