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Showcasing Bob Barker (Press Tour/Day 10)


Game show legend Bob Barker still knows how to use his right.

By ED BARK
PASADENA, Calif. -- Life goes on, but can The Price Is Right? After 35 years of wheeling, dealing and Plinko, game show legend Bob Barker will be stepping on down this June. Don't underestimate his actual retail value.

"Oh, I'm going to miss it. Of course I am," Barker, 83, said at his "Farewell Press Conference" Thursday. "But this is an appropriate time for me to retire."

He looked dapper and fit as ever in a checked shirt, charcoal sportcoat and light gray slacks. But his timing indeed is impeccable. Barker is in his 50th year as a game show emcee after breaking in as host of Truth or Consequences. His stat sheet also says he holds the record for "continuous performances on the same network television show" after surpassing Johnny Carson's 29 years, seven months and 21 days with NBC's Tonight Show. The CBS studio where he works is named after him. He's in the Television Academy Hall of Fame. And no on-camera performer has more Emmys (17).

"And we're way up there in the ratings, right on top," Barker added. "And we have people lined up, sleeping out there on the sidewalk, to see our show. I want to go out on top."

His only smudge is a sexual harassment suit filed in 1993 by one of his "Barker's Beauties," with whom he acknowledged having an affair. Several others joined in before the company that owned Price chose to settle out of court.

Barker says he wanted to go to trial because "these were frivolous lawsuits based on distortions, exaggerations or outright falsehoods . . . But it's good business to settle when you can settle for far less than the lawsuit would cost."

He didn't blanch when the matter was raised anew Thursday. Barker outwardly remains one of earth's most unflappable inhabitants, a self-described "old-fashioned guy doing an old-fashioned show."

"Had I not enjoyed it so much I probably would have retired a long time ago," he said. "And then I'm blessed as far as genes are concerned . . . I eat properly and I exercise. I'm a vegetarian. I don't know how many of you are. But if you're not, you should give it a go."

Barker also is an avowed animal activist who once aspired to pitch for the St. Louis Cardinals. He recalls the time that future Hall of Famer Roger Clemens stopped to help an injured dog on a freeway and "got it off to a veterinarian. And someone interviewed him about it. He said, 'I'm just a regular Bob Barker.' I thought that was the greatest compliment."

His last taping of Price is Right is scheduled for June 6. There also will be a prime-time special during the May "sweeps" ratings period, with ample time for "a lot of good nostalgic moments."

"I don't know how I will react" on the finale, Barker said. "I am emotional, yes. You might not get that impression, but I am. And I cry very easily. We'll just have to wait and see."

Barker also is known for punching out Adam Sandler in the 1996 film Happy Gilmore. It helped bring him a new, younger fan base, even if many college kids already were lazing in dorms watching Price is Right.

"When they come to the show they will start saying 'Do the line, Bob. Do the line.' "

It's a good line. After decking Happy, Barker stood over him and taunted, "The Price is Right, bitch."

Clearly he's irreplaceable, but CBS will try anyway. Barker said he hasn't been consulted on his successor, and it seems to rankle him just a bit. Still, he's got a ready one-liner.

"You haven't been told?" he asked. "When I leave, not only is The Price is Right ending, all television is ending."

The End.


CBS Corp. prez Leslie Moonves and news/sports head Sean McManus

Don't mess with Les -- We're later at the "CBS Super Bowl Happy Hour" party. But corporation president Leslie Moonves isn't amused when told that a rival network executive who asked not to be named claims CBS is losing money on Late Show with David Letterman.

"Whoever said that is a (expletive) liar!" Moonves boomed. "Would I have re-upped him (Letterman) for the same money if I was losing money? Would I have done that? It's obviously making money for me because I'm not a stupid businessman."

CBS will make big money on next month's Super Bowl, its first since the Janet Jackson "wardrobe malfunction" debacle. Moonves is pleased with the four finalists playing this weekend. "I think we're very happy with how last week's games turned out," he said, referring to eliminations of the San Diego Chargers, Baltimore Ravens, Philadelphia Eagles and Seattle Seahawks.

CBS has Sunday's AFC championship game between the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts. He'll be behind whoever wins that one.

"We're rooting for the AFC. We're the AFC network," Moonves said. "That's all I can tell you."

Envision the headline: "Les Moonves rooting against New Orleans." He laughed before adding, "Don't give anybody here that idea."

Standing by Katie -- The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric remains in third place and doesn't seem likely to improve that standing any time soon. Sean McManus, president of the network's news and sports divisions, said he anticipated nothing more.

"None of us are losing patience because none of us expected to be in much of a different position than we are right now," McManus said in an interview Thursday with unclebarky.com. "And we said that from Day One. All of our research said there would be a surge in the ratings, and then they'd go back down."

McManus acknowledged that the content of Couric's newscast "may have been a little soft" in the early weeks. "If you look at our show now, the mix is exactly what it should be. It's every bit as hard as any other newscast . . . The show that you're seeing now is pretty much the show you're going to see in the future."

Couric may simply be the wrong sex for some network newscast viewers. The bulk of the dinner hour audience is either nearing retirement age or already on Social Security.

"There are probably people out there, both men and women, who perhaps are uncomfortable having a woman anchor the news," McManus said. "But on the flip side, there probably are some people who like a different approach and like the fact that Katie is not the 'traditional' anchor. So how much that balances out, I don't know."

But McManus said the telescoped "scrutiny" of Couric has a lot to do with gender.

"She has to worry about a lot of things the male anchor doesn't have to worry about. How she looks or what she's wearing or how her makeup is or how her hair is. She's under enormous, enormous scrutiny on the peripheral elements of what she does. And then there are the core elements -- her interviewing skills, her delivery. For someone who's been under that much scrutiny, I think her performance has been outstanding."

Moonves said he's "very pleased" with Couric, and "the ratings are going to follow behind her. I think we're going to be fine."

Then he got combative again.

"Why don't you take a week of her show and put it up against the others in terms of hard news and soft news? And you'll find they're very comparable. I think the perception comes from the fact that she's a woman. Charlie (Gibson) can do a softer piece and Brian (Williams) can do a softer piece. But when Katie does it, they say it's a softer newscast. We don't feel it is."