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What Really Happened to Diane Linkletter?

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The beautiful young woman who jumped out of her sixth-floor apartment window at 9 am on October 4, 1969 had no way of knowing that her death was destined to become a focal point of the anti-drug movement in America.

Diane Linkletter was the 20-year-old daughter of Art Linkletter, the prominent radio and TV personality. Before an autopsy had even been performed, her famous father claimed to the media that she had taken LSD the night before her death. (Linkletter had not talked to his daughter before her death, but maintains that she had told her brother Robert that she had taken the acid.) He was quoted as saying, "It isn't suicide because she wasn't herself. She was murdered. She was murdered by the people who manufacture and sell LSD."

When the autopsy showed no signs of drugs in her system, he changed his story to claim that she was suffering an LSD flashback from months earlier and that had caused her to jump out the window.

The media, of course, ran with the story, and used Art Linkletter's claims to create the narrative, without doing much investigating of their own. By the time the dust had settled, the story had been transformed in most people's minds to reflect an old urban legend about a girl, high on LSD, who jumped out her window because she thought she could fly.

A much more accurate picture of what happened can be gleaned by examining the testimony of Diane's boyfriend, Edward Durston, who was present when she died. Diane had summoned him to her apartment at 3 am and had spent the final six hours of her life with him. He told investigators that she was a desperately unhappy and despondent young woman who was determined to end her life. He had no reason to believe, and she had not indicated, that drugs were a factor in her death.

Art Linkletter, understandably devastated, became one of the most vocal critics of the counterculture, speaking out against drugs at every opportunity, while telling the tale of his daughter's LSD death. Dr. Timothy Leary, the LSD guru who had urged young people to "turn on, tune in, drop out," became his archenemy.

In this fascinating video from 1980, Leary is surprised on an interview show with a call from Linkletter. Listening to him scream at Leary that he "wishes he had died, or been hung" was a little disconcerting coming from someone whose public persona was that of the kindly father.

Did Art Linkletter truly believe that his daughter's death was caused by LSD or was it easier for him to view it through that prism? Did it make his burden easier to bear, believing that an outside force of some kind was responsible, and not any negligence on his part?

One thing is for certain. The story lodged itself in the public's consciousness and helped to fuel the anti-drug sentiments that led Richard Nixon to declare a War on Drugs in 1971, a seemingly unending battle that has strained our prison system and drained the nation of valuable resources.

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About Doug DeLong

  • http://pleasestopstampingonmyhead.blogspot.com/ Colin Ricketts

    I very much enjoyed your piece – an eye-opener to a British 30-something (particularly the behaviour of the repulsive host).
    Leary probably was irresponsible, but I honestly believe he was genuine in his belief that ‘turning on, tuning in and dropping out’ would make for a better society, he may well have been right. The “war on drugs” grinds on, still unwon and as unwinnable as ever.

  • http://www.starlarvae.org Heresiarch

    Gee, I wonder if this host ever similarly blindsided an executive of a brewery or distillery with a surprise visit from kids suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome?

    Unlike Huxley and others who wanted psychedelics to remain the purview of a vetted intelligensia, Leary, so he claimed, felt this attitude was elitist and believed the experience should be more widely available. He wanted to democratize psychedelics. Ms. Linketter might or might not have been a drug casualty. Even if she was, Leary can no more be blamed than anyone who promotes anything that might produce unwanted consequences–which includes everything–can be blamed for those consequences. More on Leary’s musings about the significance of the experience.

  • Bruce

    I think her despair was from finally realizing that she had been traumatised by her Father in her very early youth, and wanting out of a sense of self guilt, to end it all. I mean Linkletter was the leader of those “Fascinated” with children in a time when child molestation was just not spoken of. I mean follow the probability. LSD wouldn’t have deluded her, it would have caused her to have to face the Truth of what had really happened to her.
    Anyway, thats my opinion, and I’m CERTAIN of it.
    It ain’t rocket science, nor brain surgery.

  • scott

    I read in Bobby Jameson’s blog (he lived across the street) that her father, Art Linkletter, had offered her boyfriend a 10,000 dollar check to leave his daughter alone. She would have been better off running away with Jimi Hendrix; but that’s hindsight, isn’t it. (Her boyfriend tore up the check and threw it Linkletter’s face). If I see the old fart on the road again, I’ll wave with my middle finger.

  • kym chaffin

    THE SAME GUY WITH DIANE LINKLETTER WAS WITH TONIGHT SHOW CELEBRITY CAROL WAYNE WHEN SHE “DROWNED” IN MEXICO; THAT’S WAY TOO MUCH COINCIDENCE. AUTHORITIES DEFINITELY THOUGHT (AND THINK) CAROL WAYNE WAS MURDERED. YOU ARE WAY BEHIND THE CURVE–DIANE LINKLETTER WAS MURDERED. I’VE NEVER BEEN WITH ANY FEMALE CELEBRITY WHO DIED MYSTERIOUSLY, HOW ABOUT YOU? WOW, ED DURSTYN WAS WITH TWO–WHAT A COINCIDENCE.

  • karin

    I LEFT THAT EVENING TO SOON AND HAVE STAYED SILENT TO LONG.REST IN PEACE
    – SOMEONE WHO KNEW YOU
    Added: Aug. 24, 2007
    just went to findagrave.com and found this…why can’t something be done about this? There are people out there who know something. Obviously the person who left the flower/comment on her memorial does! This is a tragedy. She was not on drugs.

  • http://www.findadeath.com/Deceased/l/Diane%20Linkletter/LINKLETTER%20Diane%20Chemical%20Analysis.jpg karin

    SHE WAS NOT ON DRUGS! READ IT…

  • Sadie

    I remember the “story” vividly. I will always thank Art Linkletter for the fact that I was always too afraid to try mushrooms or any other type of acid that I was offered, although I have been addict to other drugs. I don’t know what was easier for him to deal with, but the legacy of Diane’s death may have saved mine. God bless him–I am glad for the story of Diane, and I am sure that I am not the only person that reflects on this from time to time.