||Hail the Silver Fox: Bob Barker, American Institution
In early May, “The Price Is Right” taped its 5,400th episode
with host Bob Barker. The format has been a staple of the daytime game show for
years, and existed in several incarnations before Barker took the reins in September, 1972.
In the years that followed, “The Silver Fox” rendered the previous hosts of “TPIR” as irrelevant
as Wally Pipp, the first baseman for the New York Yankees who preceded Lou Gehrig at the position. “TPIR” is CBS’s #2 rated daytime show (behind soap opera “The Young And The Restless”)
and the network clearly realizes that Barker is “the franchise”. He’s
signed on for an astounding 29th season and the ageless wonder shows no signs of slowing down.
Game shows are trendy again, thanks primarily to the unctuous Regis Philbin and
“Who Wants To Be A Millionaire”. There have been other “hot”
game shows and shows over the years like “Wheel of Fortune”, with Pat Sajak and “Jeopardy” with Alex
Trebek. To paraphrase the great parody of Sinatra that Joe Piscopo used to do
on Saturday Night Live, Barker has “chunks of guys like this in his stool”.
It’s one thing to have a hot show for a few seasons, another thing entirely to have dominated the genre since
before Nixon’s second term in office. “TPIR’s” formula
is simple, but it works—the Silver Fox, riding herd over a bunch of sexy spokesmodels (“Barker’s Beauties”)
and giving away prizes to a bunch of hyperventilating contestants. To win these
prizes the contestants don’t answer trivia questions, they compete in sometimes demeaning, always amusing pricing games. Basically, the show is a vehicle for the pulchritudinous pleasures of “Barker’s Beauties” and the charm, wit
and cool of the “Silver Fox” himself.
It’s hard to believe from looking at him that Bob Barker is 76 years old. He’s got the vigor of a much younger man, and could still kick Regis Philbin’s
ass with one arm tied behind his back. He’s had affairs over the years
with a number of the models on the show, and is clearly still sought after by women a third his age. He lists his heroes as Winston Churchill and Dizzy Dean, and urges viewers to spay and neuter their pets
at the end of every episode. It’s hard to find anything not to like about
the guy. Back in the day, when a contestant won a bonus c-note for getting a
price exactly correct he used to have the ladies dig into his suit pocket for their prize.
Unfortunately, the hairy legged feminist types raised a stink about it and they no longer give out the money in this
way. This acquiescence to political correctness is about the only problem I can
find with Barker or his show.
The show itself is filmed on Stage 33 at CBS’ Hollywood studios, which has
housed such icons of entertainment as Jack Benny. It’s certainly fitting
for Barker and the TPIR posse to now roam the soundstage, since he’s definitely achieved legend status himself. Like a good casino, the garish colors (green, orange and yellow) and slightly tacky
décor featuring the CBS “eye” logo seemingly hasn’t changed since the mid-1970’s. And why should it? Unlike other institutions like Cadillac
and Coca-Cola that have sometimes lost the way, “TPIR” has stayed true to the game. 6.1 million people a day tune in, and Barker and the show don’t look to be slowing down.
Bob Barker is an inspiration to all American men, a paragon of virility, style
and graceful aging. The Prophet’s Place salutes him, and “The Price
Is Right” as well. Here’s hoping for another 29 seasons of “The
And don’t forget…SPAY AND NEUTER YOUR PETS!
Bob Barker's collection of military figurines was actually begun
for him by his late wife, Dorothy Jo, who died in 1981. The two are pictured alongside part of the collection.
The Price Is Right's Bob Barker
Collects Military Figurines,
By Ken Hall
He's been giving things away for so long as the host of TV's The Price Is Right, it's hard to imagine
Bob Barker actually collecting something for himself. But the venerable king of daytime game shows is a collector, of military
figures and miniatures. He figures he's got about 175 pieces in all, plus several plates depicting Civil War battle scenes.
The collection actually began as an indulgence bestowed on Barker by his late wife Dorothy Jo, who knew of Bob's love of military
"I've always been interested in the military and America's wars, even as a kid, and I've read dozens
of books on the subject," Barker said from his home in Hollywood, Cal. "Dorothy Jo was aware of this, of course, and one day
she bought me a figure of one of Napoleon's generals. It was a gift. Then, before long, one became a few, and before you know
it a collection was born. She became as interested in them as me. We would look for new pieces in our travels here and abroad."
