Hollywood has lost an icon.
Bob Barker, the longest-running host of the popular game show The Price Is Right, passed away from natural causes at age 99 at his Hollywood Hills home, it was announced Aug. 26.
His rep, Roger Neal, said in a statement to NBC News, “It is with profound sadness that we announce that the World’s Greatest MC who ever lived, Bob Barker has left us.”
Nancy Burnet, a longtime friend of the late Emmy winner and animal activist, said in a statement provided by Neal, “I am so proud of the trailblazing work Barker, and I did together to expose the cruelty to animals in the entertainment industry and including working to improve the plight of abused and exploited animals in the United States and internationally. We were great friends over these 40 yrs. he will be missed.”
A U.S. Navy veteran with broadcasting experience, Barker got his big break in Hollywood in 1956, almost seven years after he moved to California with wife Dorothy Jo Gideon to advance his career in radio.
According to Barker’s 2009 memoir Priceless Memories, he was hosting his weekly radio program The Bob Barker Show, which featured demonstrations of kitchen appliances, when he caught the ear of famed game show producer Ralph Edwards and was invited to audition for a revamped version of Truth or Consequences.
Barker was hired to replace Jack Bailey as host of TV game show that December, a position he continued to hold when he was brought on to helm The Price Is Right in 1972. (Barker left Truth or Consequences in 1975.)
As the inaugural host of The Price Is Right, Barker dazzled audiences with both his charm and warmth. His sign-off phrase, “help control the pet population: have your pets spayed or neutered,” quickly became part of television lexicon during his tenure. In 1988, Barker took on the additional role of an executive producer of the CBS series and oversaw numerous sides of the production, including the launch of its primetime spin-off, The Price Is Right Million Dollar Spectacular.
After 35 years, missing only one taping in the process, Barker announced his retirement from The Price Is Right in 2007. He was succeeded by comedian Drew Carey, who continues to host the show.
Throughout his illustrious career, Barker earned 14 Daytime Emmys as host of The Price Is Right—the most out of any performer in the category—and four Daytime Emmys as the show’s producer. He was also awarded a Lifetime Achievement Emmy Award for Daytime Television in 1999 and inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences’ Hall of Fame in 2017.
“This really culminates my professional life,” Barker said at the time. “It’s about a nice a thing that could possibly happen to anyone in television.”
TV work aside, Barker was a fierce advocate of animal rights. In addition to his trademark sign-off raising awareness of the pet population, he famously clashed with the Miss USA pageant over their fur coat prizes, resulting in him stepping as its host in 1988 after 21 years of emceeing the event. He founded the DJ&T Foundation, a non-profit that supports low-cost spay and neuter clinics across the United States, in 1994 and was later honored by animal advocacy group PETA, who named their Los Angeles office after Barker in 2012.
For Barker, his decades-long animal advocacy work stemmed from his wife, who passed away in 1981. “Dorothy Jo was before her times as far as animals were concerned,” he previously said in an interview with the Television Academy Foundation, explaining that “I always loved animals and I had contributed financially to animal-oriented organizations, but I had never participated” in publicly advocating for them until Gideon helped open his eyes.
He added, “I just felt compelled to do what I could to change the situation. And, that’s what I’ve been doing.”
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