Bob Barker, who hosted “The Price Is Right” for 35 years, has died, his representative, Roger Neal, told CBS News on Saturday. He was 99.
Barker died at home, Neal said, adding that, “he had a beautiful life.”
Barker appeared on national television for over 50 years. Before his time at the country’s longest-running game show on CBS, he hosted one of the nation’s first televised game shows, “Truth or Consequences,” for nearly 20 years, earning him recognition in the Guinness World Records book as television’s “most durable performer.”
On “Truth or Consequences,” Barker charmed audiences with his quips and plainspoken style. Every December 21, show creator Ralph Edwards and Barker would drink a toast at lunch to celebrate the day in 1956 when Edwards notified Barker – who had no previous television experience – that he was going to become the host. He stayed with the program for 18 years, calling it a “fun show,” during a chat at the Google headquarters.
In 1972, Barker began hosting a revival of “The Price Is Right,” which originally aired in the ’50s and ’60s, and he stayed in that position for 35 years. Audience members were enthusiastic about their affable host; some participants asked for kisses, which Barker once obliged by smooching a fan square on the lips while dipping her backward. Another fan told Barker she dreamed he was chasing her in a hayloft.
During his career, Barker was honored with 19 Emmy Awards, 14 as host of “The Price Is Right,” four as the show’s executive producer and a lifetime achievement award. In 2004, Barker was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame.
Robert Barker was born in Darrington, Washington, on Dec. 12, 1923, to Matilda, a schoolteacher, and Byron, an electrical power foreman. He spent most of his childhood on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota and was a citizen of the tribe.
His mother was a schoolteacher and then a county superintendent of schools. Barker’s father died after falling from a utility pole in 1929, and eight years later, his mother remarried and the family moved to Springfield, Missouri.
In high school, at the age of 15, Barker met and fell in love with his future wife, Dorothy Jo Gideon. Their first date was on Nov. 17, 1939, when he took her to see an Ella Fitzgerald concert. Barker said they “were never separated from then on” – until her death in 1981 from lung cancer.
Barker attended Drury College in Springfield, and when World War II started, he joined the Navy as a fighter pilot. After the war ended, he graduated summa cum laude with a degree in economics. The couple tried living in Florida before moving to Los Angeles, where he became the host of his own radio program, “The Bob Barker Show,” before moving to television.
His first – and only – feature film role was for the 1996 Adam Sandler movie “Happy Gilmore,” in which he throws punches at the star. Barker said during an interview that audience members for “The Price Is Right” would ask him about that scene and say, “Can you really beat up Adam Sandler?”
Outside of his storied television career, Barker was a renowned animal activist who once testified before Congress in support of a federal ban against using elephants in traveling shows and for rides.
Barker made headlines for his passionate support of animals during the 1987 Miss USA pageant when he refused to host if contestants wore real furs during the televised event. Producers acquiesced and contestants wore synthetic furs that year, but the following year – after 21 years of hosting – Barker resigned when producers refused to stop giving fur coats as prizes.
Barker gave large endowments ranging from $500,000 to $1 million to the law schools of numerous universities, including Harvard, Duke, Columbia, University of Virginia, Northwestern and UCLA, for the study and support of animal rights law.
In 1995, he started the DJ&T Foundation in honor of his late wife and mother to give to free or low-cost clinics or voucher programs to spay or neuter pets in an effort to control animal overpopulation. After nearly 30 years of donating to clinics and supporting animals, the foundation stopped activity in 2022.
For his final “Price Is Right” show that aired on June 15, 2007, Barker ended his run with his familiar plea: “Help control the pet population. Have your pet spayed or neutered!”