Lucky Laurie Phillips!
Her experience couldn’t help but remind me when I, too, was called to “Come on down!” by then announcer, Johnny Olson in the “Price is Right” studio.
Though I’ve told the story a zillion times since the actual event took place on June 6, 1977, Laurie’s experience prompts me to do it once more – this time in writing.
As a dyed-in-the-wool fan back in the 70s, I used to watch the show while drying my hair with my clunky, oversized dryer, part of my daily routine while getting ready for my noon to 9 p.m. shift at the Cleveland Press.
Guessing those prices and playing those games kept me interested and challenged during the daily mundane process of grooming my never-looks-very-good hair.
Anyways, when it was time to pick a location for my upcoming honeymoon the lure of Hollywood, palm trees and of course, The Price is Right, urged me to convince my then fiancé and now husband of 35 years, to head to California.
The show was our first stop after we had checked into our hotel. Sure I was excited that I had just been married, but come on, Bob Barker was beckoning.
Not knowing a thing about the process of choosing contestants, I was surprised that my new husband and myself were told that if we wanted to be part of the audience that day all we need do was get in line and wait. And wait we did!
Four hours of standing in line for the chance to see Bob Barker in person and be part of the show I had watched hundreds of times and thousands of miles away was a small price to pay.
But here’s where the excitement begins…
All of a sudden the crowd of people waiting with us were told to queue up in lines of four people abreast because the producer would be coming out to talk with each one of us. What? You mean I was going to have the chance to actually BE a contestant? At that point, I knew this was an opportunity that would only present itself once in my life and would do all I could to capitalize on it. Did I know what kind of contestants were chosen to appear? You betcha! It wasn’t the shy, mealy-mouthed types but exuberant and over-the-top personalities that were summoned to “Come on down.”
When the producer emerged (accompanied by a cute little assistant taking copious notes) and started chatting with each person in line I started preparing myself. I would pull out all the stops and let my innate outgoing personality wind up to work at full speed.
When the portly guy approached me and offered a friendly “hello” I considered it to be my cue. While literally jumping up and down in a most excited manner I announced to all that “ WE’RE FROM CLEVELAND AND WE JUST GOT MARRIED TWO DAYS AGO I LOVE BOB BARKER AND I WATCH THE SHOW EVERY DAY!!!”
Phew! I had given my best shot to tell this guy the absolute truth with the highest energy level I could muster. But was it enough to earn a coveted spot on contestant’s row ? I’d have to wait and see.
Once inside and seated in the theater I was ecstatic. My heart was pumping with anticipation at the thought of actually being onstage with Bob Barker whom I had come to admire for his quick wit and suave demeanor.
So…midway into the show when Johnny Olson’s voice resounded in his signature low-pitched but exciting manner “Will Jean B-----“ I knew what was coming next. Yes, I had been chosen as one of the lucky few from an audience of hundreds. I flew to the front of the room where three other contestants stood waiting for a chance to bid on an item that could possibly land them a spot on stage and the chance to win some pretty darn good prizes.
After saying a polite hello to Bob Barker, I was the first to be asked to bid on a microwave oven. How $495 came to mind I’ll never know. Perhaps prices were engrained in my memory from watching the show every day. Anyways, that little micro was priced at $499! Being closest to that number without going over bought me a place on stage and the chance to play the POKER game. Cards have never been my strong suit. The closest I had ever gotten to a card game was “Fish.” So when given the option of passing or keeping a hand comprised of the prices of items on the stage I knew where I had to turn – straight to by savvy new husband. A loud and clear shout to “PASS IT!” came right from the source, and as the newly dutiful wife that I was I did as directed --- and lo and behold -- I WON!
A microwave oven, free-standing fireplace, bar set with two stools and a portable dishwasher were all mine for the mere action of passing a hand in a game of Poker.
The win guaranteed me a chance at the big wheel, which I have to say was quite heavy to spin. It stopped at 75 which I thought was a good number to stand on. But Clyde, a kind, grandfatherly-type guy managed to outdo me with a 90. The loss took me out of the final round. But that’s ok. Who wanted a trip to Manila and a workout gym anyways? On the other hand, the second showcase of a shiny new car might have been nice.
So in short, that was my Price of Right experience. My husband and I left the theater floating on cloud nine. Excited to shout to the world what had just happened, it wasn’t possible because at the time social media and instant communication were non-existent. We resorted to a few, very expensive long distance phone calls to home and were happy with that.
Once back from our honeymoon and letters about our forthcoming gifts began arriving, we had to decide what to do with these very large items in our tiny little apartment. The quick answer? They would never fit so we had to sell them. Almost $3,000 in prizes were sold for pretty much their worth which turned out to be a nice little stash for a couple of pretty poor newlyweds. We were able to buy some furniture and a few other things for our sparsely furnished nest.
So that’s how the Price is Right happened for me more than three decades ago.
Was it amazing? Absolutely.
Will I always remember it? No doubt.
Am I now a believer that some of your wildest dreams do come true? Yep.
-- Jean Bonchak