William Lawrence Francis "Bill" Cullen was anAmerican 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". In addition to his hosting duties, Cullen also appeared as a panelist/celebrity guest on many other programs, such as his regular appearances on the panel series I've Got a Secret and To Tell the Truth and his frequent guest appearances on several incarnations of Pyramid in the 1970s and 1980s. Cullen was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the only child of 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 his trademark.
Cullen's broadcasting career began 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 stationKDKA 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 and 1953 he also worked as announcer for various other local and network shows, including the radio version of Mark Goodsonand 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 to 1973.
Bill Cullen's first television game show was the TV version of Winner Take All, which premiered on CBS in 1952. From 1954 to 1955, he hosted NBC's Place the Face, a program in which celebrities identified people from their past. He hosted the daytime and prime-time versions of The Price Is Right, another Goodson-Todman production, from 1956 to 1965. He was also a panelist on I've Got a Secret from 1952 until 1967 and later on To Tell the Truth from 1969 until 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; Three on a Match, Blankety Blanks, The Love Experts and the syndicated version of The $25,000 Pyramid in the 1970s; and later in his career Chain Reaction, Blockbusters, Child's Play, Hot Potato and The Joker's Wild (his final hosting job from 1984 to 1986, following the death of Jack Barry).
Bill 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, 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. Cullen was also a close friend of Canadian-American host Jim Perry. Cullen was also the brother-in-law of game show host Jack Narz.
In 1982 Cullen made a surprise appearance on The Price Is Right to promote his new game show, Child's Play, the only time he ever appeared on the revival of The Price Is Right; no mention was made of Cullen's original run as host.