About Robert William Barker
Former television show game host Bob Barker hosted CBS's The Price Is Right from 1972 to 2007, making it the longest-running daytime game show in North American television history, and for hosting Truth or Consequences from 1956 to 1975. After holding the "Price is Right" job for 35 years and being in television for 50 years, Barker retired in June 2007. For his contribution to the television industry, Bob Barker received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6714 Hollywood Blvd.
Robert William Barker was born on December 12, 1923 in Darrington, Washington, and spent most of his youth on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. His mother, Matilda ("Tillie") Valandra (née Matilda Kent Tarleton), was a school teacher; his father, Byron John Barker, was the foreman on the electrical high line through the state of Washington. Barker is 1/8 Sioux. While in Washington, his father fell from a tower and sustained an injury which resulted in his death in 1929. Barker has a half-brother, Kent Valandra, from Matilda's subsequent re-marriage. In 1931, the family moved to Springfield, Missouri, where Barker graduated from Central High School in 1941.
Barker attended Drury College (now Drury University) in Springfield, on a basketball scholarship. He was a member of the Epsilon Beta Chapter of Sigma Nu fraternity at Drury. His education was interrupted by World War II. Barker served in the Navy as a fighter pilot. However, the war ended before he was assigned to a seagoing squadron. After the war, he returned to Drury to finish his education, graduating summa cum laude with a degree in economics. While attending Drury, Barker worked his first "media job", at KTTS-FM Radio, in Springfield.
Barker left Springfield and worked at a radio station in Florida before landing another radio job in California. He was hosting an audience-participation radio show on KNX (AM) in Los Angeles when game show producer Ralph Edwards happened to be listening and liked Barker's voice and style. He was given his own radio show, The Bob Barker Show, which ran for the next six years out of Burbank. In 1956, he was hired to host the daytime television version of the long-running radio quiz show, Truth and Consequences, on NBC. The program, which forced its contestants to perform bizarre stunts if they failed to answer a question within about one second, was syndicated in 1966; Barker stayed on as its host until 1974, when it was taken off the air. (An updated version, called The New Truth and Consequences, aired from 1977 to 1989, with a different host.)
Even before his run on Truth and Consequences ended, Barker had taken on the hosting duties of another game show, The Price Is Right, which since 1950 had aired on NBC and ABC before finding a home, at the time of Barker’s arrival in 1972, on CBS. The show featured approximately 60 different games, each of which required the contestants to guess the price of various products, ranging from cutlery to luxury cars. The show became a hit from the catch-phrase, “Come on down!” bellowed by the show’s original announcer, the late Johnny Olson, to the incredible number of prizes awarded by the jovial, smooth-talking Barker (estimated at a total value of around $200 million from 1972 to 1999). In November 1975, The Price Is Right became the first-ever hour-long game show; in 1990, it surpassed Truth and Consequences as the longest-running daytime game show in history.
Barker’s reign on The Price Is Right led to his appearance at the center of numerous other prominent programs, including the Pillsbury Bake-Off, which he emceed from 1969 to 1985, and the annual New Year’s Day Tournament of Roses Parade, which he hosted from 1969 to 1988. In 1980, he appeared as the host of a short-lived variety show, That’s My Line, developed by the creators of What’s My Line, TV’s longest-running prime-time game show. In 1996, Barker appeared on the big screen when he played himself in Happy Gilmore, a comedy starring Adam Sandler. In a memorable sequence, he and Sandler get into a brawl at a celebrity golf tournament the scene won an award for Best Fight Sequence at the MTV Movie Awards that year.
T he indefatigable Barker also hosted the Miss Universe and Miss U.S.A. pageants every year from 1966 to 1988, when he became involved in a dispute with the organizers of Miss U.S.A. over an issue that had become dear to his heart animal rights. Barker declined to host the pageants after organizers refused to remove fur coats from the prize packages received by the winners, as he had requested. His support of animal rights culminated in his founding in 1995 of the DJ&T Foundation, an organization based in Beverly Hills that works to reduce the overpopulation of domestic animals by providing free or inexpensive sterilization for cats and dogs. Barker named the DJ&T Foundation for his wife, Dorothy Jo Gideon, and her mother, Tilly. Gideon produced her husband’s game shows until her death, in 1981, from cancer.
In 1994, Dian Parkinson, a woman who had worked as a model on The Price Is Right from 1975 to 1993, sued Barker for sexual harassment, claiming that he had threatened to fire her if she did not have sex with him. Though she later dropped the suit, Barker was deeply hurt by her accusation and the public scandal that went along with it, he maintained that he had an intimate relationship with Parkinson, but that it had been consensual.
In 1996, Barker won an Emmy Award for Lifetime Achievement. In 2006, he announced his retirement from hosting The Price is Right after hold the job for nearly 35 years. His last episode aired in June 2007.
Barker married his high school sweetheart Dorothy Jo Gideon on January 12, 1945 and the couple remained married for 36 years up until her death on October 19, 1981 from lung cancer. The couple had no children. Barker has not remarried after her death; however, he was later involved in a relationship with model Dian Parkinson from 1989 to 1991, a relationship that ended in legal action.