Fascinating Bill-related goodies that don't really fit in anywhere else on the site.
The Game Show Congress was a series of game show fan conventions in the 2000s, which established two awards to recognize legends in the world of game shows. One of those is the Bill Cullen Career Achievement Award, which was given to Bill posthumously at the Congress' annual meeting in Burbank in the summer of 2004. Legends such as Dick Clark, Bob Barker, Jayne Meadows, Tom Kennedy, Betty White and more paid tribute to Bill and to Truth or Consequences creator Ralph Edwards, for whom a Community Service award was named. Ann Cullen accepted the inaugural Cullen Award on her late husband's behalf.
Bill's Movie Appearances
It Happened to Jane (1959)
Doris Day starred in this comic trifle as Jane Osgood, a small-town lobster farmer at odds with a greedy and unscrupulous railroad owner played by Ernie Kovacs. Jack Lemmon is her lawyer and love interest. As the plucky but overmatched Jane continues her fight against big business, her story gets national attention. This leads to a trip to New York City and television appearances. That's where Bill comes in.
Garry Moore, Bill and the rest of the I've Got A Secret panel (at the time, Jayne Meadows, Henry Morgan and Betsy Palmer) play themselves for a scene in which the lobster lady is a contestant on their show. The scene is only a couple of minutes long, and cuts back and forth between the studio and Kovacs watching the live program in his office. The scene isn't particularly significant in the film, but for game show collectors, it is interesting as the only surviving film of the Secret set and cast in color. The kinescopes that preserved the actual series were all black and white.
In the 1959 paperback novelization, called That Jane From Maine, Jane is on What's My Line? instead. (As a Mystery Guest, no less, which wouldn't have happened in real life no matter how much attention her story had received.) There is only a passing reference to Garry Moore and Bill Cullen in this print version. Still, photos of Bill, Garry Moore and Dave Garroway (another cameo in the film) appear on the back cover of the paperback adaptation.
Game show fans will also get a kick out of a brief, funny and unbilled appearance by Gene Rayburn as a reporter. The movie was re-released in 1961 under the title Twinkle and Shine. It was released on DVD in 2004.
Great Expectations (1998)
In a scene during this Gwenyth Paltrow film, Bill can be glimpsed in the background on a TV, hosting Blockbusters.
Riding in Cars with Boys (2001)
Another TV-in-the-background cameo, this one is Bill as a celebrity player on The $25,000 Pyramid.
Catch Me If You Can (2002)
In the 1994 film Quiz Show, inspired by the quiz show scandals of the 1950s, Herb Stempel (John Turturro) asks producer Dan Enright (David Paymer) to consider him for a spot as a panelist on a new show. "A Bill Cullen sort of thing" is how Stempel describes the idea.
Based on a true story, the Leonardo DiCaprio/Tom Hanks film opens with a scene in which DiCaprio's character, Frank Abagnale, Jr., appears as a contestant on To Tell the Truth in 1977. DiCaprio was inserted into footage of the actual episode, with Bill briefly glimpsed sitting on the panel. Joe Garagiola and Kitty Carlisle are credited in the film; both recorded new dialogue for the scene.
Vampira and Me (2012)
This documentary chronicles the life and career of Maila Nurmi, best known as early TV horror hostess Vampira. The opening minute of the film is a clip of Nurmi's appearance, in character as Vampira, with Bill on Place the Face.
An Honest Liar (2014)
Another documentary, this one profiling The Amazing Randi, a/k/a James Randi, a magician who has devoted much of his life to investigating and debunking psychics and supernatural phenomenon. Bill has a brief "cameo" in the film, during Randi's appearance on I've Got a Secret. For the game show fans out there, the film also includes brief clips of Randi-related segments of To Tell the Truth and Goodson-Todman's short-lived prime time human interest show That's My Line!
Bill's Record Album
Released by ABC-Paramount Records in 1959. Bill narrates and introduces the acts in this musical history of the uniquely American (and today, vaguely offensive) form of entertainment. The album attempts to be a definitive history of the minstrel show. It features detailed liner notes as well as musical selections ranging from still-familiar Stephen Foster standards to forgotten turn-of-the-century songs such as "Rufus Rastus Johnson Brown" and "Oh, Didn't He Ramble."
There are banjos, steamboat chimes, spoons, even a soft-shoe routine. Still, it's all pretty sanitized and unimaginative, with the tunes supplied by a generic group of studio musicians called The Endmen. This was likely as much of a goofy novelty record when it came out in the late fifties as it is today. Despite that great tuxedo, Bill does no performing himself.
Bill's Endorsement Deals
OK, so he's no Tiger Woods. Still, for nine years he hosted a show that was all about merchandise. It's not surprising that he'd plug products now and then. Here are some examples of Bill in print ad campaigns, many of which were specifically based on his relationship to The Price Is Right:
ANOTHER BILL CULLEN REFERENCE IN MUSIC
On their Smokin' Banana Peels CD, the alt-rock band Dead Milkmen named one of their title tracks "Bill Cullen Trail Mix."
Lever Bros. $100,000 Star Sweepstakes
Lever Brothers sponsored this sweepstakes, probably connected with the start of the 1959 TV season. Home viewers received envelopes containing coupons for Lever products and a sweepstakes entry form. The thumbnails include the envelope and samples of the coupons in the ad campaign. The cover of the envelope featured five stars of TV shows sponsored by Lever Brothers, including Jack Benny (The Jack Benny Show), Art Linkletter (House Party), Bill Cullen (The Price Is Right), George Gobel (The George Gobel Show) and Groucho Marx (You Bet Your Life). The others are pretty big stars, I guess, but you notice which one they put in the middle!
