Robert William "Bob" Barker (born December 12, 1923) is an American former television game show host. He is best known for hosting CBS' The Price Is Right from 1972 to 2007, making it the longest-running daytime game show in North American television history. After holding the job for 35 years and having been in television for 50 years, Barker retired in June 2007.
Barker was born in Darrington, Washington, and spent most of his youth on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. His mother, Matilda ("Tillie") Valandra (née Matilda Kent Tarleton), was a school teacher; his father, Byron John Barker, was the foreman on the electrical high line through the state of Washington. He is 1/8th Native American (Sioux). While in Washington, his father fell from a tower and sustained an injury which resulted in his death in 1929. Barker has a half-brother, Kent Valandra, from Matilda's subsequent re-marriage. In 1931, the family moved to Springfield, Missouri, where Barker graduated from Central High School in 1941.
Barker attended Drury College (now Drury University) in Springfield, on a basketball scholarship. He was a member of the Epsilon Beta Chapter of Sigma Nu fraternity at Drury. His education was interrupted by World War II. Barker served in the Navy as a fighter pilot. However, the war ended before he was assigned to a seagoing squadron. After the war, he returned to Drury to finish his education, graduating summa cum laude with a degree in economics. While attending Drury, Barker worked his first "media job", at KTTS-FM Radio, in Springfield.
Barker left Springfield and worked at a radio station in Florida before landing another radio job in California. He was hosting an audience-participation radio show on KNX (AM) in Los Angeles when game show producer Ralph Edwards happened to be listening and liked Barker's voice and style.
Barker married his high school sweetheart Dorothy Jo Gideon in 1945 and the couple remained married for 36 years up until her death in 1981 from lung cancer. The couple had no children. Barker has not remarried after her death; however, he was later involved in a relationship with model Dian Parkinson from 1989 to 1991, a relationship that ended in legal action.
Game show career
Truth or Consequences (1956-1975)
Barker started hosting on December 31, 1956 and would continue with the program until 1975. The idea was to mix the original quiz element of game shows with wacky stunts. On the show, people had to answer a trivia question correctly (usually an off-the-wall question that no one would be able to answer correctly) before "Beulah the Buzzer" was sounded. If the contestant could not complete the "Truth" portion, there would be "Consequences", usually a zany and embarrassing stunt. In addition, during Barker's run as host, "Barker's Box" was played. Barker's Box was a box with four drawers in it. If a contestant was able to pick all three drawers with money inside before picking the empty drawer, he or she won a bonus prize.
In many broadcasts, the stunts on Truth or Consequences included a popular, but emotional, heart-rending surprise for a contestant, that being the reunion with a long-lost relative or with an enlisted son or daughter returning from military duty overseas, particularly Vietnam.
It was on Truth or Consequences that the salute became his trademark sign-off; he ended each episode with "Bob Barker saying good-bye, and hoping all your consequences are happy ones!"
End of the Rainbow (1957-1958)
On December 4, 1957, Barker began hosting a new Ralph Edwards creation, the short-lived End of the Rainbow for NBC. On this show (similar to Barker's Truth or Consequences and Edwards' This Is Your Life), he and co-host Art Baker went out to various places in America and surprised the less-fortunate who helped others when they could barely help themselves. For example, the first episode featured a Minneapolis grocer who, in return for his community service, was given a complete makeover to his store plus new furniture and appliances for his home. In addition, his landlord (who was in on the surprise) announced that the current month's rent was free and that the grocer's rent would never increase.
The Family Game (1967)
In 1967, Barker hosted the short-lived game show The Family Game for Chuck Barris, where he would ask children contestants questions about their families' lives, and the parents had to guess how they answered, similar in fashion to the Newlywed Game.
Simon Says (1971)
In 1971, Barker was tapped to host a pilot for NBC entitled Simon Says, which required him to interact with a giant computer called "Simon" in Let's Make A Deal-style "trades". The pilot was produced by Wesley J. Cox of DUNDAS Productions, and its theme was "The Savers" (the theme used on The Joker's Wild).
That's My Line (1980-1981)
In 1980, Barker emceed a series called That's My Line for Goodson-Todman. The series was not a game show, but rather a program along the lines of Real People and That's Incredible! The show's second season in 1981 focused more on unusual stunts, and was cancelled in September.
The Price Is Right (1972-2007)
On September 4, 1972, Barker began his most famous assignment hosting the CBS revival of The Price is Right. In the 35 years of the CBS version, he has become far more associated with the series than first host Bill Cullen was with the 1956-1965 original. In September 1977, he hosted the last three seasons of the syndicated nighttime version, originally hosted by Dennis James.
