Veteran TV host Bob Barker plans to retire from "The Price Is Right"
in June after 35 years as emcee of America's longest-running game
show and five decades on network television, CBS said on Tuesday.
Barker, 82, who launched his national television career in December
1956 as host of another long-running game show, NBC's popular "Truth
or Consequences," said he was ready to take a break from the hectic
pace of taping five shows a week.
"One of the reasons for my retirement is it is really a demanding
schedule for me at my age," Barker told Reuters, adding that he
wanted to devote more time to charitable work.
The tall, lanky entertainer, who grew up on a South Dakota Indian
reservation where his mother taught school, got his start in radio
and also emceed the Miss USA and Miss Universe Pageants for 21 years.
An avid animal rights activist, Barker resigned from the national
pageant circuit in 1988 because producers of those shows refused to
remove fur coats from the prize packages.
But the Emmy-winning star is most closely associated with "The Price
Is Right," which he has hosted since the program began its current
run on CBS in 1972. He is estimated to have awarded more than $200
million in prizes during his career.
Now in its 35th consecutive season, "The Price Is Right" long ago
surpassed "What's My Line," which aired for 18 years, as the longest-
running game show on U.S. television.
The show currently airs two half-hour editions weekdays and ranks as
the second- and third-most watched broadcasts on daytime television.
The later edition averages more than 5.5 million viewers a day,
according to Nielsen Media Research.
Show contestants, beckoned to the stage when the announcer
calls "Come on down!," compete for prizes by coming as close as they
can to guessing the actual value of those prizes without going over.
Barker said his affable, easy-going style in handling players whose
exuberance at times borders on hysteria was a skill that came
naturally to him but improved with experience. He credited the
contestants with keeping the show fresh.
"That game is different with each contestant's personality, and that
is what has made it interesting for me," he said. "Working with
unrehearsed contestants, creating spontaneous entertainment, that's
what I've done for all these years, and I've enjoyed it."
He said the most memorable moment on the show was when a young female
contestant's tube top slipped when she jumped up and down with
excitement, exposing both breasts.
Barker, one of TV's first game show hosts to let his hair turn
naturally gray-white, broke the late Johnny Carson's record for
continuous performances on the same network show in April 2002.
Carson retired in 1992 after more than 29 years as host of NBC's "The
CBS spokesman Chris Ender said "The Price Is Right" will continue
after Barker leaves, "but it's premature to discuss any transition
plans right now. Our focus now will be giving Bob a proper send-off."
He became a vegetarian in 1979 when he started to promote animal
rights after being named the national spokesman for "Be Kind to
Animals Week" which culminated in May 1980. He also forbids any fur
prizes and animal-tested products and/or prizes from being on The
Price Is Right and also does not allow the rerunning of past episodes
where those products were offered on the show (except the original
Bill Cullen-hosted version, which Barker had no involvement with).