Sunday, January 11, 2009

Our Next Contestant...

For a change of pace, here's an actual article I originally wrote in 2003 after appearing on NBC's short-lived revival of LET'S MAKE A DEAL. Unfortunately the series was cancelled before my episode aired (but at least my photo was used on to promote the show). The article never saw the light or day, until now.Ever since I was a little kid I dreamed of being on a TV game show. Growing up in the 1970s in a suburb of New York City, you'd think there would be ample opportunities for me to become a contestant, but there weren't. Aside from the locally-produced BOWLING FOR DOLLARS and the occasional PBS educational "quiz" show, I think there only two or three game shows being taped in NYC.
I can recall a first grade school trip to the NBC Studios where I caught a glimpse of TO TELL THE TRUTH panelist Kitty Carlisle during the studio tour. I didn't even know who exactly she was or what she was famous for, all I knew is that it was love at first
sight.My obsession with game shows has been a part of me ever since then. I remember looking for any excuse to stay home from school to watch my favorites. This was
before the age of the vcr, before cable, before Tivo, when you HAD to watch TV shows when they aired. It never made sense to me as a kid why the best shows aired during school hours. Since my grammar school was only two blocks from my house, I got to go home for lunch everyday, so I was able to get a daily fix of Kitty and all her wonderful friends without having to take a sick day.Sure, like every kid, I loved cartoons, but I'm pretty sure I learned more from game shows than I would have from kids' shows. I remember making a list of every game show, it's host, production company and when it aired. I also recall drawing out what the sets of imaginary games shows that I invented might look like, dreaming about what celebrities I would get to appear as my panelists. Of course Kitty would be there, but could I possibly get Mitzi McCall, Betty White, Kaye Ballard and Joanne Worley? I remember being very sad when some of my favorites like HIGH ROLLERS, RHYME OR REASON or JACKPOT were cancelled without much notice or fanfare.I always thought with all those fabulous game shows, why didn't I ever know anybody who was a contestant? Not even any of my cousins who lived in California! It seems illogical that all these strangers were winning stuff, while people I knew didn't even get a chance to play.Over the years, as game shows changed, so did I. I actually grew to hate some of the newer shows, hosts, and celebrities. I longed for the simpler days of fun shows like CELEBRITY SWEEPSTAKES, TREASURE HUNT and LIARS CLUB, great emcees like Gene Rayburn and Geoff Edwards and stars like the great Paul Lynde, Charles Nelson Reilly and Brett Somers. These were my role models.
Does anybody even remember THE LIARS CLUB besides me?
Flash forward to 2001, due to various reasons, John, my partner of nine years, and I move from San Francisco (where we lived for six) to LA. Working as a freelance art director, I found myself watching the Game Show Network quite often. Reruns of the classic shows like MATCH GAME, HOLLYWOOD SQUARES and WHAT'S MY LINE? bring me back, comfort me, remind me of a life before responsibilities, before I grew bitter about TV (and the rest of the world). If only they would show TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES!
Now living in Burbank, I know that we are not far from "where it all happens." I knew that eventually I would be a contestant on something. John, also a game show fan, got the chance to audition for the new HOLLYWOOD SQUARES, but didn't make the cut because he wasn't "perky" enough. He also took the JEOPARDY! test, but failed to answer enough questions correctly. He says it was pretty damn hard...maybe being a contestant isn't as easy as we always thought. Soon after John's rejection, a friend of ours appeared on JEOPARDY! and I can finally say I knew someone who was on a game show.A few months later we got tickets to our new favorite, THE WEAKEST LINK, but the grueling four-hour taping for the half-hour daytime edition left a bad taste in our mouths. The great Anne Robinson wasn't even the host, dammit!A few months later we both auditioned for a new game show. It's was the TV version of our favorite board game, TABOO. John & I totally kicked ass at the audition, but in our 30s, we were the oldest people there and the only people who weren't actors or models. That's something that I never thought about as a kid...that there were people who just keep trying out for game shows, when they aren't auditioning for soaps and sitcoms. Contestants are mostly actors!!! Who knew?Well anyway, we never made it on to TABOO, but the producers somehow saw my audition tape and called me in to interview for the all new LET'S MAKE A DEAL! This was chance, I thought, to not only be on a game show, but a classic one, where the only skill I needed was the ability to pick the right curtain! No problem! John was able to get a ticket and the day off from were were going to lose our game show virginity together. LET'S MAKE A DEAL! 
The big day finally arrived in January. We were going to be on the first of five new episodes for prime time, so we were very excited. John & I arrived at the studio at 10:30AM and after several hours of interviews and "getting to know you" warm up exercises, we finally got in the studio around 4:30. We had made friends with a few other contestants, mostly older woman and some cute guys, all of whom didn't have a clue that John & I were a couple. Go figure.
