R.I.P. Chuck Barris

Chuck Barris
Chuck Barris at the premiere of 'Confessions of a Dangerous Mind' / Getty
• March 23, 2017 5:00 am


No, that's not a typo. Three days after the death of guitar legend Chuck Berry, television producer, songwriter, and game show host Chuck Barris died. Mind you, his death doesn't come as a shock. Rather, it's shocking to learn he was still alive. Even more amazing is finding out Barris was born in 1929—he was 87 at the time of his death. That much we know to be true.

In his 1984 autobiography, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (which he subtitled "an unauthorized autobiography"), Barris claimed he was only a part-time television personality. The rest of his day he spent working for the Central Intelligence Agency as an assassin. Needless to say, people have questioned the veracity of this. But it made for an interesting movie of the same name, directed by George Clooney and starring Sam Rockwell as Barris, alongside Clooney, Drew Barrymore, and Julia Roberts.

Not that he lacked in other talents. As Variety notes:

Born Charles Hirsch Barris in Philadelphia, he started out working as a page at NBC in New York, then worked backstage at "American Bandstand." "Palisades Park" was recorded by Freddy Cannon and hit No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

He formed Chuck Barris Productions in 1965 and created "The Dating Game," hosted by Jim Lange, which introduced swinging 1960s double entendres to the formerly staid game show genre and ran for 11 out of the next 15 years. In 1966 he launched "The Newlywed Game," hosted by Bob Eubanks, which ran for 19 years; Game Show Network still airs a version of the show.

But Barris achieved his schlock icon status with The Gong Show in 1976. He was both producer and host. It was awful. But like driving past a car wreck, you just couldn't turn away.

That pretty much sums up television in the 1970s. It wasn't a show filled with Beautiful People. The talent, the host, and the judges were closer to eye sores than eye candy (except the time judge Jaye P. Morgan briefly flashed the audience during a "Gene, Gene, The Dancing Machine" segment). Again, this was the '70s.

Now we have America's Got Talent, X Factor, and The Voice. Everyone looks beautiful. And everything sounds beautiful. But I bet Barris and his wacky cast still had more fun.