“Gong Show” host Barris claimed to be CIA assassin
From his boundary-pushing game shows to his strange claims of being a CIA assassin, Chuck Barris lived large.
The host of “The Gong Show” and the creative force behind “The Dating Game,” “The Newlywed Game” and many other game shows died of natural causes Tuesday at 87 in Palisades, N.Y., his publicist announced.
Barris loaded ’60s and ’70s television with game shows and later made waves when in an autobiography he claimed to be an assassin for the CIA, which the agency flatly denied. This book was adapted into a feature film “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.”
Barris began his career as a songwriter — his biggest hit was “Palisades Park” for Freddie “Boom Boom” Cannon in 1962 — but he truly burst into show business in 1965 with the debut of his brainchild “The Dating Game,” an updated, televised version of a World War II radio show titled “Blind Date.”
Hosted by Jim Lange, the show’s premise was simple. A divider separated a three men from a woman. Without being able to see the eligible bachelors, she would ask each a few questions. At the end of the show, she chose her date based solely on their answers. Sometimes a man asked three women questions.
Fueled by its success, Barris created several more of the genre we now call reality shows, most ending in the word “Game.” Among them were “The Newlywed Game,” “The Parent Game,” “The Family Game” and “The Game Game.”
From 1976 to 1980, he became not just a household name but a recognizable face as the host of his magnum opus of lowbrow entertainment, “The Gong Show.”
Barris’ most outlandish moment, though, came in 1982 when he wrote an autobiography announcing he had served as a contract CIA assassin during his time working in television.
Chuck Barris, the man behind TV’s “The Dating Game,” outside his apartment in New York in 2002.