Bob Barker Leaving TV After 50 Years
10/31/2006 AT 05:10 PM EST
"I will be 83 years old on Dec. 12," he told the Associated Press, "and I've decided to retire while I'm still young."
The TV icon, who has hosted CBS's The Price Is Right for 35 years, will step down in June.
"I've gone on and on and on to this ancient age because I've enjoyed it," he said. "I've thoroughly enjoyed it and I'm going to miss it."
CBS president and CEO Leslie Moonves called Barker's contribution to the network "immeasurable."
But the show was getting to be too much for Barker. "I'm just reaching the age where the constant effort to be there and do the show physically is a lot for me," he said. "I might be able to do the show another year, but better (to leave) a year too soon than a year too late."
As a young man, Barker was a Navy pilot, and in 1947, while trying to make ends meet while earning a degree in economics from Springfield, Missouri's Drury College, he landed a job as sportscaster and DJ at a local radio station. One day he was asked to pinch hit as emcee of an audience-participation show and came away loving it.
At the time, his wife, Dorothy Jo, whom he met while in high school and married while on leave from the Navy, told him: " 'This is what you should do,' " Barker recalled for PEOPLE in 1999.
Dorothy Jo, who died of cancer at age 57 in 1981, became Barker's sidekick, singing commercial jingles in a string of L.A.-based radio talent shows, until Ralph Edwards, the producer-creator of TV's Truth or Consequences, tapped Barker to succeed him as its host in 1956. Barker hosted the show, in which he egged on contestants to perform crazy stunts, for 18 years.
He first appeared on Price on Sept. 4, 1972.
In his retirement, Barker told the AP he plans to "sit down for maybe a couple of weeks and find out what it feels like to be bored." Then, he said, he'll work with animal-rights organizations, including his own DJ&T Foundation, founded in memory of Dorothy Jo and Barker's late mother, Matilda.
Barker added that he "doesn't have the words" to thank his fans enough. "From the bottom of my heart, I thank the television viewers, because they have made it possible for me to earn a living for 50 years doing something that I thoroughly enjoy. They have invited me into their homes daily for a half a century."