He was a legend in the 70s. Now, many can’t even recognize him

1972 was a remarkable year that left a lasting imprint on American culture and history. It was the year Don McLean serenaded the nation with the iconic tune “American Pie,” topping the charts and capturing the spirit of the era. President Richard Nixon was embroiled in the early stages of the Watergate scandal, a controversy that would eventually lead to his resignation. NASA launched its ambitious Space Shuttle program, marking a new chapter in space exploration.

Meanwhile, in the world of entertainment, a new kind of star was rising. Bob Barker stepped onto the stage as the charismatic host of “The Price is Right.” With his easy charm and the excitement of big wins, Barker quickly captured the hearts of viewers across the country.

Early Life and Beginnings

Bob Barker‘s journey commenced far from the glamorous sets of television studios, amidst the landscapes of an Indian reservation in South Dakota, where he was raised amidst the vibrant heritage of the Sioux Tribe. His upbringing on the reservation instilled within him a deep reverence for nature and animals, a sentiment that would later define his advocacy endeavors. Barker’s life took a significant turn when he encountered his future wife, Dorothy Jo Gideon, at an Ella Fitzgerald concert—a serendipitous meeting that would shape both his personal and professional trajectories.

Barker’s sense of duty to his nation became apparent when he enlisted in the United States Navy Reserve during World War II, undergoing training as a fighter pilot. Despite not engaging in active combat, his commitment and resilience during his military service were undeniable. Upon completing his service, Barker pursued higher education, ultimately earning a degree in economics, laying a solid groundwork for his unexpected foray into the realm of entertainment.

Bob Barker’s journey to stardom began in the lively radio studios of Los Angeles, where his natural charm and eloquence didn’t go unnoticed. Game show producer Ralph Edwards spotted Barker’s potential and soon propelled him into the television spotlight. Barker first made his mark as the host of “Truth or Consequences,” the first game show ever broadcast on TV. His diverse background, enriched by experiences in culture, military service, and academia, uniquely positioned him for a celebrated career in television. This early success paved the way for his legendary tenure on “The Price is Right,” where he became a household name and an lasting part of TV history.

Rise to Stardom with “The Price Is Right”

In 1972, Bob Barker took his first step onto the stage of “The Price Is Right,” unknowingly igniting what would become a historic television legacy. His debut not only propelled him to newfound fame but also revitalized the game show genre. Guided by Barker’s charismatic presence, “The Price Is Right” evolved into a cultural phenomenon, captivating audiences of all ages with its blend of excitement, competition, and the iconic sound of the spinning Big Wheel.

Barker’s role transcended mere hosting duties; he became the embodiment of the game show, cherished for his warm demeanor and sharp wit. Over the course of 35 years, Barker not only hosted but also served as executive producer, wielding influence over the show’s direction and ensuring its enduring popularity in the dynamic landscape of television entertainment.

His unwavering dedication and influence garnered numerous accolades, including 14 Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Game Show Host and four additional Emmys for his executive producer role. Barker’s relentless pursuit of excellence solidified “The Price Is Right” as the longest-running game show in history, a testament to his profound impact on television and entertainment.

Personal Life and Loss

Bob Barker’s story wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the love of his life, Dorothy Jo Gideon. Dorothy Jo wasn’t just his wife; she was his high school sweetheart, his partner in every sense of the word, and a profound influence on both the man he became and the icon we admire. Their story began in the flush of young love and idealism, growing into a deep and enduring partnership that shaped his career and personal philosophy. They tied the knot in 1945 while Bob was on leave from the United States Navy Reserve, solidifying a relationship that would stand the test of time and the pressures of fame.

Dorothy Jo Gideon was so much more than just Bob Barker’s companion; she was his rock and the driving force behind many of his achievements. Bob often said it was Dorothy Jo who gave him the courage to chase his dreams. “She gave me the confidence to even try to do what I set out to do. She didn’t just urge me on, she worked right at my side,” he recalled. Her unwavering support went beyond mere encouragement. Early on, she embraced a vegetarian lifestyle and took a stand against wearing fur, paving the way for their joint advocacy for animal rights later in life.

Sadly, Dorothy Jo Gideon’s life ended too soon when she passed away from lung cancer in 1981, after 36 wonderful years of marriage. Her death left an irreplaceable void in Barker’s life, one he chose never to fill. He often said, “I never had any inclination to remarry. She was my wife.” This profound loss not only marked a pivotal moment in his life but also deepened his commitment to the causes they had supported together, especially animal advocacy.

Bob Barker and Nancy Burnet

Bob Barker’s life took a sweet turn when he met Nancy Burnet, who would become not just his partner but a true companion as they navigated the twists and turns of life together. Their meeting was one of those serendipitous events that seem almost fated, bringing together two people with shared values and a deep understanding of each other’s worlds.

