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Jack Linkletter, 70; TV host was son of broadcasting icon

Art and Jack Linkletter Art and Jack Linkletter (nbc file/1969)
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Los Angeles Times / December 21, 2007

LOS ANGELES - Jack Linkletter, who followed in his broadcasting icon father Art's footsteps in the 1950s and became the host of television shows such as "Hootenanny" and special events such as the Miss Universe pageant, has died. He was 70.

Mr. Linkletter, president of Linkletter Enterprises, died of lymphoma Tuesday at his home in Cloverdale, his father said Wednesday.

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

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

Blessed with what has been called "a made-for-the-microphone baritone" and a genial personality, Mr. Linkletter was an English major at the University of Southern California in 1958 when he began hosting the NBC-TV prime-time summer replacement quiz show "Haggis Baggis."

A year later, he was hosting "On the Go," a daytime human-interest show in which he and a videotape crew visited various locales for behind-the-scenes stories.

Mr. Linkletter went on to host a total of seven television shows, including "Here's Hollywood," "America Alive!" and "Hootenanny," the 1963 to 1964 ABC folk music show that was taped before a live audience at a different college campus each week.

Along the way, he hosted the Miss Universe pageant, World 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 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 boy, Mr. 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 a recording machine when Jack came into the room and asked what he was doing.

"I'm just practicing my radio voice," Art said. "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.

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, some 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," said Art.

After earning a bachelor's degree at USC, Jack Linkletter took graduate courses in business at the University of California, Los Angeles. In the early 1960s, 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 Link Fund, a private fund investing in equity and debt instruments.

Mr. Linkletter was international president of the Young President's Organization and national director of the 4-H Clubs.

Mr. Linkletter's first marriage ended in divorce. He leaves his second wife of 14 years, Charlene; his three children, Mike, Dennis, and Laura Ann Rich; his parents; two sisters, Sharon Hershey and Dawn Griffin; and 11 grandchildren.

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