Bob Barker, the dean of daytime television, told an enthusiastic crowd of fans last night he is afraid of Samoans and thinks Regis Philbin does not deserve the credit for bringing tone-on-tone clothing into style.
Those tidbits, among others from Barker's 28-year career as host of "The Price Is Right," captivated a crowd of more than 100 who attended his talk on the influence of game shows on American pop culture.
The silver-haired 77-year-old drew extended applause as he entered Ames Courtroom at Harvard Law School last night.
"I don't usually get that much applause when I'm giving away a refrigerator," Barker joked.
He went on to detail his rise to the top of daytime television, where he has won 12 Emmys for his work on "The Price Is Right," the highest-rated daytime game show in history.
Barker said he intended to be a flight instructor after his service as a Navy fighter pilot, but saw his career blossom in radio. After working as a news writer and sportscaster, Barker found his calling in audience participation shows on the radio.
His big break came when Ralph Edwards, who owned the show "Truth or Consequences," heard Barker on the radio in 1956 and asked him to host the television version of the show.
"Everything good that has happened to me started with that telephone call," Barker said.
After hosting "Truth of Consequences" for 18 years, Barker moved on to "The Price as Right," where he has worked ever since.
Stopping often to replay favorite video clips from his career, Barker said "The Price Is Right" has become so much a part of U.S. culture that it rarely changes.
"Our show has become part of Americana as it is," he said. "The only thing about the show that has changed is the color of my hair."
Barker said he draws heavily from his days doing audience participation shows on the radio, and said the program's success is driven by his interaction with spontaneous and fun-loving contestants who win prizes.
One of his favorite memories, Barker said, occurred when an overly enthusiastic contestant lost her tube-top while running to claim a spot in the contestants' row.
"She came on down and they came on out," Barker said, drawing laughter from the crowd.
He also showed a series of clips of ecstatic contestants who have tried to pick him up after winning prizes on the show.
"My job is fraught with danger--contestants have done me bodily harm on many occasions," he quipped. "The worst are the Samoans: Samoan women cannot resist picking me up and throwing me around."
In a long series of questions at the end of the speech, Barker answered several of his most frequently asked questions: among them his favorite games on "The Price Is Right" and the motive behind the tall, thin microphone that has become one of his on-air trademarks.
Among his favorite games, he said, are "Three Strikes" and "It's In the Bag."
"I love 'Hole in One' if I make my putt. I if I don't, I hate it," he joked.
The microphone, he said, is designed so as not to block contestants' faces.
Barker said he was not surprised by the recent success of "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?" but warned that the show will not last long if producers continue to air it so frequently.
"No matter how much you like chocolate ice cream, you don't want it every day," he said.
Barker drew another round of extended applause and a standing ovation at the end of his talk, and sent audience members away with his trademark line and salute.
"Help control the pet population--have your pets spayed and neutered," he said.
Barker's speech was sponsored by the Harvard Law School Forum.
--Staff writer Scott A. Resnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.