May 27, 2010

"I know enough about a lot of things to be interesting, but I’m not interested enough in any one thing to be boring."

"I’m like everybody’s next-door neighbor, only a little bit smarter."

That sounds like something a blogger might say, but it was Art Linkletter, speaking in 1965, back when he was one of the most familiar faces on television. He died yesterday at the age of 97.

I remember watching him when I was a kid. He had kids on his show.



Being a kid, I was very interested in... how do I get on that show?

Later, young people my age turned against him. It had to do with this:
In 1969 Mr. Linkletter’s daughter Diane leapt to her death from her sixth-story apartment. Her father said that LSD had contributed to her death, and although an autopsy showed no signs of the drug in her body, the personal tragedy became a national event, suggesting to many Americans that drugs and the counterculture were making inroads even into seemingly model families like the Linkletters.

Mr. Linkletter, rather than retreating from the attention, became a crusader against drug use and an adviser to President Richard M. Nixon on drug policy...
Oh, how we callow youths mocked the poor man who, having lost his daughter, wanted to spoil our good times. LSD became associated with the urge to leap from windows and rooftops — an idea that many took seriously but many others — e.g., everyone I knew — thought was hilarious. Some of us seem to remember a National Lampoon illustration picturing the daughter at her window gazing at a hallucination of Art Linkletter floating in the air and beckoning to her.  I hope we won't go to hell for laughing at things like that.

Meanwhile, in heaven, there's "gold and diamonds." That's from the first kid interview in the YouTube clip above. Art asks little Roger Wong — a kid who wants to be a doctor — what heaven is like, and the kid says "gold and diamonds." Art suggests that, as a doctor, the boy will "keep people from going to heaven," which the boy takes the wrong way and denies. Art has to rephrase it: "I mean, you're just going to delay them a little, aren't you?"

Strangely, the same joke — that saving lives is only delaying death — appears in the current issue of The Onion. Humor is a funny thing. Sometimes cornball and hip merge, like that, and sometimes they are so thoroughly different — as with that beckoning hallucination — that it drives a sharp wedge between us.

33 comments:

AllenS said...

Ah, yes, Nixon. He was the first President that was despised by the media and all the smart kids.

Paul Snively said...

Dr. Althouse: Oh, how we callow youths mocked the poor man who, having lost his daughter, wanted to spoil our good times. LSD became associated with the urge to leap from windows and rooftops — an idea that many took seriously but many others — e.g., everyone I knew — thought was hilarious. Some of us seem to remember a National Lampoon illustration picturing the daughter at her window gazing at a hallucination of Art Linkletter floating in the air and beckoning to her. I hope we won't go to hell for laughing at things like that.

I wish I could honestly say that I'd never done anything when I was younger that was more mortifying than this sounds. But, in fact, I have. This is why it's so extremely important to be patient and forgiving toward the young, who lack the life experience and context to be able to discern the evil that they commit.

The Crack Emcee said...

"I hope we won't go to hell for laughing at things like that."

Now don't you worry your pretty little head over it.

Richard Dolan said...

"Humor is a funny thing. Sometimes cornball and hip merge, like that, and sometimes they are so thoroughly different — as with that beckoning hallucination — that it drives a sharp wedge between us."

Laughing with or laughing at. What a world of difference is captured by the contrast between two little words.

Jeff with one 'f' said...

I read somewhere that LSD can only be detected in spinal fluid- the amount of the drug taken is so minute it doesn't appear in the blood, etc.

"Oh, how we callow youths mocked the poor man who, having lost his daughter, wanted to spoil our good times."

Those squares just don't get it, maaannnnn.

asdf said...

the onion is hip? what year is this, 1998?

MadisonMan said...

Didn't realize he was still alive.

former law student said...

For years and years, "House Party" was simulcast on radio as well as on TV. My mother would have it on the radio in the car more than we'd watch it on TV -- at home she preferred soap operas while she ironed, while we preferred the Stooges and cartoons.

former law student said...

I forgot to ask: Did the professor say the darndest things when she was a kid?

Pastafarian said...

This reminds me: Martin Gardner died the other day too.

Linkletter and Gardner didn't have much in common that I know of, other than the fact that both were very old -- Gardner was 95.

Gardner was a great writer, a popularizer of math and science; my favorite works of his were math puzzles, and chess puzzles. He did a couple of books on "retrograde analysis" in chess, where you'd have to work backward from a given position to solve the problem.

Beth said...

I heard the Linkletter story, the staring at the sun story, and one about a kid who dropped acid and hallucinated that he was an orange and tried to squeeze himself to death.

We laughed because they sounded ridiculous. And yes, I am sometimes ashamed of my very cynical, terribly unaware teenage self. But stories like that just set off teen-age BS detectors.

