Chuck Barris Dead: Fans React To Death Of 'Gong Show' Great
01:32, Mar 24, 2017
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Barris died of natural causes at age 87 on Tuesday afternoon at his home in Palisades, N.Y, according to publicist Paul Shefrin, who announced the death on behalf of Barris's family.
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.
He wrote a song, "Palisades Park", that reached No. 3 on the Billboard pop charts in 1962 for singer Freddy "Boom Boom" Cannon.
Barris was married three times, most recently to Mary Rudolph in 2000. Not to mention, Barris also claimed to have beena Central Intelligence Agency assassin in his autobiography, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.
Barris, whose company was broadcasting 27 half-hour shows weekly at his peak, was considered a television revolutionary for creating program formats that lasted for decades and sowing the seeds of reality television by showing everyday Americans on primetime TV.
If Saturday Night Live was an irreverent, crude, quintessentially 1970s take on the likes of The Carol Burnett Show, then The Gong Show was a similar analogue to Ed Sullivan-and it was an immediate sensation, not least for proving, perhaps for the first time, the depths to which ordinary people would sink in order to get themselves on television.
That year, the Gong Show Movie was expectedly a critical failure, but also a commercial flop. But Barris bet, successfully, that American audiences would eat up a show where private lives were made public (a concept he evolved further, and more explicitly, with The Newlywed Game).
But Barris' main achievement was as host and creator of The Gong Show, an unpredictable, anti-talent show that tested the limits of good taste with absurd humor and often controversial acts as well as mainstay "talent" like the Unknown Comic and Gene Gene the Dancing Machine. And yet it was Barris who perhaps first understood that so-called "lowbrow" entertainment had value, particularly for an audience of 20-something baby-boomers ready to shed the formalities of their Mad Men-generation parents. It's impossible to imagine, say, David Letterman using network resources to drop things off buildings without The Gong Show (and, in fact, Letterman appeared on the showas a judge).
While his shows were wildly popular, they were not a hit with critics.
"My ambition came from my great fear of ever ending up in that clothing business", he said. I've never saved any lives.
Barris' only child, Della, passed away in 1998 from a drug and alcohol overdose.
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