*GONNNNGGGGGG*
March 22, 2017 7:49 AM   Subscribe

RIP Chuck Barris, dead at 87. NYT obit. Forever associated with The Gong Show, he not only created The Dating Game and The Newlywed Game, but he was also a songwriter who wrote game show themes and the hit "Palisades Park" for Freddy Cannon. And perhaps he's a CIA assassin as well? He wrote the "autobiography" Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, later made into a film with George Clooney and Drew Barrymore.
posted by Melismata (71 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
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/O\ o-

(dot shaped like a gong)
posted by Gelatin at 7:57 AM on March 22


From Berry to Barris
posted by wheelieman at 7:58 AM on March 22 [5 favorites]


Somewhat odd how close.
posted by filtergik at 8:01 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]


Gene Gene The Dancing Machine inconsolable.
posted by Rob Rockets at 8:02 AM on March 22 [10 favorites]


.

There is literally nothing, nothing, not improved with the addition of a gong, and the instructions to use it when you've had enough of whatever is going on
posted by mikelieman at 8:04 AM on March 22 [12 favorites]


Can someone look in on Chuck Billy?
posted by Etrigan at 8:07 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]


I hope the Lollypop Twins make a... er... statement.

Chuck was the man. I loved the Gong show as a kid. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is a hoot. I really want the CIA stuff to be true.

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posted by bondcliff at 8:08 AM on March 22 [9 favorites]


One of my favorite childhood memories was watching The Gong Show with my sister and my parents. We loved it all, but an appearance by Gene Gene the Dancing Machine would bring squeals of delight and a whole-house dance party. I hadn't though of Chuck Barris in years but I was legit sad this morning when I read that he died. Thanks for your gift, man.

(Oh, and all other famous Chuck Bs: be careful out there.)
posted by AgentRocket at 8:09 AM on March 22 [6 favorites]


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posted by vverse23 at 8:16 AM on March 22


Never paid much attention to Chuck, but not many of us would have George Clooney starring in our autobiography. Always meant to read that book.
posted by LeLiLo at 8:19 AM on March 22


"NATURAL CAUSES" AT 87? WHAT DID HE KNOW????
posted by Evilspork at 8:21 AM on March 22 [16 favorites]


Gene Gene The Dancing Machine inconsolable.

No, Gene Gene the Dancing Machine is gonging him into the afterworld. He died a few years back. Diabetes?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:21 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]


Coincidence? I think not.
posted by jonmc at 8:26 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]


|.<>.|
posted by Pendragon at 8:34 AM on March 22


Apparently, Death had as much trouble telling Chuck Berry and Chuck Barris apart as the rest of us.
posted by xingcat at 8:35 AM on March 22 [7 favorites]


I would prefer to believe that Chuck Barris was, indeed, an assassin for the CIA because, as far as timelines with CIA assassins go, that's one of the best. The one I actually believe I live in is, alas, far more mundane and sordid. The CIA working with some criminal organization to take-out some Central American leftist? Sure. But, ah, what a world it would be if it were someone like Chuck Barris who pulled the trigger.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:38 AM on March 22


Man, I loved the Gong Show as a kid. It wasn't just that it was a dumb game show. There were plenty of those and I didn't care about any of them. The Gong Show was more than that. It was like an escape into a whole other world of goofball insanity, a world that ran on different rules and was so much more fun than the world I was living in.

Part of it was that it was a glimpse into an entirely different cultural zeitgeist, sort of the way Mad Magazine exposed an awkward and isolated white kid growing up in the rural south surrounded by cows to a world view filtered through sarcastic Jews from New York. The Gong Show had a little bit of that. Like who the fuck is Jaye P. Morgan, and why is she a celebrity? (Just googled her. Apparently she was a young ingenue pop singer in the 1950s with a pretty impressive string of hits. Good for her.)

But mostly it was the freedom of it, the joyful anarchy. When they had the occasional real act on, I was like, okay, get on with it and lets get back to the good stuff. In those moments it was just a boring talent show. It became [Country]'s Got Talent, and who cares about that? Those shows have to manufacture things like Susan Boyle where they find someone who doesn't look like a star and the judges pretend to be astonished as if they haven't been through fifty stages of auditions to get there.

