Before his rise to fame in the nascent genre of reality television, Chuck Barris was a Hollywood journeyman who worked as a Teleprompter salesman, boxing promoter, NBC-TV tour guide, and songwriter (he wrote Freddy Cannon's 1962 hit "Palisades Park"). His big break came in 1965 with The Dating Game. It was the first show to derive its spark from ordinary people being, well, ordinary, and it would revolutionize television programming. Barris capitalized on The Dating Game's success with concepts like The $1.98 Game, The Game Game, and The Newlywed Game. But his greatest triumph (and, to Barris' personal shame, his legacy) was The Gong Show. Essentially an amateur talent competition, the show encouraged anyone with any kind of act to come on the show and perform. Then Barris, as host, and a panel of B- and C-list celebrity judges would deliver a verdict, the harshest being a crash of the gong to signal the ignominious end of another average Joe's 35 seconds of fame. While 21st century reality programming like Fear Factor, Road Rules, and Hot or Not? owe a large debt to the era, The Gong Show and its ilk were routinely bashed by critics as demeaning, mean-spirited, and even controversial. Barris took these barbs personally. After nine outrageous, contentious seasons and a Gong Show movie that stunk up the box office, Barris sold his production company and left the entertainment business, bitter over his treatment and angry that a program he considered frivolous had become his legacy. Barris moved to St. Tropez in 1980, and wouldn't return for over ten years.
In the midst of his run as the king of all game shows, Barris found time to pen a bizarre, unauthorized autobiography. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind claimed that, while Barris was chaperoning Newlywed Game winners on European vacations, he was living a double life as an assassin for the CIA. It was an outrageous claim, but only added to the mystique of the Hollywood enigma. In late 2002, Confessions was made into a movie, with George Clooney directing actor Sam Rockwell in the role of Barris. The film's promotional push brought the real Barris out of exile, and the erstwhile gong keeper made the media rounds, refusing to deliver any facts about his alleged double life, basking in/trashing his status as "the father of reality television," and promoting his new venture as a singer and bandleader. Confessions of a Dangerous Singer was issued by Domo in April 2003. Recorded with a band of Los Angeles studio musicians (some of whom were affiliated with The Gong Show), the record consisted of standards like "You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You," "Sunny Side of the Street," and "Mr. Sandman." Bringing things full circle, the album also included Barris' own version of "Palisades Park," the song he penned years before his embattled game show career and his mysterious life as a paid assassin. The album's straightforward jazz arrangements and Barris' own limited range encouraged some to give Confessions of a Dangerous Singer its own gong.