The Truth About Bob Barker's Relationship With His Late Wife

For decades, Americans tuned in to one of the only game shows to still air on network TV (most of the rest having gone into syndication): CBS' "The Price Is Right," which is now hosted by Drew Carey. And no aspect of the show was more iconic than its host, Bob Barker. Though Barker was known to American audiences thanks to his stint hosting the gameshow "Truth or Consequences" for nearly two decades from 1956 until 1975, "The Price Is Right" became the TV institution with which he was most closely associated. He performed in the role for 35 years and recorded thousands of episodes over the course of his career. By the time he retired in 2007, he was considered a national treasure.

And while Barker was an icon by every definition of the word, he succeeded at keeping his personal life personal. Indeed, other than his advocacy for animals, including his famous bit at the end of every episode during which he encouraged viewers to have their pets spayed or neutered, he kept his cards close to the vest about his life offstage. In fact, Barker was married just once, and despite many years passing since his first wife, Dorothy Jo Gideon, died way back in 1981, he never had any intention of remarrying. Since becoming a widower, Barker has paid tribute to his late wife several times.

The love of Bob Barker's life

Bob Barker's deep love and appreciation for his wife Dorothy Jo shines through in his 2009 autobiography "Priceless Memories," in which he describes the very early days of their romance.

Barker and Dorothy Jo's love story reads not unlike many couples of their generation. The two met at high school, introduced by Barker's school friend Jim Lowe, who remained a close pal throughout Barker's life. Their first date was to an Ella Fitzgerald concert, after which the two were inseparable. Barker recalls that Dorothy Jo was incredibly smart, a talented academic whose stellar high school record laid the path for her to pursue a degree in medicine at Washington State University. "She threw it all away to marry me," Barker wrote.

Barker was sent off to fight in World War II as a fighter pilot, forcing him and Dorothy Jo to put the brakes on their budding relationship. But the young couple knew they were already meant for each other, and in 1945 when Barker was on leave, the couple eloped, via Entertainment Tonight.

Dorothy Jo helped launch Bob's career

Barker and Gideon's marriage was full of good humor, with Dorothy Jo reportedly more than capable of matching her husband's natural wit. On top of that, the TV star's wife was also adept at playfully indulging her husband's ego. "She was a very funny woman," "The Price Is Right" model Janice Pennington told People in 1999. "Once, somebody asked her what is the secret of her happy marriage. 'Two things,' she said. 'I love Bob Barker, and Bob Barker loves Bob Barker.'"

But Dorothy Jo wasn't simply a passive supporter of Barker's showbiz dreams. Throughout his career, Dorothy Jo was a constant and dependable colleague, serving in various roles during his early days in radio and helping to facilitate his jump to television with "Truth or Consequences." The chapter dedicated to his wife in Barker's autobiography is titled: "Dorothy Jo: Wife and Partner," and reveals how Dorothy Jo would write, produce, and dig deep in all aspects of Barker's career to help get him to the top. "I could always depend on Dorothy Jo to help in every way possible," Barker recalled.

Bob Barker refused to remarry

"They were married 36 years, and she was the love of his life," said an unidentified source, via Showbiz Cheat Sheet. "He never remarried. He and Dorothy Jo were together since age 15, and he told me, 'I just felt there should only ever be one Mrs. Bob Barker.'" Dorothy Jo died in 1981 of lung cancer. 

Not that Barker felt that his life should be without romance following the death of Dorothy Jo. According to People, the "Price Is Right" star had several partners after becoming a widower, one of which, with model Dian Parkinson, a colleague on the show, ended in acrimony and legal action. Later, Barker struck up a relationship with activist Nancy Burnet (pictured), with whom the gameshow host shared a passion for animal rights. However, despite the emotional connection between the pair, their relationship remained casual throughout the years, with no intention that Burnet would ever step in to fill the shoes of Barker's beloved Dorothy Jo.