began intruding his way into the nation's homes as long ago as 1933, when he
was a junior, a football player and a big man on campus at San Diego State. The
adopted son of a street-corner evangelist who moved from Moose Jaw to southern
California, Linkletter's earliest memories include standing on a sidewalk
beating an iron triangle to draw a crowd for his father to exhort, and of being
joylessly poor. At 9 he was shilling for an ice cream vendor, and at 10 he was
picking discarded lemons out of piles behind packing plants and selling them to
housewives. By his mid-teens he was all but on his own, and his attendance at
San Diego State was a work-as-you-go kind of thing. In his third year there a
professor introduced him to the manager of station KGB and he was hired as a
part-time announcer. After graduation he took a brief fling as a staff
announcer at the San Diego International Exposition, then returned to KGB as
program manager and married Lois. When they drove away on their honeymoon, his
fellow announcers broadcast a warning to hotels to demand a marriage license if
a young couple claiming to be Mr. and Mrs. Linkletter tried to register.
Because it has
been so durable, columnists are always pointing out that by Hollywood standards
the Linkletter marriage is an unusual one. Actually, nowadays, it is becoming
fairly unusual by the standards of Duluth or Albuquerque, as well, but both the
Linkletters have an old-fashioned view of family life and marriage. "We
believe that a family should do things together," he says, "especially
have fun together. We Linkletters have always had parties any time we could
find an excuse: the coming of spring, the last day of winter.
happiest times have been on camping trips. Every year we took the children on a
pack trip for a couple of weeks. Not only was it good for the whole family to
rough it and get plenty of exercise, it was one way for the family to be
together away from everything else. Camping gives kids a chance to do community
chores and learn good sportsmanship."
Nobody can claim
the Linkletter system has not worked. Although they spent most of their lives
in their Holmby Hills mansion surrounded by such neighbors as Judy Garland,
Lana Turner and Porfirio Rubirosa, the five Linkletter children, ranging in age
from 16 to 25, are pleasant, bright, healthy and have never seen the inside of
a psychiatrist's office. Jack, the eldest, who graduated from USC and made Phi
Beta Kappa, is now a TV star in his own right.
Besides a rich
father, the Linkletter children did have some great natural advantages. Lois
and Art Linkletter both are relatively unflappable people. Linkletter. in fact,
is probably among the best-natured stars in show business. Human nature being
what it is, some people find his calmness irritating and relish any reports of
his being ruffled.
he has a reputation for being a prudent man with a dollar, Linkletter is often
pegged as cautious. The truth is, until he reached the big time, he refused to
hold onto any job that offered only security. At the time he married, for
example, he was the youngest program director in a broadcasting system that
stretched from San Diego to Spokane. Everybody predicted a great future for
him. Yet after seven months he chucked his job to take an obviously short-lived
position as director of radio operations for the Texas Centennial Exposition in
Dallas. "I didn't want to be an executive in San Diego," he said.
exposition ran its course, he could have stepped into a number of steady,
well-paying jobs in radio. Instead he accepted an offer to become radio
director of the San Francisco World's Fair. After he told Lois of his decision,
she asked what the salary would be. He had never bothered to find out.
arrived in San Francisco in 1937, and he immediately set about trying to steal
free air time on behalf of the fair, which was scheduled to open in the spring
of 1939. For almost two years he was under the impression he was performing
like a ball of fire. Then one day a few months before the opening Harris
Connick, general manager of the fair, sent for him. Without preliminaries, he
told Linkletter he thought his work had been unimaginative, dull and
practically useless. Linkletter, who thought he might be going to get a raise,
started outlining a scheme he had thought up to exploit the fair on opening
day, recalls Linkletter in his autobiography, Confessions of a Happy Man.
Connick said he had discovered that certain cables in the Golden Gate Bridge
had differing tensions, and when the wind from the ocean blew through them they
produced different musical tones. "Now, my idea is this," he said.
"You pick out the cables that have the eight notes of the scale, put a
microphone on each and run the wires into a control board with keys. That would
give you the world's largest harp, and you could maybe get Artur Rubinstein to
California. Here I Come."
Connick, you're nuts!" said Linkletter. "Mr. Linkletter, you're
fired!" said Connick.