On October 15, 1987 Barker did what other MCs almost never did: renounced hair dye and allowed his hair to go gray. Fellow hosts Monty Hall, Alex Trebek, and Richard Dawson would do the same in the late 1980s.
In 2006, The Price Is Right celebrated 35 consecutive years on the air. It is the longest-running game show of all time in North America. Overall, in daytime programming (excluding Saturday and Sunday), The Price Is Right is ranked sixth among the longest-continuing daytime television programs (NBC's Today ranks the longest, followed by four daytime soap operas: Guiding Light, As the World Turns, General Hospital, and Days of our Lives), and will move into fifth in September 2009 when Guiding Light airs its final episode on CBS. It has won its time slot (11:00 a.m. Eastern) for the past 25 years with its closest competitor (currently ABC's The View) normally getting about half of TPIR's ratings.
On October 31, 2006, Bob made his announcement that he would retire from The Price Is Right in June 2007. However, Barker has revealed that FremantleMedia, the company that owns the show, has been looking for a successor in the last two to three years, and also that he had considered retirement for a while, but he had so much fun that he continued to do the show. He taped his final episode on June 6, 2007, with the show airing twice on June 15. The first airing was in the show's normal daytime slot and the second airing was in primetime as the lead-in to the Daytime Emmy Awards. Repeat episodes from Barker's final season continued to air until October 12, 2007, ending with a repeat of his final episode. On July 23 it was announced that comedian Drew Carey would take Barker's place as the new host for the show beginning on October 15, 2007.
During Barker's tenure as host, three pricing games were introduced that used his name: Barker's Bargain Bar, Barker's Marker$ and Trader Bob. Of the three, the only pricing game still active is Barker's Marker$, which became Make Your Mark in Season 36 (the show's first with Drew Carey as host); Trader Bob was retired prior to Barker's retirement, and Barker's Bargain Bar folded during Season 37. In addition, Barker has always been mentioned in some form by Carey whenever a contestant played Barker's Bargain Bar (as "the founder of the show"; other variants used the fictitious names Ezekiel Barker and Jebediah Barker) and Punch a Bunch (where Carey tells the story of how Chuck Norris once taught Barker karate). In addition, contestants have been known to address Carey as "Bob", especially while they place their bids in Contestants' Row (which he usually laughs off and reminds them to call him "Drew").
Barker made a guest appearance on the show for an episode that aired on April 16, 2009 to promote his new autobiography, Priceless Memories. He appeared in the Showcase round at the end of the show.
Bob Barker is well-known for his work in animal rights. He became a vegetarian in 1979. That same year, he began promoting animal rights. Barker began ending each episode of The Price Is Right with the phrase: "Help control the pet population. Have your pets spayed or neutered." Even after he retired, Drew Carey continued his signature sign-off. He was named national spokesman for "Be Kind to Animals Week" in May 1985. On A&E's Biography program, he credited his wife, Dorothy Jo, with causing him to become more aware of animal rights and becoming a vegetarian, because she had done so. Bob remarked that Dorothy Jo was way ahead of her time as far as animal rights were concerned and that shortly after her death in October, 1981, he took up animal rights in order to keep doing something that she had done. Fellow game show hosts Jack Barry and Bert Convy eventually followed Barker's lead in promoting animal rights on the air.
Barker hosted the Miss USA/Universe Pageants from 1967 to 1987. In 1987, he requested the removal of fur prizes and stepped down as host when those in charge of the pageant refused.
Bob Barker's DJ&T Foundation has contributed millions of dollars to fund animal rescue and park facilities all over the country. He works closely with Betty White as an advocate for animal rights.
In June 2009, Barker wrote Chief Michell Hicks of the Cherokee asking that their reservation's bear exhibit be closed. On July 28, 2009, he visited the reservation and saw one of the three zoos, calling the bears' living situation "inhumane". PETA set up the visit after Barker heard from Florida congressman Bill Young, whose wife had been "appalled" by what she saw. Annette Tarnowski, the tribe's attorney general, said a federal inspector had found nothing wrong in May 2009 at two of the zoos, and that the tribe had dealt with the few violations at the third. Hicks made no promises and threatened to ban PETA if they made more trouble.
Barker set a longevity record as holding a weekday T.V. job continuously for 51 years, which included his years on Truth or Consequences. Only sportscaster Vin Scully, who is four years younger than Barker, has held a job longer than Barker in the American entertainment industry, albeit a seasonal job and not a daily one. (Orion Samuelson is slated to pass Barker in 2010.)
