Bob Barker by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage.com
What becomes a living legend most? Modesty, grace and good humor. Such were the virtues on display throughout Bob Barker's official last day (and night)on Friday as a revered, iconic game-show host.
It started with his last-ever day hosting CBS'
The Price Is Right
after 35 years, capping a 50-year career in broadcasting. (I remember growing up watching him on the slapstick game show
Truth or Consequences
before he landed the
gig.) Despite the confetti, the standing ovations, and the prime-time replay just before the Daytime Emmys telecast (where he also cleaned up), it was mostly just another hour of
Price Is Right
merriment, albeit with the audience frenzy a bit more amped up given the nature of the day - and the fact that many audience members had camped out for days to be there (including the worshipful Patrick, who "came on down" as the show began but didn't make it up on stage until the very last game).
Bob Barker, ever the pro, wasted no time getting the games started: one last Plinko, one last Lucky Seven, and as usual, he didn't really need to explain the rules, because these mostly overwhelmed players in their specially made T-shirts ("Bob is #1!" "Thanks for Waiting, Bob!" "Plinko Princess") could recite them in their sleep. Even at the end, Barker barely made a fuss over his historic exit outside of expressing "sincere thanks" to fans everywhere, waving goodbye and making one last plea for everyone to spay or neuter their pets. As usual, he didn't get in the way of the game, which is the mark of the best hosts. He'd already enjoyed a prime-time tribute during May sweeps, so it's not as if his fans had been denied a chance to remember.
The celebration kicked into higher gear at the Daytime Emmys. He opened the show flanked by his Barker's Beauties, earning the first of several standing ovations he would get Friday night. I don't watch this ceremony every year, but I was impressed at its pace and by the fact that it gave out several of its most anticipated trophies early on: starting with Genie Francis' first-ever win (an apparent crowd favorite), followed not long after by the marvelous Ellen DeGeneres presenting the game-show-host Emmy to, who else, Bob Barker. His 19th. How could it have gone any other way? (
The Price Is Right
won for best game show in an earlier ceremony, we were later informed. Again, for this year, a no-brainer.) Barker let his staff take a bow, while joking, "This proves that the judges have sympathy for an old man who doesn't have a job." Throughout all this, Barker's gratitude to the fans for keeping him in the game this long was as admirable as his elegant demeanor. His obvious good health at age 83 is remarkable.
Also enjoyed the moment when Phil McGraw led yet another tribute to Barker later in the show by revealing the name tags he and his wife Robin wore when they attended
The Price Is Right
years ago on their honeymoon. (His tag read "Phillip.")
And I'd be lying if I said I wasn't delighted that Ellen DeGeneres and her self-titled talk show trumped
this year. It allowed Ellen to be gracious to her
peers and to joke that she'd try harder to be controversial next year, starting with this bold statement: "I think Bob Barker is a quitter."
It's that attitude - cool good humor, self-effacement instead of abrasive self-importance - that makes DeGeneres a winner, while Rosie O'Donnell vents off screen somewhere on her blog, waiting for some TV exec to give her yet another chance to self-destruct in public.
But everyone could take a cue from Bob Barker. Fifty years in the biz, and we still want more. How rare is that?