LOS ANGELES Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. _ Bob Barker is heading toward his last showcase, his final “Come on down.”
The silver-haired daytime-TV icon is retiring in June, he told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
“I will be 83 years old on December 12,” he said, “and I’ve decided to retire while I’m still young.”
He’ll hang up his microphone after 35 years as the host of “The Price Is Right” and 50 years overall in television.
Though he has been considering retirement for “at least 10 years,” Barker said he has so much fun doing the show that he hasn’t been able to leave.
“I’ve gone on and on and on to this ancient age because I’ve enjoyed it,” he said. “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it and I’m going to miss it.”
Reaching dual milestones, 50 years on TV and 35 with “Price,” made this an “appropriate” time to retire, Barker said. Besides, hosting the daily CBS program _ in which contestants chosen from the crowd “come on down” to compete for “showcases” that include trips, appliances and new cars _ is “demanding physically and mentally,” he said.
“I’m just reaching the age where the constant effort to be there and do the show physically is a lot for me,” he said. “I might be able to do the show another year, but better (to leave) a year too soon than a year too late.”
Leslie Moonves, president and CEO of CBS Corporation, said Barker has left an enduring mark on the network, calling his contribution and loyalty “immeasurable.”
“We knew this day would come, but that doesn’t make it any easier,” Moonves said in a statement. “Bob Barker is a daytime legend, an entertainment icon and one of the most beloved television personalities of our time.”
Barker began his national television career in 1956 as the host of “Truth or Consequences.” He first appeared on “Price” on Sept. 4, 1972 and has been the face of the show ever since.
A CBS prime-time special celebrating the show’s longevity and Barker’s five decades on TV was already under way, a network spokesman said.
To kick off his retirement, Barker said he will “sit down for maybe a couple of weeks and find out what it feels like to be bored.” Then he plans to spend time working with animal-rights causes, including his own DJ&T Foundation, founded in memory of his late wife, Dorothy Jo, and mother, Matilda.
He said he’d take on a movie role if the right one came along, but filmmakers, take note: “I refuse to do nude scenes. These Hollywood producers want to capitalize on my obvious sexuality, but I don’t want to be just another beautiful body.”
Freemantle Media, which owns “Price,” has been looking for Barker’s replacement for “two or three years,” Barker said. And he has some advice for whoever takes the job: learn the show’s 80 games backwards and forward.
“The games have to be just like riding a bicycle,” Barker said. “Then he will be relaxed enough to have fun with the audience, to get the laughs with his contestants and make the show more than just straight games, to make it a lot of fun.”
As for his fans, Barker said he “doesn’t have the words” to express his gratitude.
“From the bottom of my heart, I thank the television viewers, because they have made it possible for me to earn a living for 50 years doing something that I thoroughly enjoy. They have invited me into their homes daily for a half a century.”
But when it comes to saying his final TV goodbye, Barker said he’ll do it the same way he does each day on “Price”: “Help control the pet population. Have your pets spayed or neutered.”