On October 26, 2012, I got to check one item off my life’s Bucket List. It wasn’t an epic item like climbing Mt. Everest, or a romantic one like drinking champagne at the top of the Eiffel Tower. It was just silly and fun: I competed (and won) on Let’s Make A Deal!
The show taped three months before its actual airdate. My family and I were in southern California visiting my retired parents. Looking for something new to do, my mom and I decided a game show would be a hoot. But which one? For me there were only two options: The Price is Right or Let’s Make a Deal. Both were favorites of mine growing up. Research revealed that LMAD offered better odds of actually getting to compete (plus Wayne Brady is A-DOR-A-BLE), so LMAD it was!
I went online and ordered the free tickets. At six a.m. the day of the show, my mom and I left her home in Laguna Niguel with the GPS set for Sunset Bronson Studios. Nearing our destination, I was sure the GPS had steered us wrong. This didn’t look like the Hollywood of my dreams. Bars on windows, graffiti on doors…I began to feel like Chevy Chase, crawling through the streets of St. Louis: “ROLL ‘EM UP!”
Just as I was considering pulling over and re-entering the address into the obviously misguided GPS, the studio appeared like magic, a beautiful white building with a landscaped lawn and a gated parking lot. (I swear I heard harps) Relieved, I pulled in, ticket extended.
“Sorry,” said the guard. “Contestants park on the street.” I looked around frantically, hoping Wayne might suddenly appear and intervene on my behalf, but no such luck. I backed out under the guard’s amused gaze, and twenty minutes later managed to find a parking spot five blocks away.
My mom and me
Arm-in-arm (and costumed, mind you), my 75 year-old mother and I braved the inner city. Thankfully, it was an uneventful walk to the studio. No one shot at us or tried to sell us crack. In fact our only moment of consternation came from a homeless man indignantly shouting at us from across the street, “I don’t like you!”
We rounded the last block and there lined up on the sidewalk was a parade of costumed contestants. Hallelujah, we made it! We took our place in line, chatting with a woman in her 60’s dressed like a slutty French Maid, a brother and sister team from New Jersey decked out like the Blues Brothers, and a bearded man wearing a diaper. More and more contestants joined the lineup. What a sight we must have been! I dearly wish I could have taken a picture, but cameras are strictly verboten at game shows. I had followed the show’s instructions and left mine in the car.
Before we knew it, LMAD personnel were out on the sidewalk, assessing what they had to work with for the day. They handed out paperwork, and ushered us through airport-like security with “Vinny” serving as TSA. (Ok, I don’t know if that’s his real name, but he looked and talked like a Brooklyn bouncer). The French Maid from the sidewalk decided she was smarter than Vinny and tried to sneak her cell phone in. Busted! The phone got confiscated and put in a gallon size baggie (just like a crime scene gun!) I inwardly congratulated myself on always being a rule-following, goody two shoes.
Processing came next. One by one we went through a row of seated staffers. I handed my drivers license to a young man, who looked at it and said, “No way! You’re from Holdrege [Nebraska]? I’m from Sutton [Nebraska]! Small world, huh?” The other staffers looked on perplexed. Most, I assume were natives of California where this kind of exchange is unheard of. “You’re from San Diego? I’m from San Francisco! Oh my God!”
Processing done, we received our nametags and went to wait in a holding area. Everyone was super excited. Without cell phones, the only thing we could do was talk to one another (what a concept!). A young, pretty thing in trendy glasses came out, clipboard in hand. We clapped. She was the first of about ten staffers to BEG us to be quiet. (Apparently the holding area was near some crabby offices that complained incessantly about the noise from LMADers.) I’m a teacher, so I know something about noise management. The staffers didn’t have a prayer. There were nearly 300 of us, dressed in ridiculous costumes, with an hour or more of wait time. Quiet? Good luck with that.
Finally it was show time! We were led into the studio, which was beautiful, modern, and clean. After we were all seated, a staffer in charge of camera aesthetics looked us over appraisingly and started rearranging: “You, giraffe, move over here. That’s better!”
The show began, and my mom turned on her heretohidden power of x-ray vision: “The car’s behind Number Three,” she whispered to me. And it was. Or “The Zonk’s in the box.” Again, it was. I don’t know how she did it, but she never missed. The only thing she got wrong was her prediction that I was going to get picked.
“That producer keeps looking at you,” she said.
“That producer keeps looking at you,” she said.
“Mom,” I sighed, “the music guy is RIGHT BEHIND US. They’re just cuing him, that’s all.” Mom smiled, satisfied she was right. Another contestant came and went (and got Zonked, sad to say) and Wayne announced the Big Deal of the Day.
Well that’s it, I thought. You didn’t make it on.
The show went to break, and I looked at my mom, hoping she wasn’t too disappointed. Her grin was still in place. Wayne came back out and, low and behold, had one more game to offer. “Who wants my Let’s Make A Deal ATM Card?!” he called out. We all jumped to our feet, and damn if Mom wasn’t right….I got picked!
“Told you,” she laughed pushing me into the aisle. This was it! This was the moment I’d imagined a million times growing up. I high-fived everyone on my jog to the front, gave Wayne an elated hug, giggled like a school girl, and waited for him to give me the keys to my brand new Porsche. Wayne had other ideas, though. He offered me the ATM card and one short minute later, I had $1400 in cash, CH-CHING! I’d done it! I’d won! But Wayne wasn’t finished with me yet.
It was time to make a deal. I could keep the cash and walk away. Or....I could give back half the amount and take what was in the mystery box. Or....I could give back ALL the money and take what was behind Curtain Number One.
The audience went bezerk, chanting “TAKE THE CURTAIN! TAKE THE CURTAIN!” What to do? My left brain told me $1400 was a nice chunk of change--quit while you’re ahead. But my right brain argued, “What’s the fun in that?” Right brain won.
“I’ll take the curtain!” I handed the money back to Wayne. The adage “A fool and his money are soon parted” flashed through my mind. They opened the mystery box first (the option I didn’t take). It was a Zonk. Holy cow! I’d won something big for sure. Was it a car? A boat? A trip to Belize? My heart thudded. The curtain opened, and there sat a huge, gleaming stainless steel stove that looked like it belonged in a five-star restaurant. I don’t remember much beyond that except jumping up and down, clapping, and running onto to the set to check out my prize. A set of bakeware and some gourmet cupcakes were also thrown in, total value: $4082. Victory!!!!
Mom and I left the studio that afternoon, happy, exhausted, and starving. What a day. I flew back to Nebraska two days later and resumed my regular life. I often wonder, like many people do, why certain events occur in our lives. Was going on Let’s Make a Deal just meant to be a fun experience? Or was it meant as a link to something else? Maybe it was meant to be fodder for the Priscilla Willa chapter books I write for eight to ten year olds. Who knows? Even though the show is done, I’m still enjoying the rewards of participating in it. I’ve been invited to speak about LMAD at several clubs. Best of all, people I don’t even know stop me at the grocery store or the Y to congratulate me and chat about my experience. Warm fuzzies all over! Now that’s a deal!