But The Gong Show was a place where you could just cut loose and be stupid and have fun, and you'd probably get gonged, but so what? It was actually kind of important to me back then, and I miss it.
posted by Naberius at 8:44 AM on March 22 [37 favorites]


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posted by drezdn at 8:46 AM on March 22


Maybe this is one of those Terminator things, going through the phone book.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 8:48 AM on March 22 [12 favorites]


Aww, Chuck. I loved your show. I keep asking my cable bundlers to put up some reruns, but nooo, we get Golden Girls.

[hit gong]
posted by mule98J at 8:50 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]


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posted by Cash4Lead at 8:51 AM on March 22


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posted by cazoo at 8:59 AM on March 22


I could have sworn that Chuck Barris was already dead. When I saw someone post about him on Facebook this morning, I was all primed to reply "Check the date on that obit", but when I checked, sure enough, it was today's date on the dateline.

Anyway, I used to watch The Gong Show quite a lot when I was a young teenager, though a lot of the double entendre was lost on me at the time. Same with The Newlywed Game. It's too bad daytime TV isn't like that any more. He was a genius.
posted by briank at 9:03 AM on March 22


"I have a bad feeling about this," responded local resident Chuck Barends.
posted by Wolfdog at 9:04 AM on March 22 [13 favorites]


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posted by Splunge at 9:06 AM on March 22


The Gong Show was a part of my latch-key, after-school, TV ritual and I loved it. Gene Gene The Dancing Machine was great, and The Unknown Comic was also a favorite. And add Jaye P. Morgan to the list of sassy 70s women that made an impression on me. But Chuck Barris just made everything better. I also hope the stories are true.

So one day my folks come home, and someone they knew had given us tickets to the live taping of the show, which ended up being The Gong Show All Star Special. I don't really remember much, unfortunately, but every once in a while, like today, I remember I saw The Gong Show live, and how that was probably the most unlikely thing my family ever did together. Thanks, Chuck.

What a life.

not many of us would have George Clooney starring in our autobiography.

It is national treasure, Sam Rockwell, who played Barris. Brilliantly, as always.

*blows Dating Game kiss 💋*
posted by Room 641-A at 9:09 AM on March 22 [11 favorites]


But mostly it was the freedom of it, the joyful anarchy

Couldn't agree more.

Thank you, Chuck.
posted by JoeZydeco at 9:18 AM on March 22 [5 favorites]


Dead or "disappeared"? There's no way to be sure.
posted by tommasz at 9:19 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]


Mr. Barris' passing should be treated with the respect he deserved from his life.

"IN THE BUTT, BOB!!!"

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posted by dannyboybell at 9:19 AM on March 22 [5 favorites]


The amount of cocaine it must have taken to get one of those episodes filmed is likely staggering.

I can't believe he lived this long, especially after going public with his service to the CIA.

The popsicle skit and Jaye P Morgan flashing (fully exposed in the Gong Show movie) were major events in my sexual awakening. Oh Jaye P.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 9:27 AM on March 22 [6 favorites]


As host of the Gong Show, Barris was a joy to watch. He came off as simultaneously out of his element, ridiculously self-assured and suspiciously off-kilter. I can't think of a single host since then who has managed to make a daytime show so dangerous and fun and chaotic. Occasionally you'll see a whiff of something like it on a late night show, but for the most part TV execs have found ways to sanitize just about everything. It's hard to see how a Barris would make it onto a primetime slot today and get away with a tenth of what he got away with back then.
posted by vverse23 at 9:31 AM on March 22 [6 favorites]


"'IN THE BUTT, BOB!!!'"

The best thing about this is, in my opinion, the fact that it was long thought to be apocryphal and false until some outtake footage surfaced showing that it actually, sorta, happened. Not just quite that way that people claimed to remember it or the UL went.

For me, what was fun was being active in alt.folklore.urban, along with snopes's (ex) Barbara Mikkelson, when this clip finally came to light. For years we'd been debunking this bit of urban folklore and then, amazingly, it turned out to be true.

