May 29, 2010


The darndest TV star (Warren Cole Smith, May 28, 2010, World)

[T]he mainstream media tended to neglect Linkletter’s behind-the-scenes role in the rise of the conservative movement. He was an entrepreneur and free-market advocate who made millions in television, and millions more outside of medium, as the author of 20 books, several of which were national bestsellers (Kids Say the Darnedest Things and Old Age Is Not for Sissies), and in business ventures that ranged from commodities trading to hula hoops.

His public persona, as an affable TV host, was mostly apolitical through the 1940s and ’50s. But he was a supporter of Ronald Reagan through the ’60s, and his image took on a new dimension when his daughter died of a drug-related suicide in 1970. He spoke out more forcefully against drugs and against what he called the “moral decline” of the country, and President Nixon appointed him to an anti-drug commission. He put his money and his celebrity status to work for conservative causes and the Republican Party. When the American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) began to champion liberal political causes, he became a spokesman for a conservative alternative to AARP called USA Next. He also served on the board of Pepperdine University, a Christian college in Malibu, Calif., near his home.

When he gave speeches to conservative groups—which he often did—he was usually introduced to audiences, many of whom were too young to see him in his heyday, by a reel of TV clips showing him with Reagan and other conservative icons. These clips established his conservative “bona fides” and invariably “fired up” the groups. But the speeches themselves were the true “highlight reel.” Into his mid-90s, he would speak in a forceful and polished tone, for a half-hour or more, with no notes whatsoever. He reveled crowds with anecdotes of Reagan and the early days of television, but—in true show-biz “leave ’em laughing, leave ’em crying” fashion—he would close with words of appreciation for the group he was speaking to, and he would exhort them to even greater sacrifice and commitment.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 29, 2010 5:14 PM
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