Bob Barker may be turning 90, but he still knows how to party.
The former Price Is Right host returns to the long-running game show Thursday to celebrate the big 9-0, but Barker got a head start on the festivities. "I started celebrating last night. I'm going to have a series of celebrations," Barker tells TVGuide.com. "The former producer of The Price Is Right, Roger Dobkowitz, and his wife and the former director of The Price Is Right and his wife took me out last night. We went over to one of our favorite restaurants, Antonio's Mexican Food.
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"We drank a series of margaritas and rehashed the old days," he continues."They had a birthday cake for me, a huge cake, and I made a wish. Of course, I can't share it with you because then I wouldn't get it, but I blew out all the candles. There was wild applause. Margaritas are right for anything — 90th birthdays or anything else."
Check out the rest of our interview with Barker as he reflects on The Price Is Right, success and animal rights:
Happy birthday! What does it mean to you to be 90?
Bob Barker: I'm very excited about it because I only have to wait 10 years and then I'll be 100 years old. They've already invited me back to The Price Is Right. Drew [Carey] has invited me back. I'm sure it'll be on when I become 100.
You just went back to The Price Is Right recently to film your 90th birthday celebration. What did it feel like to be back on that sound stage?
Barker: The audience gave me a standing ovation. I had a lump in my throat the first moment I was on the show practically. It was just a thrill, a pleasure. All the people on the show were so nice to me. Some of the people I had worked with, it was a joy to see them. And some of the people with whom I had worked and they had retired or left the show for one reason or another, they came back. And some of the executives from upstairs came down. It was just a homecoming. I expected to enjoy myself, but it was even a nicer day than I had expected.
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I saw an old tribute to you in which Craig Ferguson called you a vampire because you've lived so long. What is your secret to aging gracefully?
Barker: "Vampire" is one of the better things that he's called me! [Laughs] I will say one thing in all seriousness, and it's to advise people as they get older that nutrition and exercise are so important. ... These people you see shuffling around, all bent over have forgotten the exercise, even if they are eating properly. You need to stay stretched out so that your posture is good and you're standing up straight. You'll feel better and you'll look better.
What is your particular health regimen?
Barker: I exercise every day and I watch my diet. I'm a vegetarian. I would advise anyone and everyone to become a vegetarian. I did Price until I was 83 years old and I don't think I could have done that if I hadn't been a vegetarian. I became a vegetarian out of concern for animals, but I wasn't a vegetarian long before I understood why people do it out of concern for health. I had so much more energy and I felt better. And it's easier to control your weight.
What do you think is the secret to the show's longevity? It's the longest-running game show on the air.
Barker: Everything is based on prices. All the games are based on prices and everyone identifies with prices — man, woman or child. So people of all ages enjoy this show. Most shows, they like contestants from 25-30 to 40-50 in a certain age range and physically attractive and so on. The Price Is Right, they'd go out in the line and interview everyone and then they'd come in and make their recommendations. I told them from the very beginning [that] I don't want all relatively young contestants. I said, "I want young contestants, as young as we can have on the show, which is 18. I want them and I also want older people. I don't care how old they are, if they're able to get on the stage and talk with me and make sense, that's all I ask. I want men and women. They can be tall, short, fat, thin. I want a representative of the population." And it worked too.
I had a wonderful article that I've kept someplace. In this article, the writer said that it's too bad that the United Nations can't learn from The Price Is Right because in The Price Is Right audience, they have black, white and brown people. They have people of all ages and all religions, and they're all right there together having a wonderful time. And not only having a wonderful time, but when one of them is called up on stage, no matter who it is — man or woman, and young or old, and black, white or brown, everyone cheers the person on and shouts advice. There's a spirit there that it's too bad that the United Nations can't spread it all over the whole world. I think there's a lot of truth in that.
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After hosting the show so long, would you be a good contestant on The Price Is Right?
Barker: I'd be terrible. I used to be interviewed, and someone would want to play a game. And so they'd start to say prices for different products. I don't know any of them. My housekeeper does all of my shopping, and I didn't pay any attention on the show because I knew I couldn't win. And I'm not good with prices today.
Rewind to 1987 when you became the first game show host to throw away the hair dye. What was behind that decision and how was it to step onto the stage with your natural hair?
Barker: I had dyed my hair for years and I went on vacation and just let it go. When I came home, I saw some of the people from the show before I started taping again, and they said, "Why don't you just go with the gray? You look better." And so it was a big deal. Before I ever taped [with my gray hair], they took me over to The Young and the Restless set and looked at me on camera. And finally, they had the talk with the head of daytime programming at CBS. Then they decided, "Let's do it." We had taped ahead when my hair had been dark, so the first time I came on stage, the audience gasped and then they applauded wildly because here was this same fella they had been watching, and he had gray hair. I got a wonderful card from a man who — because we had taped ahead and on the air my hair was dark and the next day I was gray — he wrote me and said, "Bob, you must have had one helluva night!" [Laughs] Oh, I love that card.
Thank you for your continued animal activism. This week has been Pet Adoption Week on The Price Is Right.
Barker: Oh yes, I started that. And also the spay/neuter plug. That spay/neuter plug has been very, very helpful in spreading the word across the country. When I decided to retire, I was hopeful that I could talk to the next host and get him to continue it. When I met Drew Carey for the first time, we were just shaking hands, and he said, "Bob, I'm going to do that spay/neuter plug on every show as long as I'm the host." And I loved it and I appreciated it. And he's done it too.
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How many pets do you have currently?
Barker: Currently I have one. I have a rabbit named Mr. Rabbit, and he has the run of the house. And I can't get another dog now. I had a dog when I got [Mr. Rabbit] and I kept him in one room. But Jesse, my dog, had cancer and had to be put down, and now that I don't have a dog, Mr. Rabbit is wherever he wants to be: the second floor of the house, he's all over the place. He's just wonderful. He's 10-and-a-half years old! That's old for a rabbit.
What's on your bucket list that you'd like to accomplish by age 100?
Barker: By age 100 I think if I just live it's quite an accomplishment. [Laughs] If I am alive when I'm 100 I hope that it's an even better world for animals and that I've contributed to it. I'm devoting most of my time now to animals and enjoying every moment of it. I'm happy to say that things are really improving.
The Price Is Right airs weekdays on CBS. Check local listings for times.
(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS.)
Bob Barker may be turning 90, but he still knows how to party.