LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Giving away one more car to an ecstatic contestant, TV host Bob Barker taped his last round of “The Price Is Right” on Wednesday, ending 35 years as host of America’s longest-running game show and five decades on network television.
Barker, 83, took the stage to a shower of confetti and a standing ovation but quickly got down to business conducting his usual assortment of contests and prize giveaways, culminating in a final “Showcase Showdown.”
Only at the end of taping did Barker finally acknowledge his retirement.
“I thank you for inviting me into your homes for more than 50 years,” Barker said in the closing moments of the show, nearly drowned out by cheers from the audience.
Barker’s final hour on “The Price Is Right” will air on June 15 on CBS in its usual daytime slot, with a rerun in prime time that evening leading into the telecast of the Daytime Emmy Awards.
Barker maintained his composure throughout the show, but during a news conference afterward, he choked up when recalling how a friend and longtime colleague had visited his dressing room earlier in the day to say goodbye.
“This is a very emotional time for me,” Barker said. “This is the first time since I was 21 years old that I didn’t have a show.” He declined to talk much about his immediate future, except to say, “I’m looking forward to being bored.”
Barker, who launched his national TV career in December 1956 as host of another long-running game show, NBC’s popular “Truth or Consequences,” said last year he was ready to take a break from the hectic pace of taping five shows a week.
The tall, lanky entertainer, who grew up on a South Dakota Indian reservation where his mother taught school, got his start in radio and also emceed the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants for 21 years.
An avid animal rights activist, Barker resigned from the national pageant circuit in 1988 because producers of those shows refused to remove fur coats from the prize packages.
But the Emmy-winning star is most closely associated with “The Price Is Right,” which he has hosted since the show began its current CBS run in 1972. He is estimated to have awarded more than $200 million in prizes during his career.
“The Price Is Right” contestants, beckoned to the stage from the audience when the announcer calls “Come on down!,” compete for prizes by coming as close as they can to guessing the actual value of those prizes without going over.
The winner of Barker’s final “Showcase Showdown,” a nearly hysterical contestant named Denise, walked away with two new cars, an electric grill and a vacation cruise. Her main rival, who was named Philip, said he waited in line for five days to see Barker’s last show live.
Some fans traveled across country for his final taping.
“When we heard that this was Bob’s last show, we said we had to get out here,” said Ryan Gagney, 29, of Oakland, Maine.
CBS plans to continue the show with a new host but has yet to name a successor to Barker, who said he would be willing fill in at the start of the new season until a new emcee is chosen.
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