Lever Bros. Family Contests
For this one, Lever Bros. promoted "12 separate contests" that were actually the same contest being run 12 times concurrently. A showcase of prizes was featured in the ad, and as with the weekly showcase on The Price is Right, you had to mail in your guess to the actual retail price, to the penny, on one or all of the 12 provided entry blanks. A winner would be chosen for each contest, and each would win the same showcase.
The advertisement promoting the contest was massive--a full newspaper page, front and back, which we had to photograph because it wouldn't fit on a scanner. You're seeing both sides of the ad below.
Allied Van Lines
We're not 100% certain that this actually qualifies as an endorsement deal. It may have just been a goodwill visit to a sponsor. Allied Van Lines got a plug on every episode of The Price is Right for their services delivering the prizes to the winners. We have a small batch of photos of Bill visiting Allied Van Lines' New York offices.
Wisk Washday Bonus
We stumbled upon a photo of this years ago but we've never actually had a bottle. All we can tell you is what's on the container. Bill's face appeared on specially-marked containers of Wisk (a Lever Bros. product) to offer buyers a 20-cent discount.
Tender Leaf Tea
A brief ad campaign that ran in a number of 1959 magazines.
Blue Bonnet margarine sponsored the nighttime Price is Right briefly, and at around the same time, Bill's face popped up in at least one ad for the product.
Bill and The Price is Right were prominently featured in a number of late 1959 ads in newspapers and magazines, touting the company's 1960 model year appliances. It appears that local Frigidaire dealers were furnished with photos of Bill for use in their own ads at the same time.
Bill appeared in commercials for the 1962 line of automobiles. We have a photo from one of the commercial shoots. Mercury was the primary sponsor of "Cop for a Day," an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents in late 1961 and two of Bill's spots appeared during the show. A kinescope of that episode with the commercials was sold on Ebay some years back. We lost the auction, but held onto the seller's images for dear life.
Bill was briefly a spokesman for Samsonite. Not much to say about the campaign except that it gave us a great color picture.
In late 1963, very shortly after The Price is Right jumped from NBC to ABC, a number of supermarket chains, including Safeway, Food Fair, and Food-o-Rama, introduced a Price is Right-themed scratch-off ticket game. It seemed to be concocted as much to promote the show's move as to draw attention to the store.
Shoppers were given scratch-off tickets--seen in the thumbnails here-- with Bill's picture on them. You scratched off the speech balloon to see what word Bill was saying: "The," "Price," "Is," or "Right." Collecting all four was worth $100.
Each ticket also contained a random four-digit or five-digit number. If the number on the ticket was an exact match for the winner's total on that week's nighttime episode, a jackpot prize was awarded. Incredibly, we found a newspaper article indicating that the impossible happened and someone actually won a jackpot prize.
Newport sponsored the nighttime version of The Price is Right and Bill did some of their commercials during this period, even outside of the show. He also hosted a brief film shown to Newport dealers and salesmen.
In the early 1970s, Bill was a spokesman for this regional chain of department stores in the northeast. In a newspaper profile, Bill acknowledged that the store signed him because they hoped viewers still associated him with The Price is Right (Bob Barker's version had not yet premiered). Bill, wary of stirring up trouble with his Goodson-Todman associates, asked the chain not to use the expression "the price is right" in any of their scripts for his commercials.
One of the stranger Bill-related treasures we've unearthed is a Mobil Oil film from 1975. Bill is host of a faux-game show played by Mobil Oil dealers, promoting the company's incentive program that year.
Bill traveled to Milwaukee to shoot at least two commercials on September 15, 1977. Bill's commercials were for the company's Cushion-Lift chair, a special chair that raised upward, for people who had trouble standing up.
In October 1978, Bill shot a series of commercials promoting Safeway Instant Bingo, a scratch-off ticket game at the grocery store chain that offered cash prizes that could reach as much as $1,000.
And STILL more!
After SCTV departed from NBC in 1983, the show held on for one more year on Cinemax, under the title SCTV Channel. As part of a lengthy sketch called "Stalag SCTV," station president Guy Caballero (Joe Flaherty) and station manager Edith Prickley (Andrea Martin) become aware that a competing channel as airing a game show called The Great Escape, hosted by Bill Cullen (series writer John McAndrew). "Bill" is only briefly glimpsed and isn't really intrinsic to the sketch, but in all the years that we've been chronicling Bill, this is the first time we've seen him as a scripted character being portrayed by an actor.
As a promotional event in the year 2000, cable network TV Land came up with a list of the 2000 Best Things About Television, Bill ranked 1181st, just ahead of Diff'rent Strokes, Ellery Queen and Bob Uecker. The Price Is Right ranked 954th. (They probably meant Barker's version, but still...) Pyramid (specifically the $20,000 version) came in at 1394. I've Got A Secret didn't make the list.
Bill 2000 part two
In interviews (and on a "Behind the Scenes" special), Regis Philbin says that Bill was on producer Michael Davies' list of potential hosts for Who Wants to Be A Millionaire, despite having been dead for eight years.
Bill 2000 part three
Bill is the correct answer to a trivia question on the 2001 Activision CD-ROM version of The Weakest Link. Thing is, they misspelled his name!
Bill is in Jeopardy!
"Who is Bill Cullen?" has been a correct response on at least three episodes of Jeopardy! starring Alex Trebek.
November 4, 1986: "He overcame polio as a child to become the dean of game show hosts."
January 10, 1995: "This I've Got a Secret panelist was the original host of The Price is Right."
December 6, 2004: "Among his many TV credits is original host of The Price is Right."
Bill frequently contributed recipes for celebrity cookbooks. His stuffed cabbage recipe appears in a 1966 charity cookbook called Happiness is More Recipes for Barney Children's Medical Center in Dayton, Ohio. A recipe for cheese souffle appears in Johna Blinn's 1981 collection called, simply, Celebrity Cookbook.