Bob Barker Gave Gen X An Education on Prices
And fur, beauty pageants and sex scandals
My mom didn’t like Bob Barker.
Not that she wanted him dead. She just didn’t like the man and didn’t want to watch The Price Is Right.
Me? I was indifferent about the man except he taught me at a young age it was important to get pets spayed and neutered. I just liked the wheel spinning to see if someone was going to make it to the Showcase Showdown.
Barker died on Saturday at age 99.
For Generation X, Barker was a staple of our 1970s summer vacations and sick days in my Pine Bluff neighborhood of Belmont even if someone like my mom didn’t like him. If my friends and I had been playing outside and needed water, we might take a break and watch The Price Is Right. If we were sick, we got our education guessing the prices of Chef Boyardee spaghetti and SOS pads.
Barker emceed the Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants from 1967-1987. That may be where my mom’s contempt for Barker began. She was no huge fan of pageants either. Yet, we watched them all during my childhood with my mom saying, “I just can’t stand that man.” I would just laugh or roll my eyes.
Like many other figures from my Gen X childhood, Barker fell victim to scandal in 1994 when a former Price Is Right model sued for sexual harassment. Barker fought back saying the relationship was a consensual affair. Parkinson eventually dropped the lawsuit.
Let’s admit it. Guys my age really watched the show for the Barker’s Beauties. Other suits followed. Barker once said he didn’t even want to discuss the Beauties.
Barker said: “They’ve been such a problem. I don’t want to say anything about them. They’re disgusting; I don’t want to mention them.”
The Beauties stopped being beauties. They are now called models, and the show has male ones, too.
Even later in life, The Price Is Right was intertwined in my life when I dated a guy who was obsessed with watching the game show every single morning. You may ask did he not work? That’s a story for another time. But he developed a love for the game show as a kid and still loved the game show although Barker was retired and Drew Carey was the host. The game shows carried over into his gambling habit at the casino when he would sit for hours at slot machines with “The Price is Right” or “Wheel of Fortune” themes pretending he was a contestant.
Barker’s endurance and work ethic are values of a bygone America where people zip from one gig to the other or no gig at all.
He wove himself deeper into pop culture when he appeared in the 1996 Adam Sandler comedy “Happy Gilmore” and his character, a salty MF, beats up Sandler’s. He voiced himself in animated television shows like “Family Guy.” According to one article, even in his 80s, he still taped five shows a week.
The game show host’s convictions are also worth noting.
His wife was an animal rights activist and persuaded her husband to encourage viewers to stop overpopulating the planet with pets. Barker closed every show the same way: “This is Bob Barker, reminding you: Help control the pet population. Have your pet spayed or neutered.”
Barker adopted to his wife’s lifestyle, foregoing meat and fur. The Price is Right even stopped giving away fur coats because of Barker’s beliefs. Like fur or not, like Barker or not, the man stood up for his beliefs.