Robert William Barker
December 12, 1923
Darrington, Washington, U.S.
|Education||Drury University (BA)|
Game show host
Dorothy Jo Gideon
(m. 1945; died 1981)
Robert William Barker (born December 12, 1923) is an American retired television game show host. He is known for hosting CBS's The Price Is Right from 1972 to 2007, making it the longest-running daytime game show in North American television history. He is also known for hosting Truth or Consequences from 1956 to 1974.
Born in Darrington, Washington in modest circumstances, Barker enlisted in the United States Navy during World War II. He worked part-time in radio while he attended college. In 1950, he moved to California in order to pursue a career in broadcasting. He was given his own radio show, The Bob Barker Show, which ran for six years. Barker began his game show career in 1956, hosting Truth or Consequences. From there, he hosted various game shows, and the Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants from 1967 to 1987, giving him the distinction of being the longest-serving host of these pageants. He began hosting The Price Is Right in 1972. When his wife Dorothy Jo died of lung cancer at age 57 in 1981, he became an advocate for animal rights and of animal rights activism, supporting groups such as the United Activists for Animal Rights and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. In 2007, he retired from hosting The Price Is Right after celebrating his 50-year career on television.
Barker was born on December 12, 1923, in Darrington, Washington, and spent most of his youth on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in Mission, South Dakota. The U.S. Indian Census Rolls, 1885–1940, list Barker as an official member of the Sioux tribe. 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. Barker is one-eighth Sioux.
Barker met his future wife, Dorothy Jo Gideon, at an Ella Fitzgerald concert while he was attending high school in Missouri, and they began dating when he was 15. Barker attended Drury College (now Drury University) in Springfield, Missouri, on a basketball scholarship. He was a member of the Epsilon Beta chapter of Sigma Nu fraternity at Drury. Barker joined the United States Naval Reserve in 1943 during World War II to train as a fighter pilot, but did not serve on active duty. During his time on leave from the military, he married Dorothy Jo on January 12, 1945. After the war, he returned to Drury to finish his education, graduating summa cum laude with a degree in economics.
While attending college in Drury, Barker worked his first "media job", at KTTS-FM Radio, in Springfield. He and his wife left Springfield and moved to Lake Worth, Florida, and he was news editor and announcer at nearby WWPG 1340 AM in Palm Beach (now WPBR in Lantana). In 1950, Barker moved to California in order to pursue a career in broadcasting. He was given his own radio show, The Bob Barker Show, which ran for the next six years from Burbank. 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.
Game show career
Truth or Consequences (1956–1974)
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, which has led some to believe that Cox or DUNDAS was an alias for Jack Barry or Dan Enright, since Joker used the theme in its original 1968 pilot). There is at least one (somewhat low-quality) clip of the pilot on the video sharing website YouTube.
The Price Is Right (1972–2007)
In early 1972, Mark Goodson and Bill Todman began shopping a modernized revival of The Price Is Right to stations, with Dennis James as host. CBS expressed interest in the series, on one condition: instead of James, Barker would be installed as host. After some initial resistance, Barker instead offered to host another upcoming CBS game show, Jack Barry's The Joker's Wild (which had difficulty finding a host and was scheduled to debut the same day as Price) to allow James to host Price, but CBS rejected this proposal.
On September 4, 1972, Barker began hosting the CBS revival of The Price Is Right.
On October 15, 1987, Barker did what other MCs almost never did then: renounced hair dye and began wearing his hair gray, which was its natural color by that time.
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After his retirement, Barker made three return appearances to The Price is Right. He first appeared on the 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. Barker made another guest appearance on the show to celebrate his 90th birthday celebration, which aired on December 12, 2013. He announced a contestant for the first time ever on the show, along with one showcase. Barker also made a surprise appearance on April 1, 2015, for an April Fools' Day switch where he took Drew Carey's place at the show's intro. He hosted the first one bid and pricing game of that day before handing the hosting duties back to Drew.
On September 16, 1999, Barker was in Washington, D.C., to testify before Congress regarding HR 2929: the Captive Elephant Accident Prevention Act, 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 crises after taping the 30th-season finale of The Price is Right. While lying in the sun on May 30, 2002, he experienced a stroke and was hospitalized; six weeks later, on July 11, Barker underwent prostate surgery. Both hospitalizations occurred at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C. Both surgeries were successful.
Barker has had several mild bouts with skin cancer, 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 currently pose a threat to his life. During a televised interview, Barker told viewers, "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."
On October 20, 2015, two police officers passing Barker's Los Angeles-area home saw him trip and fall on a sidewalk. They called an ambulance that brought him to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where he received stitches for an injured forehead and was released; he also hurt his left knee.
