"I was Oprah before there was Oprah" - Art Linkletter
That, of course, is debatable - but there's no debating that Art Linkletter was a television legend, and he has died at age 97. This will be my first attempt at an obituary, so please bear with me...
Art was born Gordon Arthur Kelly in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada. His name was changed to Arthur Gordon Linkletter when he was adopted after his birth parents abandoned him. His career in broadcasting involved everything from quiz shows to talent shows to guest hosting The Tonight Show. One of his most popular shows in its time was a stunt show called People Are Funny, which he may not have been the first host of (that was Art Baker) but he quickly became the one people associated with the show. Art hosted that show on radio and television for seventeen years (1943 to 1960) - but it still wasn't the show that made him a legend. That was House Party, which he hosted on radio and television from 1945 to 1969. It was there that he developed the schtick that will forever be associated with him - "Kids Say The Darndest Things."
Oh, come on...you must of at least heard that phrase!
Seriously, if you've never heard of any of this - well, I can't say I'm surprised. Art was one of those old-time television personalities who may have had a career going back to early radio, but who nobody today could possibly know who he is. If I were not a hardcore game show fan, I probably would never have heard of Art myself. The version of House Party that I grew up watching was the one hosted by Bill Cosby from 1998 to 2000, on which Art appeared occasionally as a guest showing clips from his old show. There was probably little more to the show than Bill asking kids questions and getting "cute" answers, and I wasn't much older than some of the kids myself - but I was a regular viewer for a while, and nearly saw the show live (emphasis on nearly - I heard on the radio that the show was going to do some tapings in Boston, but never figured out how to get tickets).
Still, the fact that Art Linkletter came up with this idea, hosted it for twenty-four years on radio and television, and twenty-nine years after that it was still held in high enough regard that Bill Cosby, who had a hit sitcom at the time, agreed to host a revival? That's saying something - and as if that wasn't enough, Art was the father of Jack Linkletter, who was a game show host in his own right.
Jack Linkletter died of cancer in 2007. Now, his father has joined him.
May they rest in peace.