Bob Barker, longtime The Price Is Right host, dies at 99

Bob Barker, who was the affable, white-haired host of The Price Is Right for 35 years, has died. He was 99.

Barker died in his Hollywood Hills home of natural causes on Saturday, his representative confirmed to EW.

"It is with profound sadness that we announce that the World's Greatest MC who ever lived, Bob Barker, has left us," Barker's longtime publicist, Roger Neal, said in a statement.

The legendary Emmy-winning game show host had been hospitalized twice in recent months for severe back pain related to a previous injury. Barker also sought medical treatment after falling at his Hollywood Hills home in 2017 and 2015.

Bob Barker Tapes His Final Episode Of "The Price Is Right"
Bob Barker Tapes His Final Episode Of "The Price Is Right"

Mark Davis/Getty Bob Barker on 'The Price Is Right'

"I am so proud of the trailblazing work Barker and I did together to expose the cruelty to animals in the entertainment industry, including working to improve the plight of abused and exploited animals in the United States and internationally," Barker's girlfriend, Nancy Burnet, said in her own statement. "We were great friends over these 40 years. He will be missed."

Though he was in and out of the hospital in his final years, Barker was a steadfast presence on television for decades. Over the course of his career, he won 14 Daytime Emmy Awards as host of The Price Is Right and four more as executive producer, as well as a lifetime achievement Emmy in 1999. Before he retired at the age of 83, he stunned his legion of fans by announcing that June 7, 2007, would mark his last episode of Price. Despite his senior status, Barker looked fit and trim (he was a vegetarian and lifelong devotee of karate), and was a huge fan favorite.

Burnet previously revealed to Fox News that the longtime Price host was not prescribed medication for "blood pressure, cholesterol, or the umpteen other things that most people take as they grow older" (Barker did take thyroid medication). He remained in reasonably good shape until his death, despite a few setbacks. He was hospitalized twice near the end of 2018 after experiencing severe back pain.

Price fans, including college-aged ones, would wait for hours outside CBS Television City in Los Angeles just to hear Barker utter the phrase "And the actual retail price is..." years after the show hit primetime. With that type of popularity hanging in the balance, even Barker seemed to have reservations about leaving the gig that turned him into a TV icon. "I have thought every year for the last 10 or 15 years that maybe I should quit, and then I think, 'No, I'll do it for another year,'" he told EW in 2007. "I regret that I'm quitting now."

Born in Darrington, Wash., Barker grew up on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, where his mother taught grade school. His family eventually moved to Missouri, where Barker scored a basketball scholarship to Drury College. His studies were interrupted during World War II, but Barker, who became a Navy fighter pilot, avoided going into combat.

Returning to Drury, Barker found his calling at a local radio station, where he began hosting audience participation shows. After graduating summa cum laude with a degree in economics, Barker got a job at a radio station in Florida before setting his sights on Los Angeles. It took only a few days before he secured his own radio program, The Bob Barker Show. Television beckoned in 1956, when he was asked to host Truth or Consequences, a post he held for 18 years.

In 1972, CBS made the bold decision to program a 90-minute block of game shows on daytime TV to replace repeats of The Beverly Hillbillies and The Andy Griffith Show. After luring Jack Barry and Wink Martindale to emcee The Joker's Wild and Gambit, the network's then-programming chief, Bud Grant, set his sights on Barker, whose contract on Truth allowed him the opportunity to do a network show. "I was 48 and didn't have any thoughts about the rest of my life," Barker later told EW. "It was just another show I thought I would have fun with."

And how he did. The Price Is Right became an overnight hit, generating a 32 share in households — nearly a third of American TVs in use were tuned to the show when it aired. It went on to become the longest-running game show in U.S. history, and Barker the longest-tenured game show host.

Barker never tired of the daily Showcase Showdown, nor the countless embraces he received from his adoring female fans — except for maybe once. "I've had hugs and kisses on every show," he once recalled to EW. "I learned late in life that if you give a woman a car, she's going to hug and kiss you. I had one come up and say, 'I'm going to kiss you on the lips.' I said, 'No, you're not!'"

In October 1987, Barker shocked audiences when he appeared on the new season of The Price Is Right with white hair — he had decided to let it grow in naturally. "My hair used to be red, then had a blue tint," he said, "so I decided to do the patriotic thing and let it go white."

The show also provided Barker with an invaluable forum to espouse his beliefs about animal rights. For years, Barker ended every episode of Price with a plea to have pets spayed or neutered. He opened a foundation in Beverly Hills to help control the pet population and named it after his wife of 36 years, Dorothy Jo, who died in 1981. Childless, Barker never remarried and continued to appear on the Price stage wearing his wedding ring.

Barker's tenure on the show wasn't entirely unblemished. In 1994, former Price model Dian Parkinson (Barker's lover from 1989 to 1991) filed a lawsuit claiming the host had sexually harassed her beginning in the 1980s. She withdrew the suit in 1995. Rumors persisted that Price — and by some extension, Barker — discriminated against the models by forcing them to stay slender.

Though Barker's fame helped him secure zeitgeist-grabbing roles in movies like Adam Sandler's 1996 comedy Happy Gilmore, his work in TV remained his crowning achievement. He was named twice in the Guinness Book of World Records as TV's most durable performer, and he received the Lifetime Achievement Award for Daytime Television in 1999. Barker returned to Price in April 2009 to promote his autobiography, Priceless Memories, and his replacement, Drew Carey, said in an interview afterward that the producers had to stop taping for more than an hour so the crowd could finish cheering for Barker and ask him questions about how he was spending his post-Price days. Barker returned to the show again in 2015 for an April Fool's edition of the show.

"It's probably hard to believe, but I have thoroughly enjoyed doing this show for all these years," Barker told EW upon his retirement.

Barker told PEOPLE in August 2021 what he loved most about his years spent working on Price: "The money, of course!"

"There was much to love," the host recalled. "I had the pleasure of working with a dedicated and talented cast and crew for 35 great years. Particularly close to my heart was the ability our vast popularity gave me to remind our entire audience daily about the importance of spaying and neutering your pets."

Drew Carey, who took over The Price Is Right hosting duties in October 2007 following Barker's retirement, eulogized his predecessor on social media, writing, "Very sad day for the Price Is Right family and animal lovers all over the world. There hasn't been a day on set that I didn't think of Bob Barker and thank him. I will carry his memory in my heart forever."

Actor and comedian Adam Sandler also honored Barker, who played a pugilistic version of himself in Sandler's golf comedy Happy Gilmore. "The man. The myth. The best. Such a sweet, funny guy to hang out with," he wrote on Twitter. "Loved laughing with him. Loved him kicking the crap out of me. He will be missed by everyone I know! Heartbreaking day. Love to Bob, always, and his family! Thanks for all you gave us!"

Barker is survived by his half-brother, Kent Valandra; his half-nephews, Robert Valandra and Chip Valandra; and his half-niece, Vickie Valandra Kelly.

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