In her new memoir “Backstage at The Price Is Right: Memoirs of a Barker Beauty,” Kathleen Bradley tells it all and shows that there is more to her than what meets the eye.
Bradley gives a glimpse into her personal life, the behind the scenes of CBS’ television game show “The Price Is Right,” her role as Mrs. Parker in the hit comedy “Friday” and so very much more.
Recently, Bradley begun her summer book tour, which is sponsored by Nygard Slims by Peter Nygard, and stopped by the New Pittsburgh Courier to give a closer look into her easy-to-read tell-all and to give a glimpse into the life of the woman behind “Mrs. Parker.”
“It’s very easy to read; it’s me and it’s told with humor. I always liked to write and I wanted to tell my story because it seemed that I got put out of there (from ‘The Price Is Right’) so abruptly. And every time I go somewhere, (I get asked) ‘What happened? Did you leave? Did you get fired?’ And there are some things people heard in the tabloids, but I wanted to tell my side,” said Bradley of why she wrote her cherished tell-all.
“I’m really living my dream, by writing this book. Everything is falling into place by divine order.”
Bradley, who grew up in Girard, Ohio, a town near Youngstown, Ohio, said it was at a young age that she realized she wanted to be in the entertainment industry as an actress on the silver screen. It started when her mother would take her frequently to the theater, causing her to “get lost in it.” She said some of her fondest memories are of her and her brother, Robert, standing on the toy chest and putting on shows for her mother and father. She took modeling lessons, entered pageants and held parts in any grade school or high school play or musical she could find.
“I always aspired to be on the silver screen. I just loved it. I was pretty much a ham at heart, anyway, so it was natural for me.”
But Bradley knew she’d have to leave her hometown to make her dream come true. She had a friend whose family moved from Youngstown to Los Angeles, so Bradley took that as a sign and moved to the west coast. While there she entered a few pageants and won. She was crowned Miss Black California in 1971.
“Pageants are very good for young ladies. It gives them a sense of self-esteem. Some people are down on pageants and girls in bikinis and wearing all that, but I think it’s all what you make of it. There are some that are exploitive and some that aren’t. I think that more now days it’s becoming better for the young ladies to get some exposure; because you can get some good exposure, and meet other young ladies and people, and get scholarships too. It can really take you to a whole other level in your career, whether you win or not, if you take advantage of the situation,” Bradley said.
While Bradley is an advocate of pageants, she said there are some she disagrees with and warns that parents have to consider their children, because there is a lot of rejection. She said too often kids don’t even want to be in it, but that it’s their parents just trying to live out a dream through their children.
After winning the title, Bradley was approached by the pageant’s promoter, who had an intimate nightclub in Los Angeles, asking her to join a female group called The Love Machine. She did and the group, she said, traveled all over the world opening for Sammy Davis Jr., Tom Jones, Al Green and more.
“It was incredible being in Las Vegas and different places. It was a wonderful time in my life.”
After being with the group for eight years, Bradley left to get married and have her daughter, while still pursuing her career as an actress, appearing in television shows, and modeling. She later joined with another group called Destination, whose hit was a disco remake of Curtis Mayfields “Move On Up.” The group disbanded after two years.
But it was in 1990, after having remarried and giving birth to her son, that Bradley got her big break. After a call from her agent about the search for a new Barker Beauty—a Black one—Bradley auditioned and was selected to be the first African-American Barker’s Beauty on “The Price Is Right,” which was hosted by Bob Barker. She was on the show from 1990-2000, leaving after some turmoil behind the curtains of the show.
“It was a very interesting 10 years on the show. Initially Bob Barker was very nice, a very kind guy,” Bradley said. That is, until he changed due to some negative publicity. In 1994 Barker was sued by Barker Beauty Dian Parkinson for sexual harassment, but the suit was later dropped. Bradley said the two had been having a sexual relationship and that there was no merit to the lawsuit.
“It made Bob bitter, it really did. It tainted his personality, because ‘The Price Is Right’ was the all American, iconic family show. And whether he did it or not (it ruined his reputation),” she said. “It’s just like when you do something allegedly and people put your name out there and then retract it, people may not even know it. But people always thought that about him and, still to this day, talk about him. No, he wasn’t like that.”
