For nearly three decades and over 5,500 episodes, Janice Pennington served as one of the so-called “Barker’s Beauties,” who were the models that showcased the products, presented the games and helped The Price is Right run smoothly.
ET’s Kevin Frazier recently sat down with Pennington, who looked back at her time on the show — where she was Barker’s right-hand model from the first episode in 1972 until the year 2000 — and recalled what it was like to be on one of the most popular gameshows in the country.
“It was amazing! I can’t tell you, it was like a party every day. It was a party,” Pennington recalled with a smile. “The audience was very excited and they knew the games. If you knew prices, you could play the games, so it was easy in that regard, and Bob was just fun, you know?”
“We actually laughed so much of the day and we had lunches together and it was fantastic to work there,” she added. “Really, you looked forward to going in to work every day… it was a very friendly atmosphere. Everyone was having fun, especially Bob.”
According to Pennington, Barker loved the unscripted and unpredictable nature of the show and found great joy in playing off of the wild personalities of the contests who got called up to play and even the occasional unexpected mishap that could turn into great TV.
“When something would go wrong, [like] when a refrigerator would fall over, Bob was so great at ad-libbing,” Pennington reflected. “Nothing threw him… he just would roll with any situation.”
Barker hosted the series from 1972 until he retired in 2007, at the age of 83. During that time, Pennington said he loved almost all the different games that the show presented to contestants — from fan favorites to more obscure offerings.
“I think he loved them all. Plinko, the grocery game, anything. The main thing for him [was] he liked to pick contestants that he thought he could get really engaged, get a laugh out of them… but I think he loved [all the games], he really did.”
“It’s hard to imagine, but every day I loved going to work. I really did. The people we worked with, the crew, the cameramen, it was like a family,” Pennington said. “Especially when you’re there for 29 years. It really is a family.”
Pennington’s run on the show came to an abrupt and unexpected end in 2000 when she was terminated from the show, and not even given a chance to deliver an on-air goodbye. However, after all these years, Pennington said she doesn’t harbor ill will and when looking back on her time with Barker, likely won’t hold on to her memories of the rough patches.
Reflecting on her interactions with Barker after her exit, Pennington said, “After I left the show, he sort of stayed to himself. He did a lot of work with animals. We didn’t see him [anymore]. He was quite private.”
Despite their own relationship coming to a halt years ago, Pennington said she feels Barker was likely content and happy in his later years, after departing the series.
“I think [he was] very happy. He loved his home, he loved his animals, he had family members that he spent time with and I really think he liked his quiet life,” she shared. “He had his own little world there.”
Before Barker‘s death on Saturday at the age of 99, the beloved former gameshow host had spent the last few years of his life out of the spotlight, under the care of his longtime girlfriend, Nancy Burnet.
In a statement to ET on Saturday, Barker’s longtime publicist, Roger Neal, said, “It is with profound sadness that we announce that the World’s Greatest MC who ever lived, Bob Barker, has left us.”
For Pennington, she has no doubt that Barker will certainly be remembered as one of the greatest and most beloved game show hosts to ever grace TV screens.
“You tell me anyone that did it like he did,” Pennington said. “He was charming, he loved his job, and when you love your job it shows. He loved the audience, he loved everything about it.”
For more on Barker’s life and legacy, see the video below.