WOW – Art Linkletter on March 6th at WVRC

KEVIN KOMATSU lost a hundred bucks when he failed to show to lead the Pledge. YOE leaped to his feet as a replacement – and then couldn’t remember all the words! One hopes that this omission does not create eligibility for a fine… We did better next, with GREGG ELLIOTT and LENNY FRIEDMAN taking us through Let Me Call You Sweetheart. New Member SEAN McMILLAN provided a thoughtful Invocation, reminding us that Rotary is an ethical system built on morality. He asked that our leaders in Washington be guided by a Divine Presence in their coming fateful decisions. This was followed by a few moments of silence, which allowed us to focus on where we are and what is important. Good job, SEAN.

SALLY BRANT introduced two visiting Rotarians, Bert Kreisberg from Beverly Hills and Elesio McCloud from Studio City. The Co-Chairs and founders of Inside Out were with us – Camille Ameen and Jonathan Zeichner. RUDY ALVAREZ introduced Elinor, wife of PP TOM LENEHEN, PP JIM DOWNIE brought Margie, RALPH SMITH had a Special Guest, Christian Foster Jr, as did SHARON RHODES-WICKETT, who introduced Waverly Johnson, the new Area Director for PATH. LENORE MULRYAN was with our Ambassadorial Scholar, Erin Rattuzzi, who will be going to South Africa soon. DON NELSON had his next-door neighbors, Jean Louis Le Renard and is wife, Dahlia. Joan Howland was the guest of Prexy TED and BOB FLICK. There were a number of Spouses present, who were introduced ‘en masse’, including Marie ROLF, Mary Fran COX, Veniece MARRONE, Carol COLLINS, Bettye WOODWORTH, Eloise SISKEL, Pauline HARRIS, Janice DEA, Shirley MORE, Doris SUMNER and Annie TSENG – she and Henry have been married for 67 years! Cousin LEO TSENG and Marian celebrated their thirtieth recently.

The Head Table was graced by the presence of three NINETY-YEAR OLDS – BRUCE ROLF, RICK LIVERMORE and HENRY TSENG. Sad to announce that Ellen BECHTEL is back in the hospital – check in with JIM, please. Remember that the District Conference is coming up from May 1st to 4th in Temecula – reserve your rooms right away, since there aren’t that many still available. Save the date of April 8th at 3:30 – ART HENRY will be conducting a very special tour at the Huntington featuring the exhibit of William Blake – there are only 20 spaces available. Our two INSIDE OUT Co-Founders next presented a brief slide video on this program. They have found that using Art as a medium can help to bring youngsters together who don’t even know each other. Their Center is located next door to the Venice Boys and Girls Club, and their results show that change is indeed possible. This has been verified by a recent comparative study by UCLA. Their classes meet once a week for five months, and they have a waiting list – their only handicap is funding. You can reach them at (310) 397-8820, and your inquiries are certainly most welcome.

When I arrived today about 11:45, who was standing out in the parking lot but Marian and LEO TSENG. This of course is the standard waiting area for Program Chairs, and sure enough, Lois and Art Linkletter drove up about that time. It may be true that LEO knows EVERYONE! In his introduction, LEO pointed out that ART had been on two of the longest running TV shows of all time – House Party for 25 years, and People are Funny, for a mere 19 years. He has written 36 books, the most famous being “Kids say the darndest things”, is on the Board of MGM, and now chairs the Alzheimer’s committee. LEO’S final intro line was, “Here’s the Renaissance Man of All Seasons” – and that is certainly Art Linkletter.

His opening line was to thank LEO, but he added that after hearing it all, he thought he might be dead! He gives about seventy talks a year, all over the world, and his favorite intro was by his 6-year old great granddaughter (he has 14 greats), who noted that he was “married, or something – or maybe it was nothing”. When he received the Will Rogers Award, his response was that there weren’t too many great men alive today – to which his wife, Lois, added, “and there’s one less than you may think”. He was a guest at the White House with President Bush, and slept in the Lincoln bedroom. Afterward, he reminded the President that there weren’t any Chinese Bankers in bed with him (which ART apparently thought was worth bringing to Dubya’s attention.)

Art began his career in the entertainment business in 1933, as he described it, “climbing the rickety ladder of success”. He soon specialized in working with people – they are all different, and this reminded him of the answer a lady who was 100 provided when asked what was the best thing about being that age –“there isn’t much peer pressure”. His interviews with four to ten year olds were special – one kid told him he was the smartest kid in the class, and when Art asked him if the teacher told him so, the kid replied that he had noticed it himself. Another kid seemed sad, and when asked why, said his dog had just died. Art, trying to be helpful, suggested the kid would see the dog again up in heaven, and the kid then asked, “what would God want with a dead dog in heaven?” Finally, a little girl was asked what her favorite activity was, and she said she liked to wake up her brother, by tossing the cat onto his bed. When questioned further, it turned out that her brother slept with their dog.

One of his favorite questions concerned their knowledge of the word Pedigree. One replied, “No, we’re Catholic”, and another said that was what they put under the dog’s legs. Another one allowed as how they cut that off two week ago. When asked how his parents met, one kid replied that his dad chased his mother round and round the table, caught her, and “here I am”. Another remarked that he didn’t know – “they lock the door”.

Art feels that kids under ten and adults over sixty-five are the best ones to interview – the young ones don’t know what they are saying, and the old ones don’t care. When they had a nationwide contest to find the oldest new father, a man who was 104 won – Art’s comment, don’t think that didn’t put a spring in MY step.

At one point in his career, he was paying 92 cents of every dollar he earned to the federal or state in taxes. He had a number of investments – and one successful one was a million acre livestock farm he developed in Western Australia. This led to his being appointed Ambassador to Australia by President Reagan, and he enjoyed it. Life is what happens when you are making other plans, and when his twenty year old daughter, Diana, died, it changed his life. Norman Vincent Peale got him interested in combating Drug Abuse, as a Memorial to Diana, and he has spoken to groups about this problem all over the world. He reminded us that kids want to be happy ALL THE TIME – and this is the appeal of drugs. They must learn to keep on keeping on – the challenge in life is making something out of what is inside you.

Our society is getting older – rapidly. When Art was born in 1912, life expectancy was 47 years – and now it is 77 years. We have 70,000 people who are over 100 today – soon the whole country will be looking like Florida! 1% of people who are 50 have Alzheimer’s – and at age 85, 60% will be afflicted. He ended with a poem, and pointed out that he, personally, planned to start thinking about retirement four days after he dies. As noted above, WOW!

YOE, Ernie Wolfe