LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - For more than half a century, Bob Barker was a mainstay of U.S. television, hosting game shows “Truth or Consequences” and “The Price is Right,” along with the Miss USA and Miss Universe beauty pageants.
Barker has written about his rise to success in a memoir, “Priceless Memories.” In the book he talks about his drive to succeed and the support of his late wife, Dorothy Jo, and his mother, as well as mentors such as the late talk show host Ralph Edwards.
He spoke to Reuters about his early career, his love of animals and being a self-made TV man.
Q: A lot of authors say they discover things about themselves or their subject when writing. What did you discover about yourself that, perhaps, you didn’t already know?
A: “Well, I’d not made any notes with a book in mind, so I just sat down and started thinking. My first decision was that I wanted to write a happy book. The two shows that I have done all these years, “Truth or Consequences” and “The Price is Right,” are both happy shows ... I don’t make a derogatory remark about anybody. I had no intention of doing that.”
Q: You worked hard to get on radio and then TV, and it seems you’re very much a self-made man — somebody who went out and made it on his own. Is that fair?
A: “Absolutely. And my wife worked right beside me. When we first came here, I had no agent, I had no manager, we hardly knew anyone. Had I known then what I know now about Hollywood, I might not have had the courage to do that.”
Q: What do you know now?
A: “Well, it’s tough! (laughs) It’s hard to get in the door, much less on the stage. This was the heyday of radio. It was the summer of 1950. I was told there were 3000 radio announcers walking the streets of Hollywood, and I knew 2,500 of them were better than me. So, I knew, if I didn’t want to starve, I’d have to get a (TV) show ... so I decided to try to sell my own.”
Q: That’s interesting because in a way, you’ve always been a sort of salesman on TV, and I think what you sell is the great American dream — the notion that anyone can rise to great heights with hard work, ambition and talent.
A: “I’ll go along with that. What I’m the salesman for, I’m an example of. If you want to find a person who is living proof that anything can happen in the United States, I’m it ...”
Q: You write about not knowing what you wanted to do as a younger man, but there must have been some innate quality that you knew would make you good on TV.
A: “I’d like to tell you there was, but there really wasn’t. I’d not been in high school plays or anything like that. ... My first job was writing news, related to sports. I did disc jockey work and then became staff announcer, and then got a job on an audience participation show, and that was the epiphany for me. I realized then, this was something I could do.”
Q: So then you did have a talent, then, for that.
A: “I’ve never laid claim to that. I’ll tell you what I did have, but didn’t know it, I had the ability to make people laugh in conversations.”
Q: You write that you don’t know why, but you just love animals. It’s not too unlike from how you got into show business. You just did.
A: “That’s right. I muddle along and it happens. But my dad loved animals. As I say in the book, he walked out of a bullfight. And mom loved animals too. I suppose it’s in my genes. I can’t remember not having animals around me.”
Q: Another question is not so much what you put in the book, but what you left out — the sexual harassment and other lawsuits that arose from “Price is Right.”
A: “I didn’t want to get into all that. First of all, it was a happy book. Secondly, I ignored — not the sexual harassment suit — I ignored the other suits at the time, so I ignored them in the book.”
Q: You didn’t feel the need to set the record straight?
A: “Well, I could’ve done that. But, the moment I started setting the record straight, I had to tell the truth about these women and their lawsuits, and it’s not very pleasant.”
Editing by Patricia Reaney