Barker has also had the second-longest run as the host of a single entertainment broadcast show (sports excluded), only a few months short of Don McNeill, who spent 35½ years as host of Don McNeill's Breakfast Club.
Barker, who was 83½ years old at the time of his retirement, holds the record of being the oldest man ever to host a regularly scheduled television game show and the oldest man ever to host a weekday television program since the inception of American network television. Barker also hosted/appeared on a five-day-a-week television program longer than anyone else in the history of television.
* In 1996, Barker played himself in the Adam Sandler comedy Happy Gilmore. In one scene, Barker beats up Gilmore after an altercation arising from their teaming up in a Pro-Am Golf Tournament. Gilmore fights back and briefly gets the upper hand, declaring, "The price is wrong, bitch!" Bob then gets up, holds Gilmore in a strangle hold and continues to punch him before delivering a high kick to Gilmore's chin that knocks him down a grassy hill, declaring "Now you've had enough...bitch!" Barker reportedly accepted the role when he learned he would get to win the fight with Sandler. He and Sandler won the MTV Movie Award for Best Fight for Happy Gilmore, making Barker the oldest winner of any MTV award at 73.
* In 2007, during a CBS prime-time special commemorating Barker's career, Sandler made a surprise appearance to thank Barker and read a poem in his honor.
* In the late 1990s, Barker played the father of Mel Harris' character on a few episodes of the NBC sitcom Something So Right. He appeared in two animated television series as himself: in the Futurama episode "The Lesser of Two Evils" in 2000, followed by the Family Guy episodes "Screwed the Pooch" in 2001, "The Fat Guy Strangler" in 2005, and "Tales of a Third Grade Nothing" in 2008.
* Barker appears briefly in the Canadian documentary Come on Down: Searching for the American Dream (2004), directed and written by Adam Liley and produced by Steven James May of Manifestation Television. Mr. Barker gives a special in-studio message pertaining to Liley's search for the elusive American Dream. The documentary also features Hunter S. Thompson and Chris Gardner.
* Barker was a semi-regular panelist on the game shows Tattletales (with wife Dorothy Jo) and Match Game. Barker sat in Richard Dawson's former place during the first week of Dawson's permanent absence from Match Game. Barker also played on the Price is Right team against The Young and the Restless on Family Feud in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
* Barker co-hosted CBS' coverage of the Rose Parade from Pasadena, California for several years during the 1970s and '80s.
* He created and hosted The Bob Barker Fun and Games Show from 1978-1986 which was a combination of stunt participation in the style of Truth or Consequences and pricing games such as Price in which he traveled throughout the United States and Canada in various arenas and venues.
* In the 1970s, he was the host of the annual/biennial Pillsbury Bake-Off (the bake-off occurred every two years starting in 1976). In 1978, he was the first host to have a male category champ.
* He was a guest host on The Tonight Show back in 1966, when he was a regular on NBC hosting Truth or Consequences.
* He appeared on Bonanza, playing a character named Mort in the 1960 episode "Denver McKee".
* He has appeared on various talk shows such as: Dinah!, Larry King Live, The Arsenio Hall Show, Crook & Chase, Donny & Marie, The Rosie O'Donnell Show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Wayne Brady Show, The Late Show With David Letterman, and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.
* Barker also made cameo appearances on The Bold and the Beautiful in 2002, Yes, Dear, and How I Met Your Mother with announcer Rich Fields in 2007.
* About one year after retirement, Barker appeared in a public service announcement promoting the transition to Digital Television in the United States. The advertisement was produced under the first proposed date of February 16, 2009 for the transition.
Awards and recognition
Barker has won 19 Emmy Awards in total. Fourteen were for Outstanding Game Show Host, more than any other performer. He has also won four for Executive Producer of The Price Is Right and received the Lifetime Achievement Award for Daytime Television in 1999.
On April 9, 1998, on the occasion of the ceremonial five thousandth episode of Price, CBS dedicated the sound stage where the show has been produced since 1972 in honor of Barker.
In 2004, Barker was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame.
In 2007, Barker was inducted into the Hall of Famous Missourians, and a bronze bust depicting him is on permanent display in the rotunda of the Missouri State Capitol.
On April 14, 2008, Barker was inducted to the NAB Broadcasting Hall of Fame.
On June 6, 2009, during GSN's 2009 Game Show Awards, Barker was presented the Lifetime Achievement Award by Tom Bergeron. However, prior to the taping of the awards, Barker and Betty White were involved in a feud between the two of them over a plan to relocate an elephant to a sanctuary in San Andreas. In response, Barker threatened that he would not show up at the ceremony if White was there. White did not appear at the ceremony, however taped a dedication to Mark Goodson.
