Wednesday, March 22, 2017

3.22.17 Hero of the Day: Chuck Barris

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Name: Chuck Barris
Age: was 87
Occupation: game show god
Last Seen: in the Great Beyond
Awarded For: making game shows even cooler

Yesterday, we paid tribute to Chuck Berry, who in the 1950s helped to make rock 'n roll a part of our lives.

Now, we pay tribute to a similarly-named man, who was a rock star in his own right. Even though he wrote a hit record in the 1960s, he was a bigger star when it came to the world of game shows.

Charles Hirsch Barris was the son of a Jewish dentist in Philadelphia. He got into show business in the 1950s as a page for NBC and later, a standards and practices exec for ABC, overseeing American Bandstand. While making sure that AB didn't do anything inappropriate on TV, he wrote the song "Palisades Park" for Freddy "Boom Boom" Cannon, which went to #3 on the Billboard Pop Charts in 1962.

In 1965, he formed Chuck Barris Productions, and their first show was a smash: The Dating Game. A year later, The Newlywed Game was born and that show became a hit, too. The show was known for making the word "whoopie" an OK term for the oh-so-forbidden "sex" to say on TV. Barris even employed Bob Barker to host The Family Game in 1967, which flopped.

Barris' shows were huge hits well into the 1970s when in 1976, he somewhat reluctantly became the host of his own creation, The Gong Show. He might not have been the greatest game show host in history, but then again, he was so bad that he was good. Despite good ratings, Gong was a nightmare for NBC censors, especially when it came to profanities said by the panelists *COUGHJayeP.MorganCOUGH* and the infamous "Popsicle Twins" incident. Barris' other shows were also nightmares for the S&P people, especially the 1977 episode of The Newlywed Game where a woman admitted where she had the urge to make"whoopie".

Sadly, despite his shows' popularity, Barris got lots of flak from many groups over the content of his programs. Even Gene Autry - who owned the studio where his shows were taped - threatened to kick him and his shows out. Nonetheless, Barris was done. The Gong Show ended in 1980 and The Gong Show Movie released that year was a box office and critical flop. He shut down his company and moved to France. However, he came back in the 1980s and brought both Newlywed and Dating back on the air on syndication. He ended up selling his company and today, his shows are now owned by Sony, who launched Game Show Network in 1994. Barris' shows were now popular all over again, introduced to a whole new audience.

In 1984, Barris wrote "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind", his autobiography where he claimed that he was a CIA agent in the 1960s and murdered 33 people. The CIA has long claimed that Barris was never a part of their organization, though in 2002, it was turned into a hit movie directed by George Clooney. Barris wrote seven books in all, including 'Confessions'' 2004 sequel "Bad Grass Never Dies" and "Della: A Memoir of My Daughter" in 2010. 'Della' was about Barris' only child, who occasionally introduced her father on Gong. She died of a drug overdose in 1998 at the age of 36.

Barris had his struggles. But even though he might not have had the immense success of rivals like Mark Goodson or Merv Griffin, he created shows that definitely created a lot of attention. And yet, it was Goodson who kinda ripped him off with his celebrity relationship show Tattletales in the 1970s. But, if Goodson, Griffin and Barris were all put in a room together, Chuck would be the clown.

Chuck Barris: a man whose life was never deserving of many gongs.


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