Which, by the way, just reinforced the crucial point that that real salience of urban folklore is not whether it is actually true or false, but how it functions socially.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:44 AM on March 22 [4 favorites]


The most sublime moment of The Gong Show was when Danny Elfman was unleashed upon the world for the first time.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:46 AM on March 22 [9 favorites]


Jaye P. Morgan is still alive at 85.
posted by readery at 9:46 AM on March 22 [4 favorites]


Then there was the time Barris trolled the judges and audience of the Gong Show with back-to-back performances of the same damn song for the entire show.

I'm still waiting to see them do this on The Voice.
posted by vverse23 at 9:51 AM on March 22 [11 favorites]


I think, in these dark days for our nation, a full DVD/online release of The Gong Show is just the shot of absurdity and public abandon that we need. Barris, hat below his eyes, punching his arms out to Gene Gene's theme, leading us to the promised land.

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posted by the sobsister at 10:11 AM on March 22 [6 favorites]


Well . . .

I liked Pallisades Park okay at the time, I guess.

Too, I wish I had a dollar for every sad cat I've met who claimed to have once been a CIA asset / operative / agent / hit-man / assassin, etc. All jive -- except Keith Carradine, of course.

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posted by Herodios at 10:15 AM on March 22


I was ten years old in 1978 and I loved, loved, loved the Gong Show. Our parents and grandparents had the Marx Brothers and the Three Stooges and we had the Gong Show.
posted by zzazazz at 10:20 AM on March 22 [4 favorites]


"Too, I wish I had a dollar for every sad cat I've met who claimed to have once been a CIA asset / operative / agent / hit-man / assassin, etc. All jive -- except Keith Carradine, of course."

The thing is, though, that useful idiots are, well, most useful to intelligence agencies. One of the things that all the fictionalized accounts of tradecraft get wrong is that they depict spies doing wetwork themselves. But they almost entirely don't. I mean, really, the recent assassination in Malaysia is a good example. You don't have your actual, highly and expensively trained assets take the risk of exposure; instead, you use criminals or fanatics or just plain patsies. So, really, god only knows who could actually have been a CIA asset. Not "operative", but "asset". That nutty drunk next to you? Not as unlikely as you might think.

So I am not entirely unbelieving of Barris's claims. Almost entirely. But not entirely.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:21 AM on March 22 [4 favorites]


Barris, hat below his eyes,

This. THIS is the sacred image of Barris that will always and forever be in my mind. Which I didn't know until just now. Thank you.
posted by Melismata at 10:25 AM on March 22 [6 favorites]


Hey, don't forget Rip Taylor and The $1.98 Beauty Show...
posted by valkane at 10:30 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]


So I was going to post a fake-dumb tweet with a Sam Rockwell GIF instead of the real thing, but I can't do fake-dumb on twitter anymore because there's too much real-dumb now. But anyway: thanks, Chuck, for blazing a trail with the Gong Show.
posted by fedward at 10:35 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]


instead, you use criminals or fanatics or just plain patsies.

Depends on the job, I would think. General terror attacks can be done by nutjob fanatics, but if you want a specific job done right the first time, and get away with it, you want a professional.

I think I saw five minutes of the gong show once. The silly I could handle - I like Benny Hill - but I thought the set up was mean spirited exploitation of the naive and simple minded. Rather like the early rounds of American Idol. Which sounds snippy, but there it is.
posted by IndigoJones at 10:36 AM on March 22


Here's a nickel for ya Chuckie. :-(
posted by theartandsound at 10:36 AM on March 22


Aww, Chuck. I loved your show. I keep asking my cable bundlers to put up some reruns, but nooo, we get Golden Girls.

[hit gong]


YOU GONG THAT GONG BACK, MISTER
posted by clockzero at 10:39 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]


Then there was the time Barris trolled the judges and audience of the Gong Show with back-to-back performances of the same damn song for the entire show.

Oh man, I had totally forgotten about that! Thank you!
posted by JanetLand at 10:47 AM on March 22 [4 favorites]


It was "Feelings." As I recall, they didn't really score any of the acts, and then they got everyone out at the end to do an all-star jam of it.
posted by AJaffe at 10:53 AM on March 22 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: We'll be right back with more stuff!
posted by schoolgirl report at 10:54 AM on March 22 [10 favorites]


MetaFilter: Now, enough's enough. Let's not overdo a good thing.

