Friday, April 17, 2009

6. Bob Barker is a fraud (unedited)

Yeah, I'm a "The Price is Right" fan. I've been to tapings of the show, I've watched it since I was a youngster and although I'm not an expert on TPIR trivia, I know plenty about its history.

While I can't say it authoritatively, I can say confidently that Bob Barker is a bit of a fraud.

Thursday was a day that was surely celebrated by many TPIR fans. Bob made a cameo during the showcases of Thursday's show to promote a new book he wrote. I have no idea what the book is or isn't about, but I'm sure it leaves out the lurid details of his life.

Bob was married for many years, and he has a charitable foundation named in honor of his wife. That's all well and good, but most of us who have watched the show for two decades or more remember that in the years following his wife's death, he ended up in a relationship with one of the models on his show.

That relationship wasn't common knowledge, I don't think. It seems to me that the reason it became a hot topic was the fact he was being implicated in some sort of discrimination or wrongful termination action by the model who he was diddling.

I can't say as I blame him for hooking up with a babe 20 or 25 years younger than him, and it's not like he was married, so there's nothing wrong with the relationship. But in the last 15 or so years of his TPIR career, he was accused of several punitive actions involving the models on his show.

Bob became rather powerful as host of TPIR. He became more than just a host, he became an executive of the show, and that gave him leverage to fire people at will.

But his powers weren't limited to hiring and firing models. In the 1970s there were plenty of fur coats given away as prizes on the show. At some point Bob became an animal activist. Eventually the show stopped giving away furs.

For a while in the 1990s the fledgling Game Show Network broadcast old episodes of the show, but not those where furs were given away. Bob made sure that didn't happen.

For whatever reason the Game Show Network's license to rebroadcast the show was withdrawn several years ago by the ownership of TPIR. I'm not sure how much Bob had to do with it, but I can only suspect that there's no chance the decision will be reversed as long as Bob is still alive. Will Bob's death change that? Hard to say.

While the old shows have been archived, again, for several years, a small collection of them surfaced in the past two years. This collection was billed as a "best of" collection, but it's not. It's not close to a "best of" collection.

The collection has a couple of gems, including black-and-white episodes from the 50s, when the show was very different than Barker's version, and was hosted by Bill Cullen. Those shows aren't that exciting, but it's interesting to see the first vision of the show. I had never seen the show in its original incarnation.

The rest of the collection, however, is predominantly from the early 1970s. The episodes are mostly from when the show was a 30-minute presentation, and it provides a look at a few pricing games that ultimately failed. It's a lot of fun to see people playing games for new cars valued at less than $3,000. There are lots of subtle difference between the shows of 1973 and the shows of 2009.

Yet for all the great moments and games that appeared between 1976 and 2006, there's no sign of them in the collection. It jumps from 1975 to 2007, and features the final five episodes of Bob's tenure.

Why do you suppose that is? I'm not sure if there's any financial benefit for the models who appeared in those episodes, but Bob has made a conscious effort to erase Janice, Dian, Holly and Kathleen from TPIR history. Do I know that for a fact? No, but I'd be stunned if the effort to exorcise them from TPIR history has been driven by anyone else on the staff.

Janice was the longest-tenured model on the show, starting with its launch in 1972 until she was dismissed in 2000. She, along with Kathleen, the first African-American model who was hired in 1990, were dismissed. Allegedly they were going to be reassigned within the parent company of TPIR, but it is commonly believed that they were pulled off the show in retaliation for their testimony in legal wranglings involving Bob.

Because Janice was there on day 1, she is featured in all those early '70s shows, alongside Anitra, a model who left in '76. It wasn't until '75 that Dian was added as a third model. She does appear in the first, regular hour-long version of the show, included in the collection, but she's otherwise left out. I'm surprised she even appears once given the fact she's the model that Bob had a consensual relationship with for some period of time prior to her dismissal and the beginning of Bob's legal wranglings.

It's obvious that the DVD collection is avoiding the longest-tenured models on the show as much as possible. It wasn't the only time the quartet was snubbed, either.

Toward the end of Bob's reign over TPIR there was a special prime-time tribute show that featured flashbacks between pricing games. Shockingly the foursome was snubbed during that tribute, too.

Everybody loves Bob, and he was a great emcee. And when it comes to animals, his heart is probably in the right place. But his lovable emcee persona was tarnished in the final 15 or so years of his career, and it seems that he's a petty man who holds a grudge because a group of women dared to defy him.

I don't care what his book is about, I will be skeptical of the content if I ever bother to read it, because Bob is a bit of a fraud.

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