Sunday, October 25, 2015

Review: Priceless Memories by Bob Barker

Ever since I can remember, I have always adored and admired Bob Barker, the longtime game show host and animal rights activist. I finally had a chance to listen to Barker’s Priceless Memories, an autobiography he wrote and narrated in audio form back in 2009.

While I and millions of others mainly remember Barker for his 35 years hosting The Price Is Right, he also had an 18-year run at the helm of Truth Or Consequences. As this innovative show was on well before I was born, I enjoyed learning about it in the book. I had no idea about some of the crazy stunts Barker and the contestants pulled off on that show. This must have been groundbreaking television for the 1950s and ‘60s. Some of the things he made the contestants do were very outrageous, and I must say that this show was a precursor to Survivor, Fear Factor, and countless other reality shows of the 2000s.

He also spends a good amount of time talking about his late wife, Dorothy Jo. He praises her with beautiful words and reiterates throughout the book about how much of a support system she was in his life. When I think of ol’ Bob, the unfortunate allegations made by several former Price models come to mind. But hearing him talk about his wife really speaks volumes about how much he cared about her. She was not even 60 when she died of lung cancer in 1981. It’s hard to believe how long Barker has been a widower since then, especially considering he and Dorothy Jo first met in high school in 1939.

Of course, The Price Is Right is a major part of the book as well. Hearing about all of the behind-the-scenes aspects of the show is pretty fascinating. As an aspiring contestant, I was also glad to hear Bob speak about how people are chosen to become contestants. His biggest piece of advice is for someone to be themselves. If you try to act like someone you are not in order to get attention, the contestant coordinators will immediately identify you as a fake, and you probably won’t be called to “come on down” at all.

Barker includes a ton of cool tidbits about his career throughout the book. He actually received an offer to star in a porn movie – back in the 1950s! I didn’t even know such material was being produced back then, but I guess I shouldn’t be terribly surprised. I just have to wonder what it would be like if a 60-year-old video of Bob Barker were to be dug up and available for viewing on YouTube today. I can only imagine how he’d feel, and it obviously makes perfect sense why he turned down the offer back then.

Animals are certainly at the forefront of the autobiography as well. Barker recounts numerous stories of dogs and cats that he and his wife saved – and took in as pets – over the years. I salute the man for the tremendous work he has done in the animal rights space. Encouraging viewers to have their pets spayed and neutered was only a bite-sized piece of the work he has done on this front.

Finally, it was neat to hear of Barker’s childhood. He grew up in South Dakota and later in Missouri. He is part-Native American, and he talks about how he was viewed as a child among his peers with this background. He speaks of his parents and how his dad died at a very young age. He talks about his mother’s significant impact on his life – and how she lived with him in her golden years.

Overall, Priceless Memories truly humanizes a man who for so long has only been known by his work in front of a TV camera. I appreciate Bob Barker more than ever now after listening to his well-told life story.

Monday, August 17, 2015

8 Reasons I Love “The Price Is Right”

Ever since I was a youngster in elementary school, I’ve always been in love with The Price Is Right. I plan on attending a taping of the show, and I don’t know how loud I’d scream if announcer George Gray were to yell out, “Greg Lindberg, come on down!”

These are the top reasons I have had a lifelong love affair with this classic, long-living CBS game show that has dominated daytime TV for decades:

1. The sound effects

I’ve always been a bit of a sound effects nerd – or maybe more than a bit. I love cool sounds, and there are plenty to go around on this show. From the upbeat dings when contestants win an item up for bids or one of the showcases, to the infamous loser horn when guessing a wrong price, I can’t get enough of these sounds. Most sounds have also remained the same for the entire duration of the show.

2. The music

The “come on down” intro music really gets me pumped. But when those horns start playing that theme music every American should know by heart, it really hits home for me. I loved the original version of the theme (Bob Barker era), and I might even like the updated jive-y version since 2007 a bit better. Despite its stuck-in-your-head-all-day reputation, I do enjoy the mountain climber music in the “Cliff Hangers” game as well.

