Bob Barker, Original Host of ‘The Price Is Right’ and Animal Rights Activist, Dies at 99

Bob Barker, a television game show icon best known for his decades-long run as the original host of the “The Price Is Right,” has died of natural causes in his Hollywood Hills home, his longtime publicist Roger Neal told TheWrap. Barker was 99 years old.

“It is with profound sadness that we announce that the World’s Greatest MC who ever lived, Bob Barker has left us,” Neal said in a statement sent to TheWrap. Neal shared the news on behalf of Barker’s longtime companion Nancy Burnet.

“I am so proud of the trailblazing work [Bob] Barker and I did together to expose the cruelty to animals in the entertainment industry, and working to improve the plight of abused and exploited animals in the United States and internationally,” Burnet said in a statement. “We were great friends over these 40 years. He will be missed.”

“We lost a beloved member of the CBS family today,” the network said in a statement. “During his 35 years as host of THE PRICE IS RIGHT, Bob made countless people’s dreams come true and everyone feel like a winner when they were called to ‘come on down.’ … Daytime television has lost one of its most iconic stars.”

Hosting the venerable game show from its inception in 1972 until his 2007 retirement, Barker was daytime TV institution for generations of viewers. His genial onscreen personality and his animal rights activism, embodied by his daily reminder to “have your pets spayed or neutered” became cultural references in their own right.

Barker was born Dec. 12, 1923 in Darrington, Washington. Born to a father who was himself part Sioux, according to federal records Barker was enrolled as a member of the Sioux tribe, and raised primarily on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in Mission, South Dakota.

He attended Drury College (now known as Drury University) in Missouri on a basketball scholarship, but left to enlist as a Navy fighter pilot after the United States entered World War II. Returning to school after the war, he graduated summa cum laude with an economics degree and began working in broadcasting, first in Florida for a local radio station, then in Los Angeles, where he moved in 1950.

In LA, he hosted “The Bob Barker Show,” which ran for six years, during which time he would eventually meet game show producer Ralph Edwards, leading to his first television job, hosting “Truth or Consequences,” in 1956.

“Bob Barker was one of the most accomplished game show hosts if all time,” CBS game show producer Bob Boden said in a statement. “Here’s hoping that all his consequences are happy ones.”

Though he wasn’t the show’s first host, Barker was its longest, staying with “Consequences” until 1975. During these years and into the 1980s, Barker also hosted several other game shows, including Ralph Edwards’s “End of the Rainbow” and Chuck Barris’s “The Family Game,” along with a pilot for “Simon Says” and the series “That’s My Line.” That alone would have been enough to make him a game show icon, but it was the second job he took during his last three years hosting “Consequences” that made him a household name.

That would be “The Price is Right,” a modernized update of a show that ran on multiple networks from 1956 until its cancellation in 1965, “The Price Is Right” was an immediate sensation and consistently one of the highest-rated daytime series in TV history.

Led by Barker’s unflappable friendliness an flirtatious persona, “The Price is Right” became famous for its colorful games, enthusiastic and often eccentric audience members vying for Barker’s attention and a chance to compete, and its instantly iconic theme tune. It eventually became the longest running game show in American history.

But Barker’s tenure was also marred by multiple accusations of sexual harassment, hostile work environment and discrimination made against him and other people involved in the show. Barker was himself sued by a former “Price Is Right” model who accused him of sexual harassment, which he denied, by another former model who accused him of wrongful termination and defamation, by two other models for wrongful termination, and by two production assistants who accused him of wrongful termination and sexual harassment. Barker denied any wrongdoing; most of the suits were settled out of court, in one case for millions of dollars.

During his career, Barker won 19 Emmys — 14 for Outstanding Game Show Host — and received the Lifetime Achievement Award for Daytime Television in 1999. CBS Television City studio, which is now owned by Hackman Capital Partners, named “Bob Barker Studio” in his honor. He was named to the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences’s Hall of Fame class of 2004, has a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and was named by TIME as the Greatest Game Show Host of All Time.

“Bob Barker was a Daytime television mainstay for generations,” National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Adam Sharp said in a statement. “He helped to define the game show genre, cementing ‘The Price is Right’ as a powerhouse format that has remained essentially unchanged for more than half a century. You don’t mess with perfection. His championship of the craft and for animal welfare were equal in their exuberance. His presence will be missed greatly by the Emmy community.”

Barker retired in 2007 from “The Price is Right,” with Drew Carey replacing him as host.

Away from the camera, Barker, along with his wife Dorothy Jo who died in 1981, was a supporter of animal rights. Barker eventually launched the DJ&T Foundation (named after Dorthy Jo and his late mother Matilda “Tillie” Valandra), which funds animal rescue and park facilites around the country, and contributes millions to animal neutering programs. Barker was famous for ending every “Price is Right” episode with the line: “This is Bob Barker reminding you to help control the pet population — have your pets spayed or neutered.” Carey has continued using this sign off.

He also hosted the Miss USA/Miss Universe pageant between 1967 and 1987, though he left after the pageant refused his request to stop handing out fur prizes. In 2010, PETA announced established the Bob Barker Building in Los Angeles after receiving a $2.5 million donation from him.

“Price Is Right” production company Fremantle also issued a statement about the host’s death.

“We are deeply saddened to hear Bob Barker has passed,” Fremantle wrote in the statement, adding that the “all-around game show legend will forever hold a spot in our hearts. Bob will be greatly missed, and we thank him for bringing joy to our homes for so many beautiful years. Our condolences to the staff and crew of The Price is Right and the fans.”

Outside of “Price is Right,” Barker is best known on screen for an appearance in the Adam Sandler comedy “Happy Gilmore,” where he played an exaggerated version of himself. He also co-hosted CBS’s coverage of the Rose Parade for multiple years in the 1970s and 1980s.

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