Cullen in 1954
William Lawrence Francis Cullen|
February 18, 1920
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
July 7, 1990 70) (aged|
Bel Air, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Lung cancer|
|Alma mater||University of Pittsburgh|
Game show host
Unknown (1943-19?; divorced)|
Carol Ames (1949–55; divorced)
Ann Roemheld Macomber (1955–90; his death)
William Lawrence Francis "Bill" Cullen (February 18, 1920 – July 7, 1990) was an American radio and television personality whose career spanned five decades. His biggest claim to fame was as a game show host, and over the course of his career he hosted twenty-three shows and earned the nickname "Dean of Game Show Hosts". Aside from his hosting duties, he appeared as a panelist/celebrity guest on many other game shows including regular appearances on I've Got a Secret and To Tell the Truth.
Cullen was a pre-med student at the University of Pittsburgh but had to withdraw because of financial problems. After he had some success in radio, he returned to the university and earned a bachelor's degree.
Cullen's broadcasting career began in 1939 in Pittsburgh at WWSW radio, where he worked as a disc jockey and play-by-play announcer or color commentator for Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Hornets games. In 1943, Cullen left WWSW to briefly work at rival station KDKA before leaving Pittsburgh a year later to try his luck in New York. A week after arriving in New York he was hired as a staff announcer at CBS.
To supplement his then-meager income, he became a freelance joke writer for some of the top radio stars of the day including Arthur Godfrey, Danny Kaye, and Jack Benny; he also worked as a staff writer for the Easy Aces radio show.
His first venture into game shows was in 1945 when he was hired as announcer for a radio quiz called Give And Take. Between 1946–53 he worked as announcer for various other local and network shows, including the radio version of Mark Goodson and Bill Todman's first game show, Winner Take All, hosted by Ward Wilson; Cullen took over as host four months later when Wilson left. After a brief stint at WNEW in 1951 he later hosted a popular morning show at WRCA radio from 1955 to 1961. His last regular radio job was as one of the hosts of NBC Radio's Monitor from 1971–73.
Cullen was a pilot for the United States Army Air Corps in World War II. Cullen served in the Civil Air Patrol as an instructor and patrol pilot in his native Pennsylvania during World War II (having failed to qualify for combat duty due to his physical disabilities), and was interested in mechanics.
Cullen's first television game show was the TV version of Winner Take All,:1183 which premiered on CBS in 1952. In 1953, Cullen had The Bill Cullen Show, a weekly morning variety program on CBS. He hosted Bank on the Stars in 1954. From 1954 to 1955 he hosted NBC's Place the Face, a program in which celebrities identified people from their past;:838 he simultaneously hosted CBS's Name That Tune. From 1956 to 1966 he hosted the initial daytime and prime-time versions of The Price Is Right,:853 another Goodson-Todman Production. He was also a panelist on I've Got a Secret:518 from 1952 to 1967, and To Tell the Truth:1089 from 1969 to 1978, where he would also guest host on occasion. After relocating to Southern California, Cullen guest hosted Password Plus for four weeks in April 1980 while original host Allen Ludden was being treated for stomach cancer.
Cullen was initially in the running to host the 1972 revival of The Price Is Right for CBS, but the physical demands of the new format were deemed too strenuous for him. Consequently, Bob Barker was selected to host the daytime version while Dennis James hosted the syndicated nighttime version; Barker took over both versions in 1977, and remained the show's host until his retirement in 2007. Occasional references to Cullen have been made by current The Price Is Right host Drew Carey.
Other game shows Cullen hosted included Eye Guess in the 1960s;:318 Three on a Match,:1078 Blankety Blanks,:113 The Love Experts and the syndicated version of The $25,000 Pyramid:1116 in the 1970s; and later in his career Chain Reaction,:174 Blockbusters,:115 Child's Play, Hot Potato:477 and The Joker's Wild:543 (his final hosting job from 1984 to 1986, following the death of Jack Barry).
