Living legends in any field are usually in short supply, but a surefire bet in the television industry is household name Bob Barker.
As host of two popular quiz shows for more than half a century, Barker added to his list of major honors Monday with an induction to the NAB Broadcasting Hall of Fame.
Inside the packed Barron Ballroom of the Las Vegas Hilton at the annual Television Luncheon, hosted by Microsoft, Barker was feted for his decades of TV fare as daily host of two of the most successful quiz shows in history — “The Price is Right” where audience members jumped through hoops (sometimes literally) to be invited by Barker to “come on down,” as well as his first job in network television on “Truth or Consequences.”
“This most enduring of TV hosts has won 19 Emmy Awards, more than anyone else,” said master of ceremonies Billy Bush, cohost on the syndicated nightly entertainment magazine “Access Hollywood” (who noted that between himself and Barker, together they’ve still “only” won a total of 19 Emmys).
“I miss that applause most of all,” Barker said to a standing ovation. “No, what I actually miss most is the money!” Barker quickly added to an audience that included luncheon host and NAB Television Board Chairman Alan W. Frank (president of Post-Newsweek Stations) and NAB President and CEO David K. Rehr, who noted Barker’s “legendary career” and his earning a “place in [television] history.” The luncheon crowd to honor Barker also included RTNDA President Barbara Cochran and BCFM President and CEO Mary Collins.
On a stage adorned with props and other paraphernalia from “The Price is Right,” Barker had been introduced by way of a video tribute, which was narrated by actor Adam Sandler. Barker had played a memorable cameo as a golfer in the Sandler movie “Happy Gilmore” in which he managed to beat the much younger Sandler to a pulp — over and over again — across much of the length of an entire golf course. Barker joked that he had refrained from being in more films only because “I don’t do nude scenes.”
In an acceptance speech noted for brevity, Barker quickly recalled his earliest days in broadcasting at KTTS-AM in Springfield, Mo., where he auditioned in his World War II military uniform in hope of giving himself an edge, which apparently it did. He still recalls the exact time and date (New Year’s Eve of 1956) when he got the call for his first network gig on “Consequences.” The rest is television history as Barker went on to host daily TV quiz shows for 50 years, having only retired a bit more than a year ago. “At 83, I wanted to retire when I was still young,” Barker quipped.
Barker, a longtime animal rights advocate who led several campaigns against the commercial use of fur for clothing (including when he hosted the Miss USA Pageant) said he wanted to say something “profound” to end his remarks: “Help control the pet population. Have your pet spayed or neutered!”
And then when it seemed the luncheon was over and some in the audience had stood to leave, Barker was handed a handheld mic similar to the long-stemmed one he used on “Price,” and he unexpectedly asked everyone in the audience to look under their chairs. Numbers had been left under 10 lucky seats, and from them a handful of “contestants” were called to the stage where once again — and perhaps for the last time — Bob Barker hosted an impromptu 15-minute “Price is Right” game show where contestants spun the famous wheel and played “Plinko.” The winner walked away with a large-screen HDTV set and the runner-up with an Xbox 360 game console from lunch sponsor Microsoft. ©2008 NAB
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