Barker slipped and hit his head at home on June 19, 2017. His maid drove him to the emergency room, where he was checked and released. His representative said it was not as serious as his earlier fall.
In 1994, former model Dian Parkinson filed a lawsuit against Barker alleging sexual harassment following a three-year affair while working on The Price Is Right. Parkinson, who alleged that she was extorted by threats of firing, later dropped her lawsuit, claiming the stress from the ordeal was damaging her health.
In 1995, model Holly Hallstrom left The Price Is Right and later filed suit against Barker for wrongful termination and malicious persecution claiming Barker had launched a media attack against her, allegedly stating that she was disruptive to the working atmosphere of the show. Barker dropped his case, but Hallstrom did not, finally ending in settlement in 2005.
In October 2007, Deborah Curling, a CBS employee assigned to The Price Is Right, filed a lawsuit against CBS, Bob Barker and The Price Is Right producers, claiming that she was forced to quit her job after testifying against Barker in a wrongful-termination lawsuit brought by a previous show producer. Curling claimed that she was demoted to an "intolerable work environment" backstage 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. A few months later, Barker was removed from the lawsuit, and in September 2009, the lawsuit was dismissed. Curling's attorney stated that he planned to appeal the dismissal of the lawsuit. In January 2012, the California Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal.
Barker has been a vegetarian for over three decades. He has also been an outspoken advocate for a variety of animal rights issues:
In 1989, Barker and United Activists for Animal Rights publicly accused several media projects and the American Humane Association of animal mistreatment and condoning animal mistreatment, a tactic which resulted in a $10 million suit against him and the UAAR for libel, slander and invasion of privacy.
In 1994, Barker founded DJ&T Foundation, named after his late wife and mother, which has contributed millions of dollars for animal neutering programs and funded animal rescue and park facilities all over the United States.
In 2009, Barker threatened to not attend the 2009 Game Show Awards, where he was to receive a lifetime achievement award, because Betty White would be attending. Previously working with White, the reason for this conflict was over the treatment of an elephant at the Los Angeles Zoo. White instead did not attend and pre-recorded her comments that she was scheduled to make about another awardee, Mark Goodson.
In 2010, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society announced that it had secretly purchased and outfitted a ship to interdict Japanese whaling operations in the Southern Ocean using $5,000,000 provided by Barker. The ship was then named the MY Bob Barker, and its existence was first revealed when it helped discover the location of the Japanese whaling fleet.
In 2010, Barker donated $2.5 million to renovate a building for PETA's new office in Los Angeles. The building was opened in 2012.
Film and other TV appearances
- 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. In 2007, during a CBS prime-time special commemorating Barker's career, the fight scene from Happy Gilmore was shown, after which, Sandler made a surprise appearance on stage to read a poem paying tribute to Barker. In 2015, during Comedy Central's "Night of Too Many Stars" benefit show for autism, Barker and Sandler reunited for a video featuring the two of them in follow-up fight at the hospital, which ends with both of them dying and going to heaven.
- 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 co-hosted CBS' coverage of the Rose Parade from Pasadena, California for several years during the 1970s and 1980s.
- 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 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 Nanny and The Bold and the Beautiful in 2002 and 2014.
- 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.
- On September 7, 2009, Barker was a special guest host for WWE Raw (called "The Price is Raw") in Rosemont, Illinois.
- Barker agreed to be a rotating guest co-host on The Huckabee Show, a daily TV talk show hosted by Mike Huckabee. Barker first appeared on the show July 29, 2010.
- Barker appeared in a commercial for State Farm Insurance's "Magic Jingle" campaign, where he made "a new car!" appear for a woman whose previous car was totaled by a giant concrete cylinder.
- Barker filmed a TV advertisement endorsing David Jolly, a candidate for the Republican Party nomination for the special election in his Congressional district.
- Barker voiced the character Bob Barnacle, a snail business owner on the Nickelodeon animated series SpongeBob SquarePants.
Awards and honors
- 19-time Emmy Award winner
- "Bob Barker Studio" at CBS Television City named in his honor.
- Television Hall of Fame (class of 2004).
- Time Magazine's Greatest Game Show Host of All-Time
- NAB Broadcasting Hall of Fame (class of 2008).
- GSN Lifetime Achievement Award
Bob Barker has written his autobiography, assisted by former L.A. Times book review editor Digby Diehl, titled Priceless Memories. It was published on April 6, 2009, and features stories from his early life as well as stories and experiences in the 50 years of his television career.
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's bout with pneumonia. The episode aired on April 16, during which Barker appeared during the Showcases to promote the book.
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