BOB Barker, an affable fixture on US television for half a century who hosted the popular game show The Price Is Right for 35 years and was a committed animal rights activist, has died at age 99, his publicist said.
The silver-haired Barker, host of The Price Is Right from 1972 to 2007, won 19 Daytime Emmy awards, the top US television honours, and also was known for a memorable comic turn playing himself in the hit 1996 film Happy Gilmore, beating up a character played by Adam Sandler. Roger Neal, his publicist, said Barker died yesterday morning.
Barker gave millions of dollars to pro-animal causes, including donating $5 million for a 1,200-tonne ship named the Bob Barker that was operated by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to stop Japanese whaling ships from killing whales off Antarctica.
The Price Is Right, in which contestants tried to guess the price of various consumer products and played a slew of games to win prizes, became a US pop culture institution on daytime TV with the smooth-talking Barker at the helm for 6,586 episodes.
A studio announcer would bray “Come on down!” as one by one excited contestants would trot out of a studio audience down to the stage. Exuberant contestants occasionally would bear-hug and even tackle Barker.
“Can I kiss you?” a woman once inquired during a show.
“No, I’m working,” deadpanned Barker, known for his good-natured humour. “Meet me in the parking lot later.”
Over the years, he handed out more than $300m in cash and prizes like cars, appliances and trips.
“I think TV hosts are like pies and some people like apple and some cherry and some chocolate,” Barker told the Hartford Courant in 2009. “I’m just very fortunate that they liked me well enough to invite me into their homes for 50 years.”
The Price Is Right became the longest-running game show on US television. Barker returned to the show in 2013 to mark his 90th birthday and again in 2015 for an April Fools’ Day episode.
Barker was known for pro-animal causes and campaigned for them into his 90s. He would end episodes of The Price Is Right by urging viewers to get their pets spayed and neutered to control the animal population and began a foundation to subsidise the practices. He also spoke out against the treatment of animals in zoos, rodeos and circuses.