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Barker Ends Prodigious Run on 'Price is Right'

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Today is Bob Barker's last day as host of "The Price is Right."

He's been doing it for 35 years. That's a really long time, so long that he holds the record for continuously hosting a network show.

NPR's Amy Blaszyk tells us why Bob Barker has been so popular for so many decades.

AMY BLASZYK: There is just something about Bob.

(Soundbite of "The Price is Right")

Mr. BOB BARKER (Host, "The Price is Right"): Rich?

Mr. RICH FIELDS (Announcer, "The Price is Right"): Yes sir.

Mr. BARKER: I want you to look over this audience and pick another contestant for us, please.

Mr. FIELDS: Okay.

BLASZYK: Something so compelling that during the final show taping, "The Price is Right" studio audience literally begged for more.

(Soundbite of chanting)

Unidentified group: One more year, one more year…

BLASZYK: Fans say they feel like they know him personally. One of those fans, Meredith King(ph), flew from Washington state to be at the final taping in Los Angeles.

Ms. MEREDITH KING (Resident, Washington State): He's just family - just really going to miss him, you know. But we have the reruns. We tape all of the shows.

BLASZYK: Determined to see the show live, she camped out sleeping in a chair for 2 days with no guarantee of actually getting in. Keela Glover(ph) is amazed at the lengths the fans go to. She has worked as a page at "The Price is Right" for just a year.

Ms. KEELA GLOVER: I didn't know it was such a big deal until I started to work in here and then, like, started seeing the people sleep on the streets and having to turn away, like, hundreds of people in a day.

BLASZYK: Bob Barker's got the Midas touch, says Rich Cronin, who runs the Game Show Network. He says that's due in part to Barker's ability to let the spotlight shine on contestants. The other part? His longevity, says Cronin. At 83, he's been around for what seems like forever.

Mr. RICH CRONIN (President And CEO, Game Show Network): He's so familiar and so likeable and has become a legend on television that when people see him, somebody that they've known and their parents and in many cases, their grandparents have known that to meet him in person, it's like meeting George Washington or Abraham Lincoln.

BLASZYK: But Barker's more playful than presidential. And the show's contestants play right back.

(Soundbite of show "The Price is Right")

Mr. BARKER: You leave the impression that you are pleased?

Unidentified Woman #1: I mean, you said you needed a winner.

Mr. BARKER: You what?

Unidentified Woman #1: You said you needed a winner.

Mr. BARKER: Are you it?

Unidentified Woman #1: I am. I'm lady luck.

Mr. BARKER: Hear who you are.

BLASZYK: Barker says he is the lucky one and he knows who he owes it to, says show producer Roger Dobkowitz, the 5.5 million viewers who tune in each day. He's always happy to talk to them even when they interrupt his dinner in a restaurant.

Mr. ROGER DOBKOWITZ (Producer, "The Price is Right"): He stops eating. He gets up, he signs an autograph with the biggest smile ever. And I said, Bob, I admire you doing this so much. And he says, well you know Roger, I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for these people.

BLASZYK: People who will miss the man who has hosted "The Price is Right" for the last 35 years. But as much as Bob Barker looked forward to retirement, he said taping the last show was bittersweet.

Mr. BARKER: And I really had myself worked up in an emotional state and I thought I've got to over there and do this show. Straighten yourself out, Barker.

BLASZYK: For fans, who spent their childhood watching Bob Barker, whether at their grandparents' knee or home sick from school, there's never been life without the host. He is a family tradition as all-American as apple pie. But as much as America will lament the loss, fan Meredith King was right: There's always reruns.

Amy Blaszyk, NPR News.

NORRIS: This is NPR. National Public Radio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Amy Blaszyk
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