May 26, 2010

(Art Linkletter - folksy, genial Americana personified)

When I heard the news today of the death of Art Linkletter, I was reminded how synonymous he was with the 1950's and early 1960's. Linkletter represented the epitome of the folksy, genial Afternoon talkshow host, having not only a wildly popular Radio show, but also a TV show - both of them capturing the essence of a time long since gone. A time maybe more given to fantasy than reality. The format changed very little since Linkletter debuted House Party in 1945 until its end in late 1967. Audience participation but with no dirty laundry or sordid confessions. Linkletter was all about good, clean naive fun. The problems of the world were put on hold for the half hour the show aired, and the audience (primarily middle-aged tourists or school aged children) gladly went along with it.

But the world changed after 1963. Folksy and genial lost it's appeal and Art Linkletter became something of a relic, a curio of a bygone time. The much talked about "generation gap" became more pronounced and media became homogenized so by 1967 there was very little place for the likes of House Party or many of the other shows that were in a similar vein at the time.

But in his heyday, Art Linkletter represented an American institution, one that was listened to by millions.

For those of you who have grown up with the likes of Oprah or Ellen Degeneres, realize they were based on something that came before them. Breezy chat and audience participation was a format that has worked, and it all got started with Art Linkletter.

Here is a taste of what you might have heard if you were around in 1966.

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