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Price is Right Host Bob Barker dies

By Drew Weisholtz - Today Show

Bob Barker - Getty Images

Bob Barker, a titan of daytime television who hosted “The Price Is Right” for 35 years and “Truth or Consequences” for nearly two decades before that, has died, his publicist said. He was 99. “It is with profound sadness that we announce that the World’s Greatest MC who ever lived, Bob Barker has left us," Barker's publicist Roger Neal said in a statement. Born Dec. 12, 1923, in Darrington, Washington, Barker joined the Navy in World War II and later dabbled in radio. He moved to California in the hopes of making it in broadcasting and landed the radio program “The Bob Barker Show” in 1950.

In 1956, he got his big break when he was hired to host the TV adaptation of the radio game show “Truth or Consequences” on NBC. The series was syndicated in 1966 and Barker would remain with the show until it ended in 1975.

Barker was already pulling double duty when the show was canceled since he began hosting “The Price Is Right” in 1972 on CBS. “The Price Is Right” first debuted in 1956 and had had runs on NBC and ABC before it was canceled in 1965; Barker was later tapped to host a new version, ushering in an era of popularity that continues to this day.

The show features a wide array of quirky games all centered on a contestant’s ability to guess the cost of various merchandise, ranging from a toaster to a car. Barker presided over the often-excitable tone of the program, made in no small part by wildly enthusiastic contestants who are implored to “Come on down” (a phrase originally barked by announcer Johnny Olson) when they made it on the show.

In 1975, “The Price Is Right” became the first one-hour game show on TV. In 1990, it set the record for the longest-running daytime game show in history. In 2002, Barker surpassed “The Tonight Show” host Johnny Carson’s record for continuous performances on the same network television program at 29 years, seven months and 22 days.

Barker would host 6,586 episodes of “The Price Is Right” before stepping aside in June 2007, replaced by comedian Drew Carey. He said it was a joy to be part of the franchise. "It’s a lot more fun to do than a person might realize,” he told Entertainment Weekly when he retired. "Each audience has its own personality. It’s like mining for gold. I’m looking for little gems with whom I can create spontaneous entertainment. It’s great satisfaction.” A 2004 inductee of the Television Academy Hall of Fame who won 19 Daytime Emmys for hosting “The Price Is Right,” Barker used his position on the show as a pulpit for advocating for animal rights. “This is Bob Barker reminding you to help control the pet population — have your pets spayed or neutered” became his calling card at the end of each episode. Barker, who received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1976, was known for jobs beyond the game show world. From 1970-1982, he hosted the Pillsbury Bake-Off. From 1969-1988, he hosted the Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year’s Day. For 20 years, he hosted the Miss Universe pageant, although his run ended in 1988 when he stepped aside after organizers would not honor his request to stop giving prizes with fur.

In 2010, Barker donated $2.5 million to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals for the creation of a new PETA building in Los Angeles that would be called the Bob Barker Building.

Barker even broke into movies, playing himself in Adam Sandler’s 1996 movie “Happy Gilmore.” The comedy is remembered for a scene in which he and Sandler’s character get into a brawl at a golf tournament.

Barker, who didn’t have children, was married to Dorothy Jo Gideon from 1945 until her death in 1981. He never remarried.

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