You Can’t Put A Price On The Life Story Of Bob Barker

A handful of lucky contestants have brought home over a million dollars on The Price Is Right, but nobody was a bigger winner than Bob Barker. The consummate host thrilled game show fans for decades, though his charming personality hid a much more complicated backstory.

He weathered personal tragedy and career-threatening controversies to become one of the most beloved figures in TV history. Even the most skilled Price Is Right champions couldn’t guess just how much Barker has gone through.

Most performers dream of winning an Emmy. Maybe they should ask Bob Barker for one — he’s got plenty to spare, with an astounding 19 awards decking out his trophy case. What’s even more incredible is that he started out as far away from stardom as possible.

USA Today

Due to his Sioux family roots, Barker spent his earliest years on a Native American reservation in South Dakota. He showed off his scrappy nature from an early age, which brought him opportunities to move up in the world.

The New York Times

The talented showman first entertained crowds on the basketball court. Barker received an athletic scholarship to Drury College in Missouri, but to make a bit of money on the side, he also accepted a part-time job at a local radio station.

New York Daily News

The escalation of World War II, however, put Barker’s ambitions on hold. Trained as a Navy pilot, he was prepared to give his life for his country. But when the fighting ended before he was deployed, Barker saw he had a chance to follow his true calling.

Benjamin Thomas

Barker moved to California and landed a job as a radio host. His beloved wife Dorothy Jo was his biggest supporter during those early years, but Bob’s work soon brought another champion to his corner.

New York Daily News

Influential producer Ralph Edwards became a big fan of Bob’s show, and he was sure Barker didn’t just have a face for radio. As a matter of fact, Edwards wanted him to join an explosive new TV trend: the game show.

In 1956, Barker made his television debut as the host of Truth or Consequences, which challenged contestants to perform wacky stunts for prizes. Not only was the show itself a hit; Bob established himself as one of the most likable personalities in entertainment.

NBC / Herb Ball

Before long, Barker found himself all over the small screen. He hosted big events, including the Pillsbury Bake-Off and Rose Parade, and guest-starred on hit shows like Bonanza. Of course, Bob’s biggest gig was yet to come.

CBS Photo Archive

When the 1970s rolled around, producers approached CBS about reviving the short-lived game show The Price Is Right. The network agreed, but only if they hired Barker as host. With that, Bob came on down!

With its exciting games and lovably tacky aesthetic, The Price Is Right became an overnight success. Barker dropped his other regular hosting duties so he could put all his energy into the big hit. Tragically, he was struggling with family issues behind the scenes.

Richmond Times-Dispatch

Dorothy Jo passed away from lung cancer in 1981, and that loss would hang over Bob for the rest of his life. He knew he could never marry again, but Barker swore to honor her memory by carrying on a shared passion.

iHeartRadio

He and Dorothy Jo always loved animals, so Bob evolved into a passionate animal rights activists. Besides advocating for captive elephants, he also reminded Price Is Right viewers to spay and neuter their pets. That message became his signature catchphrase.

Viewers would wait until the end of every episode to hear it. Every one of Bob’s mannerisms became iconic in pop culture, though he didn’t take himself too seriously. The game show host actually enjoyed poking fun at his image.

Most memorably, he cameoed alongside Adam Sandler in Happy Gilmore in a scene where they brawled after a celebrity golf tournament. That moment had fans rolling in the aisles, though some closer to Bob thought he was no laughing matter.

Universal Pictures

While The Price Is Right was all smiles, many staff members had a miserable time on the show. Some alleged Barker was an uncaring boss, and a few models even accused him of sexual harassment. He had to grapple with multiple lawsuits in the 1990s.

Nicki Swift

Longtime “Barker Beauty” Holly Hallstrom sued the host after her 1995 firing, saying that she got the axe because she gained too much weight. Bob eventually settled out of court and carried his program into the 21st century.

However, the octogenarian knew he couldn’t go on forever. Upon his 2007 retirement, Bob handed off the long, skinny microphone to Drew Carey. It was a bittersweet moment, but Barker was unquestionably proud of his long-running achievement.

With 35 years on The Price Is Right, Barker shattered Johnny Carson’s record for a continuous performance on a live TV show. As the years kept rolling by, Bob had time to contemplate his legacy.

