'Gong Show' Creator Chuck Barris Dies at 87 - NBC New York

'Gong Show' Creator Chuck Barris Dies at 87

Barris, also a best-selling author, created "The Dating Game" as well

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    'Gong Show' Creator Chuck Barris Dies at 87
    Michael Loccisano/FilmMagic
    Chuck Barris during 'The Sopranos' sixth season Premiere in New York City. He died at 87 in March 2017.

    Chuck Barris, whose game show empire included "The Dating Game," ''The Newlywed Game" and that infamous factory of cheese, "The Gong Show," died at 87.

    Barris died of natural causes Tuesday afternoon at his home in Palisades, New York, according to publicist Paul Shefrin, who announced the death on behalf of Barris' family.

    Barris made game show history right off the bat, in 1966, with "The Dating Game," hosted by Jim Lange. The gimmick: a young female questions three males, hidden from her view, to determine which would be the best date. Sometimes the process was switched, with a male questioning three females. But in all cases the questions were designed by the show's writers to elicit sexy answers.

    Celebrities and future celebrities who appeared as contestants included Michael Jackson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Steve Martin and a pre-"Charlie's Angels" Farrah Fawcett, introduced as "an accomplished artist and sculptress" with a dream to open her own gallery.

    After the show became a hit on both daytime and nighttime TV, the Barris machine accelerated. New products included "The Newlywed Game," ''The Parent Game," ''The Family Game" and even "The Game Game."

    At one point Barris was supplying the television networks with 27 hours of entertainment a week, mostly in five-days-a-week daytime game shows.

    The grinning, curly-haired Barris became a familiar face as creator and host of "The Gong Show," which aired from 1976 to 1980.

    Patterned after the Major Bowes Amateur Hour show that was a radio hit in the 1930s, the program featured performers who had peculiar talents and, often, no talent at all. When the latter appeared on the show, Barris would strike an oversize gong, the show's equivalent of vaudeville's hook. The victims would then be mercilessly berated by the manic Barris, with a hat often yanked down over his eyes and ears, and a crew of second-tier celebrities.

    Occasionally, someone would actually launch a successful career through the show. One example was the late country musician BoxCar Willie, who was a 1977 "Gong Show" winner.

    He called himself "The King of Daytime Television," but to critics he was "The King of Schlock" or "The Baron of Bad Taste."

    Ellen DeGeneres Gifted Portia de Rossi A Lamborghini

    [NATL-AH] Ellen DeGeneres Gifted Portia de Rossi A Lamborghini

    Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi talk with Access Hollywood's Kit Hoover at "Gorillapalooza," where they talk about how Ellen gives such great gifts – like the car Ellen gifted Portia after she had admired Kris Jenner's Lamborghini! 

    (Published Monday, Oct. 14, 2019)

    As "The Gong Show" and Barris' other series were slipping, he sold his company for a reported $100 million in 1980 and decided to go into films.

    He directed and starred in "The Gong Show Movie," a thundering failure that stayed in theaters only a week.

    Afterward, a distraught Barris checked into a New York hotel and wrote his autobiography, "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," in two months. In it, he claimed to have been a CIA assassin.

    The book (and the 2002 film based on it, directed by George Clooney) were widely dismissed by disbelievers who said the creator of some of television's most lowbrow game shows had allowed his imagination to run wild when he claimed to have spent his spare time traveling the world, quietly rubbing out enemies of the United States.

    "It sounds like he has been standing too close to the gong all those years," quipped CIA spokesman Tom Crispell. "Chuck Barris has never been employed by the CIA and the allegation that he was a hired assassin is absurd," Crispell added.

    Barris, who offered no corroboration of his claims, was unmoved.

    'Tonight': 'Hot Ones' Challenge With Priyanka Chopra Jonas

    [NATL] 'Tonight': 'Hot Ones' Challenge With Priyanka Chopra Jonas

    Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Jimmy Fallon go head-to-head eating spicy wings that get progressively hotter as "Hot Ones" host Sean Evans grills them with questions.

    (Published Friday, Oct. 11, 2019)

    "Have you ever heard the CIA acknowledge someone was an assassin?" he once asked.

    Seeking escape from the Hollywood rat race, he moved to a villa in the south of France in the 1980s with his girlfriend and future second wife, Robin Altman, and made only infrequent returns to his old haunts over the next two decades.

    Back in the news in 2002 to help publicize "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," Barris said his shows were a forerunner to today's popular reality TV series.

    'Tonight': Know Your Roots With Questlove, Tariq Trotter

    [NATL] 'Tonight': Know Your Roots With Questlove, Tariq Trotter

    The Roots' Questlove and Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter take turns putting on noise-canceling headphones while Jimmy asks them questions about each other, challenging them to match answers.

    (Published Friday, Oct. 11, 2019)

    Born in Philadelphia in 1929, Charles Barris was left destitute, along with his sister and their mother, when his dentist father died of a stroke.

    After graduating from the Drexel Institute of Technology in 1953, he took a series of jobs, including book salesman and fight promoter.

    After being dropped from a low-level job at NBC, he found work at ABC, where he persuaded his bosses to let him open a Hollywood office, from which he launched his game-show empire. He also had success in the music world. He wrote the 1962 hit record "Palisades Park," which was recorded by Freddy Cannon.

    Barris's first marriage, to Lynn Levy, ended in divorce. Their daughter, Della, died of a drug overdose in 1998. He married his third wife, Mary, in 2000.