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He then was hired by ABC, which offered him the dubious assignment of tailing Dick Clark, the young and popular host of TV's , at Philadelphia station WFIL-TV. When no one would return his phone calls, he set up shop in a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
Barris' task was to ascertain whether Clark was involved in the illegal practice of payola. If I left at 6 o'clock, what's to say he couldn't be doing anything nefarious for about a year, and his notes were presented before a House of Representatives subcommittee in Washington. His innate sense of Hollywood tribal behavior worked: Now people were getting back to him.
"I came back and said, ' Let's change the show, have all bad acts and one or two good ones, and people can make a judgment,' " he said in a 2010 interview with The Archive of American Television.
When original host John Barbour didn't work out after about a year, NBC execs insisted that the cuddly, curly-haired Barris come on as his replacement, so he donned a tuxedo and a floppy hat and introduced the acts.
Asked in the TV Archive interview if he really was an assassin, Barris replied: "I don't answer that question, ever.