Bill Cullen (born William Lawrence Francis Cullen, February 18, 1920—July 7, 1990) was an American game show host and former radio personality. He was best known for hosting the game shows Blockbusters, Child's Play, Password Plus, The $25,000 Pyramid (nighttime version), and The Price is Right (original host, 1956-1965). He was also known in the game show world for his frequent appearances as a celebrity panelist on shows like To Tell The Truth, I've Got a Secret, and Match Game.
Born William Lawrence Francis Cullen in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the only child to parents William and Lillian Cullen. He survived a childhood bout with polio that left him with significant physical limitations for the rest of his life. He also wore very thick spectacles, which became a trademark.
Cullen contracted poliomyelitis in the early 1930s. The long-term sequel of that illness, combined with injuries sustained in a serious motor vehicle accident in 1937 requiring a nine-month hospitalization and left him with significant and lifelong ambulatory limitations.
His career began in Pittsburgh, where he worked at WWSW radio. He assisted sportscaster Joe Tucker, who called Pittsburgh Steelers games. He was well known for his puckish sense of humor and for playing pranks on his fellow announcers while they were on the air. Cullen decided to try his luck in New York and shortly after arriving there, one of his first jobs was writing for the Easy Aces radio show.
After making New York City his new home, Cullen continued hosting several radio programs and his career in the Game Show World began to take off. His very first TV game show was Winner Take All, produced by Mark Goodson and Bill Todman and aired on CBS in 1952. Then from 1954 to 1955, he hosted NBC's Place the Face, a program in which celebrities identify persons from their past.
Bill's greatest game show hosting gig came in 1956, when he hosted the original version of The Price is Right, another Goodson-Todman production. Cullen hosted both daytime and syndicated versions of the show all the way up 'til it's end in 1965. In addition to his many game show hosting credits, Bill also served as a frequent panelist on other game shows beginning with I've Got a Secret from 1952 until 1967 and then moving on To Tell the Truth from 1969 until 1978, where he would also occasionally serve as a guest host.
While he was in the running to host the 1972 revamped version of The Price is Right for CBS, the physical demands of the new format were considered too strenuous for Cullen. The job was instead split between Bob Barker and Dennis James. Barker hosted the daytime version while James handled the syndicated version until 1977 when Barker took over the hosting reigns of the nighttime version (until 1980) as well as the daytime version, which he hosted until his retirement in 2007.
Bill continued to appear as a celebrity panelist on several other game shows, Password and it's revival Password Plus, Match Game, and all pre-$100,000 versions of Pyramid. Cullen also hosted a number of pilots for his close friend, quiz producer Bob Stewart, who created Price, Truth, and Password for Goodson-Todman and Pyramid for his own company. He 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 several game shows hosted by his favorite understudy, Bob Eubanks, including Trivia Trap, Rhyme and Reason, and All Star Secrets as well as making guest appearances with Eubanks on Family Feud. He was also a close friend of Canadian-American host Jim Perry (whom also appeared on Family Feud alongside Cullen and Eubanks).
Bill's game show hosting gig continued going into the 1980s. First, he hosted a 4-week guest hosting stint on Password Plus after original host Allen Ludden had to withdraw due to illness (and passed away on June 9, 1981) and then future syndicated Price host Tom Kennedy took over until it's end in 1982. Bill then hosted Blockbusters on NBC from October 24, 1980 to April 23, 1982. Later that year in October, Cullen made his one and only appearance on Bob Barker's version of The Price is Right, he stopped by to promote his newest Game Show Child's Play on CBS. The children-based Game Show was already on the air as it debuted on September 20, 1982 to September 16, 1983 and it was his very last game show for CBS and for Mark Goodson after 30 years association as an emcee.
In 1984, Cullen took over the hosting reigns of the game show The Joker's Wild after previous host and creator Jack Barry died from cardiac arrest. Bill hosted the program until it's cancellation in 1986.
In all, Cullen hosted 23 different game shows over the years, more than anyone else in television history. These shows included Eye Guess in the 1960s, Three on a Match and the nighttime version of The $25,000 Pyramid in the 1970s; and Chain Reaction Blockbusters, Child's Play, Hot Potato and The Joker's Wild (after Jack Barry's death) in the 1980s.
Cullen had been married three times and had no children. His first marriage was a brief one while still living in Pittsburgh. His second marriage was to singer Carol Ames from 1949 to 1955. 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. Ann often appeared with Cullen on Tattletales in the 1970s and 1980s.
Bill was a smoker for most of his life and passed away on July 7, 1990 from lung cancer in Los Angeles, he was 70 years old.
The Game Show Congress, a non-profit association that seeks to promote the game show industry, annually presents the Bill Cullen Career Achievement Award to performers who have had distinguished careers in the genre. The first award in 2004 was given posthumously to Cullen himself; his widow Ann accepted it on his behalf.