'Gong Show' 'Dating Game' host, Chuck Barris, dead at age 87

Chuck Barris not only hosted "The Gong Show", but he is responsible for creating such iconic TV game shows as "The Dating Game" and "The Newlywed Game".

In 1984, Barris published Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, an autobiography in which he claimed to have once been an assassin for the Central Intelligence Agency. If the act was truly very bad, the judges would strike a large gong signaling the contestant's exit. In "The Dating Game", eligible singles participated in the show to choose a date from among three unseen members of the opposite sex after asking them questions.

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.

Born Charles Hirsch Barris in Philadelphia, he started out working as a page at NBC in NY, then worked backstage at American Bandstand.

Barris got his start in TV as a page and later staffer at NBC in NYC, eventually working backstage at the TV music show American Bandstand as a standards-and-practices person for ABC. Sam Rockwell starred as Barris, and the cast included Julia Roberts, Drew Barrymore and Clooney. His publicist, Paul Sherfrin, told CNN that Barris died at his home in Palisades, New York, of natural causes.

Television producer and game show host Chuck Barris could put them all together as one entity. "I. Was. So. Obnoxious", Barris told Entertainment Weekly in 2003. While the claims in his "unauthorized autobiography" were greeted with skepticism, Barris refused to confirm or deny in interviews that the story about his double life was fact or fiction.

The show was so popular it spawned a feature film, The Gong Show Movie, which failed to catch on the way the TV show had. He moved to Los Angeles in the early 1960s to be in charge of daytime programming for ABC-TV.

The multi-talented star also penned songs, including 1962 hit Palisades Park.

"I think that it was tapping into the comedy of couples", he said. Barris never admitted it was a joke but in 2007 told CBS: "Somebody checked (with) the head of the Central Intelligence Agency and the head of the Central Intelligence Agency said that I must have been standing too close to the gong".

The offbeat comedy offered a strangely fitting final act for a deceivingly influential show business character who dealt in pop culture oddities and delusions of grandeur that ring on, for better or worse, far past the final gong. His first marriage to Lynn Levy ended in divorce and their daughter, Della, died of a drug overdose in 1998.

Barris was married three times, most recently to Mary Rudolph in 2000.

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