Chuck Barris, host and creator of “The Gong Show”, signing copies of Who Killed Art Deco?
* 6/4/09 7:00 PM at Borders Books – Columbus Circle. New York, NY.
Charles Hirsch “Chuck” Barris (born 3 June 1929) is an American game show producer and presenter who was responsible for many of the best known game shows of the 1960s and 1970s. Barris, who is a survivor of lung cancer, is also an author.
Barris got his start in television as a page and later staffer at NBC in New York, and eventually worked backstage at the TV music show American Bandstand, originally as a standards-and-practices person for ABC. Barris soon became a music industry figure. His most successful venture was “Palisades Park”. Recorded by Freddy Cannon, it peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 on 12 March 1962, the biggest hit of Cannon’s career. Barris also co-wrote or wrote some of the music that appeared on his game shows (see Discography below for more information).
Barris was promoted to the daytime programming division at ABC in Los Angeles and was put in charge of deciding which game shows ABC would air. Barris admitted to his bosses that the producer/packagers’ pitches of game show concepts were worse than Barris’ own ideas. They suggested that he quit his ABC programming job and become a producer himself.
Barris first became successful during 1965 with his first game show creation The Dating Game on ABC. On this show, which was hosted by Jim Lange, three bachelors or “bachelorettes” (unmarried women) competed for the favor of a contestant of the opposite sex blocked from their view. The contestants’ racy banter and its “flower power”-motif set was a revolution for the game show genre. The show would air for 11 of the next 15 years and be revived two different times in the 1980s and 1990s.
The next year Barris began The Newlywed Game, originally created by Nick Nicholson and Roger Muir, for the same network. The combination of the newlywed couples’ humorous candor and host Bob Eubanks’ exuberant sly questioning made the show another hit for Barris – and to date the longest lasting of any developed by his company, running for 19 full years on ‘first run’ TV, network and syndicated.
He went on to create several other short-lived games for ABC in the 1960s and for syndication in the 1970s, all of which revolved around a common theme: the game play normally derived its interest (and oftentimes, humor) from the excitement, vulnerability, embarrassment, or anger of female contestants or participants in the game. Barris also made several attempts through the years at non-game formats, such as ABC’s Operation Entertainment, a variety show staged at military bases akin to USO shows, a CBS revival of Your Hit Parade, and a Canadian-based syndicated variety show for singer Bobby Vinton (produced in conjunction with Chris Bearde and Allan Blye); the latter was his most successful program other than a game show.
Barris married Lyn Levy, niece of one of the founders of CBS, which caused her family to disinherit her. His 1974 novel, You and Me, Babe, is loosely based on this marriage. Their daughter Della Barris, who often appeared on The Gong Show, died of a drug overdose in 1998 at age 35. He married twice more, to “Red” Robin Altman, and later to Mary Barris. His uncle was singer/songwriter/actor Harry Barris. He now lives outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the United States.