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Art Linkletter, the genial host who parlayed his talent for the ad-libbed interview into two of television’s longest-running shows, “People Are Funny” and “House Party,” in the 1950s and 1960s, died on Wednesday at his home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. He was 97.
The death was confirmed by Art Hershey, a son-in-law.
From his early days as an announcer on local radio and a roving broadcaster at state fairs, Mr. Linkletter showed a talent for ingratiating himself with his subjects and getting them to open up, often with hilarious results.
He was particularly adept at putting small children at ease, which he did regularly on a segment of “House Party,” a reliably amusing question-and-answer session that provided the material for his best-selling book “Kids Say the Darndest Things!”
Television critics and intellectuals found the Linkletter persona bland and his popularity unfathomable. “There is nothing greatly impressive, one way or the other, about his appearance, mannerisms, or his small talk,” one newspaper critic wrote. Another referred to his “imperishable banality.”
Millions of Americans disagreed. They responded to his wholesome, friendly manner and upbeat appeal. Women, who made up three-quarters of the audience for “House Party,” which was broadcast in the afternoon, loved his easy, enthusiastic way with children.
Editorial Comment: I came to appreciate Art Linkletter greatly in recent years. I liked him for his positive, timeless outlook, helping seniors, living life to the fullest, life extension, a man of many talents. What he was most known for, his TV show ‘Kids Say The Darndest Things’ may have been a bit contrived and pre-arranged when we look back, but perhaps that was the programming then; again, I liked the man who overcame tragedy to be one of the last Will Rogers, if you will. He backed up his healthy approach to life, living 97 years. I was hoping he might go on forever; no such luck. Who will replace him? Steve Allen was not as positive re. living in today’s society yet told it like it was and I admired him for that, when most people todaoy go with the current, often classless trends; we lost him early , at 78, a few years ago. Paul Harvey left us acouple years ago; they tried but nobody could replace him on his radio show, though Huckaby is making a valiant effort on a similar project. Your comments welcomed… BK
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