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~ ME & Art Linkletter ~

March 7, 1999
Dear one and all,

I wanted to tell you about getting to meet Art many of you know, I had a gig where I played for a reception honoring him last night at a country club. It was a fund-raiser for a private Christian school, Ouachita Christian. Well, the reception was only from 5 til 6:30, a very short function!! This school hires me quite often for events such as this one, where I go to the country club and just play the grand piano for a formal reception or banquet-type setting. This time it was the reception only (which is what I usually do for this group every year), then attendees left there to go to the civic center for the actual dinner/banquet where Mr. Linkletter would SPEAK. (I didn't go to that part.) At the reception, they only served the fancy stuff and let each person have their picture taken with Mr. Linkletter by a professional photographer. From what I generally observe, this black-tie reception is for the sponsors/benefactors and their families only, but that still consists of a fairly large group of people.

Well, I started playing my music at 5pm, and Mr. Linkletter arrived about 10 minutes into the event and was shuffled off immediately for a press conference in one of the private meeting rooms. As soon as that was over, he rejoined the crowd that had gathered. Mr. Linkletter got in place on the photographer's stool, and the families were paraded one at a time for their photographs. But before the photographs began, he looked over at me sitting across the room at the ebony grand piano and waved the NICEST wave, to acknowledge me. NONE of the stars and celebrities ever acknowledge the "hired help," and that's exactly what the pianist for a function like that is, just part of the HIRED HELP!! Well, needless to say, that added another point in his favor in my little "book." I already THOUGHT he was a nice man with a sparkling personality, but I realized then that he was everything I could imagine and more. Toward the end of the picture-taking prodcedure, the people from the school called me over there to get my picture made with him. I was SHOCKED!!! They've never offered that to me before, and I happily made my way over to Mr. Linkletter, and they introduced me to him as though I were "somebody," and knowing I was the pianist there, he said, "I play the piano too, you know. I play FOUR songs. That's it! When I finish them, I get up!!" We all laughed. He smiled admiringly and went on to compliment my music, and one of the ladies told him, "And Mr. Linkletter, Rita plays EVERYTHING by 'ear'!!! Isn't that wonderful??" His eyes widened, and he said, "At what age did you come to know you could 'do' this?" I told him that I was age five when I picked out my first song. He asked how I knew what to do, and I honestly did not know how to answer him, saying it was just something the Lord put in me and somehow it just sort of came natural for me. (I forgot to mention to him that my entire family was musical....probably it came easier for me back then from watching my sister, who is older than me, play piano, for that makes sense to me!!) I went back to the piano and continued with more music.

As the hour ran down, one of the ladies with the school came over to the piano to hand me one of the few remaining and coveted posters they had put out with his picture on it, and offered it to me to go get him to autograph it. In my music room here at home, I have a wall dedicated to the artists (singers and musicians---mostly "unknowns," more-so than the "knowns") for whom I have played music or performed for, so that poster is something I will enjoy adding to my collection. The people at that reception who gave me the poster had no idea in the world what good use that poster would do me!!! When I went over to him to sign it, he started talking to me about music again, and then about smart children who excell in one thing or another, using terms with which I was not familiar. The man is soooooooo intelligent and articulate!!! I was very impressed with his down-to-earth would have thought we were all his neighbors and friends, as comfortable as he made us all feel!!! THEN he and I started talking about our GRANDCHILDREN....I told him I only have the one 16-mo.-old grandchild, Mallory, with another on the way, and he said he has 9 grandchildren and 11 GREAT-grandchildren!! I also told Mr. Linkletter how my mother and I used to look forward to his show, "Houseparty," every afternoon and how much we always enjoyed it. I said, "Mr. Linkletter, I think we cried when that show ended." He smiled at me and said, "I did, tooooo." *grin*

I could not get over how GOOD Mr. Linkletter looks!!! He still moves around well. And he has the SOFTEST, neatly manacured hands. I heard someone say they think he is 86 years old. He looks EXACTLY like he used to look when on TV all those years ago....maybe a "few" years older, but JUST as good as ever!!! And as I said, he is soooo smart and his mind is so SHARP!!! He's very quick-thinking and quick-witted....a fun person to be around. As he was departing soon after signing my poster and after our last conversation, I asked if I could hug his neck, and he said with a nice smile, "You sure can," and I gently reached out and hugged and patted him politely, and he said, "Now that is soooo nice and SOUTHERN!" *giggle*

Well, I wanted to share with you the events of my evening of entertaining music for Art Linkletter.
It was a very special time, and one I will never forget!
Hugggggggs, Rita Rose S.

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