In 1972, a lot occurred. When Richard Nixon was president, “American Pie” by Don McLean was at the top of the charts, his administration was trying to hide its involvement in the Watergate Scandal, NASA’s Space Shuttle program was officially launched, and Bob Barker, host of a new game show called the Price is Right, was giving away brand new cars valued at less than $4000.
Bob Barker, the longtime host of The Price is Right, is a household name universally recognized as a cultural icon.
This year marks Barker’s centennial year on Earth.
Barker, a member of the Sioux Tribe, met his future wife, Dorothy Jo Gideon, during an Ella Fitzgerald concert while they were both young and living on a South Dakota Indian reservation.
In 1945, while on leave from the United States Navy Reserve where he was training as a fighter pilot during World War II, he married Gideon, his high school sweetheart.
Rather than serving in the military, he went back to school and earned a degree in economics.
When Barker, now 99 years old, was hosting a radio show in Los Angeles, he caught the notice of Ralph Edwards, a game show producer searching for a new host for Truth or Consequences, the first television game show.
With his rising prominence, Barker hosted the Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants in 1967, expanding his reign as host of the immensely popular show that he had hosted from 1956 to 1975.
And then something did. His appearance on The Price is Right in 1972 catapulted him and the show to fame.
Barker, who took over as executive producer of The Price is Right in 1988, received 14 Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Game Show Host and four Emmys for his role as executive producer; the show is still the longest-running game show in history.
The Spouse and Girlfriend of Bob Barker
Barker said of his late wife in an interview with the Television Academy Foundation in 2008, “She gave me the confidence to even try to do what I set out to do. She didn’t just urge me on, she worked right at my side.”
Gideon, who was 57 years old, passed away from lung cancer in 1981, leaving behind her husband of 36 years.
“I never had any inclination to remarry. She was my wife.” Barker said.
But he eventually met and married Nancy Burnet, who has been with Barker for the past four decades.
One of the reasons for Barker’s robust health, according to Nancy, is that he has rarely needed medication.
Burnet, now 79, made a startling claim to Fox News Digital just before his 99th birthday in December: “He’s going to be 99, and he takes one prescription medication and that’s for his thyroid. And his health care or anyone who comes in to see him, they’ll say, ‘Well, we’d like a list of his medications.’ I’ll say, you know, let me just show you the bottle. That’s it. So, he does not take anything for blood pressure, cholesterol, the umpteen other things that most people take as they grow older,” said Burnet, joking about his one prescription:
“He’s in very good health for his age and his humor is still in good shape. He’s had a very charmed life.”
However, things weren’t always so.
In 1999, Barker underwent surgery to repair a partially blocked artery and lower the risk of stroke after experiencing what he characterized as clumsiness in his hand.
His prostate was surgically removed after he suffered a stroke in 2002.
He has a history of moderate skin cancer, has fallen often, resulting in more hospital admissions, and has severe back problems due to his love of the sun.
Burnet elaborates on her intervention, detailing how she gave Barker, a lifelong vegetarian, vitamins and other nutrients to help him bulk up.
“It was not to replace meals but to enhance everything. To take that in addition to his meals because he was not doing well. He was looking tired and kind of frail, not just not looking healthy. And, you know, if you’re going to be a vegetarian and vegan, you better know what you’re doing.”
After stepping down as host of the show, now hosted by comedian Drew Carey, he continued to make occasional guest appearances, including one in 2013 to celebrate his 90th birthday.
Burnet said of his time on the show, “He never grew tired of it. I’m not sure I could do the same show every day. But he never grew bored with it. So maybe that’s why it was so successful because he was always ready to do it and happy to do it.”
Similar to what Barker said in 2007 on Good Morning America: “I am really not ready to say goodbye to it. So, I think it’s a good time to say goodbye because I want to leave them wanting more.”
He’ll never forget the women contestants on Price is Right losing their shirts from leaping up and down in excitement or Vanna White appearing on the show before she became famous on Wheel of Fortune.
The show was excellent, but the best part was that it provided Barker a voice to advocate for animal rights.
Barker is also known as an advocate for animal rights and his show-ending catch phrase, “This is Bob Barker reminding you to help control the pet population. Have your pets spayed or neutered.”
His late wife Gideon was the driving force behind his lifelong commitment to animal rights.
“She was ahead of her time,” Barker told Good Morning America. “She stopped wearing fur coats before anyone was stopping. She became a vegetarian before people were becoming vegetarian. And I gradually did the same thing with her.”
In reality, he has donated millions to build animal-rights curricula at prestigious law schools including Harvard, Columbia, and Northwestern through his DJ&T Foundation (named for Gideon and his mom, Matilda or “Tilly,” both animal lovers).
“If young people are introduced to the terrible exploitation and mistreatment of animals in society, it will help influence them in anything they do,” Barker told the Associated Press in 2015. “When your education and encouragement fail, you have to have legislation.”
He and Burnet, whom he first met at an adoption event he held in 1983, are both staunch advocates for animal rights and vocal opponents of animal entertainment.
Wow, that was quite a century! Bob Barker, in his nearly 100 years, has left an indelible mark on the world.
We’re lucky to have advocates for animal welfare with Barker’s level of public prominence and commitment to the cause.
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