NY Daily News

Bob joked that he most missed “the money” from his game show stint, but said he really enjoyed connecting with so many different people. Barker also came clean about various production secrets they used over the years.

CNN

1. On a typical day, about 40 shiny new cars sit in The Price Is Right studio lot in Los Angeles, California. When you give out, like, four new cars every weekday morning, you have to be prepared.

Monty Brinton / CBS

2. How many different games on The Price is Right can you name? Because the show airs five days a week, producers have created over 70 games to cycle through and keep episodes fresh.

Monty Brinton / CBS

3. Only 10 Plinko chips exist. Five are used for the iconic game itself, and five are stored in a lock box as backups. So the odds of contestants taking one home as a little keepsake are nonexistent.

Mayo Arts

4. Winners fill out paperwork forever. Then they wait for the show to ship them their prizes (you don’t actually get to walk out the door with them). If you won a car, you have to go to a dealership to pick it up. If it doesn’t have the model, you wait until it does.

The Price is Right / CBS

5. To be a contestant, you wait in line for hours outside Bob Barker Studios; then, you and 9 others are led to a producer; the producer asks each potential contestant one question and selects those that provide energetic and sincere answers.

6. Potential contestants often offer Stan Blits, below, the producer in charge of selecting contestants for the show, bribes. A man of high integrity, he turns them all down.

Stan Bilts / Facebook

7. Hosts Bob Barker and Drew Carey carry an iconic, almost comically thin microphone on air — and for good reason. Producers believe this is less intimidating to nervous contestants than a big, fat microphone.

8. The biggest prizes The Price is Right offers are those showcases comprised of cars, trips, kitchen sets, and more, worth around $25,000. The biggest winner in the show’s history, Adam Rose, took home $1,153,908 during The Price Is Right Million Dollar Spectacular.

The Price is Right / CBS

9. The Price is Right features games where contestants guess the prices of everyday household products. To keep pricing consistent — groceries sell for different prices in every store, after all — the show bases numbers on a group of California retailers.

The Price is Right / CBS

10. Uncle Sam considers the show’s prizes — both cash and otherwise — as taxable income. Winners must file tax returns for California where the show shoots, which often leads to contestants just declining the prizes altogether. Talk about a punch to the gut!

Happy Gilmore

11. The Price Is Right debuted the big wheel back in 1975 as means to catapult contestants into the Showcase Showdown. Producers wanted a wheel in the show because a competitor, the also-beloved Wheel of Fortune, had one.

The New York Times

12. Contestant Terry Kniess — who meticulously studied the game show and memorized the values of various items — placed a perfect bid of $23,743 dollars on his showcase. Producers thought he cheated, as no one had ever placed a perfect bid before, and stopped filming for hours to investigate.

The Price is Right / CBS

13. Bob Barker once had a thick, dark mane of hair, but over time it turned grey. Producers asked him to dye his hair — there was no room on daytime television for grey hair, they said. Barker had to get permission to eventually stop using dye.

14. Bob Barker first decided to go grey when he went on vacation and briefly stopped dyeing his hair. People actually complimented the grey locks! Oddly enough, the show’s ratings improved when Barker debuted the new look.

15. Some game shows allow winners to accept the cash value of prizes won rather than the prize itself. The Price is Right is different. If you win a boat — even if you live in a landlocked city — you’re taking home a boat or nothing at all.

The Price is Right Files

16. Those who’ve witnessed tapings of the show say, during downtime when the cameras stop rolling, Drew Carey will perform little jokes or dances to keep the crowd entertained.

17. CBS interviewed George Hamilton, John O’Hurley, Mario Lopez, and Marc Summers — and ignored Barker’s endorsement of Rosie O’Donnell — before choosing Drew Carey to replace Bob Barker after his retirement.

18. In 1976, announcer Johnny Olson called Patricia Bernard down to the stage…except she wasn’t in the audience. She was in the bathroom, so her husband had to run and get her! Barker said this was one of the funniest moments in the show’s history.

19. Over its decades-long run, the show has given away over 8,550 vehicles and $600 million in cash. In his time as host, Bob Barker received an estimated 22,000 kisses from elated female contestants

20. The Price is Right debuted on CBS on September 4, 1972. Over five decades, the show aired over 8,000 episodes and became the longest-running series of any kind on American network television, winning eight Emmys along the way.

CBS via CNN

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