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Television host, creator, producer, and possible CIA assassin Chuck Barris has passed away. He was 87. Through his long, sinuous career in showbiz, Barris was an original. He created two of the most popular game shows of all time: The Dating Game and The Newlywed Game, both of which have been rebooted and re-aired repeatedly since their inception.
But it was his 1976 invention that made him a household name — The Gong Show. Originally meant to air with a different host who didn’t fully grasp the concept that this was not a talent show but a parody of one, Barris jumped into the position of host at the eleventh hour to save his creation. And Barris reveled in the criticism for his lowbrow humor. “In my opinion, a good game show review is the kiss of death,” he told Salon in 2001.
All the while, Barris was leading a secret life, or so he claimed. In his 1984 book, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind: An Unauthorized Autobiography, Barris told his tale of becoming a traveling game show producer by day and a hired gun for the Central Intelligence Agency when no one was watching. The book detailed the assassination of a Communist revolutionary in Mexico, the murder of a London courier after the delivery of top-secret microfilm — that then had to be stashed in a most uncomfortable place — and the whacking of a mole within the CIA that may have been responsible for the death of his friends.
George Clooney and writer Charlie Kaufman brought the book to the big screen, with Sam Rockwell depicting Barris in a wild tale of sex, drugs, and contract killing that was even more outlandish than the book. Barris, to his dying day, denied the story he told was untrue, but the CIA said, unequivocally, that it was.
At a 2007 Q&A event at a bookstore in California, Barris mused about his own demise. “I think on my tombstone it’s just going to say, ‘Gonged at last,’ and I’m stuck with that.” Rest in peace, Mr. Barris.
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Chuck Barris, Wacky Host and Creator of ‘The Gong Show,’ Dies at 87
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