Friday, June 04, 2010

 The Bell Curve
Joseph Bell

On the surface, Art Linkletter was a lightweight thinker, working early on with kids who supplied his richest material, then shifting to motivational speaking and finally turning both specialties into highly profitable businesses. That was the limit of my knowledge of him when I was first assigned to do a profile of him for a national magazine. And never had I been more wrong.

All of this came back to me when I pulled my Linkletter file and got reacquainted with him. Never far distant from his thinking was the suicide of his 20-year-old daughter, Diane, which he blamed on an LSD flashback frenzy. It set a course for Linkletter, from which he never wavered, to define and attack drug abuse out of knowledge, not emotion. In this process and his subsequent motivational speaking, I never detected a phony word or action.

"The idea of my being old," he once told me, "is the last thing I ever think of. I go to these senior citizen places to comfort people and suddenly realize I'm older than a lot of them. It's all in your attitude. You must set goals no matter how limited they are, and when you get to them, try the next thing. If you were to sit back and look at it coldly and dispassionately, you'd say this is like made work. Not real, so it isn't important. But that's not true as long as it is something to hope for."

So R.I.P., Art Linkletter. You've helped build a myriad of hopes. And you've earned a rest.

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