- Written by James Patterson James Patterson
Bob Barker, the longtime host of TV’s The Price is Right, recently died. He was 99 years old.
I recall seeing Barker’s early syndicated game show Truth or Consequences. I can also recall some of the jokes he told as host of that program.
“What is a twip?” he once asked a contestant. When the contestant could not answer, Barker supplied the joke. “It’s a ride on a twain,” he said. His audience groaned and laughed.
Barker hosted The Price is Right on CBS for 35 years, from 1972 to 2007. It began as a 30-minute show and transitioned to a 60-minute show.
For several years, The Price is Right had a syndicated 30-minute evening version. My grandparents were viewers of the morning and evening show.
Barker also had a traveling Bob Barker Fun and Games Show that toured cities across the U.S. in the late 1970s and early ’80s. In these shows, audience members participated in games to win prizes. Barker was a showman.
In addition to his TV work, Barker was an animal rights activist. In September 1999, he was in Washington, D.C., to testify to Congress on a bill to protect circus elephants.
After becoming fatigued, he was admitted to George Washington University Hospital. At the time, my office was in a building that was across the street from the hospital.
Physicians advised Barker he had an obstruction in his carotid artery. Without immediate surgery, the doctors told him he was at risk of a stroke. Barker underwent emergency surgery where his physicians cleared the artery in a procedure called a carotid endarterectomy.
Since I knew Barker was passionate about animal rights, I went to a nearby bookstore in Georgetown. I perused the magazine racks for colorful and appealing animal magazines. I left the store with three: one about horses, one about dogs, and one about cats.
I placed the magazines in a large brown envelope with a note thanking Barker for his activism on behalf of animals. I also thanked him for the enjoyment he gave my grandparents on The Price is Right.
I wrote “Bob Barker” on the outside of the envelope and took it to the George Washington Hospital. At the hospital’s security desk, I left it with the hospital security office. I explained the envelope contained animal magazines for Bob Barker.
“We’ll see that he gets it,” a security officer told me.
Barker survived his emergency surgery. He returned to California. Weeks passed. One day I received an envelope from The Price is Right. Barker sent an autographed photo with a note. I forwarded the photo to my grandmother in Alabama.
In 2007, Barker retired from The Price is Right, and Drew Carey took over hosting responsibilities. The show is taped at The Bob Barker Studio.
In 1999, it was relatively easy to walk to a local bookstore and buy magazines from an abundant supply. It is more difficult today since many bookstores have closed.
Had I not been a regular customer at that Georgetown bookstore, I would not have recalled that it sold “colorful and appealing” magazines about animals. Had I not recalled the magazines, I would not have been able to brighten Bob Barker’s hospital stay. And, I would have missed the chance to tell him how much my grandparents enjoyed The Price is Right.
Thanks for the TV memories, Bob. Thanks for your animal activism. Thanks for helping control the pet population by telling viewers to have their pets spayed or neutered. Goodbye, Bob.
James Patterson is a writer and speaker in the Washington, D.C. area.