From the Forties right through to the Seventies, on radio and then on television, middle America or what we would now call Red State America had its own articulate voice in Art Linkletter and his House Party show.
Now retired and into his middle nineties, Linkletter was quite an institution back in the day. I well remember coming home from school and seeing House Party on television. My grandmother who lived with us was a devoted viewer. She also watched his night time show, People Are Funny.
Linkletter's easygoing manner and strong conservative politics made him an institution in those Republican leaning states. He even had quite a few fans in the decadent east. For the America which liked Ike, they loved Art.
Two things that stand out for me personally. Occasionally he would showcase young talent and I still remember a young comedian named Don Adams doing a stand up routine on one of his shows. This was years before he starred in Get Smart.
When the fabled Hollywood gossip columnists began losing their clout due to television, Art Linkletter provided a venue for Hedda Hopper. She must have made a dozen or more appearances a year on House Party, dispensing the latest Hollywood gossip. Her right wing politics and his meshed very well together. I remember her being on his show days before she died.
Another show I remember was Dale Evans as guest. Art Linkletter was the adopted son of a minister and Dale Evans and her husband Roy Rogers were well known as born agains. I still remember a show where Dale chided Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor for their Roman escapades on the set of Cleopatra. Dale, Roy, and Art certainly came from a whole different life experience than Liz and Dick had.
Of course what we remember the most about the show were the grade school kids. Some lucky school every day got to send four little urchins on the show, they were never more than 10 years old. Art was very good at this segment because he interviewed those kids like Edward R. Murrow would interview a celebrity. Most of the time he kept an absolutely straight face, but sometime a child who had not learned to be discreet and guarded in their answers came up with a beauty. Then Art lost it along with the rest of the audiences. Kids really did say the darndest things on that show.
House Party reflected the warmth and innate decency of its creator and host. Politics aside, I wish it was around now.
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