Nancy has been a steadfast presence in Bob’s life for over 40 years, supporting him through his later years with love and care. She speaks proudly of Bob’s health and vitality, even as he nears the century mark. “He’s going to be 99, and he takes just one prescription medication for his thyroid. Whenever healthcare providers ask for a list of his medications, I just show them the bottle—that’s all there is. He doesn’t need anything for blood pressure, cholesterol, or the myriad other things most people take as they age,” she told Fox News Digital.

Nancy also highlighted how well Bob has maintained his wit and overall spirit. “He’s in very good health for his age and his humor is still in good shape. He’s had a very charmed life,” she noted, emphasizing the joy and laughter that continue to fill their days.

Health Journey and Longevity

In 1999, Bob Barker faced a serious health scare when he started experiencing what he would call “a clumsiness in his hand”, which turned out to be due to a partially blocked artery. This incident led him to undergo surgery, serving as a stark wake-up call, prompting Barker to prioritize his health. But life threw more challenges his way. In 2002, Bob suffered a stroke, and later that year, he had to undergo prostate surgery. These back-to-back health issues really highlighted how fragile life can be and the critical need for proactive healthcare.

Maintaining a primarily vegetarian diet aligned with Barker’s ethical beliefs and contributed to his overall well-being. Despite his conscientious dietary choices, Barker faced challenges such as mild skin cancer, a result of his fondness for the outdoors and sun exposure.

Bob Barker has always taken a minimalist approach to medication, sticking to just one prescription for his thyroid, in line with his belief in moderation and self-care. His partner, Nancy Burnet, has been instrumental in guiding him through his health journey, especially when it came to his diet. Nancy introduced carefully chosen supplements to his routine, not as meal replacements, but to boost his overall health. She explained, “It was not to replace meals but to enhance everything. To take that in addition to his meals because he was not doing well. He was looking tired and kind of frail, not just not looking healthy. And, you know, if you’re going to be a vegetarian and vegan, you better know what you’re doing.”

Animal Rights Advocacy and Legacy

Bob Barker’s influence reaches far beyond the world of entertainment; his fervent advocacy for animal rights has made a lasting impact on society. Deeply inspired by his late wife, Dorothy Jo Gideon, Barker transformed into a vocal advocate for the ethical treatment of animals. He fondly remembered her forward-thinking stance, saying, “She was ahead of her time. 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.” With this profound inspiration, he used his platform to raise awareness and champion change, encouraging others to consider more humane choices.

Barker’s advocacy wasn’t mere talk; it was deeply ingrained in his personal philosophy. His iconic sign-off on “The Price Is Right”—”This is Bob Barker reminding you to help control the pet population. Have your pets spayed or neutered.”—symbolized his dedication to animal welfare. Through his words and deeds, Barker aimed to educate the public about responsible pet ownership and the ethical treatment of animals.

Beyond on-screen advocacy, Barker established the DJ&T Foundation, named after his late wife and mother, both passionate animal lovers. Through this foundation, Barker donated millions to support animal rights initiatives, including establishing animal-rights curricula at esteemed law schools like Harvard, Columbia, and Northwestern. His aim was to inspire future generations to advocate for animal welfare and enact lasting change through education and legislation.

Barker’s advocacy extended beyond domestic pets to combat all forms of animal exploitation and mistreatment. He campaigned against animal entertainment, condemning practices like circuses and marine parks that profit from animal exploitation. Barker’s unwavering dedication to ending animal cruelty earned him global respect and admiration, solidifying his legacy as a champion for voiceless creatures.

Looking Back and Forward

In interviews, Bob Barker openly expressed his reluctance to bid farewell to “The Price is Right,” the show that catapulted him to superstardom. Despite his attachment, he recognized the importance of timing his departure. He explained, “I am really not ready to say goodbye to it. So, I think it’s a good time to say goodbye because I want to leave them wanting more.” By retiring when he did, Barker aimed to leave on a high note, ensuring that his audience would always remember the show at its best.

Beyond the glitz and glamour of television, Barker’s lasting impact lies in his tireless advocacy for animal rights. Inspired by his late wife, Dorothy Jo Gideon, Barker devoted himself to championing the ethical treatment of animals and raising awareness about responsible pet ownership. He believed strongly in the power of education, particularly for the younger generation, stating, “If young people are introduced to the terrible exploitation and mistreatment of animals in society, it will help influence them in anything they do.” His commitment to this cause drove him to not only raise awareness but also inspire future generations to continue advocating for animal rights.

Barker inspired countless individuals to join the fight against animal cruelty through his philanthropy and activism. His contributions, both on and off-screen, left an indelible mark on the world, shaping a kinder and more compassionate future for generations to come.

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