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Bob Barker Wins the Game of Endurance

July 08, 1990|SUSAN KING

While most game-show hosts come and go, fading as quickly as their wrinkles appear, one man has managed to survive for three decades.

Bob Barker, 66, spent 18 years as host of "Truth or Consequences" and is about to begin his 19th season as emcee of CBS' venerable "The Price Is Right."

"It's amazing," Barker said. "What's even more amazing than the longevity is that it's the highest-rated game show."

Barker was still hosting the syndicated nighttime version of "Truth or Consequences" when he began his duties on "Price Is Right."

"It never entered my mind that I would do 'Price Is Right' longer than 'Truth or Consequences,' " Barker said, laughing. "It never entered my mind I would do anything longer. It never entered my mind I would even \o7 live\f7 longer."

So why has "Price Is Right" been around for so long?

"The reason it was so popular originally (it began in the '50s in a less glitzy version with Bill Cullen as host) and why it is still popular is because of the powerful basic premise of the show--everything is based on prices," Barker said.

"Everyone identifies with prices. The minute we put something up for bid and the contestant makes a bid, the viewer is involved. Once you become involved, we have accomplished what the producer of every game show wants--viewer involvement. 'The Price Is Right' has that to the \o7 nth\f7 degree."

Though "Price Is Right" is taped, Barker does the show as if it were live. "The only editing we have ever done is for some technical problem. I think another reason for the success of the show is that it has a live feel."

Contestants have come from around the world to be on "Price Is Right." And they are determined to be on the show, no matter what happens.

"I was talking to the audience once during a break and a young woman in the audience began to have a baby," Barker said. "I turned to the pages and said, 'Will you help her out?' This woman said, 'I don't want to go, you might call my name.' Now can you believe it? I said, 'Madam, we are not going to call any more names until you are on your way to the hospital.' "

Though most of the veteran game-show hosts complain that producers are looking for younger faces to host shows, Barker said the "Price Is Right" ratings improved when he let his hair go gray.

"I was prematurely gray," he said. "I began to gray at my temples, and I guess it could be that technology at that time was not what it is today, but I didn't look good. It looked like I had no hair at my temples, so they suggested I tint it."

For years, Barker used tint until the tint made his hair blue. Then someone suggested he dye his hair, which eventually turned red.

"I went on vacation and I just let it go," he said. "When I came home the people on the show said, 'You look better this way than you do with it dyed or tinted. Why don't you leave it this way?' "

Barker started to chuckle.

"We taped ahead," he said. "So let's say on the Wednesday show I had dark hair, but when we taped the next show I had gray hair and that show aired on Thursday. I got a letter from a fellow who said, 'Bob, you must have had one hell of a night.' "

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