Bob Barker, the perennially cheery host of “The Price Is Right,” the longest-running game show in American television history, also very well-known as an advocate for animal rights, died on Saturday at his home in the luxurious Hollywood Hills section of Los Angeles. He was 99 years old.
Barker was a fixture of daytime television for half a century — first as the host of “Truth or Consequences,” from 1956 to 1974, and, most famously, starting in 1972, on “The Price Is Right.”
He began his marathon 35-year run as compere of “The New Price Is Right,” as it was then known, when it made its debut on CBS as a revised and jazzed-up version of the original “The Price Is Right,” which had been on the air from 1956 to 1965.
He was also host of a weekly syndicated nighttime version from 1977 until it was canceled in 1980.
Almost a decade before he retired in 2007, Mr. Barker estimated that during his tenure more than 40,000 contestants had heeded the announcer’s familiar call to “come on down!” and collected some $200 million in small and large prizes, from beach blankets to Buicks, by guessing the prices of various objects.
Barker won 14 Daytime Emmy Awards as host of “The Price Is Right” and four more as executive producer (as well as a lifetime achievement Emmy in 1999).
He once said that the show had lasted as long as it did because “all our games are based on prices, and everyone can identify with that.” He added, however, that he personally never knew the price of anything, and that if he were ever a contestant on such a show he would be “a total failure.”
Barker was widely known for his longstanding dedication to the cause of animal rights. He quit as master of ceremonies for both the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants in 1988 because they gave fur coats as prizes.
He also protested the mistreatment of animals by their trainers on the sets of various movies and television shows. He ended every installment of “The Price Is Right” by saying: “Help control the pet population. Have your pet spayed or neutered.”
To many viewers “The Price Is Right” was, as one critic put it, among television’s last “islands of wholesomeness.”
That image was challenged in 1994 when Dian Parkinson, who for almost 20 years had been a model on the show — one of the so-called Barker’s Beauties, whose main function was to display the prizes — sued Mr. Barker for sexual harassment.
Ms. Parkinson, who had left the show the year before, said she had sex with Mr. Barker because she thought she would lose her job if she didn’t. In response, Mr. Barker acknowledged that he and Ms. Parkinson had had a relationship for a number of years, beginning in 1989, but insisted that it had been consensual.
“She told me I had always been so strait-laced that it was time I had some hanky-panky in my life,” he said, “and she volunteered the hanky-panky.” Ms. Parkinson withdrew the suit in 1995 because, she said, she lacked both the emotional endurance and the money to pursue it.
Sources: New York Times,