Born on December 12, 1923, in Darrington, Washington, Bob Barker started out in entertainment in 1950 with his own radio show, The Bob Barker Show. In 1972, he joined the popular television game show The Price Is Right. By the time Barker retired as the show's host in 2007, after nearly 35 years, The Price Is Right had become both the first hour-long game show and the longest-running daytime game show in history.
Television personality, game show host and animal rights activist Bob Barker was born Robert William Barker on December 12, 1923, in Darrington, Washington. Barker's father died when he was very young, and until he was in the eighth grade, he lived with his mother, Matilda, a teacher, on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in Mission, South Dakota. When Matilda remarried, the family moved to Springfield, Missouri.
Barker graduated from high school in the early 1940s and attended Springfield's Drury College on a basketball scholarship. He left school in 1943 to train as a fighter pilot in the United States Naval Reserve, but World War II ended before he was given an assignment for active duty. Barker returned to Drury and graduated in 1947 with a degree in economics. Barker's job at a radio station in Florida led to his move, in 1950, 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 out of Burbank.
In 1956, he was hired to host the daytime television version of the long-running radio quiz show Truth or Consequences, airing on NBC. The program, which forced its contestants to perform bizarre stunts if they failed to answer a question within about one second, was syndicated in 1966; Barker stayed on as its host until 1974, when it was taken off the air. (An updated version, called The New Truth or Consequences, aired from 1977 to 1989, with a different host.)
'The Price Is Right'
Even before his run on Truth or Consequences ended, Bob Barker had taken on the hosting duties of another game show, The Price Is Right, which since 1950 had aired on NBC and ABC before finding a home, at the time of Barker's arrival in 1972, on CBS. The show featured approximately 60 different games, each of which required the contestants to guess the price of various products, ranging from cutlery to luxury cars. The show was a hit, due in no small part to the catch-phrase, "Come on down!" bellowed by the show's original announcer, the late Johnny Olson, to the incredible number of prizes awarded by the jovial, smooth-talking Barker (estimated at a total value of around $200 million from 1972 to 1999).
In November 1975, The Price Is Right became the first hour-long game show in TV history; in 1990, it surpassed Truth or Consequences as the longest-running daytime game show in history. Barker's reign on The Price Is Right led to his appearance at the center of numerous other prominent programs, including the Pillsbury Bake-Off, which he emceed from 1969 to 1985, and the annual New Year's Day Tournament of Roses Parade, which he hosted from 1969 to 1988. In 1980, he appeared as the host of a short-lived variety show, That's My Line, developed by the creators of What's My Line, TV's longest-running primetime game show.
In 1996, Barker appeared on the big screen when he played himself in Happy Gilmore, a comedy starring Adam Sandler. In a memorable sequence, he and Sandler get into a brawl at a celebrity golf tournament; the scene won an award for "Best Fight Sequence" at the MTV Movie Awards that year.
That same year, Barker won an Emmy Award for Lifetime Achievement. In 2006, he announced his retirement from hosting The Price Is Right after holding the job for nearly 35 years. His last episode aired in June 2007.
In 1994, Dian Parkinson, a woman who had worked as a model on The Price Is Right from 1975 to 1993, sued Barker for sexual harassment, claiming that he had threatened to fire her if she did not have sex with him. Though she later dropped the suit, Barker was deeply hurt by her accusation and the public scandal that went along with it. He maintained that he had an intimate relationship with Parkinson, but that it had been consensual.
Animal Rights Activism
The indefatigable Barker also hosted the Miss Universe and Miss U.S.A. pageants every year from 1966 to 1988, when he became involved in a dispute with the organizers of Miss U.S.A. over an issue that had become dear to his heart: animal rights. Barker declined to host the pageants after organizers refused to remove fur coats from the prize packages received by the winners, as he had requested.
His support of animal rights culminated in his founding of the DJ&T Foundation in 1995, an organization based in Beverly Hills that works to reduce the overpopulation of domestic animals by providing free or inexpensive sterilization for cats and dogs. Barker named the DJ&T Foundation for his wife, Dorothy Jo Gideon, and her mother, Tilly. Gideon produced her husband's game shows until her death, in 1981, from cancer.
In October 2013, Barker spent approximately $1 million to get three African elephants from the Toronto Zoo to PAWS, an animal sanctuary in California. The Toronto City Council allowed for their removal in 2011 after activists such as Barker voiced their concerns about having large animals held within zoos. With the addition of Toka, Iringa and Thika, the Performing Animal Welfare Society's ARK 2000 compound has a total of 9 elephants.
Special Return Visit to 'TPIR'
On April 1, 2015 Barker made a surprise return visit to The Price Is Right as an April Fool's joke. It was his first appearance since he had turned 90 in 2013.
"I know the world is full of fools, but I am a carefully selected fool," Barker joked about being back on the game show, of which he had hosted for more than 40 years.
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