Julia dimon/for metro toronto
Los Angeles is more than just smog, silicone breasts and Scientology centres. It’s home to one of the most popular and longest running game shows in television history — The Price Is Right.
Bob Barker fans flock from all across North America to catch a glimpse of their fave TV host. They wait in long lineups, pile into the studio, shower Bob with gifts, and wait to hear those divine words: “Come on down … you’re the next contestant on The Price Is Right.”
I was one of those crazed fans. When I was a kid, I used to feign sickness just so I could stay home and watch Barker and his beauties. So, naturally, no trip to Hollywood would be complete without a visit to the actual Price Is Right set.
At 4:30 a.m., I joined the lineup of fellow game show devotees outside the CBS studios. Showtime was 2:30 p.m., but since ticket holders are seated on a first-come, first-served basis, the lineup started early.
Approaching show time, we were herded into small groups and paraded in front of a panel of producers for a mini audition. Scribbling notes from atop their canvas director chairs, they eyed us carefully and asked us, one by one, where we were from and what we did for a living. I guess the producers were looking for naturally energetic people representing a wide range of ages and ethnicities.
As we followed the ushers and stepped foot on The Price Is Right set, a communal feeling of awe took hold.
Despite our lack of sleep and long hours waiting in line, the crowd buzzed with energy and the studio was soon filled with the sound of hooting and hollering.
Like a vision, Bob appeared. He waved to the crowd, we cheered and the games began. Contestants bid on convertible Mustangs, dining room furniture and common household products.
Seated in the audience, I sent telepathic vibes to the announcer. I hoped he would call my name so I could run down the aisle waving my arms like a lunatic, join contestants row and win a brand new car. No such luck.
After the taping, I was, however, able to score an interview with Bob. I tiptoed backstage over thick black cables, past oversized props to Bob’s dressing room. With his carefully coiffed white hair and crisp black suit, there was no question why grandmas all across the country have the hots for this TV legend.
In our few minutes together, this is what I learned about Barker. His favourite Price Is Right games are Punch A Bunch, Three Strikes, Cliff Hangers and Plinko. He has never seriously been injured by an overzealous contestant, but has been kicked, pinched, jumped on and butted a lot over the years. One contestant even broke the man’s toe.
When he’s not at a showcase showdown, Bob spends his time reading autobiographies, swimming and volunteering at his DJ&T animal foundation.
With every answer, Barker was poised, professional and surprisingly funny. When I asked him who would win if he and Adam Sandler had a fist fight rematch à la Happy Gilmour, he cheekily responded: “If Adam and I went head-to-head, he probably would bury me, although I did study with Chuck Norris so I could at least get a couple of kicks in.”
After 35 years of hosting The Price Is Right, 83-year-old Bob Barker is set to retire next month. The show will continue without him.
Though I didn’t get to “come on down,” meeting Barker was a kitschy childhood dream come true. I can only hope that one day, I’ll be back to spin the big wheel and win that brand new car.
For free tickets to a live taping of The Price Is Right at CBS Studios in Los Angeles visit: www.cbs.com/daytime/price/tickets.
Julia Dimon is editor of The Travel Junkie, an online magazine for independent travellers. She can be reached at www.thetraveljunkie.ca.