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Leonard Maltin talks about being a 'go-to guy' for obits

June 8, 2010 | 12:54 pm

Film critic and historian Leonard Maltin has written on his blog about what it's like to be called upon at a moment's notice to comment on the life and work of someone in the movie business who has just died. The day Art Linkletter died, Maltin and his wife, Alice, were on a rafting trip down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon when her cellphone rang. CBS radio was on the line asking for Maltin's thoughts about the TV and radio entertainer.

For many years I’ve been CBS’ go-to guy when any show business figure dies. I have a good memory and can talk off the top of my head, especially about show-biz veterans whose careers I’ve followed for years -- like Art Linkletter.... If the deceased is prominent enough I get even more calls, from ABC, NBC, CNN and other TV and print sources. (Sure enough, the phone rang again several days later, as we were driving through a dusty Arizona town, when news came of Dennis Hopper's death.

Some folks might find this odd, even creepy, but my family is used to it, so much so that when Alice picks up the phone at an odd hour of the day she sometimes greets the caller by saying simply, "Who died?" This causes the reporter at the other end of the line a few flustered moments before answering the question.

Read on for more behind-the-scenes anecdotes about Maltin the movie expert dealing with reporters on deadline.

-- Claire Noland

Photo: Leonard Maltin at his office on the Paramount Studios lot in 1994. Credit: Don Kelsen / Los Angeles Times