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Sunday, July 5, 2009
Links to parts 2 and 3 of Hallstrom's Retroality.TV interview:
From its oh-so-Seventies set to its retro-funky font, CBS's iconic game show The Price is Right looks essentially the same today as it did during its 1970s and '80s hey days. Since legendary emcee Bob Barker's departure in 2007, however, the show has experienced major creative and executive upheaval behind the scenes.
Producer Roger Dobkowitz was suddenly let go last year after 36 years of service. Last January, director Bart Eskander—another longtime show vet—also exited the show under a cloud of controversy. A rep for Eskander recently told Buzzerblog.com that the director voluntarily retired, but loyal online fans remain skeptical, especially following reports last May that FremantleMedia's Syd Vinnedge was also abruptly out as Price's executive producer. In late June, new host Drew Carey began blogging and Twittering about upcoming cosmetic and creative changes on Price. The famously low-key comic and often happy-go-lucky humanitarian quickly took aim at a specific Price fan site whose impassioned members have by and large consistently slammed Carey and various aspects of the show's creative direction, particularly following Dobkowitz's firing. Though the emcee did not name Golden-Road.net, his reference to the site's most vociferous posters (whom Carey called "telephone pole screamers") did not fall on deaf ears in the game show community.
But this drama pales next to the storied succession of brutal—and many say retaliatory—firings during Barker's reign as Price's executive producer. Though the animal rights activist officially received his exec producer title in 1988, some former Price employees say he wielded this power at least as early as 1986. That year, the CBS's series' original, Emmy-winning director, Marc Breslow—whom insiders call a longtime Barker foe—was booted from the show.
In 1989, Barker began a sexual affair with Price model Dian Parkinson, who sued him for sexual harassment a year after exiting the show in 1993. (She eventually dropped the suit, citing health and financial reasons.) In 1995, Barker fired and sued popular, outspoken prize model Holly Hallstrom, who in 2005 received a multi-million dollar settlement in her wrongful termination countersuit against Barker and the show. By 2000, Price's remaining longtime Barker's Beauties, along with numerous other veteran employees, were fired after giving deposition testimony that contradicted Barker's version of events in the Hallstrom case. (Barker has said that Hallstrom was "downsized" in 1995 while asserting that the 2000 staff casualties were due to production cutbacks.)
In parts two and three of Hallstrom's exclusive audio interview with Retroality.TV, the vocal Barker's Beauty recalls her late-'70s and early-'80s hey days under Price producers Jay Wolpert and Barbara Hunter. The redheaded model recalls Wolpert's brilliant, anything-for-a-laugh showcase skits on Stage 33 at CBS Television City. Hallstrom also fondly remembers watching John Ritter, Joyce DeWitt and Suzanne Somers crack each other up on Television City's Stage 31 during Three's Company rehearsals, which were shown on TV feeds on the Price set.
Hallstrom says she first became "disenchanted" at Price when original exec producer Frank Wayne brought in his son, Phil Rossi, to replace Wolpert alongside a newly-promoted Hunter in 1978. (Rossi originally received producer billing over Hunter, until she protested to Wayne.) Hunter left in 1984 to take an executive position in CBS Daytime—thus giving Dobkowitz a chance to join Rossi as a Price producer. These changes, along with Breslow's ouster in 1986, were "the beginning of the end of the good times on Price," Hallstrom says. (Rossi was fired in 2005 after show model Claudia Jordan and staffer Sylvia Clement-Henry sued him and the show for sexual harassment and racial discrimination.)
In these interview segments, the audience-beloved Beauty also addresses Barker's apparent feud with animal lover and "sworn enemy" Betty White. The silver-haired emcee reportedly demanded that producers of GSN's recent Game Show Awards ban the iconic Golden Girl and game show staple from award show festivities. Finally, Hallstrom responds to Barker's remark—made during an award show skit outtake broadcast by Access Hollywood—suggesting that Price's models got their jobs by sleeping with him.