Six years ago on Oct. 27, 2003, colorful Price is Right announcer Rod Roddy lost his brave battle with colon and breast cancer at age 66.
The larger-than-life voice behind the immortal catch phrase "Come on down!" from 1986 until his death, Roddy was diagnosed with colon cancer on—of all days—Sept. 11, 2001. He soon became one of the first celebrities to publicly campaign for colon cancer awareness and early detection. Sadly, as his cancer spread despite chemotherapy, Roddy also became one of the first male celebrities to share his diagnosis, in March 2003, of breast cancer. (Recently, former KISS drummer Peter Criss and Shaft himself, actor Richard Roundtree, revealed their breast cancer diagnoses.)
"I could have prevented all this with a colonoscopy, and, of course, that's the campaign I've been on since I had the first surgery," Roddy told CBS months before his death. "To everybody out there, get a mammogram! It can happen to men, too."
Despite his two-year cancer fight, the flamboyant TV ham—famous for his vibrant, glittery blazers and wacky Showcase skits—remained committed to his 17-year gig as Price's famed on-screen announcer and host Bob Barker's TV sidekick. He showed up with bells on until his final hospitalization two months prior to his passing.
"We all admired his courage," Barker told an interviewer in 2003. "He was always upbeat and hopeful. I went to the hospital and sat on the edge of his bed and we laughed the whole time we were talking. He was still having fun."
But not nearly as much fun, another former Price colleague says, as Roddy would have wholeheartedly preferred. In 2002, the high-energy announcer was suddenly taken off camera on the iconic CBS game show. FremantleMedia, the show's production company, claimed Roddy's disembodied voice was the product of their new "international policy" to keep all announcers off camera on all of their shows. Despite his still robust appearance, Roddy was seldom seen on camera in his final year or so on the show. (During his absence for cancer treatment in late 2002, however, fill-in announcers Paul Boland and Burton Richardson were featured on screen when introduced by Barker. And Roddy made a brief appearance on camera during the season 32 premiere in 2003 when introduced by Fremantle exec Syd Vinnedge.)
Roddy's rare on-camera Price appearance, Fall 2003
This "policy" was a facade, says veteran Barker's Beauty prize model Holly Hallstrom. The 1977-95 show vet, who countersued the series' legendary emcee-turned-exec producer and won a multi-million-dollar settlement in 2005, claims Barker yanked Roddy off the screen in 2002 following a backstage dispute over money. According to Hallstrom, Roddy demanded higher pay for a series of successful Price primetime specials. She says Barker—not Fremantle—retaliated by taking away the very thing that kept the ailing announcer going: his coveted, if minimal, camera time.
For the first time ever, an emotional Hallstrom breaks her silence, in this Retroality.TV audio interview, about her "precious" co-star's reaction to his on-screen vanishing act while he fought for survival during the final year-plus of his life. (This segment of Hallstrom's explosive Retroality.TV interview—part 4 in an ongoing series of exclusive chats with the classic game show model—will be available next month on our You Tube channel).
Barker paid tribute to Roddy in an 18-second clip montage in a Price episode airing after the announcer's death. Howard Stern mocked this brief memorial on his popular radio show. CBS' Late Late Show aired a considerably longer video homage to Roddy—one of the talk show's favorite guests—around this time.
The Emmy-winning emcee never referred to Roddy again on his game show. Barker mentioned Roddy only once in his 2009 memoir Priceless Memories—while listing him alongside his Price predecessor, the legendary Johnny Olson, and Roddy's successor, Rich Fields (whose frequent on-camera appearances apparently signaled the reversal of Fremantle's international policy in the last five years). Olson and Fields earned the Price host's recognition in the book's anecdotes; Roddy did not.
Roddy's long and illustrious Hollywood career took off in 1977 when he was hired as the announcer for the hit ABC sitcom Soap, which ran until 1981. Prior to landing his "Come on down!" dream job, he enjoyed success at CBS as the "avoid-the-Whammy!" voice behind the high-rated daytime game show Press Your Luck. For more info about Roddy, visit friend and fellow announcer Randy West's website.