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Chuck Barris, whose game show empire included "The Dating Game," ''The Newlywed Game" and that infamous factory of cheese, "The Gong Show," has died. Barris died of natural causes Tuesday afternoon at his home in Palisades, New York, according to publicist Paul Shefrin, who announced the death on behalf of Barris' family.

Barris made game show history right off the bat, in 1966, with "The Dating Game," hosted by Jim Lange.

Critics argued that the show demeaned its contestants, with its emphasis on showcasing outlandish and wacky acts for a panel of three celeb judges (including the likes of Phyllis Diller and David Letterman) who had the option of hitting a big gong to end a performance. In his book, Barris claimed to have been a CIA assassin in the 1960s and 1970s, assertions that the CIA itself has refuted and which various media entities have implied should be taken with a grain of salt. Della passed away in 1998 at the age of 36 from a drug overdose.

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Barris, who offered no corroboration of his claims, was unmoved."Have you ever heard the CIA acknowledge someone was an assassin? Seeking escape from the Hollywood rat race, he moved to a villa in the south of France in the 1980s with his girlfriend and future second wife, Robin Altman, and made only infrequent returns to his old haunts over the next two decades.

Back in the news in 2002 to help publicize "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," Barris said his shows were a forerunner to today's popular reality TV series.

After he was unemployed for a year, ABC offered Barris the post of looking after Dick Clark, who at the time was caught up in a payola scandal that landed him in Washington, D. It was a formula he exploited for years and in game shows to come, and although they were critically panned, Barris's shows were undeniably popular with audiences.

Barris quickly sold three more shows: , and at NBC's insistence, he hosted it himself.

His father, who died of a stroke, was reportedly a dentist and/or worked in textiles, and Barris yearned to take a different career path.

He eventually graduated from Drexel Institute of Technology in 1953 and held several odd jobs before moving to New York.

Afterward, a distraught Barris checked into a New York hotel and wrote his autobiography, "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," in two months. The book (and the 2002 film based on it, directed by George Clooney) were widely dismissed by disbelievers who said the creator of some of television's most lowbrow game shows had allowed his imagination to run wild when he claimed to have spent his spare time traveling the world, quietly rubbing out enemies of the United States."It sounds like he has been standing too close to the gong all those years," quipped CIA spokesman Tom Crispell.

"Chuck Barris has never been employed by the CIA and the allegation that he was a hired assassin is absurd," Crispell added.

Born in Philadelphia in 1929, Charles Barris was left destitute, along with his sister and their mother, when his dentist father died of a stroke.

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