Bob Barker, 82, to retire
Bob Barker, 82, to retire
Updated 11/1/2006 9:04 AM ET
By Bill Keveney, USA TODAY
LOS ANGELES — The Price Is Right is losing a prize that can't be estimated in dollars and cents: legendary host Bob Barker.
Barker, 83 in December, will retire from the game show in June after 35 seasons as its first and only host. "I want to retire while I'm still young," Barker said after taping Tuesday in the Bob Barker Studio at Television City.
"I probably made up my mind four or five days ago," he says. "I got up in the morning, and I was rushing around to the fax machine, to the telephone, to get the mail, trying to get to the studio, and I thought, 'Now's the time.' "
He says his health is fine. "I could do the show another year, but I'd rather quit a year too soon than a year too late."
Since Price premiered Sept. 4, 1972, on CBS, Barker has taped 6,482 episodes of the show, a frenzied contest centered on players' knowledge of product prices. Fans took to Barker as much as to the program's glitzy "showcase" prizes; one fan hugged Barker so hard he says he tore a ligament in his side.
Over the decades, tens of thousands of fans have "come on down," squaring off against three other hopefuls for the chance
to join Barker on stage, win prizes in one of Price's 80 trademark games and perhaps have a chance at the showcase.
Price is TV's longest-running game show, and Barker, who celebrates his 50th anniversary on television Dec. 31, has won 17 Emmys. (An earlier version was hosted by Bill Cullen.)
"The show was top-rated when we started, and we have never had a ratings problem," Barker says. "How many shows can say that over, five years, 10 years, let alone 35 years?"
Barker says he'll be even more active in animal advocacy issues. His commitment to protecting animals led to Barker's signature Price sign-off: "Help control the pet population. Have your pets spayed or neutered." His DJ&T Foundation, named for his late wife, Dorothy Jo, and his mother, Matilda (Tilly), gives financial assistance to organizations that spay and neuter dogs and cats.
The host of the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants for decades, Barker left in 1987 when they refused his request to stop giving furs as prizes.
Barker's fan base spans multiple generations, from older viewers who have watched the show from its start to teens and
young adults who have become a demographically desirable cult following in recent years.
Many younger fans likely were introduced to Barker when he appeared as himself — and won the MTV Award for Best Movie Fight — with Adam Sandler in the 1996 golf comedy Happy Gilmore.
Barker's TV hosting duties began in 1956 with the game show Truth or Consequences.
According to the network, a prime-time special is in the works, and the show will continue. CBS president Leslie Moonves in a statement called Barker's contribution and loyalty "immeasurable. ... We knew this day would come, but that doesn't make it any easier."