3. The host(s)

I absolutely adored Bob Barker when he was the host. Despite all the claims against him from the models, he walked on water in my eyes. Perhaps it’s the fact that I’m an ‘80s baby – and that Bob was always like a grandpa figure to me – that I loved watching him so much. I truly admired his longevity as the host of a nationwide television show. I really think he could’ve continued hosting for a few more years, and I was in awe to see him – at 91 – host one game for the April Fool’s episode earlier this year.

As for Drew Carey, he has grown on me tremendously. He had a rough start gaining his footing as host, and he’s been criticized for not being overly excited when contestants win big. However, he has gotten so much better. I am very grateful he remains the host, and I hope he’ll be on for more than a fraction of Bob’s 35-year tenure.

4. The contestants

Reality television did not officially launch its genre with Survivor in 2000. It all started in 1972 when The Price Is Right debuted with Bob Barker. The contestants on this show truly make it a joy to watch. You see all ages – from college freshmen to some 99-year-old contestants I’ve seen take the stage. You also see all personalities. I can’t get enough of screaming, excited, crazy, host-lifting contestants who’ve waited for years to bid $1 or spin the big wheel. I also adore the clever shirts and attire that seem to pop up on almost every episode.

5. The prizes

The phrase “A new car!” has been ingrained in my head ever since I can remember. While cars are the most popular prizes, the trips to hot spots around the world can be fascinating as well. Additionally, I always like seeing the innovative kitchen appliances and creative food items that appear in some of the games. You certainly have to laugh when a guy wins a female-specific prize – or vice versa.

6. The games

Maybe I’m not the sharpest tack in the box, but some of the games on this show are confusing to me. By the time a game is played, I sometimes ask myself, “What just happened?” Fortunately, most of the games are easy to follow and fun to watch. I especially like “Plinko,” “Hole in One,” “Cliff Hangers,” and “One Away” – the game where the contestant asks the famous “sound effects lady” how many numbers he or she has correct in the price of a car. Of Course, “Golden Road” can also be quite dramatic.

7. The big wheel

The sound of that big wheel spinning is music to my ears. It’s always so much fun to see when a contestant gets so close to earning $1 on the wheel – or getting a score that is just enough to win the “Showcase Showdown.” Nothing is better than seeing someone win $1,000 and then get to spin for a boatload of cash.

8. The longevity

I’m a history buff at heart. I love watching classic game shows like Match Game or What’s My Line? before I jump onto Wikipedia to see when these episodes aired – and if anyone on these shows is still kicking. The same goes for my historic fascination of The Price Is Right. While it had a 9-year original run in the 1950s and ’60s with Bill Cullen, Its current incarnation is by far the longest-running game show in American TV history. It’s been on so long that four or five generations in a family have been able to watch it. So much changes in our world on a regular basis, especially with technology these days. But when there’s a constant in your life like this game show, it just makes you feel good to tune into a program that you’ve watched your entire life while enduring the ups and downs that we all experience. If this show ever goes away, I honestly don’t know how difficult it’ll be for me to take it. CBS at 11 a.m. would never, ever be the same.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Shaq Gets Dissed by Former NBA Star

NBA great Shaquille O’Neal has been retired from professional basketball since 2011. But it appears as if a former fellow star is not hesitating to “dunk” on the big man as the two try to enjoy their retirements off the court while reflecting on their impactful careers.

Vlade Divac, a former star center for the Sacramento Kings, recently stated that Shaq was only “strong” but not actually “talented” during his 20-year career.

"I've been in basketball a long, long time and I have to say (DeMarcus Cousins is) the most talented big guy I have ever seen," Divac said in a recent interview. "Shaq wasn't talented, he was just strong. I was talented, but I wasn't strong."

