For TV mainstay Barker, it’s all been fun and games.
A more-than-familiar face after some five decades on national television, including an astounding 35-year stint hosting The Price Is Right, the author delivers an unfailingly pleasant and breezy memoir…which is a problem. The supremely affable Barker’s account of his 85 years is mild to the point of nullity. The only dark notes are the premature death of his father and the loss of his beloved wife to lung cancer after 36 years of marriage. The author doesn’t mention the controversy and lawsuits (which included claims of sexual harassment) attending the firings of several glamorous on-set models for the show, nor his romantic relationship with one such model, Dian Parkinson, which also ended in legal action. Barker instead waxes nostalgic about his childhood on a South Dakota reservation (he is one-eighth Sioux), his training as a naval aviator in the last days of World War II (peace was declared before he saw combat) and his epic tenure as host of the longest-running game show in TV history. Stubbornly upbeat, he gives no indication that circumstances were ever less than hunky-dory for his neighbors on the reservation, paints his military service as a lark-filled romp and rhapsodizes endlessly about the fun and high spirits of his game-show days. Barker drops the names of many celebrity acquaintances—bizarrely, he studied karate with Chuck Norris—but his observations are limited to bromides like this characterization of fellow tanning enthusiast Julio Iglesias: “He was a really good guy. He was a lot of fun.” Even on the subject of animal-rights activism, a cause the author has tirelessly promoted for decades, he musters only generalities about the issue, along with a few cute stories concerning personal successes with rescued critters.
Hard-core fans will undoubtedly enjoy their hero’s happy reminiscences, but nothing here will entice less starry-eyed readers.