Come on down! Revisit Bob Barker and The Price is Right game show

Vintage Bob Barker on The Price Is Right TV show

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Bob Barker, the man whose name became synonymous with The Price is Right, isn’t just a game show host. He’s an enduring icon, a legend in television history, and a philanthropist committed to animal welfare.

When people think of game shows, Barker’s silver-haired visage, warm demeanor, and iconic catchphrase — “Come on down!” — frequently come to mind. His tenure as host of The Price Is Right from 1972 to 2007 showcases his charisma, adaptability, and widespread appeal.

Bob Barker and the old The Price is Right TV game show

Young Bob Barker

Growing up in a humble setting in Washington state, Barker got a taste for the spotlight early on. His mother, a schoolteacher, and his father, a power company foreman, raised him in a supportive environment that fostered his ambitions.

He honed his microphone skills during a stint in the Navy as a fighter pilot, but it wasn’t until he moved to California that the magic began to happen. A chance audition for a radio show launched his career, leading to a series of jobs in broadcasting.

Bob in the Navy during WW2
Bob in the Navy during WW2 (left photo with his bride of 3 days)

Bob began his long and lucrative game show career in 1956, hosting the popular American program Truth or Consequences.

Bob Barker on Truth or Consequences game show (1957)

But what really made Barker a household name was his role in The Price Is Right. In 1972, he took over the show’s hosting duties and held that position for an incredible 35 years.

His unique blend of warmth, humor, and authority brought generations of viewers into the fold, making the show a long-lasting cultural staple. The episodes weren’t just about guessing the prices of washing machines or cars — they were woven into the fabric of American pop culture and part of the soundtrack of childhood for two full generations.

Match Game: The vintage game show with some real blank

Bob Barker & Adam Sandler in epic Happy Gilmore scene

During his reign on The Price Is Right, Barker also had other pursuits. He guest-starred in various television shows and even made a memorable appearance in the 1996 film Happy Gilmore, holding his own against comedian Adam Sandler in a hilarious golf course brawl.

YouTube video

These diversions, however, never overshadowed his primary role as the affable host, steering the show’s contestants through pricing games and “spin the wheel” scenarios.

Bob Barker’s animal rights activism

Barker’s personal commitment to animal rights is also noteworthy. Following the death of his wife, Dorothy Jo, he turned his attention to philanthropy. He used his celebrity status to advocate for animal welfare, promoting causes like pet adoption and spay/neuter programs.

Bob Barker with puppies (1961)

Betty White had this advice for choosing the best dog to be your pet (1958)

His generous donations to various organizations and his outspoken views on animal rights have made him more than just a TV personality — they’ve made him an activist.

YouTube video

When did Bob Barker retire?

In 2007, Barker retired from The Price Is Right, marking the end of an era. His departure signaled a generational shift, but his influence lingers. The show continues, but the Barker years have their own sheen of nostalgia.

Whether through reruns or YouTube clips, his time on the show still draws people in, allowing newer audiences to appreciate his talents.

Bob Barker working at home on a typewriter (1961)
Bob Barker working at home on a typewriter (1961)

How old is Bob Barker?

Bob Barker, born on December 12, 1923, passed away August 26, 2023, at the age of 99. In recent years, his health had faced multiple challenges, including hospitalizations and a fall that led to a back injury.

Despite these setbacks, he remained resilient and engaged with his fans and causes. His longevity and fortitude in the face of health issues serve as another chapter in the life of a man who significantly impacted both American entertainment and philanthropy.

Bob Barker with his wife Dorothy Jo (1957)
Bob Barker with his wife Dorothy Jo (1957)

His legacy is far-reaching. Awards like the Daytime Emmys recognize his contributions to television, but his impact transcends trophies. Bob Barker is an example of the extraordinary things that can happen when talent, perseverance, and heart come together.

With decades in the limelight and an evergreen appeal that seems to defy time, he has earned his place in the annals of American culture. Let’s take a look back at his amazing career.

Bob Barker, TVs prototype emcee (1976)

By Vernon Scott — Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, New York), March 4, 1976

Television host Bob Barker reckons he’s interviewed 50,000 persons on the air, and concludes very few Americans are smart alecks.

“When people are picked from a studio audience, they invariably display good taste,” said Barker, the prototype for all the clean-cut game- show emcees on the air.

“After 18 years and more than 4,000 ‘Truth or Consequences’ shows, plus 1,000 ‘Price is Right’ segments, I find it’s difficult to make generalities about human behavior in front of the television camera except that people put their best foot forward.”

Young Bob Barker at home with his wife DJ (1961)
Young Bob Barker at home with his wife DJ (1961)

For a man who finds it difficult to generalize, Barker had no trouble reeling off a list of predictable patterns.

“There are certain things you can count on. Texans are more proud of their state than most. And people from Brooklyn are more apt to mention where they’re from. It’s rare anyone tries to top me with a gag. And I can remember only two occasions when a participant tried to slip by a double entendre.

The Price is Right

“Women are more relaxed on television than men. At least they’re less inhibited. And they react more emotionally when they win a big prize.

“I’ve noticed exceptionally pretty girls rarely make good contestants. They’re accustomed to relying on their beauty to carry them along. But it takes more than a gorgeous face to be a good television subject.”

Bob Barker - The Price is Right game show

The Price is Right and sizing up contestants

Barker thinks of himself as an instant psychoanalyst. He has but a few seconds to size up a contestant, put him at ease, and come up with an observation or a quip to provoke an interesting response.

If the participant’s knees are quaking, he unobtrusively puts a steadying hand on a shoulder and the nervousness subsides.

“I have a choice of directions on how to go with each contestant,” he explained. “Sometimes it’s current events, sports, marital relationships or a joke. I warm up the audiences on ‘T or C’ and pick the contestants before we go on the air, which makes it easier for me. On ‘Price is Right,’ I see them for the first time on camera and have to make quick decisions.

Young Bob Barker in his Truth or Consequences days (1957)
Young Bob Barker in his Truth or Consequences days (1957)

“The audience has to be taken into consideration too. Each crowd has a personality of its own. I lay a few lines on them to see what they respond to. Some audiences will howl over a joke on booze, others don’t react at all.

“It helps a contestant to know a little bit about me in the minute or so that we chat before starting the game. If they figure I’m on their side, they immediately feel secure. It’s important that contestants know I’m there to help and not to make fun of them.

Bob Barker hosting a vintage episode of The Price Is Right

“And I steer them away from coming on too strong. Audiences in the studio and at home don’t appreciate parlor comics. But they like it if the contestant makes me a fall guy. I earn a living making other people funny.”

Barker makes an exceptional living at what he does. According to his agent, he is the highest salaried master of ceremonies on the air.

His take for “The Price is Right” brings him $3.5 million for six years. On top of that is the “Truth or Consequences” salary, plus playing host on beauty pageants, parades and other special events.

Janice Pennington with Bob Barker and Anitra Ford

Barker is a low-key man. His personality is precisely the same on camera and off. Unlike many an emcee, he doesn’t shift from his easy-going self into a glib gagster.

“I couldn’t do that,” he said. “It would be unnatural for me. I think a forced attitude makes the contestants uneasy. There’s enough pressure on them when they stand a chance of winning $15,000 in prizes.”

Vintage The Price is Right game show logo

Episode of The Price is Right (September 4, 1972)

YouTube video

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