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At 87, Bob Barker Becomes Oxford Centre Honorary Fellow

Bob Barker may have retired in 2007 after a 50-year stint on TV — including 35 years on "The Price Is Right" — but the 87-year-old personality says he's been so busy, "I joke that I need to go back into television to get some rest."

In fact, Barker's tireless activities on behalf of animal rights have now earned him the designation of honorary fellow at the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics.

"It's an absolutely breathtaking experience," he says. "I received an announcement from Dr. Andrew Linzey, the founder and director. Among people involved in animal rights, he is a most respected man. He has written 15-20 books that have been very helpful in the effort to help animals, and he is also a theology professor at Oxford."

Barker has been informed that there have only been six other honorary fellows named by the centre and they include Nobel laureates, philanthropists and academicians. "I was the first one in the entertainment field," he states.

"When I read the complimentary things that Dr. Linzey had said about my accomplishments on behalf of animals, I was actually on the verge of tears," Barker adds.

Linzey, the sometimes-controversial Anglican priest, theologian and animal activist, cited Barker's key role in propelling animal rights from "being a marginal issue into the academic mainstream, which he called 'a colossal achievement.'"

While Barker's fans are certainly aware of his devotion to animal causes, the extent of his commitment may come as a surprise. Barker reveals that he has set up endowments for the study of animal law at Harvard, Stanford, UCLA, Northwestern, Georgetown, Columbia, Duke and the University of Virginia — in addition to establishing the Dorothy Jo Barker chair for the Study of Animal Rights, named for his late wife, at Drury University in Springfield, Mo., their alma mater. With his new Oxford ties, there's a strong possibility that he'll be adding the ancient British institution to his list of endowment recipients.

As for when he'll — ahem — come on down to visit Linzey and his colleagues in the U.K., Barker says he has no current plans to cross the pond, but might go at some point this year.

By the way, Barker says he still tunes in to "The Price Is Right" on occasion. "I certainly did turn it on when I learned that Drew Carey had lost 90 pounds. He was slim and wearing a very sharp suit and bowtie and looked great."

WINNING AND LOSING: With Jillian Michaels having announced that she plans to leave "The Biggest Loser" to pursue motherhood, and two new trainers debuting on the NBC show's 11th season, premiering tonight (1/4), where does that leave "The Biggest Loser's" Bob Harper? After 10 seasons of the show, "It just feels really good to continue to help people. I don't lack the motivation; I don't lack the drive."

Besides, he certainly hasn't had to refrain from developing other projects while helping "BL" contestants drop the pounds. There are his "Inside Out Method" DVDs and videos on his "My Trainer Bob" website. There's his spokesman role for Quaker oatmeal. There's his activism against factory farming.

And when we asked him about running out of steam, his response was: "I don't even think about it."

INDUSTRY BITS: Capitol Filmworks is getting ready to go into production with its Chandra Levy TV movie, to shoot in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. Casting has been under way for the doomed Washington intern, for Gary Condit, the congressman whose relationship with her was under scrutiny after her disappearance (though cleared of any involvement, the cloud of suspicion that had surrounded him cost him re-election), and for her parents. Undocumented Salvadoran immigrant Ingmar Guandique was convicted of Levy's slaying in November. We hear that a Levy docu-reality series is also in the works.

"High School Musical's" Olesya Rulin will get a chance to take center stage soon, as she is teaming up with Kristin Chenoweth and Joey King in "Family Weekend," a big-screen comedy about a teenage girl who's fed up with her dysfunctional family and takes drastic steps to get her parents' attention.


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