Cullen appeared as a celebrity guest on many other game shows, including I've Got a Secret, What's My Line?, To Tell the Truth, Personality, The Cross-Wits, Password, Password Plus,:816 Match Game, Tattletales (with his wife Ann), Break the Bank, Shoot for the Stars and all of the pre-$100,000 versions of Pyramid. Cullen hosted a number of pilots for his close friend, quiz producer Bob Stewart, who created The Price Is Right, Truth, and Password for Goodson-Todman and Pyramid for his own company. Cullen thus became the only person to host each of these formats on a full- or part-time basis. He also appeared as a panelist on game shows hosted by his favorite understudy, Bob Eubanks, including Trivia Trap, Rhyme and Reason and All Star Secrets; and he made guest appearances with Eubanks on Family Feud.
In 1982, Cullen made an appearance on The Price Is Right to promote his new game show, Child's Play. It was the only time he ever appeared on the revival of The Price Is Right, but no mention was made of his role as the show's original host.
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 and host Garry Moore quickly learned to never start the questioning with Cullen if the guest's secret was anything sports-related or mechanical, because chances were good that he would guess it immediately.
During his television career Cullen was nominated three times for Emmy Awards; his only win was a Primetime Emmy for hosting Three On A Match (1973). He was later nominated for Daytime Emmys for his work on Blockbusters (1982) and Hot Potato (1985).
Cullen was married three times and had no children. His first marriage was a brief one while still living in Pittsburgh. His second marriage (1949–55) was to singer Carol Ames. 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, in 1990. Ann occasionally worked as a model on Bill's The Price Is Right and made several appearances with him on Tattletales.
Cullen contracted poliomyelitis in August 1921, when he was 18 months old. The long-term sequelae of that illness, combined with injuries sustained in a serious motor vehicle accident in 1937 requiring a nine-month hospitalization, left him with significant and lifelong ambulatory limitations.
His physical disabilities were—and largely remain—unknown to the general public, due in large part to directors taking great care to limit the extent that Cullen was shown walking on camera. Each show's set was designed to accommodate Cullen's limited range of motion; the podiums, game boards, props, and any physical movements by contestants were arranged so that Cullen could, for the most part, remain stationary. Rather than the grand entrance common for most game show hosts, Cullen would begin each show either already seated, or hidden on set behind a nearby prop so that he would only have to take a minimum number of steps to his podium. Similar accommodations were made when he appeared as a guest on other game shows.
As a consequence of these arrangements, many of Cullen's peers were likewise unaware of his disability, which occasionally led to awkward situations. In the August 2010 issue of GQ Magazine under the heading "Epic Tales of Embarrassment", Mel Brooks related the following story to writer Steve Heisler:
The week of October 17–21 in 1966—that would make me about 40—was a special celebrity week on Eye Guess. Bill Cullen was the host. The game was very similar to Concentration. I was teamed up with Julia Meade. Remember her? Actress, very pretty young lady, blonde... Okay, never mind. I don't think I won, but I did get the take-home game. Anyway, the show is over, and I start walking toward the podium to say good night to Bill, to thank him for having me on. He starts coming toward me cross-stage, and I don't know what he's doing. His feet are flopping. His hands are flying everywhere. He's doing this kind of wacky walk-of-the-unfortunates that Jerry Lewis used to do. So I figured, what the hell, I'll join him. I start doing, I dunno, this multiple-sclerosis walk, flapping my arms and doing the Milton Berle cross legs—my own Jerry Lewis impression... And Julia is whispering, "No! He's crippled, Mel!" I don't even hear her. Finally we meet in the middle, we hug, and he says to me, "You know, you're the only comic who's ever had the nerve to make fun of my crippled walk. Everyone's so careful, it makes me feel even worse." And I realize, Oh, my God, this guy is really crippled! It was my worst moment — and if you weren't me, probably the funniest thing that ever happened.
In the fall of 1969, shortly after Eye Guess ended, Cullen fell seriously ill. Diagnosed with pancreatitis and requiring major surgery, Cullen took time off from work to recuperate. When he returned to television, particularly his position on the panel for To Tell The Truth, his physical appearance had drastically changed; along with letting his hair grow out, his pancreatitis had caused him to lose over thirty pounds, leaving his face gaunt and wrinkled.