BTW It seems Carol Burnett was familiar with that episode of the Gong Show.
posted by fedward at 10:57 AM on March 22 [2 favorites]


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posted by limeonaire at 11:11 AM on March 22


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posted by Unioncat at 11:29 AM on March 22


I think I saw five minutes of the gong show once. The silly I could handle - I like Benny Hill - but I thought the set up was mean spirited exploitation of the naive and simple minded.

You're thinking of C-Span. The Gong Show was an utterly ridiculous show where everyone was in on the joke and nobody in the history of the Planet Earth took seriously.

And it was wonderful.
posted by bondcliff at 11:37 AM on March 22 [19 favorites]


A little less of the absurd in the world today. It is a little darker for its passing.

I am giving this news an F for Failure, a U for Unhappy, a C for cheerlessness, and a K for killed.

0 points.
posted by Samizdata at 12:24 PM on March 22 [2 favorites]


The one non-recurring act I will always remember was the guy who came on in a pink tutu and delivered a phenomenal solo on classical guitar. I later found out the guy was Tommy Tedesco, legendary studio musician and columnist for Guitar Player magazine.
posted by Flexagon at 12:29 PM on March 22 [11 favorites]


But The Gong Show was a place where you could just cut loose and be stupid and have fun, and you'd probably get gonged, but so what?

I absolutely wanted to get gonged off. I think that I had the idea to try to play "Flight of the Bumblebee" on a whoopee cushion, but didn't go through with it. (I was barely a teenager at the time, anyway.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:51 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]


Once pranked Chuck at a book reading at the Page St Library in SF. A half a dozen of us went dressed as the Unknown Comic and we brought our own gong. Never rang to gong, we preferred the pregnancy it gave the moment as he talked about stories of his life and how the book and movie got made.

He loved it, I even have the paper bag mask he signed.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 1:46 PM on March 22 [9 favorites]


In Praise of the Gong Show (from 2015).
posted by Melismata at 1:57 PM on March 22 [2 favorites]


I'm another person with a period of daily after-school viewings of the Gong Show looming large in memory. Once in a very great while I'll come across articles re-appraising the show, and generally those articles treat the show very kindly. The one that Melismata just posted is pretty representative.

The thing is, I'm not sure those articles aren't being maybe too kind in their judgments. And I say that as someone who loved the show, found it absolutely fascinating. It was hilarious and unlike anything else on TV, and sort of postulated itself as the ultimate bottoming-out towards which all mass media was inevitably devolving. It was a high school class clown's smart ass response to Andy Warhol's famous-for-fifteen-minutes meme. Maybe the funniest thing about "The Gong Show" is that it ended up being broadcast at all.

Barris himself was something that we don't come across all that often in celebrity culture: a genuine eccentric. A guy like that, he probably never should've been in charge of a TV show, much less several of them. He didn't look at all comfortable with it. We're lucky we got to see what it was like when it happened anyway. I hope he enjoyed his life, and I'm sorry to hear he's gone.
posted by Ipsifendus at 3:09 PM on March 22 [2 favorites]


Now it can be told that the original concept for The Gong Show actually was semi-stolen from my radio business mentor, "Sweet" Dick Whittington. He had a show on KFI radio when the owners decided to move the studios to a newer facility - the old studios included one with a full audience facility that had been used for network radio shows in the '40s, including Jack Benny and Burns & Allen and he wanted to do a "last show" there that was respectful to the tradition but also his kind of wackiness. Somebody mentioned the old "Original Amateur Hour"and he ran with it, taking auditions over the phone on his show. I had been one of his "regulars" but I'd recently gotten a part-time job at the station so I backed off from participating. He got a bunch of people doing weird acts he invited to the show. The day came, the studio audience was mostly filled and news crews from most of the local TV stations were in attendance for the "Historic Last Broadcast", as the KFI publicist called it.

