Last night, I got the news that famed game show host, Bob Barker, finally went on to host the next game show in the sky. Barker, as most of my American readers of a certain age know, was best known as the host of The Price is Right, a rare hour long game show that has been running for over 50 years. Barker started hosting that show– a staple of my youth– in 1972, the year I was born. Because it aired at 11:00 every weekday morning, I wasn’t a regular viewer when I was a kid. I had to go to school. But when I was at home on rare sick days or when there was a school holiday or summer break, I would watch Bob and his “beauties” running a variety of games for excited contestants who had been invited to “come on down!”
Bob Barker passed away in his Hollywood Hills home yesterday at age 99. He was just a few months from his 100th birthday, remarkable given that he’d had some health crises during his lifetime. Barker enjoyed tanning, so he had a few bouts with skin cancer. He also suffered a stroke twenty years ago, had a blocked artery, and underwent prostate surgery. In spite of the health issues that cropped up, Barker was remarkably resilient.
I have read about some of the controversies involving Bob Barker and the models who appeared on his show. And, after I heard about his death last night, I noticed people were hitting my blog. There, they no doubt saw my review of Kathleen Bradley’s book. Bradley was the first Black Barker Beauty, and she dished quite a bit about her time on The Price Is Right.
I remember that around the time I read that book, I also read about the models I remembered from the 80s– Dian Parkinson, who famously sued Barker for sexual harassment, Janice Pennington, and Holly Hallstrom, who also sued Barker. But, when I read about the many controversies surrounding Bob Barker’s behavior behind the scenes, I have trouble divorcing it from what I always saw on The Price is Right stage… an unflappable, consummate professional, who was always friendly and charming to every guest. He was like the world’s best cruise director. 😉
Bob Barker also hosted Truth or Consequences, another game show that was on before my time. I’m sure that show meant even more to Bob than his famous turn on The Price is Right did. It was the beginning of his long and illustrious career, doing a job that almost no one can hope of doing. A brilliant host is extremely difficult to replace, as fans of Jeopardy! have noticed in the wake of Alex Trebek’s death in 2020. But there also aren’t a lot of game show host gigs out there, and openings are few and far between, because it appears to be a fabulous way to make a living.
Only one woman, Dorothy Jo Gideon, had the experience of being Barker’s wife. They were married in 1945 and stayed together until Gideon’s death in 1981. Bob Barker never remarried, although he did have some famous and infamous romantic and working relationships with other women… a couple of which ended in lawsuits.
Bob Barker left The Price is Right in 2007, when he was 83 years old. I’m sure he never expected to live another 16 years, enjoying the California sunshine and working toward promoting animal rights. Mr. Barker was all about animal welfare; he was a vegetarian and was not above using his influence to get other people to be more mindful about their well-being. He was famous for urging people to help control the pet population by having their pets spayed or neutered.
Bob was very good when there were any mishaps… and there were a few of them in the above clip. I have a feeling someone got fired after that disaster. But Bob was such a pro and he handled almost every situation with tremendous panache. I highly recommend watching the above video! Hilarious!
Anyway… love him or hate him, Bob Barker had a really good run in life, and he could teach us all something by the way he conducted himself on stage. I wish I had his ability to be so graceful under pressure. He was never at a loss for words and could always put a smile on my face.
I can’t say it’s “tragic” that he died, since he was almost 100 years old, but I can say that I have many fond memories of his work. I still like to watch The Price is Right when I get the chance. I think Drew Carey has done a good job taking over The Price is Right, but there will only be ONE Bob Barker. May his eternal home be furnished by a double showcase win and inhabited with many grateful animals!