- Cullen profile, knowotr.blogspot.com; accessed January 16, 2016.
- Obituary: "Bill Cullen, Longtime Host Of TV Game Shows, Dies", seattletimes.nwsource.com, July 8, 1990; retrieved August 30, 2014.
- DeLong, Thomas A. (1996). Radio Stars: An Illustrated Biographical Dictionary of 953 Performers, 1920 through 1960. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-2834-2. P. 68.
- Cox, Jim (2007). Radio Speakers: Narrators, News Junkies, Sports Jockeys, Tattletales, Tipsters, Toastmasters and Coffee Klatch Couples Who Verbalized the Jargon of the Aural Ether from the 1920s to the 1980s--A Biographical Dictionary. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-6086-1. Pp. 71-72.
- Sies, Luther F. (2014). Encyclopedia of American Radio, 1920-1960, 2nd Edition. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-5149-4. P. 171.
- Nedeff, Adam (2013). Quizmaster: The Life And Times And Fun And Games Of Bill Cullen. BearManor Media. pp. 30–33. ISBN 978-1-59393-730-0.
- Mercer, Charles (November 20, 1957). "13 Weekly TV-Radio Shows Keep Bill Cullen Hopping". The Milwaukee Sentinel. Retrieved October 20, 2010.
- Nedeff, Adam (2013). Quizmaster: The Life And Times And Fun And Games Of Bill Cullen. BearManor Media. p. 35. ISBN 978-1-59393-730-0.
- Nedeff, Adam (2013). Quizmaster: The Life And Times And Fun And Games Of Bill Cullen. BearManor Media. pp. 520–22. ISBN 978-1-59393-730-0.
- Barron, Mark. "Bill Cullen is One of Busiest Men in Radio, TV". The Express. Pennsylvania, Lock Haven. Associated Press. p. 8. Retrieved May 14, 2016 – via Newspapers.com.
- Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-6477-7. P. 106.
- "In Review". Broadcasting & Cable. 46 (22): 14. May 31, 1954. ISSN 1068-6827.
- "Primetime Emmy Awards, Outstanding Achievement by Individuals in Daytime Programming (1973)". imdb.com. 1974-05-20. Retrieved 2014-01-14.
- Bill Cullen Profile, imdb.com; retrieved 2010-09-13.
- Nedeff, A. Quizmaster: The Life and Times of Bill Cullen. Bear Manor Media (2013), pp. 66–69; ISBN 159393730X.
- Blockbusters episode, retrieved July 26, 2015.
- Tattletales episode, retrieved July 26, 2015.
- Epic Tales of Embarrassment. GQ Magazine, August 2010, page 90.
- Nedeff, Adam (2013). Quizmaster: The Life And Times And Fun And Games Of Bill Cullen. BearManor Media. pp. 308–309. ISBN 978-1-59393-730-0.
- "Bill Cullen: How To Keep Cool In A 'Hot' Business". The Plain Speaker. Pennsylvania, Hazleton. June 10, 1961. p. 16. Retrieved May 14, 2016 – via Newspapers.com.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bill Cullen.|
- The Bill Cullen Homepage by Matt Ottinger
- Bill Cullen at the Internet Movie Database
- Bill Cullen at Find a Grave
|Sub Host, Password Plus
April 14 – May 9, 1980
| Succeeded by|
|The Price Is Right Host
November 26, 1956 – September 3, 1965
| Succeeded by|
Bob Barker (daytime) in 1972, Dennis James (nighttime) in 1972
|The $25,000 Pyramid Host (nighttime)
September 9, 1974 – September 9, 1979
| Succeeded by|
Dick Clark in 1985
|Chain Reaction Host
January 14, 1980 – June 20, 1980
| Succeeded by|
Blake Emmons in 1986
October 24, 1980 – April 23, 1982
| Succeeded by|
Bill Rafferty in 1987
|The Joker's Wild Host
| Succeeded by|
Pat Finn in 1990