$1.98 beauty show

March 23, 2017 in stop look & listen by editor

Whether he liked it or not, Chuck Barris was the crown prince of camp. The creator of tacky TV hits of the 60s and 70s like ‘The Newlywed Game’, ‘The Dating Game’, and ‘The Gong Show’ (as well as over a dozen other game shows that have long been forgotten), Chuck knew that, no matter what cultural critics might say, lowbrow sells. And he deftly mixed no-talent nobodies, sexual innuendo, and slapstick into can’t-look-away programming decades before ‘American Idol’ and ‘The Bachelor’ were ever imagined.

But as ground-breaking as some of his biggest hits were, my favorite Chuck Barris production will always be ‘$1.98 Beauty Show’ which only ran for two seasons, from 1978 to 1980. The program was a hilarious parody of beauty pageants, hosted by the handlebar mustachio’d Rip Taylor, who opened each show by running through the aisles with a bag of confetti that he didn’t so much toss into the air as throw at the audience in defiance. The show featured six contestants (many of whom were obviously not beauty queens), three celebrity judges, and two rounds of competition — talent and swimsuit, where the women’s actual body measurements were read aloud! The ‘winner’ received a sparkly Statue of Liberty crown, a bouquet of vegetables, and $1.98 in cash. The show is preposterous and awesome and if you love late 70s fashion as much as I do, you should try your best to dig up old episodes because the feathered hair, slinky dresses, and jumpsuits are all to-die-for (American Apparel totally stole all of their swimsuit designs from this show).

As Chuck Barris said in a 2001 interview, ‘In my opinion, a good game show review is the kiss of death…A really bad review means the show will be on for years.’ Oh, Chuck, you always were a ridiculous bastard.



The $1.98 Beauty Show (September 14, 1978) by michael-pannoni