One-time presenter of The Price is Right Bob Barker sadly lost his wife, Dorothy Jo, way back in 1981. But the former host of the longest-running U.S. daytime game show ever proved in 2017 that other things in life also have a great longevity. When news leaked of the emotional visit Barker made to his soulmate’s grave on the 36th anniversary of her death, it went to show that true love never dies. It was a heartfelt gesture which underlined the value the 94-year-old still places on the relationship with the love of his life and touched hearts everywhere.
Born in Darrington, Washington, on December 12, 1923, Robert William Barker grew up on South Dakota’s Rosebud Indian Reservation as an official Sioux tribe member. After serving as a U.S. Navy fighter pilot in World War II, the young man graduated with an economics degree from Drury College in Springfield, Missouri. And it was here that Barker took his first steps in broadcasting, landing a job at the local radio station.
After relocating to California in 1950, Barker was handed his own radio program. After six years of the eponymous show, he had made his name and a move to television. He was appointed host of the game show Truth or Consequences. A mixture of general trivia and zany stunts, the NBC program established Barker as a famous face nationwide. He would sign off each episode with, “Bob Barker saying goodbye, and hoping all your consequences are happy ones!” The star stayed on as its host until 1974.
Meanwhile, Barker would host numerous other TV programs during his 18-year Truth or Consequences stint, including the feel-good makeover vehicle End of the Rainbow and quiz show The Family Game. Nevertheless, it would be CBS’s The Price is Right that ensured Barker would become a TV legend. Indeed, he was a fixture on U.S. television screens well into the 21st Century, hosting the daytime version of the show for a remarkable 35 years from 1972 until 2007.
But, behind the scenes, Barker became an executive producer for the show in 1988. In this role, he created numerous new elements for The Price is Right, and he also banned foreign vehicles and items made from animal products from being used as prizes. In addition, Barker launched the $1,000,000 Spectacular high-profile specials for the brand. He also hosted three night-time seasons, and made several cameo appearances on the show following his retirement in 2007.
Nevertheless, Barker’s time on The Price is Right did not go by without a degree of controversy. In 1994, he was sued by Dian Parkinson after a two-year relationship between the pair broke down. The ex-model alleged that Barker had sexually harassed her while she was working on the show. Parkinson eventually dropped the case due to concern over her mental wellbeing. A year later, Holly Hallstrom, another model who worked on the series, filed a lawsuit against Barker for “malicious persecution” and “wrongful termination.” This case was finally settled in 2005.
In fact, at least seven former The Price is Right employees subsequently filed lawsuits against Barker for either wrongful dismissal or sexual harassment over the years. The host had previously cultivated a reputation as an all-round nice guy, largely thanks to his tireless efforts as an animal rights activist. Indeed, the star has donated millions of dollars to various animal-related causes.
As well as his game show duties, Barker also occasionally ventured into acting. He appeared as himself in the Adam Sandler movie Happy Gilmore, portrayed Mel Harris’ father on NBC comedy Something So Right and made cameos in the sitcoms Yes, Dear, The Nanny and How I Met Your Mother. He also voiced the character Bob Barnacle, a fishy photographer, on the animated smash SpongeBob Squarepants.
All of this screen time saw Barker amass an impressive amount of accolades during his lengthy career. He has 19 Emmy Awards to his name, including 14 for Outstanding Game Show Host. He also has a Hollywood Walk of Fame star, and has received inductions into the Television Hall of Fame and the NAB Broadcasting Hall of Fame. In 2007 Time magazine named Barker the Greatest Game Show Host of All Time.
And for almost 30 years of his illustrious TV career, Barker was able to share his success with his wife Dorothy Jo. The pair had met when Barker was aged just 15 at a show by legendary jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald. The high-school sweethearts later walked down the aisle in 1945 during a furlough from Barker’s wartime duties.
Like Barker, Dorothy Jo carved out a career in the entertainment world, enjoying success as a commercials jingle singer. She also devised a TV talent competition with her husband for Los Angeles high-schoolers in the mid-1950s. However, her life was tragically cut short at the age of 57 when she succumbed to lung cancer in October, 1981.
In an interview with ABC News in 2007, Barker declared that he had no intention to marry again following Dorothy Jo’s death. He also credited his wife for sparking his lifelong interest in animal rights. “She was ahead of her time. She really was,” Barker avowed. “She stopped wearing fur coats before anyone was stopping. She became a vegetarian before people were becoming vegetarian. And I gradually did the same thing with her.”
And Barker proved just how much Dorothy Jo still means to him when he made a special visit to her final resting place. On October 19, 2017, the 36th anniversary of his wife’s passing, the star took a bouquet of flowers to lay on her grave at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, CA. Barker was pictured cleaning his wife’s headstone during his 20-minute visit of quiet contemplation, and later the photos later leaked online.
Needless to say, Barker’s emotional graveside vigil touched the hearts of many people on social media. One Twitter user commented, “Wow. Now that’s real love.” Another wondered, “Maybe there is such a thing as a #Soulmate.” The story was featured on U.K. tabloid the Daily Mail’s website and a reader there responded, “I have so much respect and admiration for people like his wife who battled for animals all her life and her husband likewise. God love them both.”
But Barker has not been entirely alone since Dorothy Jo’s death. In 2007 People magazine reported that he had enjoyed an on-off relationship with Nancy Burnet, an animal-rights activist, for the best part of two decades. Barker was quoted as saying, “Right now she’s unhappy with me, so I’m not sure we’ll get back together.”
And, of course, there was also that two-year fling with Dian Parkinson, the model from The Price is Right who later sued Barker for sexual harassment. Nonetheless, in a 2002 interview with CNN, the star insisted, “As God is my witness, I have never forced her to do one thing that she did not want to do, ever – sexually or any other way, ever.”
But more recently, the nonagenarian Barker has made headlines for his ailing health. In June 2017 he was taken to hospital after falling and injuring his head at his L.A. home. Two years previously he had required stitches in his forehead after tripping on a sidewalk. However, his catalog of health problems actually began way back in 1991 when the star suffered a mild stroke.
Since then he has also undergone surgery to remove a blockage in a carotid artery in 1999 and to reduce the size of his enlarged prostate in 2002. That same year, Barker also suffered a second stroke while sunbathing. In addition, his tanning habit has also resulted in numerous skin cancer scares.
Nevertheless, the TV legend proved he was made of stern stuff and continued working. But now he has been retired for a long time and friends are aware that he is becoming increasingly frail. In September 2017 an insider told entertainment website Radar Online that the 94-year-old has accepted the end may be near. “Everyone’s praying for Bob, but his health is deteriorating rapidly,” the source claimed. “We fear his final curtain could come any day.”
The same informant then added, “The next fall could be deadly – and Bob knows it. But he’s not afraid. He said, ‘When it’s my time, I’m ready to die.’ I think he can’t wait for the day when he and Dorothy can be reunited.” In fact, Barker is reportedly so sure that he will be joining his wife soon that funeral planning has begun. According to Radar Online, the star has had a tombstone engraved with his name and birthdate in preparation. Hopefully, it will be a while yet before we hear, “Bob Barker saying goodbye…” for the last time.