I had a friend who got a job right after our final year of high school wheeling people to and from the x-ray lab at Touro Hospital, in uptown New Orleans on the night shift. Poking around, probably inappropriately, he discovered in one room a guy we'd gone to school with, a fine pianist, who'd just fallen off the radar. He was curled up, unconscious, and so far as we knew, never regained awareness. We all knew he'd been doing a lot of acid. That one we didn't laugh at.

cassandra lite said...

I was on the show twice. It was a wonderful experience both times. The worked it worked was that a booker/producer from the show would contact elementary schools within about a ten-mile radius of CBS Television Studios in West Hollywood. The teachers would preselect a group of, I assume, precocious/outrageous/whatever kids, and then the producers would do a quick interview process and select two boy and two girls. On the show day, a limo would pick us up, take us to the studio, then to lunch afterwards at a nearby restaurant called Dupars before returning to school. In those days (I think I'm Althouse's age), the show was live, and they weren't shooting any kinescopes, so I never got to see either appearance. The second time I was on, I remember getting a big laugh when I told Art that, if I had to, I'd beat up my best friend, Jeff Steinberg, who was also on the show, in order to marry one of the girls who was on, Judy Ann Estrin. Baby Boomers turning on him was terribly cruel. I was glad when Bill Cosby resurrected him in the media.
-Joel Engel
http://thedeathofcommonsense.latimesmagazine.com

c3 said...

I'm sad to say this but as a kid I always felt there something a little creepy about Art Linkletter. Maybe it was the feeling, even as a kid, that Mr. Linkletter was
laughing at us

miller said...

I think it's good to have reminders of the value of human life, how easy it is to squander it, how rich it can be when we invest in it, and how sad it is when we lose it.

Art Linkletter was a fine man who seemed to love people where he found them. Like most people he had joy and tragedy, but he managed to stay centered and sure of himself.

We are a better people because he was a good man.

edutcher said...

Everybody in the Baby Boom demographic grew up with Art Linkletter at one time or another.
It was one of those shows you watched when you were sick or got out of school early.

One interesting thing about his show was that he could get guests like Robert Mitchum at the height of their celebrity (mid to late 50s) to come on the same show as housewives and little kids. He must have had very good connections in Tinseltown.

c3 said...

I'm sad to say this but as a kid I always felt there something a little creepy about Art Linkletter. Maybe it was the feeling, even as a kid, that Mr. Linkletter was
laughing at us


I think you're part of a very small demographic.

WV "dislate" When drunks finally make it home.

Lance said...

Ah, yes, Nixon. He was the first President that was despised by the media and all the smart kids.

That was only at the start of his administration. By '74 pretty much everyone despised him, except the die-hard Republican partisans.

Democrats made the biggest mistake in this country's history when they declined to convict him in the Senate. They should have also impeached Ford for pardoning him.

Ann Althouse said...

"Did the professor say the darndest things when she was a kid?"

In fact, when I was a kid, it was extremely important to me not to be embarrassed, and I didn't blurt out things. I observed and worried about being wrong about things, and it pained me no end if an adult laughed at something I said. Reflecting more on how I felt about Linkletter, I think that he did bother me, because he was trying to get the kid to "embarrass" himself so adults could laugh, and I thought that was mean of them.

As an adult, I learned how fun it is to hear the cute mistakes kids make, but I do remember really hating it when I was a child. For example, I thought rheumatic fever was "romantic fever" and that made adults laugh a lot but it made me feel terrible.

Much later I realized that I put far too much effort into avoiding being embarrassed and hiding my ignorance when I was young. Ironically, I realized that when I was an adult and being ignorant actually was very embarrassing.

So kids: screw up and ask your stupid questions when you are young.

George Grady said...

Pastafarian,

[Martin Gardner] did a couple of books on "retrograde analysis" in chess, where you'd have to work backward from a given position to solve the problem.

I think you're confusing Martin Gardner with Raymond Smullyan here. Smullyan wrote some wonderful recreational logic books (like To Mock a Mockingbird and What is the Name of This Book?) as well as two books on chess retrograde analysis, one Sherlock Holmes themed, and the other Arabian Nights themed. Smullyan is still alive.

Gardner's books are also wonderful. They're much more eclectic, many of them being based on Gardner's long-running Mathematical Games columns from Scientific American, back when SA was worth subscribing to.

Scott said...

I’m like everybody’s next-door neighbor, only a little bit smarter."

So Joe McGinniss is really Sarah Palin's Art Linkletter.

jgm said...

Dum-dee-dum-dum. Dragnet 1967: The LSD Story.

Here's the whole show on Hulu.

jeff said...

"They should have also impeached Ford for pardoning him."

What charge would they have impeached Ford?

pst314 said...

"Oh, how we callow youths mocked the poor man"

Sometimes the mockery turned downright vicious.

cubanbob said...