Ironically, Shaq is now a minority owner of the Kings, which is Divac’s former team. He is technically his boss, too, as Divac remains involved with the Kings.

Who really has the guts to say anything negative about a future, first-ballot Hall of Famer in his retirement from a game he dominated for a good 10 or 12 years? Divac should let the 7-footer’s career speak for itself. Perhaps he is still holding a grudge due to Shaq’s playoff dominance over Divac in the NBA playoffs from 1999 through 2001 when O’Neal was a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Granted, Shaq was not the best free-throw shooter on the planet. He wasn’t terribly dominant in his final years in the league, either, but most athletes experience some decline. (Of course, he was certainly a much better athlete than actor, thanks to his below-average starring role in Kazaam.) There’s just no way you can legitimately make such a comment about one of the biggest household names in sports – and one of the most talented players to ever step on a basketball court.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Review: Diary of a Mad Diva by Joan Rivers (Audiobook)

I have been a fan of the late Joan Rivers for many years. Even since her passing this past fall, I have consumed a generous amount of Rivers’ work – including her latest book, Diary of a Mad Diva. I decided to download the audiobook from iTunes as it is narrated by Rivers herself. You really can’t ask for a better combination of her writing and her incredibly funny presentation, can you?

I wasn’t sure what to expect before pressing, “Play” on my iTunes player. I wasn’t sure if it would be as funny to listen to this work, knowing she is no longer with us. However, she did not disappoint in the final long-form writing project of her career.

The book covers diary entries almost every day of the calendar year of 2013 in Rivers’ life – the year in which she reached age 80. Despite being an octogenarian, this text truly exemplifies how the legendary comedienne was definitely at the top of her game before her unexpected death following a routine  procedure on her vocal cord. While some of the diary entries are literally one or two sentences and others are a few paragraphs, she makes each one count.

Throughout the book, Rivers makes mention of the numerous plane rides she takes, primarily from her home in New York to Los Angeles and back. A common theme she goes with encompasses the various personalities she comes across on her numerous flights. From overly obese passengers to those who simply won’t shut up, she does a fantastic job of documenting the cross-section of humanity any frequent flyer would observe in the sky.

She also discusses her emotions in a way that truly demonstrates how an 80-year-old stage artist would feel – or at least someone as unique as Rivers was. She writes about getting depressed at times. She writes about the joys of performing in front of a receptive audience and having dinner with close friends. She talks about her daughter, Melissa, and her grandson, Cooper. You can really tell how much she cared about the two in her life, describing the “Grandma-grandson” trips she would take with Cooper every year.

As far as celebrities go, Rivers doesn’t hold back in this book just like in her standup routine and frequent appearances on Fashion Police. The Kardashians seem to be one of her favorite targets. I can only imagine what she’d have to say today about Bruce Jenner’s gender transformation.

It’s no secret Ms. Rivers had a foul mouth. If her language as a child was as filthy as it was in her adulthood, it’s amazing she still had a usable mouth if her mother washed it out with soap every time she dropped an “F bomb” or used the “C word.” This book is certainly not for the easily offended crowd. She actually used dirty words a little more often than I expected. But compared to the live show I saw her do in Clearwater, Florida just 6 months before her passing, I guess I shouldn’t be too taken aback. She also comes across as a true equal opportunity offender. From race to religion to sexual orientation, she goes after all groups with no hesitation. I absolutely loved this freewheeling, no-holds-barred attitude of hers in such a politically-correct world where censorship seems more prevalent than ever.

If you are looking for a funny read that won’t take too long to get through – or a 6-hour audiobook perfect for some long flights – Rivers is top-notch in the way she communicates her real-life, non-fictional adventures in Diary of a Mad Diva. I recommend it to anyone who loves the type of comedy Joan Rivers pioneered throughout her career. Consider downloading the audiobook to get the text’s full effect. It’s just a shame we could not have gotten a few more years out of her humorous yet brutally honest perspectives on life.