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The Truth Of Bob Barker No One Ever Told You

With a career spanning decades, Bob Barker was the face of game shows on television. His unique blend of dashing charm, sparkling wit, and effortless charisma resonated with audiences across generations. While many recognize him as the host of the long-running game show "The Price Is Right," there is so much more to him than calling down audience members and playing delightful games for big prizes.

Born on December 12, 1923, in Darrington, Washington, Barker was already in his mid-50s when he began hosting "The Price is Right." Audiences loved his big smile and friendly demeanor, but it was the enthusiastic "come on down!" that helped make him a fan-favorite on weekday mornings, and a veritable pillar of households around the world.

Yet, Barker's influence went far beyond his game show glitz and prize-giving glamor. A fierce advocate for animal rights, his passionate plea to control the pet population and curb euthanization ended each installment of "The Price is Right." With Barker's death in 2023, he's left behind a towering legacy. Yet while you may know him for his biggest role on daytime TV, there are tons of lesser-known facts about him that are worth digging into. So come on down, because this is the truth about Bob Barker that no one ever told you.

He grew up on a reservation

A surprising fact for those unfamiliar with Bob Barker's heritage is that he was actually part Native American. His mother, Matilda Tarleton Barker, was a school teacher on the Rosebud Native American reservation in Mission, South Dakota, and her husband was 1/4 Sioux. As a result, Barker himself was 1/8 Souix, and was an enrolled member of the tribe, spending many of his formative years on the reservation. When he was just six years old, his father, an electrical power foreman, died in an accident on the job.

In the late 1930s, Barker and his mother relocated to Springfield, Missouri, but he never forgot either his Native American or his South Dakotan roots. "I've always bragged about being part Indian because they are a people to be proud of," Barker told the Argus Leader in 1962. "And the Sioux were the greatest warriors of them all." Barker loved talking about his heritage and enjoyed telling stories about the Sioux's legendary prowess in battle and their place in history, with his own singular wit: "They've been called the greatest light cavalry in the history of man, and I have never been on a horse without falling off." 

As for South Dakota, they're just as proud of him as he was of them. In 1980, the state inducted him into their Hall of Fame in their Arts and Entertainment category.

He hosted far more than The Price is Right

For audiences who became familiar with Bob Barker for hosting "The Price is Right" in the '80s, '90s, and beyond, that may be the only place they know him from. But the truth is, Barker was already a household name when he stepped in front of the camera in 1972. Long before he was greeting audience members onstage, Barker was the host of another wildly successful game show, "Truth or Consequences," where he'd been brought in to replace outgoing host Jack Bailey in 1956. He continued hosting for an astonishing 18 years, during which time he became one of the most famous game show hosts on television.

Even before "Truth or Consequences," Barker had already made a name for himself elsewhere ... but not on television. Prior to his game show days, he appeared on the radio, hosting his very own show, "The Bob Barker Show" from a studio in Burbank, California. He also hosted what was then called an "audience participation show." However, the story goes that it was hearing his hosting duties on "The Bob Barker Show" that convinced TV producer Ralph Edwards to pluck him from radio to be the next on-screen host of "Truth or Consequences."

He once signed a contract with the St. Louis Cardinals

Growing up in Missouri, Bob Barker always wanted to be an athlete and had a particular obsession with one day playing for his hometown's major league baseball team. "My dream was to pitch for the St. Louis Cardinals," Barker said in 2000. "Only one thing prevented it ... a total lack of talent." Eventually, he went to college on a basketball scholarship but gave up on his hopes of ever entering the pros. 

Over the years, though, Barker often talked about his childhood dreams of playing for the Cardinals and once he was famous, the club took notice. "Years ago I went back to St. Louis to do a show and Whitey Herzog was the manager of the Cardinals," he revealed. "Whitey had read that I had always wanted to pitch for the Cardinals." Herzog had Barker out to visit the team and gave him his very own Cardinals team jacket. But that's not all, because Herzog and team management also made his dream come true: "The Cardinals signed me to a contract. I get a dollar a year from the St. Louis Cardinals so long as I do not pitch."

