Chuck Barris, creator and host of 'The Gong Show,' dies at 87

According to the The Gong Show creator's publicist, Barris died from natural causes in his home inPalisades, NY.

Chuck Barris, who died Tuesday at the age of 87, was an American wildflower genius, a creator and producer of game shows, including "The Dating Game" and "The Newlywed Game", and eventually the host of one, "The Gong Show". Sometimes a man asked three women questions.

In almost every case, the questions were designed by the show's writers to elicit sexy/seductive/revealing answers.

Farrah Fawcett, who was introduced as "an accomplished artist and sculptress" because she appeared prior to her big acting break in Charlie's Angels.

As host of "The Gong Show", a kind of anti-talent show that mixed celebration and humiliation, Barris was everything that television hosts were not. Among them were "The Newlywed Game", "The Parent Game", "The Family Game" and "The Game Game".

Barris ruled the television entertainment industry in 1970s and 80s, supplying TV networks with 27 hours of entertainment a week, mostly in the form of five-days-a-week daytime game shows.

While his shows were wildly popular, they were not a hit with critics.

But Barris would not become a public figure himself until the launch of The Gong Show in 1976. The victims would then be mercilessly berated by the often manic Barris. Barris liked him so much, he put Gene on the air, and he became the show's regular final act.

On "The Gong Show", contestants sang, danced, and otherwise tried to entertain, usually with a weird twist: Two competent singers squeezed into one outfit of clothes; a dentist played "The Stars and Stripes Forever" on his drill; an Elvis impersonator sang "Hound Dog" in a droning monotone. Barris was panned as the King of Schlock, Baron of Bad Taste and Ayatollah of Trasherola. He pushed the envelope with risque acts, which contributed to the show's cancellation in 1978 (though it ran in syndication for another two years and was revived later for a reboot).

He wanted them to be fun programs for all to enjoy, but also never wanted those shows - especially "Gong Show" - to be his only legacy. In it, he claimed to have been a Central Intelligence Agency assassin.

Chuck also wrote the book Confessions of a Dangerous Mind in which he claimed he had worked as an assassin for the Central Intelligence Agency.

P.S. The CIA denies that Barris ever worked for them, as he claimed in his autobiography.

Barris, who offered no corroboration of his claims, was unmoved. He divorced his second wife, Robin Altman, in 1999 after nearly 20 years of marriage.

"We were censored constantly", Barris said.

Barris was born in Philadelphia and went to Drexel University where he was a columnist for the student newspaper.

Recent offerings had been failures, including The $1.98 Beauty Show, which lampooned pageants, and 3's A Crowd, described by one TV writer as "the sleazy game show that tried to find out if wives or secretaries knew a businessman best".

  • Salvatore Jensen