Thursday, June 07, 2007

Truth or Consequences

Bob Barker has left the building. They made a big to do over his retirement from the Price is Right, somewhat exceeding the value the show has brought to American culture. The greatest comment on the Price is Right was from the movie, "The In-Laws". A CIA man whose chracter was not in the country very often, is talking to a diner cashier and the Price is Right is on the television in the background. The CIA man, played by Peter Falk, watches the show for a few minutes and turns to the cashier to ask, "What's the point here, are they trying to guess the price of all that crap ?" The cashier replies in the affirmative and then Falk asks, "How long has this been on ?" to which the cashier replies "about 100 years.." Actually, it was not that long, but I'm sure that it seemed like it to anyone who stayed home in the day time and saw the show droning on for all the years that it did run.

When I was a kid, Barker was the host of a pretty good show (good if you were 10 years old, or had an I.Q. at about that level) called "Truth or Consequences". The idea of the show (which is actually the unspoken premise of most quiz shows) was to find an aduience member who did not mind making an ass of himself, and then proceed to help him do just that. A similair prime time show was running at the time hosted by Art Linkletter called "People are Funny".An aside here, People Are Funny's theme song had the dumbest lyrics of any show that has ever been on television. I set them out verbatim here: "People are funny do do do do doo do, do do do do doo do, do, do do; doo do do do do, doo do, do do do doo, , people are funny !" The show ran for six successful seasons despite the overbearinbg arrognace of Art Linkletter who is still alive and giving interviews to Larry King.

Back to the premise. Barker's show would feature audience members from the Los Angeles area. Consequently, growing up, I knew more about Pasadena, Anaheim, Tarzana and the various L.A. suburbs than I did any of the areas around my home in Houston. Barker would bring these chucleheads out and ask them an impossible to answer question, which had to be answered before a buzzer went off, about half a second after the question was asked. Barker would then announce that they had not "told the truth" so they would have to pay the "consequences". He would then assign them some humiliating task that often took several hours, or even a week to perform, and if they did O.K. on the task, they might be given a case of Rice Aroni or some matching luggage, never anything too big. Of course the prize was not important,you can't put a price tag on memories like that.Barker did that show for 18 years before moving on to the Price is Right, which was actually the "New Price is Right", a less colorful version of it having been hosted by Bill Cullen some years before. Towards the middle of the run of the show, Barker started hiring women who looked like Hollywood hookers or porn stars as his "Barker's Beauties". As was inevitable, Barker was sued for sexual harrasment by one or more of the "Beauties". He defended himself on national television, I think Sixty Minutes, by saying that he was guilty of nothing more than "a little old fashioned hanky-panky." O.K. At any rate, he survived the law suits and never looked back.

But my memories of Barker will always be from "Truth or Consequences". It came on at 3:30 Texas time, after the Match Game with Gene Rayburn (my introduction to apparent homosexuality). It was so damn hot in Houston at 3:30 in July and August that if you were not down at the pool(where you had been from 10:00 to 12:00) you would be watching the show.Think about those days. It seems amazing that you had three months of vacation every year ,to do what you wanted. It is sad that what you wanted to do was watch Truth or Consequences, but it was a simpler time. I sometimes get nostalgic when I think of Barker and Linkletter and Rayburn and how totally relaxed and carefree my life was. It turned out, of course, that there were "consequences", you had to grow up, nothing perfect lasts forever. So long Bob, I'll look you up the next time I'm in Tarzana.


Blogger Supremester said...

THANK YOU Nfor posting the lyrics to People Are Funny - I'm going to use your blog as the answer to a 50's TV Quiz. Enjoyed your entire missive! Also - do you know where I can get any copies of Masquerade Party?

10:34 PM  
Blogger Supremester said...

THANK YOU for posting the lyrics to People Are Funny - I'm going to use your blog as the answer to a 50's TV Quiz. Enjoyed your entire missive! Also - do you know where I can get any copies of Masquerade Party?

10:34 PM

10:35 PM  

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