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William Lawrence Francis "Bill" Cullen (February 18, 1920 – July 7, 1990) was an American radio and television personality whose career spanned five decades. He was best known for television game shows, the bespectacled, mild-mannered announcer being one of many interchangeable hosts of these staples of daytime TV.
edit Game-show career
Cullen hosted the original The Price Is Right from 1956 to 1965. On this show, contestants had to guess the correct price of common commercial products (without exceeding it). This occurred in the brief halcyon days of cut-throat capitalism, just after the New Deal, when prices were actually allowed to vary. Back then, guessing the price of something was simple; all prices ended in 99 to maximize the fleecing of customers. Later, Walmart would begin pricing items with a weird-ass number of cents, usually 88 but sometimes 44, to convince customers they were in on something secretly profitable — the forerunner to those casinos where the House never wins.
On this game show, there were several rounds of bidding, during which leapfrogging the previous contestant's guess by a single dollar, an obvious winning strategy and the predecessor of the modern-day tendency to be a dick, was never employed. It was a lost period of simple courtesy, which ended about the time that President George W. Chump announced he was going to make Washington a more civil place.
Additionally, contestants had to state all their positions in the form of a question, a rule that spread to many other game shows. (For example: "Bill, What is, nineteen ninety-nine?")
Decades later, the game-show was resurrected as The New Price Is Right, with both a daytime and a night-time segment (and later, a third show daily, broadcast overnight to truckers on CB Radio). Cullen was offered the position of host, but could not commit to the strenuous workload, as he had not been resurrected.
edit Guest on other shows
Cullen was for years a frequent celebrity guest on I've Got a Secret. The celebrity knew the filming schedule, walked onto the set at the start of taping, and knew that no one would dare ask him to leave. Contestants would compete to ask questions of the panel and try to guess their "secrets." Panelists never managed to guess Cullen's secrets in years of trying. However, any of the following would have been ruled a winner:
- He's gay.
- He's an android who secretly wants to get you on the other side of the pod-bay doors.
- He's governor of California.
Cullen also guested on the short-lived American knock-off of the popular game show Call My Muff.
edit Real secrets
One secret, maintained through the wonders of podiums and set construction, is that Cullen had been crippled by polio and by a car accident. However, in his shrine at the Thick Glasses Hall of Fame, he (like Franklin D. Roosevelt) is proudly portrayed seated in a wheelchair, though the cigarette in his mouth is now censored from the portrait with black duct tape.
A comparably big secret, which no one guessed because it hadn't happened yet, is that the demands of fame and corporate power led Cullen to adopt the alias of Drew Carey. This secret was never guessed even though he insisted on wearing his unmistakeable old glasses, and even on returning to host The Price Is Right in his new guise.
A supermarket chain on Long Island named Rude-O-Rama suffered decreasing sales and underwent turmoil in the executive board room in 1979. As a successful moderator of contentious discussion panels, Cullen was a natural Chairman of the Board. He was recruited to bring order to the enterprise. However, as well as a lucrative contract with stock options, he demanded and got the additional title of king, and also insisted that the entire chain be named after him. The resulting King Kullen stores returned to profitability in 1980.
Game-show executives devised the Bill Cullen Career Achievement Award to honor luminaries in the entertainment industry and, not incidentally, extend their own lifetime meal-ticket. Fittingly, they gave the first award to Bill Cullen himself. Only, he was dead.