After the lawsuit, Bradley said Barker’s personality began to change and things were uncomfortable on the set. Barker then fired another Beauty, Holly Hallstrom, for what Bradley said was an unjustified reason. Hallstrom sued Barker, and Bradley said she and Beauty Janice Pennington were called upon to give a deposition to the firing. After the proceedings, in 2010, Bradley said she and Pennington were fired because Barker did not like what they had to say.
“It surprised us when we were let go. It was unjustified. I could have sued, but I didn’t want to,” she said.
But it was in 1995, while she was still on “The Price Is Right,” that the comedy “Friday,” starring Ice Cube, Chris Tucker and a host of other well-known actors and actresses, was released and a whole new generation was introduced to Bradley who played Mrs. Parker, Craig and Smokey’s sexy neighbor who was married to Mr. Parker, while having relations with the friendly Pastor Clever, played by the late Bernie Mac.
Bradley said Ice Cube saw her on “The Price Is Right” and said he wanted her to audition for the part, which she did and received. While some of the other characters went on to appear in the “Friday” sequels and other movies, Bradley admits she did not use the exposure to her benefit, like she should have.
“That movie opened doors and everyone escalated to another level in their success based on it. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to capitalize on it like I should have or could have,” she said. “I don’t want to say I was stuck on ‘The Price Is Right,’ that was my J-O-B and it was a good gig, but they didn’t pay us as well as people thought we got paid. But it led to other things…Had I had the opportunity and if I would ever go back in life, I’d get more mileage out of having played that character then, so I could take my acting to a whole other level.”
“The younger generation looks at Kathy as Mrs. Parker, while the older generation looks at her as a Barker Beauty. It’s so awesome to see the expression on young people’s faces,” said Bradley’s longtime friend and publicist, Mayola Mills-Gating. “She’s beautiful inside and out. I knew at an early age that Kathy was going to go onto Hollywood. She’s an awesome woman, an awesome wife; she’s an awesome mother and a very awesome friend. I’m very proud of her.”
Although Bradley had always wanted to write a book about her experiences and jotted a little down, here and there, it wasn’t until she saw a particular book in an airport shop that she was truly inspired to complete her own. That book was “Confessions of a Video Vixen” by Karrine Steffans. “I saw it had New York Best Seller on it and said ‘If she can do it, I know I can;’ and then went and bought it. I read it in two days.”
Bradley was so impressed, that she says she patterned the flow of herbook after Steffans’. She even pays homage to her in the book. After a couple years, Bradley completed her memoir and published it herself.
“That’s what you do. You find people who are successful and you pattern yourself after them.”
Now, Bradley said she is back and ready for what’s next. She plans to appear on national talk shows to promote her book, is selling Mrs. Parker t-shirts on her website and is the spokesperson for Nygard Slims.
She said she also wants to give back to the community through work she plans to do with seniors. Bradley said she plans to appear in another movie and receives numerous scripts, but is just waiting for the right one.
Bradley believes she did open the doors for other African-American models, especially the ones that appeared after her on “The Price Is Right.” She said she finds it rewarding when people stop her and tell her how she has inspired their daughters.
She said she tells young Black women to “direct your life, love yourself, and focus your energy into you and what you want to do and you can do whatever you want to do.” She also said there’s a lot of hope out there for youth when it comes to exposure, especially with the advancement of the Internet. “It’s wide open.”
Bradley said she’s also pleased at how African-American women are dominating the entertainment industry, she referenced Beyoncé and Kerry Washington, the lead character Olivia Pope on “Scandal.”
In her spare time, Bradley said she loves to golf and continues to write for a second book she plans to publish.
“I always say everybody has a story to tell. Everybody can tell his or her memoir. You get the right to passage or the license to do that after 30 or 40,” Bradley said. “Document your life, keep a journal. Everybody has unique stories and situations, and should talk about it.”
And this juicy memoir will definitely keep you turning the pages.
(For more information on Kathleen Bradley, visit www.kathleenbradley.tv.)
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