Chuck Barris, the enigmatic TV personality who created hit shows such as The Gong Show and wrote several books, including Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, has passed away at the age of 87. His publicist Paul Sherfin confirmed that he passed from natural causes at his home in Palisades, New York, surrounded by friends and family members. While he may not be a household name to some, Chuck Barris' career had a lasting impact on the entertainment industry.
The Hollywood Reporter reveals that, in lieu of flowers, the Barris family is asking fans send donations in his name to the New York Police Foundation. Charles Hirsch Barris was born on June 3, 1929, the son of a dentist and a housewife, who graduated from Lower Merion High School and Drexel University, before landing a job in the foundry at U.S. Steel. Chuck Barris got his start in the entertainment industry with ABC, with the network hiring him to shadow and follow Dick Clark, to ascertain whether the beloved entertainer was involved in the illegal practice of payola. This went on for more than a year, with Chuck Barris' notes presented before a House of Representatives sub-committee, which absolved Dick Clark of any wrong-doing.
At the same time, Chuck Barris had written the hit song "Palisades Park," a tribute to the beloved New Jersey amusement park, which was performed by Freddy Baron, and was one of the singer's biggest hits, reaching #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles charts in June 1962. He would later go on to write the theme music for many of the TV shows he created and produced. He spent a brief stint in Los Angeles as ABC's director of daytime television, before becoming an independent producer. While living off his royalties from "Palisades Park," the late writer created and developed the hit series The Dating Game, which he sold to ABC and debuted in 1965, hosted by San Francisco radio personality Jim Lange. Here's what the host had to say about this innovative show in a 2002 Los Angeles Times interview.
"When The Dating Game came out, women had to wait for a man to call. Having them make the choices [on the show] appealed to the female population, the target demographic."
Legendary sportscaster Al Michaels was part of Chuck Barris' staff on the show, with contestants that includes stars such as Burt Reynolds, Michael Jackson and John Ritter. In 1966, Chuck Barris produced The Newlywed Game, which also aired on ABC, hosted by Bob Eubanks. Chuck Barris was also a pioneer of first-run syndication, selling his shows to local stations after the network had canceled them, to keep them on the air. He created the company Chuck Barris Productions in 1968 and would sell his shares to Burt Sugarman in 1986, in a deal which valued the company at $86 million, an evaluation which now stands at $195 million today. Producers Jon Peters and Peter Guber owned the company for a period of time, before Sony Pictures bought the company, retaining the rights to this day.
While he often came off as aloof, he was in fact a shrewd businessman, although he was not the most beloved producer when it came to the critics. He created The Gong Show, which ran from 1976 to 1980, with Chuck Barris himself hosting the show for a period of time, after original host John Barbour didn't work out. He was given nicknames such as "The King of Schlock," "The Baron of Bad Taste" and "The Ayatollah of Trasherola," which eventually had an impact on the writer-producer.
He spent two years in seclusion, holed up in a New York City hotel room, where he would eventually write his memoir Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, which was published in 1982 and turned into a movie adaptation in 2003, starring Sam Rockwell, written by Charlie Kaufman, and marking the feature directorial debut of George Clooney. In the book, which was billed as an "unauthorized autobiography," Chuck Barris claimed that, while he was producing and creating his hit TV shows, he was also moonlighting as a CIA assassin, where he claims to have killed 33 people. The CIA has denied that Chuck Barris had ever worked for the CIA. Chuck Barris is preceded in death by his daughter Della, who passed away in 1998 from an overdose of drugs and alcohol. He is survived by his wife of 16 years, Mary Clagett.