June 4, 2007 — -- "Come on down!" For 35 years, one game show has immortalized these words. And now Bob Barker, the host of "The Price Is Right," prepares to lay down his skinny microphone and retire.
The 83-year-old has been hugged, kissed and even tossed in the air on the show -- all part of the unbridled joy for that new car or exotic vacation.
"I am really not ready to say goodbye to it," Barker said. "So, I think it's a good time to say goodbye because I want to leave them wanting more."
Barker's first game show was the 1950s hit "Truth or Consequences."
In TV land, where careers end in a blip, Barker's has spanned an unbelievable 50 years, including 35 on "The Price Is Right."
"It is a powerful premise," Barker said about the show. "When we bring something out for the contestant to bid on, at home, they're thinking, oh that's too high, or that's too low. Or that's a good bid. But whatever they're thinking -- they're becoming involved."
His cross-generational appeal may have been cemented by a cameo in the 1990s hit film "Happy Gilmore," in which he and Adam Sandler's character get into a fist fight on a golf course.
"(Some students) tell me they schedule their classes so they can watch 'The Price Is Right,'" he said.
Barker said one of the most enduring memories of the program was when he called one female contestant down and she got so excited that her top popped off.
"She came on down and they came out!" Barker said.
The iconic and very wealthy Barker grew up humbly on an Indian reservation in South Dakota, the son of a widowed school teacher.
In 1945 he married his high school sweetheart, Dorothy Jo Gideon, who he said was a tremendous influence.
"I had been working in a radio station," he said. "And I finally got the opportunity to do an audience participation show … Dorothy Jo heard it. When I got home she said, 'That's what you should do.'"
Dorothy Jo died in October 1981 and Barker never remarried.
"I never had any inclination to remarry," he said. "She was my wife."
Dorothy Jo was also the inspiration for Barker's lifelong commitment to animals.
"She was ahead of her time. She really was. She stopped wearing fur coats before anyone was stopping," Barker said. "She became a vegetarian before people were becoming vegetarian. And I gradually did the same thing with her."
Barker said that even after all these years he's learned that people don't change.
"Years ago I didn't have contestants with pierced tongues," he said. "These things have changed hugely. But inside, people have remained the same, I think. They still laugh at the same sort of things."
And after all those years, what do most fans long to do? Spin the wheel, of course!
Barker said he already has an idea of what he'll do the day after his last taping.
"I'm going to wake up and I'm going to realize that I don't have a show and I probably -- I may pull the covers over my head and just stay there."