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vol 3 - issue 02 (oct 2000) :: interviews
BOB BARKER
interview by insane wayne chinsang

REALLY, HE NEEDS NO INTRODUCTION. HIS NAME IS JUST AS EASILY RECOGNIZED IN AMERICAN POP CULTURE AS SUPERMAN, BILL CLINTON, OR ELVIS. HE IS THE HOST OF AMERICA'S FAVORITE GAMESHOW. HE'S KISSED COUNTLESS WOMEN, FILMED OVER 5000 SHOWS, AND GIVEN AWAY THOUSANDS OF BRAND NEW CARS! HE IS BOB BARKER. TASTES LIKE CHICKEN'S INSANE WAYNE CHINSANG HEADED TO CONTESTANTS' ROW TO CHAT WITH THIS AMERI-POP ICON.

wayne: What was life like for Bob Barker before The Price Is Right?

Bob: I was born in Darrington, Washington, and spent most of my childhood on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota where my mother was a schoolteacher. We eventually moved to Springfield, Missouri, where I attended high school and Drury college on a basketball scholarship. When World War II intervened, I became a Navy fighter pilot, but the war ended before I was assigned to a seagoing squadron. I returned to Drury after my discharge. I needed a job to help finance my studies and I heard that the manager of the local radio station liked planes. So I put on my naval officer’s uniform and my wings of gold and went to meet him. We talked about planes for over an hour, and I landed a job reading the news and other sundry assignments. It was there that I did my first audience participation show. After graduating from college, I went to work for a radio station in Palm Beach, Florida. A year later, my wife, Dorothy Jo, and I moved to Los Angeles. Within a week, I began hosting my own radio program. It was soon after that Ralph Edwards heard me on the radio and invited me to audition for Truth or Consequences. He was driving his daughters to an ice-skating lesson when he heard my radio show. He liked the way I worked, so he called me in for a couple of meetings, followed by an audio audition and an on-camera test. On Dec. 21, 1956, at 12:05 p.m., he called to tell me that I had the job. It was only ten days later that I made my debut on Truth or Consequences. I remained with the show for 18 years. Mark Goodson hired me to host The Price Is Right in 1972, while I was still doing Truth or Consequences. I did both shows for two years.

w: What do you think you would be doing if you weren't hosting The Price Is Right?

B: Well, my earliest ambition was to pitch for the St. Louis Cardinals. What kept me from fulfilling that dream was a total lack of talent.

w: In your amateur opinion, do dogs have lips?

B: I can tell you that I’d rather be kissed by my dogs than by some people I’ve known.

w: You weren't the first host of The Price Is Right. Can you tell us a little bit about the beginning of the show, and how you came to be the host.

B: The show ran on NBC from 1956 to 1963 in daytime and primetime slots with Bill Cullem as host. It then switched to ABC for one year. I took over a totally revamped show in 1972 and have been with it since. We’re now in our 29th year with The Price Is Right.

w: Have you ever had a contestant get unbelievably upset or angry on the set because they lost a game?

B: People have such a good time just being on the show that they don’t seem to be very disappointed when they lose. I, of course, would like every contestant to win. Some winners get so excited that they seem to lose all control. Any number of them have grabbed me and carried me around the stage. I should get hazard pay!

w: Has a contestant ever been sucked under the wheel and chopped to pieces, or has the wheel ever spun off its axle and rolled into the crowd?

B: There have been a few near misses, but no one has actually been dragged under.

w: It was a major deal when you went from the brown-haired Bob Barker to the silver-haired Bob Barker. Did you ever consider any other colors, like purple or bright red, or possibly a mohawk or shaved head?

B: I didn’t have to consider other colors. They just seemed to be happening. The reason I let the gray come out is that my hair was beginning to turn pink. I let it turn gray during a hiatus from taping. But when the shows aired, my hair was brown one day and gray the next. I remember receiving a letter from a viewer who said, “You must have had one hell of a night!”

w: Does Bob Barker have any guilty pleasures?

B: Nothing gives me quite so much joy as when people tell me they’ve had their pets spayed or neutered.

w: If the show were to be cancelled tomorrow, what other things would you focus your attention on?

B: Since I don’t have to face that likelihood in the near future, I haven’t given that much thought. However, when I do leave the show, I’ll probably devote more time to the DJ&T Foundation, named after my wife, Dorothy Jo, and my mother, Matilda (or Tillie). I established the foundation in 1995 to fund low-cost or free spay/neuter clinics as a way to help relieve animal over-population.

w: What home-cooked meal and drink do you love to sit down to?

B: Being vegetarian, my diet includes pastas and lots of fresh fruit and salads.

w: I watch The Price Is Right religiously, and one of the most bizarre things I've ever seen on your show happened just a few weeks ago. A woman was playing Hole-In-One, and instead of placing the items in order from cheapest to most expensive, she named the prices of them. She got four of them right on the dot! Aside from a woman "coming on down" to contestants’ row and having her breasts fall out of her shirt, what was the most bizarre thing you've ever witnessed?

B: There was the time a woman was about to give birth and it seemed obvious that she should be headed for the hospital. "But," she protested, “I don’t want to leave. My name may be called.”

w: Do you have any future projects or guest appearances (i.e., Happy Gilmore) coming up?

B: I have lost several roles because I refuse to do nude scenes.

w: Who is someone you've met that you were completely blown away by?

B: Cary Grant. No doubt about it. He was so gracious, particularly to my wife who was a big fan of his. No one has approached his charisma on or off screen.

w: Lastly, exactly why should I get my pet spayed or neutered?

B: It is generally agreed that one of this country’s most serious problems impacting animals is that there are so many cats and dogs being born, and that there are just not enough homes for all of them. If you love your pets, spay or neuter them. You’ll help reduce the millions of dogs and cats born each year who will not find a home.


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