Bob Barker, the iconic and affable host of the renowned television show "The Price Is Right," whose blend of comforting charm and deadpan wit secured his status as a fixture in American television, has passed away at the age of 99, as confirmed by his longstanding publicist.
Roger Neal, who served as Barker's spokesperson during key periods of his career, expressed the profound sadness of Barker's departure in a statement released on Saturday. Barker's association with "The Price Is Right," which began in 1972, turned out to be a game-changing decision for both the show and the network.
At the time of his appointment, the game show had experienced a decline from its earlier glory days in the late 1950s and had undergone changes in networks before finding its home on CBS. Bob Barker's presence and charisma breathed new life into the show, extending its legacy even after his retirement, a testament to his enduring impact.
According to Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, Barker's remarkable career longevity played a pivotal role in his iconic status as a game show host. Barker's television journey spanned over five decades, from his takeover of the popular "Truth or Consequences" in 1956 to his farewell from "The Price Is Right" in 2007.
Thompson emphasized that Barker's distinctiveness lay not only in his longevity but also in his genuine interaction with everyday people chosen as contestants. Unlike some hosts who remained stationary, Barker engaged meaningfully with contestants, showcasing his adeptness in this aspect.
From Reservations to Radios: Barker's Journey
Born on December 12, 1923, in Darrington, Washington, Robert William Barker's life journey took him from a Sioux Indian reservation in South Dakota to becoming a renowned television personality.
After a brief stint in the Navy following World War II, Barker pursued higher education and earned an economics degree from Drury College (now Drury University). Barker's ascent to fame started with a radio station job in Florida, leading to his own show, "The Bob Barker Show," in Burbank, California.
Television soon recognized his smooth presentation style, resulting in his inaugural game show hosting gig in 1956 with NBC's "Truth or Consequences." Barker's most celebrated role was as the host of "The Price Is Right," a show that set a record as the longest-running daytime game show in television history during his tenure.
He also graced screens as the emcee of the Miss Universe and Miss America pageants for two decades, as well as hosting the New Year's Day Tournament of Roses Parade for a similar span. While Barker's reputation was largely untarnished, a controversy in 1994 involving a former "Price Is Right" model marred his public image.
Despite this setback, Barker remained a respected figure, receiving an Emmy Award for Lifetime Achievement. Beyond television, Barker was a dedicated animal rights advocate, frequently urging viewers to spay or neuter their pets.
His passion for animal welfare led to the establishment of the DJ&T Foundation in 1995, which provided these services to pet owners. Barker's commitment extended to donations for relocating elephants from a zoo to a sanctuary.
Nancy Burnet, Barker's close friend of four decades, remembered his pioneering efforts to combat animal cruelty. Barker's legacy not only encompasses his television accomplishments but also his profound impact on animal welfare and advocacy.
In a candid moment, Barker admitted that his connection to "The Price Is Right" wasn't solely about the financial aspect, highlighting his genuine affection for the people he interacted with on the show. His warmth, humor, and devotion to noble causes have left an indelible mark on the world of entertainment and beyond.