He claimed he owed his whole career to his wife

In 1945, Bob Barker married his high school sweetheart Dorothy Jo Gideon. Over the course of his career, Gideon served as a producer, writer, and assistant to Barker. And according to the man himself, he owes everything he's ever accomplished to her. When interviewed by Fred Wostbrock for the Television Academy Foundation, Barker insisted, "Without Dorothy Jo, you and I probably would not be talking. ... She gave me the confidence to even try to do what I set out to do."

Despite having no formal training, no experience, and no background in entertainment, Gideon believed he could make something of himself in the industry. "Dorothy Jo said, 'You do this well enough.' She said, 'You're going to be able to do this,' and that gave me the confidence to try."

It wasn't just that Gideon was a cheerleader, though. After relocating to California, she left her job as a school teacher and went to work with Barker full-time. "She produced the radio shows that I did, she would write for them," he said, explaining how she wrote commercial jingles and more. She and Barker remained together until her death from cancer in 1981.

The Price is Right wouldn't have happened without him

When Bob Barker ended his run as the host of "The Price is Right," it marked the end of an era that began 35 years earlier – a then-record for the game show circuit. He wasn't the first host of the show, but he was key to its success when it was relaunched as "The New Price is Right" in 1972, though Barker didn't know it at the time. Initially signed to what he felt was a very generous contract, he learned later that the show would not have happened without him. 

"[Creator] Mark Goodson had talked with [producer] Bud Grant, and Bud Grant had said 'Yes I'll buy that show for CBS if you get Bob Barker to host it,'" he said in the Television Academy interview. "I didn't know that when we negotiated. If I'd known that, Mark could have been even more generous than he was." But it all worked out for everyone as "The Price is Right" went on to become one of the most successful game shows of all time, and Barker a national icon as a result.

His highlight of his radio days was playing Santa Claus

Embarking on a career in radio thanks to the support of his wife, Dorothy Jo Gideon, Bob Barker got his first job out of college at WWPG, a radio station in Palm Beach County, Florida, where he was working prior to his move west. They'd moved there from Springfield, Missouri, and he eventually found himself as an editor and staff announcer at the station. But his favorite moments weren't the times he was hosting shows on the air, but the holiday season when he played a certain jolly ol' Saint Nick.

"The highlight of my stay at WWPG was being Santa Claus," Barker admitted. Displaying no modesty, Barker declared with absolute certainty, "I was the greatest Santa Claus in the history of radio. ... I would go over to this store and put on my Santa Claus outfit and I lived it. I loved it, I had more fun talking with those kids, and their parents in some cases too, and we got lots of laughs. We got mail from more adults than we did kids."

It was so much of a joy for Barker, that it seems he could have considered it his entire career under the right circumstances. "If Christmas was year round I could have made a living as Santa Claus," he noted. 

He's been honored many times, but one moment stands out

In the decades after he came to fame, Bob Barker received numerous awards and honors, including an incredible 19 Daytime Emmy Awards and a Daytime Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award. He also had a maritime ship renamed in his honor, and it serves a cause close to his heart: The whaling vessel POL XIV was rechristened the Bob Barker by Sea Shepherd Global and served as an anti-whaling ship for 13 years.

In addition, there's a street in his old home of Springfield, Missouri that boasts the name Bob Barker Boulevard, and he received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame all the way back in 1960. But the honor that meant the most to him was when CBS renamed Studio 33 "Bob Barker Studio" in 1998. "When they changed the name of that studio to Bob Barker Studio, I don't know if any award of any kind has made me happier," he said. "Here I am now in Hollywood with a studio named the Bob Barker Studio, at CBS, which I just dreamed of being on ... it doesn't get much better than that."

A topless moment was his favorite Price is Right memory

Over 35 years of hosting "The Price is Right," there have been many unforgettable moments — for Bob Barker, and for audiences. There was the time a contestant pressed the wrong button and revealed the right price by mistake, or the time a game malfunctioned outright and finished early. But for Bob, no moment can compare to the time a woman got a little too excited when her name was called, and her bouncing up and down gave everybody a show after her tube top couldn't hold her in.

Barker has often talked about the incident as one of his favorites during his time hosting "The Price is Right," including his appearance on the "Rosie O'Donnell Show" in 1998. After showing a clip, he talked about just what went down that day. "That happened probably 20 years ago and it's still the most talked-about incident in 'The Price is Right' history," he remarked. "She was out there in the audience, as you saw, her name was called, and out they came. She came on down and they came on out." 

