Inside the Beltway

by John McCaslin

(The Washington Times, 29 May 2007)



It was just over one year ago that TV game-show host Bob Barker last appeared in this column, when we had observed that Hollywood was “missing in action” when it comes to fighting the war on terrorism, not to mention other recent military conflicts.


We had challenged readers to name one modern American celebrity, apart from the late football star Pat Tillman, who served or fought for his or her country in the past 15 years. Nobody could name a single soul, which is in sharp contrast to World War II, when professional actors and others in the entertainment industry patriotically tossed aside lucrative scripts to fight in defense of their country.


Among them: Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, Walter Matthau, Charles Bronson, Gene Autry, Robert Conrad, Gene Roddenberry, Robert Altman, Jack Palance, Humphrey Bogart, Jason Robards, Henry Fonda, George C. Scott, Glenn Ford, Brian Keith, Ernest Borgnine, Eddie Albert, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Kirk Douglas, Shecky Greene, Paul Newman, Jack Lemmon, Jackie Cooper, Rock Hudson, Tony Curtis, Cliff Robertson, Rod Steiger, Dennis Weaver and Robert Stack.


Also dressed for battle were James Arness, Alan Hale Jr., Victor Mature, Telly Savalas, Arthur Godfrey, Tyrone Power, Ed McMahon, Lee Marvin, Don Adams, Sterling Hayden, John Russell, James Whitmore, Rod Serling, Jack Warden, Ted Knight, Burt Lancaster, George Kennedy, Art Carney, Burgess Meredith, Cameron Mitchell, Kevin McCarthy, Martin Balsam, Jackie Coogan, Dale Robertson, George Reeves, Russell Johnson, Robert Preston, George Gobel, Gene Raymond, Karl Malden, Red Buttons, Robert Taylor, Charles Durning, Lee Powell, Carl Reiner, John Agar, Jeff Chandler, Ossie Davis, Frank Gorshin, Werner Klemperer, Rick Jason, Charlton Heston, William Holden, Robert Montgomery, Desi Arnaz, Norman Mailer, Alex Haley, Louis L'Amour and Bob Keeshan.


And then there is Bob Barker, “a man from my district,” Rep. Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican, noted in recent days while paying tribute to Mr. Barker upon his forthcoming retirement as host of TV's “The Price is Right.” It was while pursuing studies at Drury College in Springfield, Mo., where he was voted class president during both his sophomore and senior years, that Mr. Barker like so many of his generation answered his country's call.


He left school to train as a Navy fighter pilot, returning to Drury to graduate summa cum laude in 1947.