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Robert 'Rod' Roddy, 66; Was Colorful 'Price Is Right' Figure

October 29, 2003|Myrna Oliver | Times Staff Writer

Robert Ray "Rod" Roddy, the colorful, bespangled announcer who for 17 years invited lucky audience members to "come on down" and play television's venerable game show "The Price is Right," has died. He was 66.

Roddy died Monday at Century City Hospital of colon and breast cancer, said his longtime agent, Don Pitts.

The announcer taped his last show with host Bob Barker two months ago, just before entering the hospital. Roddy underwent colon cancer surgery on Sept. 11, 2001, and had his left breast removed in March. Chemotherapy failed to prevent recurrence.

"The courage he showed during those difficult times was an inspiration to us all," Barker said Monday in a statement.

After his cancer was diagnosed two years ago, Roddy became a high-profile advocate for the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance.

"I could have prevented all this with a colonoscopy, and, of course, that's the campaign I've been on since I had the first surgery," he said in a recent interview on the CBS Web site, adding: "To everybody out there, 'Get a mammogram!' It can happen to men, too."

Breast cancer, although more prevalent in women, is diagnosed in about 1,500 American men annually. Approximately 155,000 Americans of both sexes are diagnosed with colorectal cancer each year, and more than 50,000 die, according to the research alliance.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday November 02, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 41 words Type of Material: Correction
Roddy obituary -- The obituary of "The Price Is Right" announcer Robert "Rod" Roddy in Wednesday's California section incorrectly stated that the host of the game show "Press Your Luck" was Chuck Woolery. The host of that program was Peter Tomarken.

The effusive Roddy, an expert at priming audiences for the appearance of the more dignified, suit-clad Barker, was known for his Liberace-type costumes -- gold and purple was a favorite color combination -- and rich, booming voice one observer likened to "rolling like thunder off his tongue."

"It's become a real hobby for me. I go all over Southeast Asia looking for the fabrics," Roddy said, discussing his outlandish costumes with the Omaha World-Herald last year when the Barker version of "The Price Is Right" celebrated its 30th anniversary with a CBS prime-time special. "They are a lot of fun. It's like, how many grown men get to wear that kind of stuff?"

The "stuff" included at least 500 jackets that Roddy said filled 80% of his San Fernando Valley home. On camera, he might wear a spangly green jacket and tie that a Times reporter once suggested was "stitched together from old figure-skater costumes," paired with an iridescent red Thai silk shirt, or maybe a sparkly purple jacket with a shining gold shirt. Off-duty, Roddy joked, he switched to sequined sweatsuits with matching underwear.

Known as "Hot Rod Roddy" in his radio disc jockey days, Roddy was born Sept. 18, 1937, in Fort Worth, Texas. He excelled at piano but gravitated early toward his future career -- first seizing a microphone at his late stepmother's Eastern Star bingo game.

The youngster patterned his speaking delivery after the enthralling evangelists he heard at Texas revival meetings. He attended Texas Christian University, where a fraternity brother got him a job with the now-defunct radio station KXOL.

Dropping out of college in his sophomore year, Roddy went to Miami to play piano and try comedy in nightclubs. But he soon returned to radio, spinning records and chattering over stations in Miami and Orlando, Fla.; Little Rock, Ark.; New Orleans; Oklahoma City; Pittsburgh; Chicago; Cleveland; Atlanta; Buffalo, N.Y.; and his native Fort Worth, where he once conducted his radio talk show in the nude.

Roddy spent five years at Buffalo WKBW-AM in the 1960s and fondly told the Buffalo News last year: "Those were my drinking days. There are more bars and churches in Buffalo than any other place."

After coming to Los Angeles in the early 1970s, he began the Hollywood phase of his career, doing voice-overs on commercials for Pennzoil, Pillsbury pudding, Kal Kan and Kitty Litter.

He moved into television announcing after Casey Kasem bowed out of the risque satire "Soap." During most of the show's run from 1977 to 1981, Roddy intoned the popular introduction: "This is the story of two sisters, Jessica Tate and Mary Campbell. This is the Tates and these are the Campbells, and this is Soap. Confused? You won't be after this episode of Soap."

Roddy moved on to game shows, including "Whew," Alex Trebek's "Battle Stars" and Chuck Woolery's "Press Your Luck." He also announced NBC's "Hit Man" and the syndicated "Love Connection" and "So You Think You've Got Troubles."

When "The Price Is Right" announcer Johnny Olson died in 1985, Roddy got the job -- providing his greatest fame and fortune.

A memorial service is pending, according to CBS. The network said memorial contributions can be sent to the Rod Roddy Memorial Fund, National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance, c/o Entertainment Industry Foundation, 11132 Ventura Blvd. Suite 401, Studio City, CA 91604.

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