* On September 7, 2009, Barker was a special guest host for WWE RAW in Rosemont, Illionis.]\
Barker had suffered some minor health problems early (he suffered a herniated disc and sciatica) around 1982, however, his bigger health problems started in 1991 after he complained of having vision problems while exercising. After a visit to the doctors, they sent him to see a neurologist, where the doctors told Barker he had a mild stroke. He soon recovered and went back to work.
On September 16, 1999, Barker was in Washington, D.C., to speak about HR 2929, the proposed legislation that would ban elephants from traveling shows (i.e., circuses). While preparing for the presentation, Barker experienced what he called "clumsiness" in his right hand. He was admitted to George Washington University Hospital and diagnosed with a partially blocked left carotid artery. Barker underwent carotid endarterectomy to remove the blockage. The procedure went well enough that he was able to return to work within the month.
Three years later, Barker had two additional health crisises after taping the 30th season finale of The Price is Right. While lying down in the sun, Barker was hospitalized with a stroke on May 30, 2002; six weeks later, on July 11, Barker underwent prostate surgery, both at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C. Both surgeries were successful.
In July 2006, Barker suffered a minor injury to his right hand. On the July 15, 2006 episode of The Late Late Show, he jokingly stated that he broke it by karate chopping "countless desks," something he later proceeded to do to host Craig Ferguson's desk.
Barker has also had several mild bouts with skin cancer, which is a result of his frequent tanning. He consults a dermatologist regularly to make sure any cancers are caught and removed before they spread; they do not pose a threat to his life. In an interview, Barker told people at home:
In 1994, Barker was sued by former model Dian Parkinson following a bitter breakup after the two of them dated for three years while working on The Price is Right. Parkinson later dropped her lawsuit, claiming the stress from the ordeal was damaging her health.
In 1995, model Holly Hallstrom exited Price and later filed suit against Barker for wrongful termination and malicious prosecution claiming Barker had launched a media attack against her, allegedly saying that she was disruptive to the working atmosphere of Price. Barker dropped his case, while Hallstrom did not, finally ending in settlement in 2005.
Price is Right employees Sherrell Paris, Linda Reigert, Sharon Friem, and models Janice Pennington and Kathleen Bradley were all released from the show in 2000. Reigert and Friem filed lawsuits against Barker, CBS, and FremantleMedia as a result. Friem additionally charged Barker and Price with sexual harassment. Pearson Television, which took over the show's production in October 2000, made changes as CBS needed to cut costs.
In 2002, announcer Rod Roddy's on-air camera time on Price was eliminated upon the start of Season 31. FremantleMedia claimed that it is their official policy for announcers not to appear on camera on any of their shows, however insiders speculated that a falling-out between Roddy and Barker was the real reason that Roddy was never shown again. During Roddy's cancer-related surgeries during Season 31, substitute announcers Paul Boland and Burton Richardson were both shown on-camera occasionally. Roddy was shown one last time, looking noticeably thinner, on the Season 32 premiere in 2003. When Rich Fields was hired as announcer, he was also shown on-camera occasionally. Following Barker's retirement in 2007, Fields began appearing on-camera daily.
In October 2007, Deborah Curling, a long-time employee of Price, filed a lawsuit against Bob Barker and Price producers, claiming that she was forced to quit her job after testifying against Barker in a wrongful-termination lawsuit brought on by a previous show producer. Curling claimed that she was demoted to an "intolerable work environment" on the back stage of the show which caused her to leave the job. Curling, who is black, also alleged that the show's producers (including Barker) created a hostile work environment in which black employees and contestants were discriminated against. Some time later, it was announced that Barker was removed from the lawsuit for the time being.
Bob Barker has written his autobiography, assisted by former L.A. Times Book Review editor Digby Diehl, titled "Priceless Memories". It was released April 6, 2009. It features stories from his early life as well as stories and experiences in the 50 years of his television career. An audiobook is also available, read by Barker himself.
It was also then reported that Barker would appear on The Price is Right to promote his book. His initial appearance was scheduled for the March 2, 2009 taping, however, the taping was postponed until March 25 due to host Drew Carey contracting Pneumonia. The episode aired on April 16, during which Barker appeared during the Showcases to promote the book. Drew Carey stated in an interview that the show stopped taping for over an hour as the crowd continued to give Barker a standing ovation and allow the audience to ask questions of what Barker was doing post-retirement.
“ I urge anyone who has spent some time in the sun, whether you're doing it now or not, go to a dermatologist once a year. ”
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