Bob Barker, Beloved ‘Price Is Right’ Host, Passes Away at 99

Bob Barker, Beloved 'Price Is Right' Host, Passes Away at 99
In a somber announcement, Bob Barker, the enduring host of the iconic TV show “The Price Is Right,” has left us, as confirmed by his longtime publicist, Roger Neal. Barker, the charismatic master of ceremonies, known for his comforting charm and impeccable deadpan humor, bid farewell at the age of 99.

Roger Neal, who assumed the role of Barker’s spokesperson during two significant periods in history, spanning from 1987 to 1994 and, in a more recent capacity, from 2020, conveyed his heartfelt grief, affirming, “With an overwhelming sense of sorrow, we must convey the departure of the unparalleled maestro of the entertainment world, the inimitable Bob Barker.”

When Bob Barker was chosen to helm “The Price Is Right” back in 1972, it was akin to striking gold. The show had seen its glory days fade since the late 1950s and had been shuffled between networks before finally finding its home at CBS.

But with Bob Barker, the show discovered its voice, and even a decade and a half after his retirement, it continues to captivate audiences.

Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, attributes Barker’s iconic status as a game show host to the sheer duration of his career. Barker graced our screens for over half a century, starting as the host of the popular “Truth or Consequences” in 1956 and concluding with his retirement from “The Price Is Right” in 2007.

Thompson notes, “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.” Moreover, Barker didn’t merely stand behind a podium; he genuinely engaged with everyday people selected as contestants, displaying an extraordinary talent for it.

Born on December 12, 1923, in Darrington, Washington, Robert William Barker’s life took an unexpected turn when, at the age of 6, he relocated with his mother to a Sioux Indian reservation in Mission, South Dakota, following his father’s tragic workplace accident. After his mother remarried, the family moved once more, this time to Missouri. Barker later served in the Navy during the tail end of World War II and then returned to Missouri to attend Drury College, where he graduated with a degree in economics.

Barker’s journey into the world of entertainment began when he secured a job at a radio station in Florida, where his smooth delivery soon gained notoriety. In 1950, he ventured to California to establish his radio program, “The Bob Barker Show,” in Burbank.

Television producers took notice, and in 1956, Barker assumed his first game show hosting role on NBC’s “Truth or Consequences,” a post he held for 18 years until the show’s conclusion.

Bob Barker became synonymous with awarding prizes on “The Price Is Right,” which claimed the title of the longest-running daytime game show in TV history in 1990, a position it retained until Barker’s retirement.

In addition to his role as a game show host, Bob Barker graced other time slots on television. He served as the emcee of the Miss Universe and Miss America pageants for two decades, starting in 1967, and began hosting the New Year’s Day Tournament of Roses Parade in 1969.

However, Barker’s pristine television image faced a significant challenge in 1994 when a former “Price Is Right” model, Dian Parkinson, accused him of pressuring her into a sexual relationship under the threat of termination. Although the lawsuit was ultimately dropped, Barker publicly acknowledged that he and Parkinson had an unprofessional relationship off-screen.

Barker’s wife, his high school sweetheart Dorothy Jo Gideon, had passed away in 1981, leaving him heartbroken. They had been married since 1945.

Despite this scandal, Barker was bestowed with an Emmy Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Bob Barker was also a dedicated animal rights advocate, concluding each episode of “The Price Is Right” with a plea: “Help control the pet population. Have your pets spayed or neutered.” In 1995, he founded the DJ&T Foundation, named after his wife and her mother, which provided these services to pet owners. His commitment to the cause can be traced back to the first prize he ever awarded on “The Price Is Right” – a fur coat.

Nancy Burnet, a close friend of Barker for 40 years, remembered him for his tireless efforts to combat animal cruelty. She expressed, “I take immense pride in the groundbreaking efforts that Barker and I undertook jointly, shedding light on the mistreatment of animals within the entertainment sector, and our dedication to enhancing the well-being of abused and exploited animals, both nationally and across the globe. He will be missed.”

In 2013, Barker made a generous donation of $1 million to relocate three captive elephants from the Toronto Zoo to a sanctuary in California.

Reflecting on his time on “Price Is Right,” Barker once shared, “People ask me, ‘What do you miss most about ‘Price Is Right?'” And I say, ‘The money.’ But that is not altogether true. I miss the people, too.”

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