"
Lance said...
Ah, yes, Nixon. He was the first President that was despised by the media and all the smart kids.

That was only at the start of his administration. By '74 pretty much everyone despised him, except the die-hard Republican partisans.

Democrats made the biggest mistake in this country's history when they declined to convict him in the Senate. They should have also impeached Ford for pardoning him.

5/27/10 11:49 AM"

If what Sestak said is true Obama has already outdone Nixon.

cubanbob said...

" Pastafarian said...
This reminds me: Martin Gardner died the other day too."

A great writer indeed. He made a simple, cogent argument regarding evolution: its just not random chance but random chance working in concert with the laws of nature.

c3 said...

For example, I thought rheumatic fever was "romantic fever" and that made adults laugh a lot but it made me feel terrible.

And I thought it was "college cheese". That got a laugh.

DADvocate said...

I loved Linkletter as a kid and never found a reason not to like him even though he wasn't "hip" when I got older. I didn't realize he was still alive. God bless.

El Pollo Real said...

I was only 9 at the time but I remember the grown-ups taking about the Linkletter LSD story and using it scare us kids.

More effective was a guy in my neighborhood who must have been about Althouse's age. He dropped out of high school and ran away to Haight-Ashbury during the Summer of Love. He came back several years later in the 70s (I barely remembered him from before-he was about 10 years older). The grown-ups would point at his "Jesus hair" and his inability to hold a job as evidence of LSD brain damage. He lived at home and spent a lot of time just listening to music.

I spoke to him on several occasions (we both rode the bus). He was soft-spoken and seemed harmless enough. I never did fully buy the LSD brain damage story.

OTOH, the last time I saw him was at a Grateful Dead show in Madison in the late 70's. He kept circling the outer ring tunnel with dazed look on face and he didn't recognize me at all.

knox said...

In fact, when I was a kid, it was extremely important to me not to be embarrassed,

My son is 4 and he showed the first sign of real, self-conscious embarrassment just this afternoon.

We went to pick up my grandma at the nursing home to bring her to my house for the day. We were walking down the hall, hand-in-hand, and I said, "this is just like the Wizard of Oz!" and my grandma started singing "Follow the Yellow Brick Road." My son's face turned bright red, and he said "you can stop doing that now!!"

*Sigh.* Not long ago he would've been delighted by it.

MrBuddwing said...

Democrats made the biggest mistake in this country's history when they declined to convict [Nixon] in the Senate.

They never got the chance - Nixon resigned before the House could even impeach him. (It's painful to hear people deny that President Clinton was impeached, which he was, although he was acquitted in the Senate - usually the mistaken person ends up shouting, "What about Nixon???")

Word verification: ovenchlo

Cedarford said...

Pastafarian said...
This reminds me: Martin Gardner died the other day too...

That is a bigger loss than Linkletter. Unlike Linkletter, Gardner was an everyday man who actually WAS smarter.
A pleasure of mine is looking through old Scientific Americans and always going to what Martin Gardner did. With calculator and paper ready. Sometimes I get what he was talking about, can solve the puzzle or problem or understand a theory of his...many times I can't. Not being as smart by any means as Martin Gardner was.
======================
Lance - A Nixon conviction would have just opened the door to skeletons in past Democrat office-holder's closets, especially FDR, Truman, JFK, and LBJ requiring a rewrite of history books.
It would have criminalized American politics and made shifts of power not peaceful, but more like a Soviet or 3rd world country where you execute or imprison people who lose out on the power struggle.
For, as Lavrenty Beria said to Stalin, charges under existing law are always possible and legally justifiable for anyone Comrade Stalin wishes accused. "Just point out the enemy, Comrade, and I will find the proper charges."

Bob From Ohio said...

"They never got the chance - Nixon resigned before the House could even impeach him."

Its never been done here but in England, a former office holder could be impeached and tried.

There is a more limited punishment here but Nixon's pension could have been stripped and bared from future office.

It would have looked petty and mean though.

William said...

The warnings of the squares were matched and exceeded by the pufferies of the hip. Getting high opens the doors of perception and lets you peer into the mysteries of the universe, but sometimes you lose control of your bowels. Instead of midnight showings of Reefer Madness there should be a crisp documentary that contrasts the high minded sentiments of the drug advocates with the squalor of their lives.....Linkletter seems to have been a decent man. There was no gulf between the banality of his views and the moderation of his life. He led, in the vernacular of the time, an authentic life. The lives of Timothy Leary and Abbie Hoffmann were full of betrayals and folly. They were the inauthentic men, the true hypocrites.

Chase said...

Cassandra,

Dupar's is still in Farmer;s Market next to CBS Studio City at 3rd and Fairfax in LA - Fantastic French Toast!

You can still see movie stars at Farmer's Market almost every day.

Canter's Deli is across and up the street - you could see rock musicians there throughout the 60's and 70's , just eating.