Chuck Barris, whose game show empire included The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game, and that infamous factory of cheese, The Gong Show, has died at age 87, per AP. Barris died of natural causes Tuesday at his home in Palisades, New York, according to publicist Paul Shefrin. Barris made game show history right off the bat, in 1966, with The Dating Game, hosted by Jim Lange. The gimmick: a young female questions three males, hidden from her view, to determine which would be the best date. Sometimes the process was switched, with a male questioning three females. But in all cases, the questions were designed by the show's writers to elicit sexy answers. Celebrities and future celebrities who appeared as contestants included Michael Jackson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Steve Martin, and a pre-Charlie's Angels Farrah Fawcett.
The grinning, curly-haired Barris became a familiar face as creator and host of The Gong Show, which aired from 1976 to 1980. The program featured performers who had peculiar talents and, often, no talent at all. When the latter appeared, Barris would strike an oversize gong, the show's equivalent of vaudeville's hook. As The Gong Show and Barris' other series were slipping, he sold his company for a reported $100 million in 1980 and decided to go into films. He directed and starred in The Gong Show Movie, a thundering failure. Afterward, a distraught Barris checked into a New York hotel and wrote his autobiography, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. In it, he claimed to have been a CIA assassin, though the book (it was made into a 2002 film) was widely dismissed by disbelievers who said Barris had allowed his imagination to run wild. (Watch Barris and "Gene, Gene, the Dancing Machine" here.)