In that American culture is consumer based and media driven, I think that Bob Barker’s birthday should be a national holiday. Barker is a mixture of upbeat, optimism, and personal integrity. He is one of the few television stars who never gets stale. In fact, some of my game-show watching friends are still sad that Bob Barker no longer hosts The Price is Right.
Back in the day, mom and I were captivated by Barker’s charisma. I still remember mom’s laundry ironing days, when she set up the task in front of the teevee. That was the day for Truth or Consequences. We loved the wacky practical joke stunts that were played on the show’s contestants.
I don’t remember very much about Barker’s other game show ventures, probably because they were short-lived. I know mom used to watch The Family Game, Simon Says, and That’s My Line.
I do remember sharing television time with mom when she tuned in to watch Bill Cullen host The Price is Right. By the time I was a college student Bob Barker had taken over thehelm of the show. So, once again, mom and I shared in our enjoyment of Bob Barker’s teevee appearances.
Robert William Barker was born to Matilda and Byron Barker in Darrington, Washington on December 12, 1923. Byron was a foreman for the rural electric utility in Washington State. He died after falling from a tower. The Barkers then moved to the Rosebud Indian Reservation of South Dakota, where Robert spent most of his formative years. In fact, he was listed as an official member of the Sioux Tribe because he is one-eighth Sioux. In 1931, the family set up housekeeping in Springfield, Missouri and Barker attended Central High School there.
Barker won a basketball scholarship to Drury College in Springfield. Near the end of the Second World War, Barker trained as a fighter pilot in the US Navy. He did not see action because the war had ended before he was assigned to a squadron. At the war’s conclusion, Barker returned to the Missouri school to graduate summa cum laude with an economics degree.
It was during his student days, that Barker found work in radio. He worked part time at KTTS-FM in Springfield. Later, he moved to the Palm Beach, Florida area to work as an announcer and news editor at WWPG-AM. In 1950, Barker relocated to Southern California and wound up at KNX-AM in Los Angeles as host of an audience participation show. It was at this time that Ralph Edwards, the television producer, heard Barker’s voice and soon recruited him to the world of television and mainstream America.
Barker’s stint at Truth or Consequences began on New Year’s Eve of 1956, and ran an amazing 18-years until he was contracted to host The Price is Right in 1972. Barker increased the ratings of the already popular game show after he succeeded Bill Cullen, the original host. He went on to win twelve Daytime Emmy Awards for his talents. Barker was then honored with a Daytime Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999. Barker recorded his last The Price is Right episode on June 6, 2007 and aired it on June 15th.
Fans of Bob Barker know that the star is a major advocate for animal welfare and animal rights. He always ended his telecasts by reminding his audience to spay and neuter their pets.
Barker’s wife, Dorothy Jo, helped raise his awareness of the plight of domestic animals through her animal rights activism. In 1979, he became a committed vegetarian and soon began promoting animal rights. Barker became more involved in the movement after Dorothy Jo’s death in 1981. His activism helped fill the void, created by her absence. In 1985, he was named spokesman for “Be Kind to Animals Week”.
Barker once told an interviewer, “I’m a vegetarian–I think there’s a strong possibility, had I not become a vegetarian, I would not be working now. …I did it out of concern for animals; but I immediately began having more energy and feeling better.”
To this day, Bob Barker remains a leading spokesman for animal welfare and animal rights. He has contributed several million dollars to various major non-governmental organizations to be used in their worldwide efforts for animal well-being.