The visitor expects something more corporate--an imposing suite behind double-glass doors perhaps, with LINKLETTER ENTERPRISES in gold lettering--not this small cluster of modest offices on the second floor of a building in lower Beverly Hills, Calif. And especially not in this building--the headquarters of Larry Flynt Publica-tions. Art Linkletter, who has made a career of wholesome family fare, a tenant of the publisher of Hustler magazine? He has no problem with Flynt's being his landlord, though he is not a subscriber. "If people want to read the stuff, that's their business," he says. "But I'm still the preacher's kid."
From this unlikely base, Linkletter and a staff of only four, including son Jack, 64, who heads a separate Orange County office, run Linkletter's global business interests, which have included dozens of radio and TV shows; a publishing company; hundreds of office and apartment buildings and housing developments; 30 mini-storage facilities, an airport in Phoenix, Ariz.; a million acres of prime Australian sheep land; and "a bunch" of oil wells. Linkletter also introduced the Hula-Hoop in the U.S., and he is still collecting royalties on the game of Life.
Linkletter's famous shows--House Party, People Are Funny and Kids Say the Darndest Things--are long behind him, but he has scarcely slowed down. He is in his offices daily when he is in town, writing and managing his enterprises. When he isn't here he is on the road for one of the 150 appearances and speaking engagements he makes each year. (His fee: $15,000 for nonprofits, and upwards from there. "I also do a lot of free ones," Linkletter says.) He has never had an agent or a manager. "It's just me and my little group here," he says, referring to 60-year associate Irv Atkins; Atkins' secretary, Barbara Moorman; and Lee Ray, who has been Linkletter's assistant for 50 years.
During a typical recent week, Linkletter flew to Tennessee for the Jubilee Conferences for Christian seniors; then to Washington, where he delivered the keynote address for a United Seniors of America dinner--he is honorary national chairman for the organization and writes for its newsletter, The Senior American. Then he returned to California for a Horatio Alger Association luncheon before looping back to Texas for the Houston Health Club Senior Members Luncheon.
And by the way, he just turned 90. He still has the broad shoulders and chest of the college champion swimmer and collegiate basketball and handball Hall of Famer that he once was. He skis and surfs. He attributes his vitality to a lifetime of not drinking or smoking, sensible eating and eight to nine hours of sleep each night. That and morning exercises with weights, an afternoon swim and the Camel Walk, which Arnold Palmer taught him, and which Linkletter obligingly demonstrates by dropping to his hands and knees and arching his back a dozen times. "Basically," he says, "I'm a smart guy, and I don't do anything in excess."