TV host followed in father Art’s footsteps

Times Staff Writer

Jack Linkletter, who followed in his broadcasting icon father Art’s footsteps in the 1950s and became the host of such TV shows as “Hootenanny” and special events as the Miss Universe pageant, has died. He was 70.

Linkletter, president of Linkletter Enterprises, died of lymphoma Tuesday at his home in Cloverdale, Calif., his father told The Times on Wednesday.

As the son of the man who hosted the long-running “People Are Funny” and “House Party” on radio and television, Linkletter made a smooth transition into broadcasting at an early age.


At 15, he began doing an interview show for CBS Radio that was soon followed by “Teen Time,” an hourlong program featuring records and stunts.

Blessed with what has been called “a made-for-the-microphone baritone” and a genial personality, Linkletter was an English major at USC in 1958 when he became host of NBC-TV’s “Haggis Baggis,” a prime-time summer replacement quiz show.

A year later, he was host of “On the Go,” a daytime human-interest show in which he and a videotape crew visited movie studios, Marineland, a drug rehabilitation center and other locales to get behind-the-scenes stories.

Linkletter was host for a total of seven TV shows, including “Here’s Hollywood,” “America Alive!” and “Hootenanny,” the 1963-64 ABC-TV folk music show that was taped before a live audience at a different college campus each week.

Besides the Miss Universe pageant, he also was host of World’s Fair events and major parades.

“The reason I get these jobs is because my price is less than my dad’s,” he once joked.

“He always did ad-lib shows, just like me,” Art Linkletter, 95, said Wednesday. “Sons of famous people have a tough time, because they’re expected to be as good as their dad right away.”

The oldest of Art and Lois Linkletter’s five children, he was born Arthur Jack Linkletter in San Francisco on Nov. 20, 1937.

As a young boy, Linkletter inspired one of his father’s most famous “House Party” routines: interviewing young children.

Art Linkletter recalled that he was still a radio personality in San Francisco when 5-year-old Jack came home from his first day of kindergarten. Art was speaking into an early recording machine when Jack came into the room and asked what he was doing.

“I’m just practicing my radio voice,” said Art. “Come over here, and I’ll interview you.”

“Jack, what did you do today?” asked Art.

“I went to school for the first time,” said Jack.

“How did you like it?”

“I’m not going back.”

“Why aren’t you going back?”

“Because I can’t read, I can’t write, and they won’t let me talk.”

Art got such a kick out of the exchange that he played his interview with Jack on his “Who’s Dancing Tonight?” Sunday-night interview show broadcast from the St. Francis Hotel.

Afterward, he recalled, “Mail came in from all over Northern California saying what a wonderful thing it is to hear a little boy talking to his daddy, and it struck me that there were no interviews with children as children; they were always professional children -- trained, coached and written for.”

After launching “House Party” in Hollywood in 1945, Art began interviewing four children between the ages of 4 and 10 during the last five minutes of each show -- about 27,000 children over the years.

“Jack opened my eyes for the first time to the joy of just hearing kids say the ‘darndest’ things,” Art said.

After earning a bachelor’s degree at USC, Jack Linkletter took graduate courses in business at UCLA. In the early ‘60s, while continuing his show business career, he took over management of some of his father’s business affairs.

In recent decades, he was president of Linkletter Enterprises -- developer and operator of commercial and industrial real estate and manager of diversified family investments. He also operated the private Link Fund, investing in equity and debt instruments.

Linkletter was international president and education chairman of the Young President’s Organization, national director of the 4-H Clubs, founding member of the board of governors of the Livestock Merchandising Institute, a presidential appointee to the National Council of the USO and governor of Phi Beta Kappa.

Linkletter’s first marriage ended in divorce. He is survived by his second wife of 14 years, Charlene; his three children, Mike and Dennis Linkletter and Laura Ann Rich; two stepchildren, Marilie and John Croul; his parents; his sisters, Sharon Hershey and Dawn Griffin; and 11 grandchildren.

A private memorial service will be held. Instead of flowers, the family requests donations be made to charity.