Game Show Host Bob Barker Dead At 99

On August 26, 2023, legendary game show host Bob Barker died at age 99 of natural causes, TMZ reported. "It is with profound sadness that we announce that the World's Greatest MC who ever lived, Bob Barker has left us," his publicist, Roger Neal, said in a statement released the same day (via NBC News). Best known for hosting "The Price Is Right" from 1972 through 2007, Barker hosted the game show "Truth or Consequences" as well as numerous beauty pageants like Miss Universe and Miss USA. After decades in television, Barker officially retired from "The Price Is Right" and television in 2007.

Born Robert William Barker on December 12, 1923 to a school teacher and electrician, Barker grew up on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in Mission, South Dakota. After accepting a basketball scholarship for Drury University, located in Springfield Missouri, Barker joined the Naval Reserves in 1943 (via Biography). Trained as a fighter pilot for combat in World War II, Barker ended up being spared active duty and returned to the U.S. to finish his education and marry longtime love, Dorothy Jo Gideon.

Truth or Consequences

On his return to Drury University, Barker landed his first industry gig at KTTS FM located in Springfield, Missouri (via KTTS 94.7 FM). Starting off in the news department, Barker made the switch to talk while still at the little radio station. Using the skills gained from being on air, coupled with his experience in the military, Barker and Dorothy Jo made their way westward. Eventually, the pair would find themselves in California where, in no short order, Barker was hired to host his own radio program, "The Bob Barker Show." Though it only lasted a few years, the show propelled Barker into an even bigger opportunity — the hosting duties for the game show "Truth or Consequences."

What was once a popular radio show, the producers of "Truth or Consequences" were looking to take the show to the bigger world of television in the '50s. After a succession of hosts that weren't quite making the grade, Barker was hired to host the game show in 1956. He would host the show an unprecedented two decades before being asked to host "The Price Is Right" (via Cheat Sheet).

Bob Barker and The Price is Right

When Bob Barker joined "The Price Is Right", the game show had already been on the air for several decades (via Cheat Sheet). The original version of the show, debuting in November 1956 on NBC and hosted by Bill Cullen, began as a daytime series airing only once a week. Struggling to find an audience, the game show jumped from network to network, time slot to time slot. In 1963, the show landed at ABC.

In the early '70s, producer Mark Goodson began developing a new version of "The Price Is Right." Goodson wanted to give the show a fresh update, and this included a new host — Bob Barker. Premiering on CBS on September 4th, the new edition of "The Price Is Right" aired daily during daytime TV. Due to the popularity of the show, it expanded from its original 30-minute format in 1975 to a 60-minute format, becoming the first game show to run for an hour (via Mental Itch). Since then, "The Price Is Right" has gone on to record over 9,000 episodes (via TV Insider) and win eight Daytime Emmy Awards (via Gold Derby). Bob Barker, meanwhile, received a whopping 15 Emmys for his work on television and was named by Time as the Greatest Game Show Host of All-Time.

Bob Barker studied under a karate master

As for outside of the game show world, Bob Barker is best known for his appearance in the 1996 film, "Happy Gilmore." In the movie, Barker engages co-star Adam Sandler's character, Happy Gilmore, in a fistfight — a moment that Barker unwittingly had been training for, for decades. A long-time resident of Los Angeles, Bob Barker lived next door to legendary martial artist, Chuck Norris, who, as it turns out, trained Barker to fight. In fact, according to Cheat Sheet, Barker actually trained with Chuck Norris for eight years (via Sun-Sentinel).  Barker became so adept at karate, in fact, he earned a black belt.  

For his appearance in "Happy Gilmore," Barker was originally written to lose the fight. But, after explaining to Sandler that he was a black belt who trained with Chuck Norris, there was no way he was going to lose, even if it was a scripted one. Barker arrived on Set 3 ready to throw down, too. He famously declined the stunt double for the fight scene, taking on the far younger Sandler mano y mano.