Born: December 12, 1923
Birthplace: Darrington, Washington, U.S.
Robert William Barker (born December 12, 1923) is an American former 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, and for hosting Truth or Consequences from 1956 to 1974.
Born in Darrington, Washington to modest circumstances, Barker enlisted in the United States Navy during World War II. Barker worked part-time in radio while he attended college. 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. Barker began his game show career in 1956, hosting Truth or Consequences. From there, he hosted various game shows as well as the Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants from 1967 to 1987 giving him the distinction of being the longest serving host of these pageants. Eventually, he began hosting The Price Is Right in 1972. When his wife Dorothy Jo died, Barker 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, Barker 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 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 1/8 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 remarriage. 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. On the outbreak of World War II, Barker served in the United States 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 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.
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Barker started hosting Truth or Consequences on December 31, 1956 and continued with the program until 1974. 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 did not complete the "Truth" portion, there was a "Consequences", usually a zany and embarrassing stunt. If the contestant answered the question, invariably, the question had a second part. 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, they won a bonus prize.
It was on Truth or Consequences that the salute became his trademark sign-off; he ended each episode with "Bob Barker saying goodbye, and hoping all your consequences are happy ones!"
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.
In 1967, Barker hosted the short-lived game show The Family Game for Chuck Barris, where he asked children contestants questions about their families' lives, and the parents had to guess how they answered, similar to The Newlywed Game.
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.
In 1980, Barker hosted 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.
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. The eventual compromise that was struck led to Barker hosting the daytime Price on CBS, James hosting the weekly nighttime Price in syndication, and Jack Barry himself (first on a trial basis, then eventually permanently) hosting Joker.
On September 4, 1972, Barker began hosting the CBS revival of The Price Is Right. In the 35 years of the CBS version, Barker became far more associated with the series than first host Bill Cullen was with the 1956-65 original. When James' contract for the nighttime Price expired without being renewed in 1977, Barker assumed hosting duties for three nighttime seasons as well, with the nighttime series eventually ending in 1980.
On October 15, 1987, Barker did what other MCs almost never did: renounced hair dye and began wearing his hair gray, which was its natural color by that time. Fellow hosts Monty Hall, Alex Trebek, and Richard Dawson did the same in the late 1980s.
Barker took over the role of executive producer for the show in 1988, following the death of the original executive producer, Frank Wayne. In this capacity, Barker created several pricing games, instituted a prohibition on foreign cars and animal-based products (see "Animal rights" below), and launched a prime-time series of specials known as The Price Is Right $1,000,000 Spectacular.
In September 2006, The Price Is Right marked its 35th consecutive year on the air. It is the longest-running game show of all time in North America, and at the time was the last surviving show in the daytime game show genre, having survived (at the time) twelve years after its last competitor had been canceled. (CBS later revived daytime game shows in 2009.) Overall, in daytime programming (excluding Saturday and Sunday), The Price Is Right is ranked sixth among the longest-continuing daytime television programs (NBC's Today ranks the longest, followed by four daytime soap operas: Guiding Light, As the World Turns, General Hospital, and Days of Our Lives). It has won its time slot (11:00 a.m. Eastern) for the past 25 years with its closest competitor (currently ABC's The View) normally getting about half of TPIR's ratings.
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On October 31, 2006, Barker made his announcement that he would retire from The Price Is Right in June 2007. He taped his final episode on June 6, 2007, with the show airing twice on June 15. The first airing was in the show's normal daytime slot and the second airing was in primetime as the lead-in to the Daytime Emmy Awards. Repeat episodes from Barker's final season continued to air until October 12, 2007. On July 23 it was announced that comedian Drew Carey would take Barker's place as the new host for the show beginning on October 15, 2007.
During Barker's tenure as host, three pricing games were introduced that used his name: Barker's Bargain Bar, Barker's Marker$ and Trader Bob. Of the three, the latter two are not actively played on the show - Trader Bob was retired from the show in 1985, Barker's Marker$ was renamed Make Your Mark following Barker's retirement, and subsequently retired, and Barker's Bargain Bar has been retooled as the Bargain Game after a four-year hiatus between 2008 and 2012.
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'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. He also appeared during the showcase of that episode.
Barker married his high-school sweetheart Dorothy Jo Gideon on January 12, 1945. They remained married for 36 years until her death on October 19, 1981 of lung cancer. They had no children, and Barker has not remarried. However, he was involved in a relationship with Price model Dian Parkinson from 1989 to 1991, which ended in legal action.
Barker has had some minor health problems. Around 1982, he had a herniated disc and sciatica. Greater health problems began in 1991 after he complained of vision problems while exercising. After a visit to his doctor, he was sent to see a neurologist, who told Barker he had had a mild stroke. He recovered and went back to work.
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.
Following their testimonies in Barker's failed lawsuit against Hallstrom, models Janice Pennington and Kathleen Bradley were fired, and later received out-of-court financial settlements. Director Paul Alter was removed from the show in 2000. Production assistants Sherrill Paris and Sharon Friem, who were also dismissed at the same time, each sued Barker for wrongful termination, as well as sexual harassment and sex discrimination. Both women ultimately received financial settlements.
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 plans to appeal the dismissal of the lawsuit. In January 2012, the California Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal.
Barker became a vegetarian in 1979. That same year, he began promoting animal rights. 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 in recognizing the rights of animals and that shortly after her death in October 1981 he took up animal rights in order to keep doing something that she had done.
Barker began ending some episodes (later every episode) of The Price Is Right with the phrase: "This is Bob Barker reminding you to help control the pet population — have your pets spayed or neutered." After Barker retired, Drew Carey continued his signature sign-off advocating neutering. 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.
Barker's DJ&T Foundation, founded in 1994 and named after his late wife and mother, has contributed millions of dollars for animal neutering programs and to fund animal rescue and park facilities all over the United States. He worked closely with Betty White as an advocate for animal rights. However, in 2009, reports indicated that Barker threatened to not attend the 2009 Game Show Awards, where he was to receive a lifetime achievement award, because White would be attending. The reason for the conflict, according to the report, was over the proper 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 Mark Goodson.
In 2004, Barker donated $1 million to Columbia University School of Law to support the study of animal rights. The gift has funded an adjunct professorship in animal rights law at Columbia and helped fund a student clinic in environmental law.
Barker also supported United Activists for Animal Rights, and together with the group, publicly accused several media projects and the American Humane Association of animal mistreatment or the condoning of animal mistreatment, a tactic which resulted in a major lawsuit against him and the group, accusing him of spurious allegations.
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 U.S. Representative Bill Young, (R) Florida, 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.
In January 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 began funding the cost of a helicopter, named the Nancy Burnet (after the president of United Activists for Animal Rights); the helicopter accompanies the society's fleet.
In March 2010, PETA announced that it received a $2.5 million donation from Barker to help establish a new office called the Bob Barker Building in Los Angeles. PETA officially opened the Bob Barker Building on Sunset Boulevard in 2012. The Grand Opening was attended by Christian Serratos, Stephanie Pratt, Moby, Kate del Castillo, Sasha Grey, Renee Olstead, Fivel Stewart, Diane Warren, and Allisyn Ashley Arm.
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. 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 to allow the audience to ask questions about what Barker was doing during his post-retirement.
Bob Barker supports the following charitable cause: Animals.