Studio 33 - Price is Right Discussion > The TALK Is Right

OBIT: Robert William Barker (December 12, 1923ľAugust 26, 2023)

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Roadgeek Adam:
He was our childhoods. He was our adulthoods. He was our grandparenthood. He was our parents' childhoods, adulthoods or grandparenthoods. He was a star who transcended generations doing one simple task, giving away other people's money to average Joes, Janes, Nadias and Terrys around the United States and Canada. He did it with a quick wit, an ability to improvise, a sense of humour and a very large ego. Today, August 26, 2023, at the age of 99, we have lost our beloved Robert William "Bob" Barker due to heart failure in his Hollywood Hills, California home.

Barker was born December 12, 1923 in Darrington, Washington, an old logging town in Snohomish County fueled by the Northern Pacific Railroad. His parents were an electrical forman and his mother Matilda (nee Valandra, Tarleton) was a school teacher. The family moved to the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, a Sioux reservation in the southern part of the state. The family soon relocated to Springfield, Missouri. A gifted athlete, Barker received a basketball scholarship at Drury College (now University) in Springfield, Missouri.

However, his college education was interrupted by the outbreak of World War II. In June 1943, he left Drury to enlist into the United States Navy Reserves as training as a fighter pilot. There he reported to William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri  for training and began flight training at Iowa State University with L-2 Grosshoppers. While he never served on active duty as a naval aviator, he flew plenty of different aircraft in training between Georgia, Tennessee and Texas. When in Athens, Georgia for training, Barker continued his basketball prowess, playing on the Navy team. After learning how to fly a SNJ Texan trainer airplane in South Texas, Barker received his "wings" and became Ensign Robert Barker, USNR on December 6, 1944 in Corpus Christi.

At age 15 in 1939, he met his future wife, Ms. Dorothy Jo Gideon of Springfield, at an Ella Fitzgerald concert. On January 12, 1945, the two were married in a surprise ceremony in St. Louis. After the wedding, Barker and Gideon moved to DeLand, Florida where Barker would continue his training as a naval aviator. He moved to Grosse Ile near Detroit in the summer of 1945, promoted to Lieutenant Junior Grade. Just before he was to head out to active duty in the war against Japan, the war ended.

After the war, they moved back to Missouri to finish his education at Drury, where he graduated summa cum laude in economics. During that time, he found his first job in radio at KTTS-FM in Springfield. They soon moved to Lake Worth Beach, Florida and worked at WWPG-AM. In 1950, the Barkers relocated to California so he could further his radio career. There he hosted The Bob Barker Show for six years on radio. Ralph Edwards, looking for a replacement of Jack Bailey on Truth or Consequences heard Barker doing an audience participation show on KXLA in Los Angeles, called him and offered him the job to become the host, a job he would retain until 1975. Bob and Dorothy Jo would continue to host their award winning radio show despite the new position.

Barker continued to become a more popular emcee after taking the job on NBC. In 1966, Barker took the host of the Miss U.S.A and Miss Universe beauty pageants. Barker hosted the national broadcast of the Indianapolis 500 parade through the 1970s. Barker appeared on the "Denver McKee" episode of Bonanza in 1960, playing Mort, a flirtatious male who competes for the love of Connie against Little Joe, played by star Michael Landon. He also made appearances on Tattletales and Match Game. For a time in the 1970s and 1980s, he was the emcee of the Tournament of Roses Parade and the Pillsbury Bake-Off.

In 1972, Mark Goodson and Bill Todman decided that they wanted to revive their long-time game show, The Price is Right, but originally planned for Dennis James to host. CBS was willing to become the hosting network, on the condition Dennis James was replaced by Barker despite planning to host The Joker's Wild instead. On September 4, 1972, Barker made his debut on The Price is Right, a job he would retain until June 15, 2007. On March 11, 1998, in the advent of the 5,000th episode, Studio 33 at Television City became "The Bob Barker Studio" in his honour.

A long time champion of animal rights since childhood, the Barkers were both vegetarians. They had stopped wearing anything fur, and in 1982, Barker began using his trademark line about pet spaying and neuteuring he would retain through the rest of his career. In 1987, Barker, an anti-fur advocate, requested the producers of the pageants to stop placing fur coats on the woman. Despite a promise that they would, he arrived in Albuquerque, New Mexico to find out that the producers had gone against their word. Not wanting to be a hypocrite, Barker stated that he would not appear on the show with the contestants wearing fur coats. This would end up becoming the "Fur Flap". After producers continued to refuse to remove the fur coats, he resigned from both shows. In 1994, he founded the DJ&T Foundation, named after his late wife and mother, which helps contribute money to neutering services and animal rescue services.

In his later years, Barker came into controversy for having a behind the scenes relationship with model Dian Parkinson, resulting in her leaving the show. Parkinson sued Barker in 1994, charging sexual harrassment, stress and threats of firing for extortion. Despite dropping the lawsuit, it led to other issues. Barker was accused by model Holly Hallstrom of trying to get her to provide false information to the press against Parkinson. Hallstrom sued him for undue firing and he countersued for slander. 10 years later, the lawsuit was settled.

Perhaps his most famous non-game show role was playing himself in the film Happy Gilmore in 1996. Actor Adam Sandler asked Barker to be in the movie and to be in a fight. As part of the agreement, Barker would have to win the fight. A trained martial artist, Barker rose to prominence, destroying Sandler in a golf course brawl in the movie.

A 19-time Daytime Emmy Award winner, Barker also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, member of the 2004 class of the Television Hall of Fame and a member of the 2008 NAB Broadcasting Hall of Fame. Time Magazine dubbed him the "Greatest Game Show Host of All-Time".

After retirement, Barker published an autobiography, Priceless Memories with former LA Times book review editor Digby Diehl. He appeared on WWE Raw in 2009. He would make 3 future appearances on The Price is Right, once to promote his book in 2009, once for the 90th Birthday Special in his honour in 2013 and his last appearance, an April Fools Day appearance in 2015.

Barker is preceded in death by his wife of 36 years, Dorothy Jo (nee Gideon). They had no children. He is survived by his long term partner, animal activist Nancy Burnet and a half-brother, Kent Valandra.


RIP to the WGMC

Trevor Tuominen:
RIP to one of the most legendary emcees in game shows.

Well, we knew the day would come. 99 is quite a fulfilled life. Doesn't make it any easier. Bob was there for me for my formative years. Growing up he was more a figure to me than Mr. Rogers. Bob was there for me through happiness, grief, good, and bad...all the way through college. I will always remember seeing Bob on TV after 9/11 reminded me everything would be okay.

He was certainly a flawed man but he, none the less, meant a lot to all of us and provided us with a visit with a friend at 10a every morning.

Thanks for it all, Bob.


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