- Jill Vejnoska, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Come on down, Bob Barker, and accept a hearty Happy Birthday wish on behalf of a grateful nation!
You turn 94 years young on December 12 and if all you ever accomplished in that time was to beat up Adam Sandler, that would be more than enough (sadly, it was a fictitious fight, in a movie).
But no, you hosted “The Price Is Right” right into TV’s all-time record books, went vegetarian before vegetarianism was cool and even made it safe for other game show hosts to -- gasp! -- stop dying their hair.
Somewhere, Wink Martindale is saluting you.
And so are we, as we run down this list of reasons you deserve to be celebrated. Not 94 reasons, because that would way take too much commitment and stamina.(Who do you think we are, Bob Barker?!)
Nope, there’s only one of you. Here’s why:
Nothin’ but net. Born on Dec. 12, 1923 in Darrington, Washington, young Bob attended Drury College in Springfield, Mo., on a basketball scholarship. Meanwhile, has Michael Jordan hosted TV’s longest running game show? Point made.
Patriotic brainiac. During World War II, Barker served in the U.S. Navy as a fighter pilot. Then he returned to college and graduated summa cum laude with a degree in economics.
The Price is Right . . . there in all the record books. After a brief (cough, cough!) 18-year warmup stint as host of the televised game show, “Truth or Consequences” starting in 1956, Barker began hosting the daytime version of “The Price Is Right” in September 1972. By the time he finally called it quits in June 2007, “Price” had entered the record books as the longest continuously running game show in North American television history; Studio 33 at CBS Television City in Los Angeles (the show’s longtime taping location) had been renamed “The Bob Barker Studio” in honor of show 5,000 in 1998, and Barker’s head made headlines when he renounced the use of hair dye and began going gray on the air in 1987. Comedian Drew Carey has been “Price’s” host since Barker’s retirement, but as one admirer tweeted on Tuesday, birthday boy Bob is “The Price is Right OG.”
Man’s Best Friend’s best friend. Barker’s support of animal rights is legendary, but he credits his late wife, Dorothy Jo, with making him “woke” about the cause. Like her, he became a vegetarian in 1979; when she died two years later, he threw himself into publicly advocating for animal rights."Help control the pet population. Have your pets spayed or neutered” became his signature signoff to every episode of “The Price is Right” with the catch phrase. And he doesn’t just talk the talk. He also walks the walk, donating $2.5 million to PETA in 2010 to help open a new L.A. office and funding an adjunct professorship in animal rights law at Columbia University School of Law to the tune of $1 million. Most dramatic , perhaps, he stepped down from his 20-year gig as host of the Miss USA/Miss Universe pageants in 1987 when organizers refused to stop giving out furs as prizes.
Did we mention he beat up Sandler? A very occasional actor (his 10 credits on IMDB are bookended by a 1960 episode of “Bonanza” and a 2015 episode of “SpongeBob SquarePants”), Barker became a pop culture icon when he played himself in the 1996 hit movie “Happy Gilmore.” In one scene, he pummeled his Pro-Am partner, Gilmore, played by Adam Sandler. What qualified as a case of wish fulfillment for many non-fans of the San-man wound up winning the duo the inaugural prize for "Best Fight Scene” at that year’s MTV Movie Awards.