He got his own TV show before he ever even owned a TV

Even before he was famous as the host of "Truth or Consequences," Bob Barker had already been on TV. His first shot on the small screen was on the show "Your Big Moment," a talent showcase for amateur performers. "I had a television show before I had a television set," Barker said. "'Your Big Moment' came so early on in television that we didn't even have a television set as yet."

The fact is, Barker broke into TV right when it was just catching on as an entirely new medium that fascinated the public's imagination. "I can remember driving around Hollywood here and there were people gathered around in front of the windows at the places where you could buy television sets watching television ... And it just swept the country." It was a radical new way of enjoying entertainment at home, and it grew so fast that Barker knew his career was going to be taking a very different trajectory than he'd first imagined.

"When I first came out here [in 1950] I was interested in a national radio show ... but by '52, probably, I knew that if I were going to work it was going to be on television on a national scale."

Bob Barker trained in martial arts under Chuck Norris

Considering that the image most people today have in their minds of Bob Barker is of a stiff-moving older man with white hair, it might raise an eyebrow to find out that he was actually a trained martial artist. In fact, he trained under one of Hollywood's most famous action heroes, none other than Chuck Norris himself. Even more unexpected is that Barker met Norris years before the karate master embarked on his own Hollywood career. As it happens, Barker bumped into him when he was on his earlier game show.

"I had Chuck Norris as a guest on 'Truth or Consequences,'" Barker revealed in an archival interview. "He did a karate demonstration, and I not only had not done karate, I had never seen karate. I was so impressed that I started taking lessons."

Of course, Barker didn't get lessons from just anyone, but had his show guest Norris — then an unknown — become his mentor in the martial arts. "He used to come over to my house and give me a karate lesson, have a shower, and then he'd go down the street to an acting class. That was before he'd ever even made his first movie, you know. I worked with him for seven or eight years. I had a great time with Chuck." And Norris didn't go easy on him either, as Barker tells it bluntly. "Chuck kicked me here [gesturing] and broke two ribs."

He was sued for sexual harrassment

Though Bob Barker is one of the most beloved faces in TV history, he's not been without controversy. During his many years on the show, numerous allegations were made against Barker by women accusing him of wrongful conduct. In 1994, model Dian Parkinson brought a lawsuit against Barker and "The Price is Right," claiming she had been coerced into having sex with the host in order to keep her job. While Barker initially denied their relationship, he later acknowledged having an affair with Parkinson.

According to Barker, the pair had engaged in a consensual sexual relationship while she was working on the show, but insisted that there was no merit to the charge that she'd been pressured into it, calling the case "frivolous." The suit — which Barker said only came about after he'd refused to pay for her silence — was eventually dropped, with Parkinson saying she was out of money and was suffering medical problems caused by the stress of the case. Barker maintained his innocence, saying, "If there were any truth to the outrageous charges she made against me, and if there were any chance she could win any money in court, she never would have dismissed the lawsuit."

A year later, though, another suit was slapped on Barker's back by model Holly Hallstrom, alleging she'd been fired for gaining weight. Barker barked back with a counter-claim of slander, but the two sides reached a deal out of court. 

He stopped hosting beauty pageants over fur coats

A well-known and staunch advocate for animal rights, Bob Barker was involved with numerous charities over the years. He used his considerable platform to help protect animals; In addition to urging viewers to have their pets spayed and neutered, he also refused to allow fur of any kind as a prize on the show. Famously, Barker went vegetarian in the late 1970s, an era when that was decidedly not the norm for big celebrities. 

Barker later spent $25 million to found the DJ&T Foundation, which helps clinics spay and neuter to deter pet euthanization, and donated $5 million to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Barker eventually joined PETA, but perhaps his most impactful charitable endeavor came from something he didn't do when he refused to continue hosting the Miss USA Pageant over an animal rights issue. "I had been urging them to stop giving away fur coats [as prizes] because I'm concerned about cruelty to animals in the production of furs, and they agreed that they would," Barker said. But that year, Barker went to host and discovered that the plan was for the contestants to walk out on stage in fur coats, and he decided to walk away.

