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His success was not that of a Chance The Gardener-like figure, an imbecile who wandered into a fortune through happenstance.
Three decades ago, game show producer Chuck Barris predicted how his obituaries would begin: "Gonged! If there is a celestial game show host, He has rung the bell for Barris, who died this past week at the age of 89. There would be no President Trump if there had been no "The Dating Game" and our current culture in which people want to Live Stream their tonsilectomies would not have arrived—at least not so soon—without him.
The creator of such lowbrow but sometimes amusing TV shows as "The Dating Game" and "The Newlywed Game" and the creator and host of "The Gong Show" was living a quiet life in Rockland County, New York. It has been 15 years since "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," the movie loosely based on his "unauthorized autobiography" came out, and decades since the sale of his TV production company made him a centi-millionaire. Raised in a moderately well-off Jewish family in Philadelphia, Barris's first interest was in music.
The show both anticipated David Letterman and his use of deliberately amateurish features like Stupid Pet Tricks and the appearance on shows like "American Idol" of contestants expressly selected for their ineptitude and talentlessness.
Yet, unlike onetime "Idol" host Simon Cowell, Barris never belittled guests when they were "gonged" off the show, instead praising them and greeting them warmly.
Although Barris was widely dismissed as "The Baron of Bad Taste" and as the premier purveyor of schlock TV in the 1970s, he deserves our grudging acknowledgment. Hoping to get into Tin Pan Alley, he started out professionally as a writer of pop ditties, something he did with intermittent success.