Dorothy Jo passed away in 1981, and little has been added to the collection since then (save for
occasional gifts from friends). But that hasn't dampened Barker's pride in what he has. "I keep the figures in open cabinets
so anyone who wants to pick them up and look at them can," he said. "There are three good-sized cabinets in my living room
that are filled." As for an aggregate value, Barker hasn't a clue. "I really need to have them appraised. I'm sure there's
some value here."
Barker divides his collection (which he describes as "eclectic to say the least") into two categories:
larger figures (10"-18"), of which there are about 90; and smaller figures and miniatures (1.5"-8"), which number about 80.
The larger figures are mostly porcelain, although he's got a few wooden pieces, too, including a Spanish guard and a Samurai
warrior purchased in San Francisco. The smaller ones are mostly metal. "What I've got represents a wide variety of soldiers
Although Barker is a self-described Civil War buff, figures from that conflict don't dominate his
collection. Dorothy Jo's gift of the Napoleon general gave rise to what he calls "a small French army." He has a set of Napoleon
with eleven generals and a set of Napoleon with nine generals, plus a set of five marshals on horseback. From the Civil War,
he has "a couple of Robert E. Lees, a couple of Ulysses S. Grants and a good number of figures from both the Union and Confederacy."
Other highlights from Barker's collection:
- British Beefeater, 1' tall, holding a lance, in full regalia.
- British officer, with scarlet jacket and high white plumed hat.
- Swiss guard, 18" tall, on pedestal, scarlet trousers ending at the knee, black boots.
- Spaniard, with cape and typical Spanish hat, half-boots with trousers tucked inside.
- German soldiers from World War II, purchased by Dorothy Jo in Germany.
- Many Revolutionary War, World War II and foreign war figures.
- Numerous small pieces, many depicting gunners and infantrymen.
The plates are from The Bradford Exchange and show scenes from the Civil War battles of Antietam,
Fredericksburg, Shiloh and Atlanta. Barker's fascination with wars and military history had him dreaming as a boy of becoming
a West Point cadet, but instead he chose Drury College in Springfield, Missouri, which he attended on a basketball scholarship.
His studies were interrupted by World War II and Barker trained as a Navy fighter pilot. The war ended before he could see
After the war, Barker went back to Drury, where he got a degree in economics. While there, he helped
finance his studies by working at a local radio station. He discovered he had a natural bent for hosting audience participation
shows and later got a job at a radio station in Palm Beach, Fla. A year later he moved to Los Angeles where, within a week,
he was hosting his own radio program called "The Bob Barker Show." His career path was established, and fame came knocking.
In 1956, the television producer Ralph Edwards was looking to revive the former radio and TV show
Truth or Consequences. He sold the concept to NBC, but didn't have a host. Then, one day while he was driving around L.A.,
he heard Barker's show and knew he'd found his man. Later, when asked what it was that impressed him about Barker, Edwards
said, "He sounds like Jack Benny doing audience participation." Truth or Consequences would run for 18 years, ending in 1974.
The Price Is Right, which Barker has been hosting for 30 years, was actually born while Truth or
Consequences was still on the air. "For three years, I would do one show in the morning and the other in the evening," Barker
said, "Of course, I was a lot younger then." Today, he's in his 30th year as host of The Price Is Right, and has collected
14 Emmy awards for his efforts (including two as executive producer and one Lifetime Achievement Award). His current contract
runs through 2005.
About five years ago, Barker was contacted about doing what would become his first motion picture
appearance. "Adam Sandler, who was a big fan of The Price Is Right as a kid, had written the screenplay for Happy Gilmore,
and he included a scene that was written specifically for me, the scene on the golf course, where I beat him up," Barker recounted.
"I told him that as long as I win the fight, I'll do it." Barker noted he studied karate for several years under the actor
Bob Barker was born in Darrington, Wash., and spent most of his youth on the Rosebud Indian Reservation
in South Dakota, where his mother was a schoolteacher. His family moved to Springfield, Missouri, where he attended high school
and college. Today, Barker is a vocal figure in the animal rights movement. He founded the DJ&T Foundation (named after
his wife and mother Tilly, both of whom loved animals), which subsidizes spay-neuter clinics and voucher programs.