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Bill Cullen 1920-1990

Country : Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Profession : Game show host
Date of birth : 1920-02-18
Date of death : 1990-07-07
Cause of Death : Lung cancer

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William Lawrence Francis "Bill" Cullen (February 18, 1920July 7, 1990) was an American radio and television personality whose career spanned five decades. He was best known for television game shows, where he hosted multiple series (including the original Price Is Right, The $25,000 Pyramid and Blockbusters) and served as a panelist for over twenty years combined on I've Got a Secret and To Tell the Truth.


Early life

Cullen was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the only child of William Cullen and Lillian (née Stuckert) Cullen. He survived a childhood bout with polio that left him with a limp for the rest of his life. In most of his later game shows, the set was designed in such a way that he came out from behind the curtain or from off stage riding on something of a turntable so that he never had to walk any distance across the stage. For example, on the Pyramid incarnations, when he served as a celebrity guest, he and his fellow guest would already be at their tables; usually the guests would walk out from behind the set to be introduced. He also wore very thick spectacles, which became a trademark.

Cullen's career began in his hometown of Pittsburgh, where he worked at WWSW radio. He assisted sportscaster Joe Tucker, who called Pittsburgh Steelers games. He was well-known for his puckish sense of humor and for playing pranks on his fellow announcers while they were on the air. Cullen decided to try his luck in New York and one of his first jobs was writing for the Easy Aces radio show.

Game show career

After moving to New York City he hosted several radio programs, including game shows, in the late 1940s and 1950s. His first TV game show was Winner Take All, a Mark Goodson-Bill Todman production that aired on CBS in 1952. He hosted the daytime and prime-time versions of The Price Is Right, another Goodson-Todman production, from 1956 to 1965. He was also a panelist on I've Got a Secret from 1952 until 1967 and then on To Tell the Truth from 1969 until 1978, where he would also guest host on occasion. Cullen sub-hosted the late-1970s revival of Password on NBC, known as Password Plus for four weeks in April 1980, when Allen Ludden had stomach cancer. He was also in the running to be the host of the revival of the longest-running CBS game show, The Price Is Right. However, the physical demands of the new format were considered too strenuous for Cullen. The job was instead split between Bob Barker (daytime) and Dennis James (nighttime); Barker took over both versions in 1977, and hosted Price until his retirement in 2007. Current Price host Drew Carey maintains a style of haircut and eyeglasses quite similar to what Cullen sported during his hosting of Price and often refers to Cullen during some games on the show, most notably during his running gags on Barker's Bargain Bar regarding the franchise. Additionally, Studio 33 was temporarily renamed the "Bill Cullen Studio" as part of the show's April Fool's theme in 2009.

While much of Cullen's hosting duties were on the East Coast, one game early in his career and those in his later years were shot in California. One show he hosted, How Do You Like Your Eggs?, was filmed in Columbus, Ohio, for Warner Cable's QUBE system.

Cullen hosted 23 different game shows over the years, making him host of more game shows than anyone in television history. These shows included Eye Guess in the 1960s, Three on a Match and the nighttime version of The $25,000 Pyramid in the 1970s, and Chain Reaction, Blockbusters, Child's Play, Hot Potato, and The Joker's Wild in the 1980s (the last one after Jack Barry died).

He appeared as a celebrity guest on many other game shows throughout his TV career, including I've Got a Secret, Password, To Tell the Truth, Match Game, and all pre-$100,000 versions of Pyramid. Cullen also hosted a number of pilots for his close friend, quiz producer Bob Stewart, who created Price, Truth and Password for Goodson-Todman and Pyramid for his own company. He thus became the only person to host each of these formats on a full- or part-time basis. He also appeared as a panelist/host on several game shows hosted by his favorite understudy, Bob Eubanks, including those of Liar's Club, Trivia Trap, Rhyme and Reason, and All Star Secrets, and also made guest appearances with him on Family Feud. He was also a close friend of Canadian-American host Jim Perry.

In 1982, Cullen made a surprise appearance on The Price Is Right to promote his new game show, Child's Play. This was the only time Cullen ever appeared on the revival of Price and no mention was made of Cullen's original run as host. Coincidentally, his successor Bob Barker made a similar move to promote his new book Priceless Memories in April 2009 on Drew Carey's set.


Cullen was a pilot during World War II and was interested in mechanics. He did color commentary on college football games early in his career, and also broadcast track and field on NBC. On I've Got A Secret, producers Mark Goodson and Bill Todman learned that if they wanted to keep the game going for a while, they could never start with Cullen if the secret was anything sports-related or mechanical, because chances were good that he would guess it immediately.


The Game Show Congress, a nonprofit association that seeks to promote the game show industry, annually presents the Bill Cullen Career Achievement Award to performers who have had distinguished careers in the genre. The first award in 2004 was given posthumously to Cullen himself, which his widow Ann accepted.

Personal life

Cullen was married three times. His first marriage was a brief one while still living in Pittsburgh. His second marriage was to singer Carol Ames from 1949 to 1955. On December 24, 1955, Cullen married former dancer and model Ann Roemheld Macomber, daughter of composer Heinz Roemheld; this marriage would last until his death. Ann often appeared with Bill on Tattletales in the '70s and '80s.


Cullen, a smoker for most of his life, died on July 7, 1990, of lung cancer in Los Angeles.

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