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.