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05/26/2010

Art Linkletter, who knew how to talk to kids, dies at 97

May 26, 2010 |  1:14 pm

Art Linkletter, the radio and television talk-show pioneer who was best known for eliciting hilarious remarks from the mouths of babes and who late in life was a popular motivational speaker and author, challenging seniors to live as zestfully as he did, has died. He was 97.

Linkletter died Wednesday at his home in Bel-Air, said his son-in-law, Art Hershey.

He was an accomplished businessman whose Linkletter Enterprises controlled more than 70 businesses. He became a well-known anti-drug crusader after a daughter committed suicide in 1969. He wrote three autobiographies and a 1988 best-seller called "Old Age Is Not For Sissies," and released the latest of more than 20 books — about making the most of life's later years — on his 94th birthday.

To many baby boomers and their parents who watched his daytime television show "House Party," Linkletter would always be the perfect straight man who could ask a grade-schooler a simple question like "What does your mommy do?" and elicit this response: "She does a little housework, then sits around all day reading the racing form."

That popular segment from the television show that aired from 1952 to 1970 led to his 1957 bestselling book "Kids Say the Darndest Things" and several sequels.

The idea to showcase children's unrehearsed comments came to him during a conversation with his oldest child, Jack, after the boy's first day in kindergarten.

Informed by Jack that he would never go back to school, his father asked why. Jack responded: "Because I can't read, I can't write and they won't let me talk."

Enjoy the clip from YouTube, and click here to read the full obituary.

-- Myrna Oliver and Valerie J. Nelson

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