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Columbia Missourian

TV host Bob Barker inducted into Hall of Famous Missourians

By LAUREN ROSENBERG and SARAH D. WIRE
September 12, 2007 | 11:52 p.m. CDT
Bob Barker, former host of "The Price Is Right," is shown with an excited contestant in this October 1980 photo.

JEFFERSON CITY — For once, the roles were reversed for Bob Barker. It was his turn to come on down.

“Bob Barker,” said Barry Bennett, a former radio broadcaster who now works for Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, “you’re the next inductee into the Hall of Famous Missourians.”

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Barker, 83, the iconic host of “The Price is Right,” is the newest addition to the Hall of Famous Missourians, which is located on the third floor of the capital building’s rotunda.

Before the unveiling of his bust, Barker, with his trademark tan, perfectly fitted gray suit and white hair, peeked under the sheet and said he hoped it would look younger than he is now.

“I’m hoping that I’m cute,” Barker said. “I know you did this from pictures, and I hope that I don’t look like I do now. I hope I look like I did 50 years ago.”

After pulling back the sheet, Barker kissed sculptor Sabra Tull Meyer’s cheek and then placed a kiss on the statue.

“I think it’s fine; it looks like me, very much like me,” Barker said. “I’m delighted; I’m truly delighted.”

Having done the last six busts for the Hall, Meyer spent the last five months working on Barker’s.

“He’s a wonderful subject and smile to work with,” she said. “I can only hope there are more to do.”

The Hall of Famous Missourians’ collection of 24 busts honors those Missourians who have made significant contributions. The bronze casting busts cost an estimate $10,000 each and are paid for by the annual Speaker of the House’s Golf Tournament.

Names can be brought to the speaker for consideration, although Speaker of the House Rod Jetton joked that he chooses whoever he wants to be a famous Missourian.

“I said we’ve got to make this guy a famous Missourian,” Jetton said. “There’s nobody more famous I know than Bob Barker.”

Barker’s family moved to Springfield in the 1940s, where he graduated from Central High School. He attended Drury College on a basketball scholarship and worked at KTTS-FM radio in Springfield during college. He graduated summa cum laude with a degree in economics.

He is best known, of course, as host and executive producer of “The Price is Right,” a job he held for 35 years until retiring this year. “The Price is Right” is currently the longest-running game show in television history.

After the unveiling, a crowd of fans swarmed Barker, insisting on autographs and hugs and telling stories of the role his show took in their lives.

Barker said “The Price is Right” never strove to solve world problems.

“We deliberately avoided them, and what we tried to accomplish is to help people forget their troubles for an hour and enjoy themselves,” Barker said. “And I hope that’s what we have done.”

Jetton said although the show was entertaining, the audience always knew Barker’s main concern was his love of animals.

Barker’s long-time catch phrase — “Help control the pet population; have your pet spayed or neutered” — is written on the plaque below the bust.

Barker spent the day at the Capitol speaking with legislators and said the one question everyone asked was how it felt to beat up Adam Sandler in the 1996 film “Happy Gilmore.”

“I haven’t discussed anything serious with the lawmakers at all,” Barker said with a laugh. “All I’ve discussed is ‘The Price is Right’ and ‘Happy Gilmore.’”

House Communications Director Aaron Willard said the newest busts typically remain on the rotunda’s first floor before being moved upstairs with the rest of the collection. While there’s no specific order or arrangement, Willard predicts Barker will sit among the two other newest additions — Dale Carnegie and John Ashcroft — in the northeast alcove on the third floor.