Person of the Week: Bob Barker

Nov. 3, 2006 — -- Every day for 35 years, Bob Barker has walked his way into millions of American homes.

As host of "The Price Is Right," he's twice been named TV's most durable performer in the "Guinness Book of World Records," has hosted 6,437 shows, given away nearly $300 million in prizes and enough appliances to supply a small city while welcoming a constant stream of contestants.

"I think that I've had probably about 7,412 kisses," Barker told ABC News. "I don't believe that anyone has been kissed any more than I on television. On the right cheek, very few on the left."

Barker, 82, announced he's retiring after 50 years in television, a career he still enjoys.

"I look forward to doing the show. I have nothing but sympathy for someone who gets up and goes into the office or to a job that they really don't like. They look forward to the weekend and vacations and retirement, and I've never suffered that," he said.

"The Price is Right" has become an American institution. Contestants arrive daily for a chance to guess the prices of ordinary items and reach the "Showcase Showdown."

Barker described his audience as loyal friends.

"That's what they are, and they don't want anything changed. Our set looks like 1972. I look just like 1972, with a mask on and gray hair. The biggest change is the color of my hair," Barker said.

Prices have certainly changed since 1972, when a gallon of milk cost $1.48. Today, in some parts of the country, that same milk goes for $3.92.

From the Navy to Hollywood

Barker grew up on the Rosebud Indian reservation in Mission, S.D., where his mother worked as a schoolteacher.

He later joined the Navy and became a fighter pilot, and when he was 21 he was hired for his first job at a radio station in Springfield, Mo.

In 1957, he became the host of "Truth or Consequences" and was on his way to becoming a television staple.

For most of his career, Barker has also been an animal rights advocate.

"I became aware of the terrible exploitation and cruelty to animals, and I felt compelled to try to help rectify the situation," Barker explained.

He has set up an endowment fund for animal rights law at Harvard and six other schools across the country.

So what will he do after he retires in June?

"I've announced I'm going to retire, and I'm continually asked, 'What are you going to do?'" Barker said. "Maybe I'm confused, but I thought once I retired I didn't have to do anything. If I have to do something I'm coming back to work."

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