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

A lot happened in 1972. Don McLean’s hit song “American Pie” was No. 1, Richard Nixon was president, his administration was trying to cover up its involvement in the Watergate Scandal, NASA’s Space Shuttle program was officially launched, and Bob Barker, the host of a new game show called the Price is Right, was giving away brand new cars that were then valued at less than $4000.

Synonymous with The Price is Right, Bob Barker is an entertainment icon, a cross-generational household name, who hosted the popular game show for 35 years.

Growing up on an Indian reservation in South Dakota, Barker–a member of the Sioux Tribe–met his future wife, Dorothy Jo Gideon at an Ella Fitzgerald concert. He married Gideon, his high school sweetheart in 1945, when he was on leave from the United States Navy Reserve, where during World War II, he trained as a fighter pilot. He never served on active duty but did return to university and graduated with an economics degree.

Barker, now 99, was hosting a radio show in Los Angeles when he captured the attention of Ralph Edwards, a game show producer who was looking for a new host of Truth or Consequences, the first game show to be broadcast on TV. Hosting the hugely popular show from 1956 to 1975, Barker’s popularity was rising, and in 1967, he started hosting Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants.

And then it happened. In 1972, he appeared on the stage of The Price is Right, which launched him and the show, into superstardom.

The Price is Right became the longest running game show in history, a title it still holds, and Barker, serving as executive producer in 1988, won 14 Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Game Show Host and four Emmys for his role as executive producer.

Bob Barker wife and girlfriend
Speaking with the Television Academy Foundation in 2008, Barker credits his late wife for his successful career, saying “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.”

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

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

He did however find another partner, Nancy Burnet, who has been with Barker now 40 years. According to Nancy, one of the key factors contributing to Barker’s good health is his limited use of medication over the years.

Right before his 99th birthday in December, Burnet, now 79, spoke with Fox News Digital and made a surprising statement, “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.

In 1999, after experiencing what he described as clumsiness in his hand, Barker had surgery to correct a partially blocked artery and to reduce the risk of stroke. In 2002, he had a stroke and months later had prostate surgery. A sun lover, he’s also had several cases of mild skin cancer, a series of falls requiring more hospital visits, and major back problems.

Burnet explains her intervention, helping Barker, a long-time vegetarian, gain strength with supplements. “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 retiring his position on the Price is Right, now hosted by comedian Drew Carey, he’s had a few guest appearances, including in 2013 on his 90th birthday.

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.”

A sentiment Barker also expressed 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 left with some great memories, from Vanna White competing on Price is Right before she reached Wheel of Fortune fame, to women contestants losing their tops after jumping up and down in excitement.

But the greatest thing was that the show gave Barker a platform to bring awareness to the wellbeing of animals.

Barker is also known as an advocate for animal rights and his show-ending catch phrase, “This is Bob Barker reminding you to help control the pet population. Have your pets spayed or neutered.”

He credits his late wife, Gideon, as the inspiration behind his animal activism.

“She was ahead of her time,” Barker told Good Morning America. “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 after Gideon and his mom, Matilda or “Tilly,” both animal lovers) he’s donated millions, successfully establishing animal-rights curricula at law schools, including 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 hosted in 1983, champions animal advocacy with Barker, also campaigning against animal entertainment.

What an incredible century! In his almost 100 years, Bob Barker has had a huge influence on the world. We are so fortunate to have such passionate people like Barker, a paragon of power who uses his celebrity status to help innocent animals!

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