Ed here: If you have any serious interest in show business and don't read Mark Evanier's News From Me, an exceptionally wise and rich take on subjects ranging from cartoons to comedians to films...snap to it. Mark has been a major force for several decades in comics, in tv shows (as writer and producer) and observer of our culture. Here's his take on Art Linkletter.
I share Mark's perception of the man. Even when I was eight or nine I sensed he was a phony. Mark uses the right word...unctuous. I might even say treacly in certain situations. I always assumed that he somehow, back stage, manipulated those kids into speaking their lines when he did his Darndest Things. I was more the Garry Moore type--laid back and not always going for the big manufactured laugh.
Here's an excerpt from Mark Evanier's News From Me:
I'm afraid he was never a favorite in our household. Much of America saw him as warm and genial and beloved, I suppose...but everyone I knew saw him as unctuous and enormously condescending to the people who got plucked from his audiences to appear on his shows, House Party or People Are Funny. He just had this way of acting like they were all colossal boobs and that it was his job to make sure they came across that way. There also seemed to be no product he wouldn't sincerely endorse if they were paying him enough.
Some of the obits are recalling the event that turned him into a staunch anti-drug crusader. In 1969, his daughter Diane jumped to her death from an apartment window. Dad blamed it on LSD and the drug culture and permissiveness...this, despite the fact that the coroner determined she'd had no drugs whatsoever in her system at the time. Some campaigns to curtail drug use are admirable but Linkletter's just struck me as self-serving. Half of it seemed like a desperate attempt to convince everyone, himself included, that his daughter's death was not a suicide and he had therefore not been a bad father; that she was murdered by drug-pushers. The other half of the message seemed to be that to fight the plague of drugs, we had to all vote Republican.
At the time, I was rabidly anti-drug and reasonably Conservative and even I found Mr. Linkletter's little speeches offensive and counter-productive. To his credit, he eventually backed way off them. I seem to recall a brief news cycle years later wherein he recanted his position on marijuana, decided it really didn't lead inevitably to "the hard stuff" and even endorsed its legalization. But by that point, he was just a guy who sold cheap life insurance to seniors in commercials and no one particularly cared what he said.
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I always felt he was manipulating the kids right on stage. Very creepy.
I don't want to pile on - the guy is dead after all - but I must admit I always felt the same way.
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