Luckily, we were both chosen to sit in the "trading floor" area of the audience, so we 
knew we would get plenty of airtime. I was wearing a huge red Marge Simpson-type wig and an all-red outfit with a home-made shirt that proclaimed "Make Me a Red Hot Deal".  John was wearing something he threw together in about five minutes: a big afro wig with a funky 70s polyester shirt. For some reason, they seated us on different ends of the audience. Was it homophobia...or part of the plan?
Sadly Monty Hall was now retired, but the new host Billy Bush (W's cousin or nephew or something) was better than we though he'd be...especially when he picked ME to play for round 4 of the show!Yes, Billy offered me $500 in cash for my backpack, which I quickly traded, even though it was a fabulous Patricia Field red glitter backpack that I've had for almost 10 years. After the trade, Billy then offered me a deal to trade the $500 for curtain number 3. I looked over to John and he said "Trade it!!!" I did...and I won a Grandfather clock (valued at $3000). I was like "oh...that's pretty, um okay"...So I sat back down and thought to myself "what the hell am I gonna do with a Grandfather clock? Especially since I have to pay taxes on it! Maybe I'll get an opportunity to trade it in..." The old ladies sitting next to me were more excited than I was. They all loved the clock and thought that I would love it too. I think Billy (and the producers) could tell that I wasn't exactly thrilled about my they even try to match the prizes up with the contestants?So, round 5 and 6 come and go...then suddenly Billy is back in my face asking if I want to trade the Grandfather clock back for my backpack, which now contains a key to something. Right away I think "CAR!!!" or "ZONK!!". I turn to John and he says "Take the backpack!!!!". So I do, and the key turns out to be for a $10,000 jet ski! I act like if it's just what I always wanted!!! Billy asks me if I love it and I say, um - yes. But I don't...What the hell am I gonna do with a jet ski??? I live in the valley!!!Well, turns out...I was the BIG WINNER on the show, so Billy instantly asks me if I want to trade it in for a chance to be in THE BIG DEAL...worth $65,000!!!!I act a little hesitant...but of course, decide to go for it!!!! Now THIS is what I've been waiting my whole life trade what I've already won for a chance to win even BIGGER!!! So, John comes down from the audience and joins me. We decide to pick door number three. We come back from commercial and Billy asks me "Is John your friend, buddy or roommate?" And I answer, "All that and much, much more..." and then he asks me first which door I want and suddenly I say "Number TWO!".
 John looks at me puzzled..."Two?" My opponent, KC, who I thought was super HOT picks Door number 3. They reveal my prize first (meaning that I didn't win the BIG DEAL)...and low and behold it's a LEATHER sofa & loveseat. I smile with glee, all the while thinking "we're vegans...we don't believe in leather furniture!!!"...BUT there's also a stereo system AND last (but not least) a 50 INCH TV!!!!!!!! Grand total $11,000 –I freak out! Jump up and down, hug Billy, hug John, hug KC, hug Billy again...etc. Yes, I hugged a Bush.
KC wins a trip to Australia, scuba equipment, a lobster of the month and an eBay gift certificate. I'm glad I didn't win this...I couldn't imagine trying to get John, who doesn't fly, on a plane to Australia...and LIVE lobsters delivered to our house...we'd have to put in a pool to keep them all alive. The BIG DEAL (which nobody won) was a "Casablanca" it includes a Baby grand piano, a private-plane to Morocco and a $50,000 RED sports car (totally not me). I try to act disappointed that I didn't win the Big Deal, but I was really happy. I'm glad I picked #2...that TV is exactly what I wanted. So after 12 hours, we finally got out of the studio at 10:30 PM–a 12 hour orDEAL–and in the car on the way home I turned to John and asked "Did that REALLY happen? Did I just win on a game show?" John replied "You sure did, but what hell are WE gonna do with a leather sofa and
loveseat?" EPILOGUE - When NBC cancelled the show, it took us over a year to get our prize - we ended up forfeiting the leather furniture - but we still have our 50 inch TV, and I was on a game show!


Vintage Disneyland Tickets said...

Super post Doug, thanks for sharing your game show History! Gotta love that red hat thing! I was addicted to games show as a kid in the 70's also. Matchgame, Jokerswild (Joker, Joker, Joker!), Concentration, Beat the Clock, Truth or Consequences, and so many more.

My cousin won a Pinto and about 10k worth of stuff on Jokerswild in the mid 70's, we got to see one of the shows being taped, that was so much fun.

Our family tried out for Family Feud in 1979, we weren't perky enough either! I've tried out for Jeopardy 3 times, only passed the test once, but got killed in the test round, ouch I never knew I knew so little about Opera!

I was thinking your post was going to end with "we never got our stuff" I'm glad you did! Did they substitute something else for the animal skin sofas?

Take care and thanks for sharing.

P.s. I have a WaveRunner and I live in the valley (it was given to me) I've used it twice in 5 years! A 50 inch TV seems much more useful :-)

doug said...

No substitutions for the furniture, it was a just recorded as "guest does not accept prize" on my receipt.