Chuck Barris, who tapped into Americans’ hunger to be on television by creating game shows such as “The Dating Game,” “The Newlywed Game” and his showcase for the acutely untalented, “The Gong Show,” died on Tuesday, media outlets reported.
Barris died of natural causes at age 87 in Palisades, New York, Variety.com said, citing his publicist.
Decades before television talent shows such as "American Idol" and "America's Got Talent" came along, Barris was putting everyday people before the cameras in what was more of a reverse talent show with everyday people who did not mind exposing their vulnerabilities or answering embarrassing questions.
His masterwork was "The Gong Show," which seemed to be the result of let’s-put-on-a-show day at the asylum in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” The media mocked him as “the king of schlock” and accused him of exploiting his contestants.
"Let me ask you something - which does the most harm, a 'Gong Show' or the killings, pistol whippings and flying blood you see on evening 'drama?'" Barris said in a Los Angeles Times interview. "And the critics blame me for cracking culture?"
Barris also wrote "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," called it an autobiography and claimed to have carried out CIA assassination jobs while hosting "The Gong Show." Barris never admitted it was a joke but in 2007 told CBS: "Somebody checked (with) the head of the CIA and the head of the CIA said that I must have been standing too close to the gong." The book was made into a movie directed by George Clooney.
Barris, who grew up in Philadelphia, started in entertainment as a page at NBC headquarters in New York in the 1950s and eventually used forged recommendations to get into the network’s management training program. Later he would work for Dick Clark on his popular "American Bandstand" show and write the 1962 hit song "Palisades Park" for Freddy "Boom Boom" Cannon.
At the ABC network in the early 1960s, Barris was in charge of deciding which game shows were put on the air but quit to form his own company. He eventually would put more than 15 shows on the air during the 1960s and '70s, starting by conceiving and producing "The Dating Game.”
That show played into the emerging “flower power” culture of the time with a young woman or man asking flirtatious questions of unseen members of the opposite sex and then choosing one for a blind date. The show’s first run lasted nine years - including a prime-time slot - and it had a series of revivals into the '90s.
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