“It is with profound sadness that we announce that the World’s Greatest MC who ever lived, Bob Barker has left us,” publicist Roger Neal said in a statement Saturday. No cause was given.
The Price Is Right franchise began in 1956 as a television game show hosted by Bill Cullen and was revamped in 1972, when Barker became host. Drew Carey has hosted the program since 2007.
The game show had already been canceled by two networks before finding a home at CBS in 1972. Barker’s charm helped revive the sagging show, and it continues to air to this day.
Barker spent more than half a century on TV, taking over as host of the popular game show Truth or Consequences in 1956 and retiring from The Price Is Right in 2007.
At The Price Id Right show’s 50th anniversary special in 2021, Barker paid tribute to the game.
“The show has the most enthusiastic and fun audience that one could ever ask for,” said Barker. “They truly were and are the heart and soul of the show …. It was an incredibly memorable ride. Congratulations to The Price is Right on 50 historic years. Here’s to 50 more!”
Going on 70,000 contestants have played The Price Is Right since its revamp debuted on September 4, 1972, and 2 million-plus have been in its studio audience. The first prize ever offered on the show was a Chevy Vega worth $2,746 — some 8,400 car giveaways have ensued.
Robert William Barker was born in Darrington, Washington, on December 12, 1923. At age 6, he was moved to a Sioux Indian reservation in Mission, SD, with his mother, after his father died in a workplace accident.
His mother, Matilda, a schoolteacher, remarried and moved again to Missouri. After a two-year stint in the Navy at the tail end of World War II, Barker returned to Missouri to attend Drury College, now Drury University, and graduated with a degree in economics.
From there, Barker landed a job at a radio station in Florida. In 1950, he moved to California to start his own radio program, The Bob Barker Show, in Burbank.
His smooth delivery soon caught the eye of television producers. He landed his first game show in 1956, NBC’s Truth or Consequences. He hosted that show for 18 years until it went off the air.
Barker transitioned to The Price Is Right, which became the longest-running daytime game show in TV history in 1990, until his retirement.
Beyond game shows, Barker also applied his emcee skills to pageants. In 1967, he began a 20-year run as emcee of the Miss Universe and Miss America pageants, and in 1969, he started a similarly long run as the host of the New Year’s Day Tournament of Roses Parade.
Barker was given an Emmy Award for Lifetime Achievement.
He also made a famously riotous cameo in the 1996 film Happy Gilmore, where he beat up Adam Sandler’s title character on a golf course.
A longtime animal rights activist, Barker ended each episode of The Price Is Right with the plea: “Help control the pet population. Have your pets spayed or neutered.”
Barker’s wife, his high school sweetheart, Dorothy Jo Gideon, died in 1981. They married in 1945.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals issued a statement on Barker’s passing.
“Bob’s influence on the entertainment industry is indisputable, but what mattered to him most was using his voice and prominent position to protect animals. Of course, everyone is familiar with his “spay and neuter your pets” sign-off on The Price Is Right—a show where he refused to allow fur prizes—but he was also one of the first stars to go vegetarian, more than 30 years ago.
“He joined PETA in urging families to stay away from SeaWorld, demanded the closure of cruel bear pits masquerading as tourist attractions, implored Hollywood to take action to protect animals used in film and TV, and, as a Navy veteran, called for the end of military medical drills on live animals.
His generous donation allowed PETA to open its West Coast headquarters, the Bob Barker Building, in 2012, and it stands as a testament to his legacy and profound commitment to making the world a kinder place. To us—and to so many animals around the world—Bob will always be a national animal rights treasure.”