"It was the best thing to ever happen to the anti-fur campaign," Barker said. Overnight, news of his exit from the pageant was all over television, and suddenly millions who had never known about the cause were becoming aware of it for the first time.

He needed permission from producers to use his natural hair color

The vision many have of Bob Barker today is one of a stately older gentleman with pure white hair. That hair was one of his most distinguishing features for decades and set him apart from so many other game show presenters. But for decades before, Barker had sported a suave, dark brown 'do, even well into his late 60s. That's because producers of "The Price is Right" had Barker dying his hair, something which began to upset Barker when he learned that the product used was tested on animals. And it took a fight with folks behind the scenes to let him sport his natural hair color.

That day finally came in 1987. Arriving on the stage with a pure white head of hair, the crowd roared with excitement. "The reaction has been very positive," Barker told talk show host Ross Shaffer not long after he made the change. "The girls love this grey hair. Since my hair became grey there's just not enough of me to go around."

Not only did women love the new look, but so did the wider audience, and Barker claimed in an LA Times interview in 1990 that ratings actually increased after his hair went white.

Bob Barker almost quit the Price is Right in 2000

During his time on "The Price is Right," Bob Barker often talked about how much he loved making the show. "I'm going to continue to work as long as it's fun," he told Ross Schaffer in 1988. "I'm having a wonderful time." He continued hosting for nearly 20 more years before he finally spun the showcase wheel for the last time as the regular host in 2007. Believe it or not, though, he almost said goodbye seven years earlier.

"I thoroughly enjoy what I do, or I would have retired long ago. But this is all I've ever done," he said in an interview with the Television Academy in 2000, before revealing that he nearly walked away earlier in that same year. "I was going to quit this year. The show was going beautifully, the ratings are terrific, I'm doing as well as I've ever done, I think." But all of that tremendous success is ironically why he wanted out. "I should go out on top. I shouldn't stay too long. And so I was going to retire this year."

Thankfully for his millions of fans, the network wouldn't let him go. They made him an offer he couldn't refuse, and Barker re-signed for another year, ultimately adding another six seasons to his resume after that.

He broke a record once held by Johnny Carson

They say records are made to be broken. If you need proof just look at the game of baseball, where once-immortal records like Lou Gehrig's consecutive games streak and Roger Maris' 60 home runs were eventually toppled. Well, the same is true in the television world, and for a long while it was Johnny Carson who held the seemingly unbeatable record for continuous performances on the same network television show. The host of "The Tonight Show" for almost 30 years, it didn't seem possible that anyone could beat him.

Then, in 2002, along came Bob Barker, who one-upped the late-night legend by hosting "The Price is Right" for 29 years, seven months, and 22 days. Retiring officially in 2007, he'd continue to hold the record for another seven years until longtime "Jeopardy" host Alex Trebek took his crown in 2014. Trebek hosted his own show right up until his death in 2020, with his final episodes airing a year later. By 2023, the new record holder was Pat Sajak, host of "Wheel of Fortune," who has hosted over an eye-popping 7,700 episodes across four decades.

He feuded with Betty White over a circus elephant

Bob Barker was known for his amiable personality and jovial wit, perhaps even as one of the happiest men in Hollywood. He was so hard to make angry that David Letterman poked fun at his famously upbeat attitude with a "Top 10 List of Things That Make Bob Barker Angry." But there was one person who really did draw Barker's ire, and it's probably the last person you'd ever expect: "Golden Girls" star Betty White.

The feud between the two celebs went down back in 2009, two years after Barker had retired from "The Price is Right." Now focused almost entirely on his animal advocacy, Barker was involved in the very public fight to get an elephant in the L.A. Zoo released into a sanctuary. But on the other side was White, a proponent of the zoo who feared it would mean the end of the zoo industry, which itself helps raise awareness of the plight of animals.

Eventually, the battle between the former network stars got heated, with Barker rumored to have said he wouldn't attend the ceremony for his own Lifetime Achievement Award at the Game Show Awards that year if White was in attendance. Though neither ever commented publicly on the spat, it's worth noting that White did not attend in person, and Barker accepted his award on stage.

