Jim Perry, best known as the host of game shows “Card Sharks” and “$ale of the Century,” died Friday in Oregon following a five-year battle with cancer, surrounded by his wife and children. He was 82.
The Camden, N.J., was a star basketball player while growing up and was nicknamed “Big Jim” at 6-foot-4. He attended the University of Pennsylvania and joined the Special Services, where he worked on Armed Forces Radio during the Korean War.
After his time in the service, Perry teamed with comedian Sid Ceasar, touring as a pair for several years. He served as host of the Miss Canada Pageant, which he emceed from 1967 until 1990; he was the announcer on 1969’s syndicated program “That Show” starring Joan Rivers; and from 1969 to 1972, he was a weekend overnight DJ at WABC radio in New York.
In 1974, Perry became the host of the CTV game show “Headline Hunters,” then began hosting the networks series “Definition,” which went on to become the longest-running game show in Canadian television history.
Perry’s first major American network hosting job came in 1967 with “It’s Your Move.” He began hosting NBC’s “Card Sharks” in 1978 until 1981. In 1982, NBC named Perry as the host of revamped edition of the beloved series “$ale of the Century,” which aired for six years and was spun off into a nightly syndicated version, which saw Perry doing double duty as the host of both shows.
“Today we lost the greatest father, friend and husband anybody could ever wish for,” the Perry family said. “While he provided decades of entertainment to millions of people, his greatest victory was his growth as a human being — rising from a childhood filled with challenges including great poverty, to provide an amazing life for his family. The world is a better place for his having been here.”
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations be made in his name to a local hospice provider or cancer charity.
Perry is survived by his wife of 56 years, June, a former model; their children Sean and Erin; and three grandchildren.