Chuck Barris, “The Gong Show” creator and host who claimed — though never too seriously — that he doubled as a CIA assassin during the height of his game show popularity, has died at his home in Palisades, N.Y. He was 87.
The popular game show creator, producer and host died Monday of natural causes, a representative for his wife said.
The “Gong Show” was among a handful of Barris’ creations that dominated the TV game-show landscape in the 1960s.
He launched “The Dating Game” in 1965, which was an instant hit with numerous imitations.
Barris followed with “The Newlywed Game,” “The Game Game,” “The $1.98 Beauty Show” and a Mama Cass special, among others.
“Those were the happiest days of my life,” Barris said in a 2002 interview with the Los Angeles Times. “It was Camelot.”
Charles Hirsch Barris was born June 3, 1929, in Philadelphia, the son of a dentist. He grew up with show business aspirations and climbed upward — one menial job after another.
He was a salesman, an NBC tour guide, a gopher. He was also a songwriter, penning “Palisades Park,” which was turned into an uptempo hit in 1962 by Freddie Cannon.
His game shows were often derided by critics as trashy and sexist, and Barris himself — dressed with ultra-wide lapels on his jacket and unbuttoned to roughly his navel — was loud and veered wildly between funny and obnoxious. But his shows became must-watch programming in America.
His Hollywood offices befitted the era, a 1969 Times article noted. The walls were decorated in a “freaky collage of pop-hippie art” and the staff seemed to consist of “super-cool chicks in miniskirts clacking away on typewriters.”
But his golden touch deserted him when he produced “The Gong Show Movie,” which had the sizable misfortune of being released the same weekend as “The Empire Strikes Back” and “The Shining.” The film tanked.
So he walked away, selling off his holding and moving to the south of France with his future second wife, Robin Altman.
“I figured I didn’t have my finger on the pulse of what’s going on anymore, so I took off,” he told The Times in 2002. He told friend he planned to write the great American novel while in France.