He was the April Fool's gag in 2015

Though Bob Barker did indeed retire from hosting "The Price is Right" in 2007, it's not actually the final time he appeared on the show. In fact, it's not even the last time he hosted. In 2009, Barker popped up in a special guest appearance, walking out during a showcase to promote his book, "Priceless Memories." Emerging to a thunderous applause, he shook hands with his replacement Drew Carey, before gifting a copy of his book to every member of the audience, and announcing that all profits from the sale of the book would go to his non-profit DJ&T Foundation.

Six years later, as part of the show's annual April Fool's tradition — which typically sees the show do something unexpected and altogether wacky — "The Price is Right" introduced Drew Carey, only for Barker himself to come out on stage. Serving as a surprise guest host for the first segment, Barker — at age 92 — may have been a little slower than fans were used to seeing him, but he hadn't lost a step and was as sharp as ever. It remains his last episode on "The Price is Right," and it might be the best April Fool's joke any show ever played.

He won an MTV movie award for best fight

"The Price is Right" won Bob Barker critical acclaim and countless awards, and turned him into a cultural icon. In addition to his 19 Emmy wins, he was nominated an additional 20 times during his career. But when perusing a list of all of his honors there's one award that stands out, not just because it's different but because of how much of a mismatch it seems for Barker in particular. Unless you spent your teenage years in the 1990s, though, you may not even be aware of it.

Not known for his on-screen acting, Barker was a surprise choice for the award, which was given for his bit role in the 1996 Adam Sandler comedy "Happy Gilmore." In the film, Sandler's titular Gilmore gets into a fistfight with Barker, playing himself, at a celebrity golf tournament. It's one of the most memorable moments in the film, and one that has Barker playing decidedly against type, not only duking it out with Sandler but uttering the very un-Barker-like line, "Now you've had enough, b****!" For this scene, he and Sandler took home the MTV Movie Award for best fight.

He loved being as in the dark as his contestants

As the host of one of America's most popular game shows for 35 years, you might think that Bob Barker loved being on the other end of contestants playing the game, knowing the prizes and all the right answers before they did. According to Barker though, that's not the case at all. Not only did he rarely know what the prizes were going to be up-front, but he never knew the correct prices beforehand. This allowed him to be just as surprised as the contestants, and to show genuine excitement when up on stage. And he relished this aspect of his duties as host.

"I don't know any of the prices," Barker told an interviewer. "In fact, I don't even know what the prize is going to be ... and in the games where the price is the all-important thing, I don't know what the prices are. And I don't particularly want to." As Barker tells it, being in the dark allows him to be a lot more interactive with his contestants, giving him the opportunity to play along with them, have a lot more fun, and even tease them a bit. "If I knew [a contestant] was going to lose, that would be cruel in a way. But when I don't know I can play it to the hilt."

He faced a series of health problems late in life

Retiring from "The Price is Right" in 2007, and making his last hosting appearance in 2015, Bob Barker spent the last years of his life out of the public view, popping up mostly to help promote important animal rights causes. Unfortunately, the last 20 or so years of his life were marked with a number of health scares, beginning with frequent fights with skin cancer, apparently caused by decades of tanning.

The same year he returned to "The Price is Right" as guest host, Barker also made the news for taking a fall and injuring his knee, receiving a number of stitches and being hospitalized as a result. Less than two years later, he was back in the hospital again for another fall, and again a year after that. Though it wasn't always easy, Barker nevertheless remained relatively active for a man approaching — but not going over — 100 years of age. He was often seen visiting his wife's grave and was sometimes photographed by paparazzi while out on leisurely strolls near his Los Angeles home.

How Bob Barker wants to be remembered

Even during his lifetime, there was never any doubt that the first line in every obituary for Bob Barker would be his role as host of "The Price is Right." But that's not what Barker himself really wanted to be remembered for. In 2007, he spoke with interviewer Terry Morrow of the Knoxville News Sentinel about his legacy. "I think that it would be nice if people remembered me as a guy who loved all living things and did as much as he could to make ours a better world for animals — and also did quite a few television shows."

Well, rest easy, Bob, because you just about got your wish. While his role as host of "Price is Right" did indeed top his memorials following his passing in August of 2023, it was his work fighting for animal rights that was often mentioned right up there with it. Though nobody will ever forget his iconic tenure on CBS, it's his memorable sign-off to help control the pet population by having your pets spayed and neutered that is indelibly etched into the minds of just as many.