Powered by his lifelong legacy as an entertainer and animal activist, this icon is still going strong at 99

In 1972, a lot happened. Don McLean’s hit song “American Pie” was at No. 1, Richard Nixon was president, his administration was attempting to cover up its involvement in the Watergate Scandal, NASA’s Space Shuttle program was officially launched.

Bob Barker, the host of a new game show called the Price is Right, was giving away brand new cars worth less than $4000.

The entertainment legend is a multigenerational household name who hosted the iconic game show for 35 years. Barker is celebrating a century of life this year.

Barker, a member of the Sioux Tribe, met his future wife, Dorothy Jo Gideon, during an Ella Fitzgerald concert when he was growing up on an Indian reservation in South Dakota.

He married Gideon, his high school sweetheart, in 1945, while on leave from the United States Navy Reserve, where he trained as a fighter pilot during WWII. He never served in the military, but he did return to university and earn a degree in economics.

    Barker, now 99, was hosting a Los Angeles radio show when he caught the notice of Ralph Edwards, a game show producer looking for a new host of Truth or Consequences, the first game show to be shown on television.

    Barker’s reputation grew as he hosted the enormously popular show from 1956 to 1975, and in 1967, he began presenting the Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants. Then something happened. In 1972, he appeared on the set of The Price is Right, catapulting him and the show to prominence.

    The Price is Right became the longest-running game show in history, a status it still retains, and Barker earned 14 Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Game Show Host and four Emmys for his position as executive producer in 1988.

    Bob Barker wife and girlfriend

    Barker credited his late wife for his great career in an interview with the Television Academy Foundation in 2008. “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.”

    Gideon, 57, died of lung cancer in 1981, leaving behind her husband of 36 years.

    “I never had any inclination to remarry. She was my wife.” Barker said.

    He did, however, find another partner in Nancy Burnet, who has been with Barker for the past 40 years. One of the primary elements contributing to Barker’s good health, according to Nancy, is his restricted usage of medication over the years.

    Burnet, aged 79, made an unexpected comment just before his 99th birthday in December:

    “He’s going to be 99, and he takes one prescription medication and that’s for his thyroid. And his health care or anyone who comes in to see him, they’ll say, ‘Well, we’d like a list of his medications.’ I’ll say, you know, let me just show you the bottle. That’s it. So, he does not take anything for blood pressure, cholesterol, the umpteen other things that most people take as they grow older,” said Burnet, joking about his one prescription:

    “He’s in very good health for his age and his humor is still in good shape. He’s had a very charmed life.”

    But it wasn’t always that way.

    Barker had surgery in 1999 to repair a partially blocked artery and lower the risk of stroke after experiencing what he characterized as clumsiness in his hand. He had a stroke in 2002 and had prostate surgery months afterwards. He enjoys the sun, but he’s also had multiple episodes of moderate skin cancer, a series of falls that necessitated more hospital trips, and serious back problems.

    Burnet tells how she intervened, using vitamins to help Barker, a long-time vegetarian, develop strength. “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.”

    After leaving The Price is Right, which is currently hosted by comedian Drew Carey, he made a few guest appearances, including one on his 90th birthday in 2013.

    Burnet said of his time on the show, “He never grew tired of it. I’m not sure I could do the same show every day. But he never grew bored with it. So maybe that’s why it was so successful because he was always ready to do it and happy to do it.”

    Barker shared the same idea on Good Morning America in 2007.

    “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.”

    He departed with some wonderful memories, including Vanna White participating on Price is Right before she became famous on Wheel of Fortune, and female contestants losing their tops after bouncing up and down in excitement.But the best part was that the show offered Barker a platform to raise awareness about animal welfare.

    Barker is also a proponent of animal welfare, and his show-ending catchphrase, “This is Bob Barker reminding you to help control the pet population. Have your pets spayed or neutered.”

    He attributes his animal rights involvement to his late wife, Gideon.

    “She was ahead of her time,” Barker mentioned. “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.”

    In fact, through his DJ&T Foundation (named for Gideon and his mother, Matilda or “Tilly,” both of whom are animal lovers), he has donated millions of dollars, effectively developing animal-rights curricula at law schools such as Harvard, Columbia, and Northwestern.

      “If young people are introduced to the terrible exploitation and mistreatment of animals in society, it will help influence them in anything they do,” Barker told the Associated Press in 2015. “When your education and encouragement fail, you have to have legislation.”

      Burnet, whom he met at an animal adoption event he sponsored in 1983, advocates for animal rights alongside Barker, as well as campaigns against animal entertainment.

      What a fantastic century! Bob Barker has had a big impact on the globe in his nearly 100 years. We are extremely blessed to have somebody like Barker, a paragon of power who utilizes his reputation to save innocent creatures!