Thursday, August 25, 2005
The Price is Right every morning
Every morning as I drive to the gym, I see throngs of people who all look like they're from somewhere in Middle America. They're hopeful contestants for The Price is Right, and they are so absolutely excited about being in Los Angeles and walking into CBS Television City (Say it with me... "78-hundred Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, California, 9-double-O-36.").
When I first moved to Los Angeles, I couldn't believe I lived so close to this mythical place-- and back then I lived in Westwood, some 30 minutes away. The Price is Right is listed on the CBS website as "America's Favorite Game Show" and that makes sense. Which of us didn't watch it religiously during summer breaks or when we were home sick from school? Who didn't get excited about the little yodeler guy hobbling up the mountain because if he doesn't go over the edge you win a new Pontiac? And didn't Plinko drive you crazy because you knew-- YOU KNEW-- that they needed to put the chip between the first TWO pegs and let it go leaning toward the center in order to hit the big money. My sisters and I even discussed how powerfully you had to spin the big wheel so that it would do one rotation, land on the dollar, and then the next time land in a green or dollar spot for even bigger bonus money. Ahh, good times.
But the biggest shocker? That fateful day when Bob Barker walked out with shock white hair!
No longer would good old Bob pander to the notion that he was forever young. Nay, Dick Clark! He may still use that same pencil thin mic with the mini mushroom top, but he was going to admit his age. Good for him! I was proud. I even thought about controlling the pet population and having my animal spayed or neutered.
But it's still the fans I really love. Seeing them on the show is one thing, but seeing them excitedly parking at CBS starting at 6:30 and still dealing with registration when I return home from boxing at 8:30 is awesome. I think they tape closer to 11:00 or noon-- Bob doesn't need to get up that early-- so these people are committed, all hoping for a moment on TV and a chance to win that Pontiac, jukebox, or wet bar.
As they wait for taping time, the groups often walk down Fairfax toward The Farmer's Market for breakfast. You see a lot of somewhat large women with big permed hair and bright pink T-shirts with "Barker's Beauties" ironed onto them, a project they no doubt performed as a group in anticipation of this big trip. There are also lines of sailors in uniforms, African American gospel choirs with their local groups' bright t-shirts, the two husbands who look humiliated in puff-paint covered shirts that say, "I want to win!" but which they only agreed to wear if their wives put out the night before.
Yesterday I saw a horde of college kids, each certainly hoping for some type of car or trip, all wearing yellow shirts with a different letter so that they could presumably spell something out when seated in a row; they were walking down Beverly toward Park La Brea, a no-man's land for food or coffee, and I wanted to warn them that they were going the wrong way. “Go back! It’s not too late! You can still make breakfast at Dupars!” But I didn't. Dupars is now gone anyway, and besides, just like losing at Plinko, some lessons have to be learned on their own.
It's not always pretty. I've been at The Grove (the mall next to CBS and the Farmer's Market) in the early afternoon and seen their long faces (and no, none of them were Celine Dion impersonators). They're so sad that they've even forgotten to take the price-tag-shaped nametags off their shirts. (Does one poor soul hand write all those out because God knows they all seem to have the same perfect writing.)
But those sad folk are rare. More often I see the excited ones, who leave the studio having tasted just a bit of their Hollywood youth. They may not have won, but they were part of the magic, and I think that's why they return. The Price is Right is a phenomenon, and no matter how ridiculous the shirt, the more insane way they attempt to garner attention, when I see those men and women making that trek to the game show Mecca I smile and feel good about living in LA.