Oh, the Gong Show. My dad loved it, so it seemed like it was always on in our home in the late 70's. Yes, I'm sure there were lots of illegal substances on that set. And the ringleader of that bizarre circus was none other than Chuck Barris.
Chuck died on Tuesday at the age of 87. And what a life he had. He formed Chuck Barris Productions in 1965 and created The Dating Game. In 1966 he launched The Newlywed Game, hosted by Bob Eubanks, which ran for 19 years. Barris finally made it in front of the camera when he began hosting The Gong Show in 1976. Though it only ran two years on NBC and four years in syndication, the show is still remembered for its wacky spoof of the talent show format. He introduced the amateur contestants dressed in colorful clothing with odd props, with judges Jamie Farr, Jaye P. Morgan and Arte Johnson adding to the goofy atmosphere. Other offbeat characters on the show included "Gene Gene the Dancing Machine" and Murray Langston, the "Unknown Comic," who wore a paper bag over his head.
Barris, a Philadelphia native, also wrote his autobiography in 1984: Confessions of a Dangerous Mind: An Unauthorized Biography.
In it, he claimed to be an assassin for the CIA. The book was turned into a movie in 2002 and was a first-time directing gig for George Clooney.
As far as the CIA assassin claim goes, The Associated Press reports:
"It sounds like he has been standing too close to the gong all those years," quipped CIA spokesman Tom Crispell. "Chuck Barris has never been employed by the CIA and the allegation that he was a hired assassin is absurd," Crispell added.
Do you have a favorite Gong Show memory?