Publisher’s Note: Art Linkletter, a major star and toy endorser of the 1950’s – 1970’s died last week. I asked Reuben Klamer, last year’s winner of the TAGIE Lifetime Achievement Award, to write us about his experiences with Art. Reuben is a national treasure. He has, so far, invented over 200 toys that have made their way into toy stores and children’s hearts. Among those toys are two toys that Art Linkletter endorsed and promoted: The Game of Life and the Art Linkletter Spin-A-Hoop.
I felt that we could all benefit from Reuben’s firsthand experience with Art Linkletter so I asked him if he would say a few words. Here they are and I suggest that you print them out or save them on your hard drive. Now, sit back and take a front row seat on history:
Art was a great friend and business associate for over fifty years. His eloquence was superseded only by his excellent mind. I spoke with Art only days before his expiring. His voice, after all these years was muffled, but his mind was crystal clear.
The hula hoop
My first marvelous encounter with Art Linkletter was in the frantic hula hoop days of 1958. When schools let out for the summer in 1958 the hula hoop was well on it’s' way to becoming a national cultural phenomenon. I was engaged in the manufacture and marketing of the hula hoop from the very beginning. I had decided to "hitch my wagon to a star" who would become the endorser of my hoop and appear in television commercials. In 1958 there was only one star who had national exposure and the kid awareness needed to create frenzy for the product. My star was Art Linkletter.
The hula hoop was the biggest hit of all time in the toy industry. The two major hoops on the market during this fad were the Wham-O Hula Hoop and my Art Linkletter Spin-A-Hoop. Signing Art Linkletter turned out to be crucial. He had two network television shows: "House Party/Kids Say The Darndest Things" and "People Are Funny" and his brand was so powerful that he gave me and the Spin-A-Hoop credibility with manufacturers, entree with retailers, and sales impact with consumers.
The Game of Life
From the moment it was unveiled at the 1960 International Toy Fair, The Game of Life was a smash success with buyers excitedly placing substantial opening orders. The promotional plan featured the king of daytime television, Art Linkletter. Art provided the "jump-start" for the excitement within the Milton Bradley sales staff and within the toy buyers. This momentum carried on well into and beyond Toy Fair. Art's picture appeared on the game box along with the legend "I heartily endorse this family game." Linkletter also appeared in a television commercial for The Game of Life – one of the first television commercials in the game in dustry and Milton Bradley's first foray into paid television commercials.
Reuben Klamer June 1, 2010