Bob Barker was 99. According to his longtime publicist, he died on January 10, 2010. He used his comfort-food charm, deadpan humor, and deadpan comedy to become a television icon in the United States. Barker was hired to host “The Price Is Right”, in 1972. Producers hit the jackpot. The game show had faded significantly from its glory days in the late ’50s and had been punted by two networks before it landed at CBS.
But in Barker, the show found its voice, and it has continued to air a decade and a half after he retired.
Robert Thompson, the director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, said one reason Barker became an iconic game show host was the sheer length of his career. Barker spent more than half a century on TV, taking over as host of the popular “Truth or Consequences” in 1956 and retiring from “The Price Is Right” in 2007.
“From the black and white era of television right up to the new century, Bob Barker had a real presence on two really big shows,” Thompson said.
“Secondly, you’ve got some game shows where the host just stands behind a podium, but Barker really interacted with regular people” who were selected as contestants. “He was very good at it. “
Robert Barker, born on December 12, 1923 in Darrington Washington, moved with his mother to the Sioux Indian Reservation in Mission, South Dakota at age six after his father was killed in an accident. Matilda Barker, his schoolteacher mother, remarried, and they moved to Missouri. After a two-year stint in the Navy at the tail end of World War II, Barker returned to Missouri to attend Drury College, now Drury University, and graduated with a degree in economics.
Barker landed a job at a radio station in Florida, and it didn’t take long for word of his smooth delivery to travel across the wires. In 1950, he moved to California to start his own radio program, “The Bob Barker Show,” in Burbank.
Television producers clearly tuned in, and Barker landed his first game show in 1956, NBC’s “Truth or Consequences,” a job he would hold for 18 years until it went off the air.
Barker gave prizes away on “The Price Is Right,” which became the longest-running daytime game show in TV history in 1990, until his retirement.
And when he wasn’t giving away the keys to brand new cars, he was a TV fixture in other time slots. In 1967, he began a 20-year run as emcee of the Miss Universe and Miss America pageants, and in 1969 he started a similarly long run as the host of the New Year’s Day Tournament of Roses Parade.
A contestant and host Bob Barker during “The Price Is Right” million dollar spectacular.
Image source: Getty Images
But Barker’s made-for-television image took a huge hit 1994, when a former “Price Is Right” model accused him in a lawsuit of threatening to fire her if she didn’t have sex with him. Although the model, Dian Parkinson — a 19-year veteran of the show who had been fired the previous year — ultimately dropped the suit, Barker was forced to admit publicly that the two had had a less-than-professional relationship off screen.
Barker’s wife, his high school sweetheart, Dorothy Jo Gideon, had died years before, in 1981. They married in 1945.
The scandal didn’t prevent Barker from being given an Emmy Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Barker was also a longtime animal rights activist, ending each episode of “The Price Is Right” with the plea: “Help control the pet population. Your pets should be spayed or neutered. “
He established a charity named DJ&T Foundation in 1995 to provide pet owners with such services. The foundation was named after his wife, and their mother. The fur coat he won as “The Price Is Right’s” host is a good example of his passion for the cause. “So, he removed fur coats from our show. “
In 2013, Barker donated $1 million to move three captive elephants from the Toronto Zoo to a sanctuary in California.
The same year, Barker returned in a surprise visit to “Price Is Right” and his successor as host, Drew Carey.
“People ask me, ‘What do you miss most about ‘Price Is Right?'” Barker spoke to Parade Magazine in 2013. “And I tell you, ‘The Money.’ This isn’t entirely true. I also miss the people. “