I was standing backstage just taking it all in when halfway through, Whittington's Assistant/Producer (a job I would later have) approached me. The acts were going faster than planned, there were a couple of no-shows and he asked me to come up with something to fill a couple minutes. I looked across the cluttered stage on which cables were laid out willy-nilly and got an idea. With a few minutes left in the hour, I was sent out and Whittington, in MC mode said "I'm not sure what the next act is, but... WENDELL?!? What are YOU doing here?" "Well, Mister Sweet, I've never spoken much about this, but I have a secret talent. I am a tightrope walker." The studio audience looked at the overweight nerd with glasses and laughed. "I couldn't get my regular equipment here, but if you can stretch one of these cables tight, I can do a Ground Level Tightrope Routine." So, I stretched my arms out, started vocalizing an impression of circus calliope music and walked from one end of the stage to the other on one of the cables (while the station Engineer glared at me angrily for messing with his equipment), finishing with a simulated dismount and a loud "TaDaa!" to a reasonable amount of applause. That night I watched the local TV news coverage of the event and only one station showed my act, prefaced by the anchor saying "I've worked in radio and I've worked on TV and there are still a few things that are just better on radio."

This all happened about a year before The Gong Show debuted, and when it did, I privately asked Whittington if Chuck Barris had stolen the idea for "a silly talent show" from him. And he said that Barris had talked to him; he said that seeing the news coverage of his show had indeed inspired him (but apparently not the one where I appeared because they never had a Ground Level Tightrope Walker and I decided never to apply), he offered Whittington the hosting gig (there were several 'wacky guys' who turned him down before Barris decided to do it himself) and paid him a token sum to avoid future legal issues. In fact, I think he was covered by a Non-Disclosure Agreement so I didn't want to mention it while Chuck Barris was still alive...
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:11 PM on March 22 [12 favorites]


In Australia we had a show called Hey Hey it's Saturday. It went for a few hours with comedians, interviews, entertainment news and a musical performance by the band du jour. One of the segments was called Red Faces, and it was the gong show, more or less. Three judges, three acts, and a big gong that would be smashed when everyone had had enough. This was all live.

The show was cancelled in the 90s but had a reunion special around about the time Michael Jackson died. So one of the acts on Red Faces was a tribute. In blackface.

Harry Connick jr was one of the judges and wasn't very impressed. I had a guilt wave wash over me, because until he pointed out IT'S BLACKFACE WHAT THE FUCK!?!? I was just enjoying a Michael Jackson tribute. I wasn't alone in being oblivious to what that meant. We have racism in Australia, but not that specific brand and it just didn't register with everyone involved. It's a shame.
posted by adept256 at 4:59 PM on March 22


I saw the story, and said "Awh, Chuck Barris died." And my husband said "Who?". So I reeled off all the shows and stuff and he just looked at me like he was the RCA dog and I was a record player. And then he was all "I dunno babe, before my time."

And that, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is why I hit him with a stick.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 5:58 PM on March 22 [17 favorites]


But mostly it was the freedom of it, the joyful anarchy
indeed

almost forgot
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posted by dougzilla at 10:18 PM on March 22 [2 favorites]


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posted by Joey Michaels at 3:48 AM on March 23


To this day, if something's playing on the car radio and my wife or I wants the station changed, whichever one doesn't like the current tune will just say "GONNNGGGGG."
posted by azpenguin at 7:42 AM on March 23


I really liked Chuck Barris. But then again, I like pink-eye.
[CLAP]
posted by Cookiebastard at 7:42 AM on March 23 [3 favorites]


But mostly it was the freedom of it, the joyful anarchy
indeed yt

almost forgot
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An entire documentary could be made on the guy in the control room who had to execute that split-second cutaway from Jaye P. Morgan's breasts.
posted by vverse23 at 3:34 PM on March 23 [4 favorites]


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posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 10:19 PM on March 23


> Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, later made into a film with George Clooney and Drew Barrymore.

George Clooney? GEORGE CLOONEY?

How can somebody mention this movie and not mention that Chuck was played by the incomparable Sam Rockwell? (Check that link out - it's his screen test for the part)
posted by Enron Hubbard at 1:21 PM on March 24


How can somebody mention this movie and not mention that Chuck was played by the incomparable Sam Ro--

*GONG*
posted by Room 641-A at 6:07 PM on March 24


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posted by detachd at 7:38 AM on March 26


At first I thought Chuck Barris was now a conservative pundit, but now I realize I was confusing him with Chuck Woolery.
posted by slogger at 7:21 AM on March 27


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